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Overcoming Fear

What our new family member taught me about working through my fears

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On New Year’s Eve we decided to add to our family and adopt a rescue puppy. We talked about getting a dog for many years. For one reason or another we never did. Some reasons were legitimate – such as I worked 75+ hours a week outside of the house and my husband, Mike, was deployed or gone on training missions. Other reasons were more excuses – dogs are too much work. But, finally on 12/31/2020 all the reasons and excuses stopped.

We met Maxwell (Max for short) virtually the day before. We instantly fell in love with him. Look at that sweet face…how could you not fall in love? We completed the necessary paperwork, ordered a few supplies that we knew we would need immediately and worked with his amazing foster family to arrange a time to pick him up.

That first day was new for all of us. For Max, he had a new home and new family members to become acquainted with. Nothing was familiar, from the noises to the smells to the fact he would be the only dog. For Mike and I, it was a new routine, figuring out his habits, being more aware of what was left out for Max to grab. For me, it was a little deeper. Mike had dogs growing up, but I never did. When I was two, I was approached by a Great Dane who leaped on me and licked me, so the story goes. To be honest, whether it was this event or something else, I’m not sure when it started, but I’ve always been a bit fearful of dogs. Growing up, friends always had dogs and I’d pet them…and move on.

Then Max entered my life and my fears changed. I wasn’t scared of him. I didn’t mind his licking me, his fur all over my clothes or even picking up his poop (to be fair, Mike does most of this last one). There were no more excuses to make. Max was now a part of our family.

Acclimating to Max these past three weeks has made me tackle some of the fears I had about owning a dog head-on. I was super uncomfortable at first and nervous as we drove home from his foster family’s house. As I watched Max enter our house and sniff his way around, he was slightly apprehensive. He walked around for a while, had his dinner, and as nighttime hit, he curled up on the sofa next to us and fell asleep. Watching him sleep with his head on my lap you could never tell he was new to our family.

In just a few short weeks Max has taught me so much about overcoming fears. We’re not 100% sure of Max’s life prior to being rescued. What we do know is that it was fairly difficult in the first few months. His ability to handle change and new environments as well as deal with fear directly has been inspiring. While he has helped me overcome my fear of dogs and owning a dog, he has also reminded me about the need to continue moving forward while enjoying and appreciating the present. The time we spend together outside is refreshing and the inspiration he has provided to continuing an active lifestyle has been great. More than anything, he has shown that fear is inside our own heads and that moving past it, while difficult, is so worth it. It’s uncomfortable, that’s for sure, but it brings joy, happiness and a deep sense of accomplishment.  

Since that first night, Max has firmly established his place as a full-fledged member of our family. We have fun playing together, snuggling and cuddling on the sofa every night. We all worked to get to know one another and trusted in ourselves. Now, the love is deep and it’s only been three weeks. The lessons on fear these past few weeks are something I want to hold on to; the feeling of embracing change and moving past anxiety. My hope is that others find their “Max” and, in so doing, release their fears and embrace joy.      

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