Sunday, March 18, 2007
separation and hot air balloons
Puja, the younger of my two dogs, is a pretty good example of a fearful creature. I picked her up at the pound at 8 weeks. Due to their quarantine practices, she had been there for two weeks already. This means that she had only 6 weeks out in the world to learn about cruelty and danger, to learn how to be afraid. These were also the cutest weeks of her young life. I mean, let's face it, you have to be a pretty hard person to treat a 6 week old puppy badly, they're like the incarnation of adorable fuzziness.
I don't know much about her life prior to the pound, but I do know that she was dropped out of a 2nd story window. That in itself is unbelievable. I don't know how something like that happens, or how a little puppy survives that. But she did, with a small cut above her eye and a leg that occasionally caused her to cry and limp. You can't pick up Puja..... she doesn't much care for heights, not anymore. A week after I adopted her, I took the girls camping in manitoba. A little girl picked her up, and the poor puppy thrashed around, bit the kid, and got dropped. The child screamed bloody murder and Puja ran for cover.
As she gets older and her puppiness fades, I'm noticing her extreme skittishness. Should I need to clean her paws, brush her coat, or in any other way manhandle her, she forces me to restrain her, and when I do, she enters the throes of terror. She will thrash about, and when that doesn't work, she will huddle down and hide her face. The first time I cleaned her muddy paws this spring, she curled into a tight ball with her face pressed into the back door, and it was five minutes before she would come upstairs.
Puja is not afraid of me, unless I raise my voice or restrain her. I work very hard to keep my voice low when I'm dealing with her, especially if I'm correcting her, and if I have to restrain her, to do so as softly as possible and speak calmly to her the whole time. Compare this to Abu, who sometimes won't give me the time of day unless I raise my voice, who is excited by loud happiness and chase games, and who will put her ears back and just put up with my manhandling when it needs to be done, giving me the "you're such a bitch" look, but otherwise submitting.
I can help Puja to trust me, and manage her fears, but they will always be there. She does not possess the ability, on her own, to confront or overcome her fears. Her animal terror will get the best of her. There's a beagle at the dogpark named wiley who is terrified of hot air balloons. If he sees one, he will bolt, in no particular direction, until he's too exhausted to continue. Last fall, he managed to escape from the dogpark in the throes of a balloon-induced frenzy and ran all the way downtown, crossing some very major intersections, with the lights not on his side, down the middle of the street. A human saw him leaving the park, got in his car and followed. Wiley made it to the centre of the city before he was apprehended, lucky to be alive. No number of snausages will keep him calm if there is a hot air balloon even visible on the horizon. How can wiley overcome his fear on his own, when even his humans can't help him?
I woke up this morning wondering if there really is a God, or if we're all just alone, if we all are just animals fighting for some semblance of peace in a world where the only peace has to be manufactured as some sort of religion. I wondered if, in the absence of a benevolent universal spirit, there was any hope of transcending fear, or finding purpose. If happiness and love were simply chemical reactions going on in the brain, and mystical experience simply physical anomaly. If so, then I would be living in my greatest fear realized, and I am not afraid of it because I do not believe it.
I have already moved on in the ninja book, but in the fear chapter it said that when distilled down to their rawest form, most fears have something to do with separation. Separation from God, if you will, or from those you love. Being alone, rejected, cast out. It's interesting that as far as Jesus goes, it's all about reconnecting us with God. Paul goes on and on about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. And we use that verse as comfort, don't we? When we're so afraid that we've finally pushed it too far, Paul comes out and says no, you can't push it so far that God wouldn't be there. It's just not possible.
But if there's nothing out there, then why would we be afraid of being separated from it? separated from what? Why be afraid of being separated from something that doesn't exist in the first place? Therefore I have to conclude that something IS there. Just as Puja wouldn't be afraid of heights unless she had been dropped from one. Just as wiley couldn't be afraid of balloons if there weren't any balloons to begin with.
Abu, on the other hand, is clearly afraid of only one thing; separation. Interesting, since she has been with me from the day of her birth. from 4 weeks until her fourth month, we had never spent a night apart, and with the exception of trips that involve airplanes, I have taken her with me everywhere. Not only that, but she is an insanely independent dog, wandering much farther and for longer periods than other dogs at the park. She does not sit at my feet, she is rather in the other room, under the chair, but heaven help us all if I leave her.
So. I think I have exhausted the topic of fear. I hope so. I have to run now.