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The distinct sound of a leash moving, like keys jangling, is enough to set it off. My heart rate climbs up, thudding faster and faster by the millisecond. My palms are sweaty and my cheeks are hot. My mind is racing as I try to calculate how quickly I can take cover in the nearest shop or home; how quickly can I make it the other side of the road?

This was my mind on fear of dogs. For as long as I can remember I have had an incredibly paranoid, irrational (to most) fear of man’s best friend. Growing up I had always wanted a puppy, convinced that I wouldn’t be scared of my own pet. I never did get one though and over the years my fear strengthened.

For years I have suffered with this fear – it has affected where I walk, where I go in my spare time and who I offend with my attempts to distance myself from their beloved companions.

Therefore, it is entirely INCREDIBLE to me that this all-consuming fear that has plagued me for so long is simply…gone. I am able to play in dog parks, adoringly pet neighbors’ puppies and walk through large parks without feeling the urge to save myself from every four-legged creature. I even find myself WANTING dogs to come up to me because I love them and it’s frustrating when they want nothing to do with me. Who am I?? I am in grateful disbelief.

How is this possible? Well turns out 9-year-old-me had the right idea – I wasn’t afraid of my own puppy. Adopting Oreo has literally changed my life. I love him and I get him and there is really nothing to fear after all. I now find myself around dogs actually trying to summon my old feelings of fear – increased heart rate, racing mind – where did it all go?? I am completely perplexed and completely thrilled by its disappearance.

I imagine it largely has to do with my new-found understanding of dog behaviors and reasons for their behaviors. We fear the unknown, but their playful motives are no longer a mystery to me. I am amazed  how, in just a few weeks I have been ridded of a lifelong fear. Imagine the message, the motivation.

Oreo is an unforgettable part of my life. Not only did he provide a loving distraction during some very tough times, he also gave me the gift of a braver spirit. It is unbearable to me that we have to give him away (for time and financial reasons). But I know he will forever remain one of the most important living beings to ever have entered my heart.

When we first got him - around 5 months