“It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood.”
So said Mister Rogers from the iconic children’s show Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood, and I. We have been deluged by rain all week here in Hogtown. Today the sun was finally shining, making this day perfect for a walk with my puppy Lucille in the Rosedale Ravine that lies kitty-corner to my apartment. This particular ravine reminds me of a 19th century castle nestled in the Scottish country side, complete with crumbling stone walls and a tumbling creek.

We were about to make our way down the usual route to the creek when something caught my eye. I saw in the distance a very large black dog unleashed, the dog’s owner busy on her cellphone.

Here is where I make my confession; I have an enormous fear of large dogs.  I am terrified that they will jump up on me and their largess will make me lose my balance, and just like Humpty before me, I shall tumble down.

Ten years I ago I was working as a Reiki Therapist.  One day while carrying my massage table to my car, I felt something pop in my groin. I knew something had gone awry in my body and it turned out I had now earned myself an inguinal hernia. I had surgery to correct the issue, but the surgeon told me it would be best from now on if I didn’t lift anything heavier than fifteen pounds. In my mind lifting felt synonymous with large loping lumbering dogs jumping on top of me.

Because I am a self proclaimed control freak, I fear the unknown. The seconds before a dog approaches me is always when my fear reaches its apex, not knowing if said dog will be friend or foe. My motto has always been:

When you see a big dog, run!run!run!

I decided to take the path less traveled, away from the black dog down to the St. Claire reservoir. I felt proud of my proactive decision. I kept reminding myself that I was safe,   keeping my breathing steady and my focus on my feet, working hard not to think about being Devoured by Dog.

The terrain here was much rougher, but equally compelling. I turned up the volume on my IPod, using music to help me focus on the narrow path. Suddenly I felt something  rush by me. It was the big black dog on the loose! She/he was running up and down the narrow path looking for it’s owner. Even in my panicked state I could tell it wasn’t interested in Lucille nor myself, the poor dog had just lost track of their owner and was frantic in their attempt to find her.

“Katharine, you can never escape the big black dog.”  I said to myself ruefully. Winston Churchill coined the expression black dog when talking about his depression. It stands to reason that this particular black dog represented my own personal demons.

I am both the hunted and the hunter. I am both the big black dog and my fear.

After decades of feeding my fear with food, I am finally free of my addiction, ready to deal directly with my terror, which has manifested itself today in the shape of a big black dog.

I  must face my fear of being lost as well as facing my fear of feeling fearful. I must face my pre-verbal fear of being devoured by my mother. I am a trauma survivor who now is working hard to transform myself from Survivor to Thriver.

An acronym for fear is False. Evidence. Appearing. Real.  I had nothing to fear from this particular black dog, so I did the only thing I could do. I just kept on walking, one step at a time.

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