During this past year, a new family moved in next door, bringing with them two small dogs. Even though their yard is enclosed with a tall privacy fence, these little dogs have found ever new ways to escape their yard and run into mine, barking constantly. You know the sound, yap yap yap. I nicknamed them the little bandits, because of their ability to escape and their humorous attempt to instill fear in myself, my little dog, and my cat.
This morning my dog and my cat and I were enjoying sitting outside, enjoying the warmth, listening to the birds and other nature sounds, and watching the two geese at the edge of the yard.
Our peaceful reverie was soon disturbed by little Bandit, the smallest and loudest of the two dogs His barking soon chased the geese into the lake. He then stood yapping at the three of us. I looked at him and had a realization. He was not barking in an attempt to frighten us, he barks because he is afraid.
He longs for the freedom to run and explore beyond the boundaries of his own confined yard, yet this freedom brings him in contact with an unknown person, dog and cat. He escapes only to find a new prison: fear of the unknown.
So this morning as I watched him standing there, barking, I began to silently speak to him. I told him that he was welcome to visit our yard, but only with his owner’s permission. We wished him no harm, and wanted him to be safe at all times. I told him how cute and adorable he is, and that the barking was a distraction from his preciousness.
He became very quiet and looked directly at me. Then very quickly he darted back under his fence.
From my experience with him, I realized that many of the people we encounter who are “barkers,” loud, complaining, threatening, are really hiding an unconscious fear. If they are loud enough, no one can see their fear, and they don’t have to confront it themselves.
In my experience with little Bandit, whose real name is Duchess, I saw love cancel fear. Love and fear cannot occupy the heart at the same time. In our day-to-day lives, we may at times experience times of great love and also great fear.
There are many things that create fear– fear of illness or death, loss of a job or financial well-being, loss of a friendship or relationship, and so many others. When we are facing the unknown and fear arises, can we befriend it? In our imagination we can address it, much as I did with little Bandit. We can imagine the fear as a little yapping dog, and usher it back to its confine within a fence labeled love. Then replace the thoughts of fear with something that we love, an image of a loved one or a spiritual ideal.
I do know from my own experiences that love opens doors and fear closes them. It is not easy to face the unknown, but we can make an effort to choose to face what we do know for sure. I chose to see little Bandit as a frightened yet resourceful adorable little dog, rather than a nuisance. He can now see me not as a threat, but perhaps as a friendly neighbor.
Perhaps he has taught me to see all annoyances and problems as lessons, that once learned, disappear under the fence of consciousness. And when they return, it will be as a blessing and lesson.
Isn’t life grand?