• Carmen Marie Fabio

Fur factor

Last Saturday's thunderstorm was the final insult for my dog who, scant days before, had to deal with an unknown threatening entity at the undogly hour of 5:22 a.m. Identifying the innocuous little chirp as a dying battery in the smoke detector, I rolled over to go back to sleep – until the shaking started. The minor tremor quickly morphed into a full-blown Roadrunner on earthquake pills as my dog, lying by my legs, decided the intermittent chirps were a hideous beast intent on slaughtering us all as we slept and he was powerless to stop it. With the undulations coming off the poor beast in waves, I was left with no choice but to get up and determine which smoke detector was dying which, if it hadn't been so early, would've been easy.

By the time I found the offending noise coming from one of the kids' rooms, the dog had climbed in with my youngest, shaking and – by now – whining, so loudly that I had to remove the dying 9-volt, carry all 70 lbs of the quivering mass of irrational fear out of the room, and try and sneak in another hour or so of sleep. It didn't happen – at least not for me.

Turns out, odd beeps and noises are enough to instill an everlasting impression in a dog who otherwise cannot remember the fact that he is fed like clockwork twice a day and that the neighbour's kid is not someone who is out to burn our house down every time he appears at the front door.

A cheap and easy poll of fellow dog-owners on their canine children's respective frights comprise a selection of odd noises, including the beep that networks use to obfuscate swearwords. The vacuum cleaner was high on the list with one owner describing his 150 lb. Newfoundland trying to hide between the wall and the paint every time he heard it.

Not surprisingly, some of my friends’ dogs have globophobia (fear of balloons), pluviophobia (fear of rain), pogonophobia (fear of men with facial hair) cafephobia (just what it sounds like, afraid of coffee), ailurophobia (cats) or gnomophobia which is a very real fear of garden gnomes.

Thunder and lightning seem to be the only unifying anxiety-inducing phenomena affecting all our dogs. While the late night storm on the weekend had the boys and I all standing at the open front door trying to determine where a lightning strike happened as the air was thick with the smell of ozone, my husband was smelling something else.

As he stumbled bleary-eyed out of the bedroom roused from a deep slumber, he informed us, “The dog just puked.”

While we can laugh and joke about the seemingly irrational fears of our four-legged companions (oven mitts, recycling bins, garden hose, rearranged furniture, the Swiffer, and even the wolves from Game of Thrones) they don’t succumb to one of the more ridiculous anxiety disorders borne of our current time – nomophobia, the irrational fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

One of my dog park friends reports his Bernese mountain dog is afraid of most Apple notifications emanating from his phone.

Sounds like a pretty smart pup to me.

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