by Gaynor Quilter 
 
I have been challenged recently to really feel what is going on in my body, as Jaya (our Border Collie dog) has been attacked and set on by two different dogs. As some of you will know, we have trained Jaya to trust himself, as a result Jaya is friendly to every dog he meets, he assumes that every dog and every human just wants to be his friend. 
Shake it off, rerouting and anxiety as practice
I was left shaken and very upset and as she was a neighbour I wrote to her to try and agree a ‘dogs on leads etiquette,” in the park. I had “hoped” she would respond, but after 3 weeks of walking Jaya, at different times of the day and on slightly different walks I noticed that I was rerouting as I saw bigger dogs approaching. I realised just how anxious I had become. 
 
Not walking is not an option, but some of the pleasure of being outdoors and walking has reduced as I realise I am on red alert. So after speaking to another neighbour walking his dog, I declared that I am going to just go with walking my old paths and see what happens. 
 
Less than 5 minutes later, I am in Groby Lane (the road we live on) walking on the gravel road with bleeding knees and elbows. 
 
Our elderly neighbour across the way has a new rescue Great Dane, he not been trained or socialised and he shot across the road and ran at Jaya, I tried to hold him but got dragged to the ground. Jaya just cowed and stayed dead still, till we could get the lead around the Great Dane’s nose and mouth. 
 
The shaking it off: 
After both incidents, Jaya gave himself lots of shakes and the energy built up seemed to disappear. He has not changed his friendly behaviour……So why is my behaviour changing; What about the rerouting, lack of ease and increased anxiety? 
 
Rerouting and facing up to my anxiety. 
If I dig down I know that the root of my fear is that Jaya will be attacked again and seriously injured and may even die. I also know that my anxiety at going out is that actually, I have no control. The only control, I can exercise is the choice to reroute. 
 
So I am learning to trust and just be mindful of what comes along. That means being even more in my body when I am walking, not just looking around and enjoying the beauty of nature. I am paying attention to how my body feels, like the flutter of my heart and the tightness of my chest, my breath as I see a dog and owner getting closer, the ache of my calves as I sense a desire to just run away. Recognising when I have gone up into my head, as I get cross – ‘it’s not fair,” as I now am constantly scanning the environment to make sure it’s, “safe”. 
 
So it’s my new mindfulness practice; it’s certainly not comfortable, but I am very present to all of what’s happening when it’s happening. When I get back home there is a debrief and a gentle and “firm” reminder that most dogs are friendly and their owners responsible. 
 
Jaya a dog and can shake off the energy and continue to live in the moment, I’ve got my L plates on and need to practice with a greater degree of mindfulness. 
 
Gaynor 
Tagged as: Gaynor Quilter
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