The Faces of Fear
Take a brief journey with me into the past. Remember being a child with a wild imagination? Remember having a couple of friends over or maybe a sibling or two and playing the Shark Game? (One of my current friends remembers it as the Lava Game.)
The Shark Game went like this: All of you started on some surface above the floor, usually the bed. (Can you see three girls all crowded on that little twin bed?) The object was to get to other elevated surfaces, without ever touching the floor. That's where the Sharks lived (or the Lava flowed) and if you touched it, you "died," and were out of the game.
In this way, several children would wander around the room, walking across the bed, chairs, the dresser, end tables -- anything which was above the "water level."
The last one to touch the floor won the game.
Remember? (If not, you were definitely deprived; it was a great game.)
Smudge, our cat, now spends his life playing that game. Only for him, the Shark has a name: Tracker.
Tracker has no fear of the cat. He's not quite as big as Smudge now, and not nearly as heavy, but he has no hesitation to tackle, irritate, smother, stand on, or just generally annoy Smudge whenever the opportunity arises.
Any time spent on the floor is time spent with the Shark.
Now while Tracker has no fear of the cat (or rolled up newspapers, for that matter), he does have one distinguishing fear. He has a fear of steps.
He's been with us a little over a month now (the cat would say it was longer) and we just -- in the last few days -- convinced him that the back steps out to the backyard won't eat him and if he just takes them slowly, a whole new realm can open to him... the backyard!
For a long time, he would back up and bark when we went down the steps (he still does when we go into the garage). The steps were horrible, and they would eat us! Then when he got big enough, we helped him to go down them, with his little body straining backward toward the house the whole time. No, no, no, don't make me!
Today he's finally taking those back steps with his usual careless romp, except for the few times he stops to think about what he's doing.
With the fear of steps receding, soon we might have a 12-inch high dog with absolutely no fear at all.
Copyright 2013 Michelle Hakala