It was a beautiful fall day when some of our friends decided to gather at a nearby park for a fall outing. We brought blankets and snacks to share as we sat under a grove of trees and a soft patch of grass, welcoming in the cooler weather. My husband and I had parked our car and were walking over to meet the others at the gathering spot when I spotted out of the corner of my eye a large black and brown dog. It was then I remembered one of our friends, a vet tech at the time and quintessential animal lover, was bringing her dog. I began to panic. My mind flashed to the time when I was about 6 years old when I was surrounded by 7 angry, snarling dogs that had encircled me as I was running between my aunt’s house and my grandmother’s house. My grandmother heard the commotion and came to my rescue.
And here it was again, confronting me as if it had happened yesterday. We walked over greeted the group and all the while I kept watching for the movements of the dog. That’s when Lauren walked over to me with the dog. All my internal meters were going off as she greeted me with her warm and inviting smile. I thought to myself, “how can she come and say hi with her dog so close to me?” After I greeted her and got a safe distance away and had some food, I felt relieved and thought that would be the closest I would ever have to get to her dog.
Some of us decided it was time to play games while others went for a walk. It was then Lauren came over and asked if I’d like to take a walk with her and Gideon-the dog. She promised to help me feel safe by keeping at a reasonable distance as I walked with her and Gideon and that it could be a good opportunity to overcome my fears. I realized then that I had a choice. I could either commit to my fear or commit to grown from my fear. As a girl growing up in Philly, surrounded by buildings and city blocks, I hadn’t reasonably had any interaction with animals. In fact, when I knew I would be visiting friends with pets, I would ask if they could put their pets in another room for the duration of our visit. I had been so afraid of animals; I could hardly stand to be in the same room as them. When I considered these things, I decided to go on a walk with her and Gideon. Lauren started the conversation, quickly uncovering the source of my distress with animals (dogs in particular) and began informing on all things dog related. She taught me the difference between a trained dog and an untrained dog, what it means when they are wagging their tails and why they come to sniff me so much. As she talked, she had a bubbly lightness about her that made me feel at ease, like she was intent on assuaging my fears about dogs and converting me to becoming a dog lover. During the course of our walk, she talked so much that I was distracted and hardly realized that I was now walking much closer to Gideon than I was before. Soon after, I found myself asking to hold his leash! She taught me a few verbal commands that helped me to trust him and in turn, him to trust me. The rest of the walk, I had a lightness and airy feeling in my heart as if one more fear just got shut down. I couldn’t believe I was holding Gideon, that he was listening to me and I was enjoying a walk with a dog! I had scarcely believed that my bad experiences with a dog could be overcome by a good experience with a dog. I guess that’s the way it works, the way that God heals us, by walking through the very things that caused us to fear in the first place. He doesn’t allow that thing that crippled us emotionally or physically to have the final say.
Fast forward about 10 years and I can visit Lauren comfortably with her now two dogs Kai and Zay. Although Gideon is no longer with us, I will never forget the kindness shown to me through my friend who loved animals. I will never forget Gideon because he helped me become comfortable being around a dog for the first time in my life. Lauren is doing what she always wanted to do, teach and train owners and dogs alike to develop a healthy symbiotic trust relationship with one another. I now look forward to the day I will have my own fluffy white dog and I also know who I will have me train that special dog.
If you need help training your dog check out Lauren Gray at laurensdogtraining.com