Smokey knows that there are two places in our home that he is forbidden to go: the garage and the basement. The garage is off limits because of my gardening chemicals. The basement is off limits because of all the boxes (and old paint) we have stored down there. Smokey doesn't know any of those reasons, of course. He knows only that he's been trained not to cross the threshold of the garage or basement doors.
He has globalized the taboo of the basement into an overall fear of going up or down stairs. Last year we rented a Florida beach house that was built on stilts. We had to coax Smokey to go up and down the steps to the second floor entrance the first couple of days. Oddly, we've been told by two other people that he doesn't show this fear if he is asked to go up or down a staircase when we're not there. (The first time was when he spent a weekend at the home of his breeder; the second time was when we left him at my sister-in-law's house for an hour while we went to church on Easter Sunday.)
A week or so ago, our community was put under a tornado warning, so we had to go down into the basement until it was over. Even though Smokey had learned to maneuver stairs easily during our month in Florida, we couldn't convince him to walk down the steps that Friday night. So I had to carry him into the basement. He quivered with fear in my arms as we descended into the forbidden place. In actuality, stairs are nothing to be afraid of, . . . and yet, he feared them.
It reminded me of an experience I had a number of years ago. My sister-in-law lives near a river, and there used to be a rickety old bridge a short way from her house. As we were out walking, our nephew challenged us to cross it. It wasn't really that dangerous, but I was very afraid. I would take a step, stare down at the flowing water, feel myself starting to freeze with anxiety, and then force myself to move forward one more step. By pushing through the fear, I was able to get past it.
A similar kind of paralyzing terror afflicted my poor little dog as we went down into the basement the night of the tornado warning. But just as I had on the bridge, Smokey worked through it. As we sat in the basement waiting for the all clear, he began to explore the area. He walked over to the laundry area and sniffed the smells of soap and fabric softener near the washer and dryer. He moved back to where our Christmas boxes are stored and sniffed them. He didn't get into anything he shouldn't have, but his curiosity proved to be stronger than his anxiety as he cautiously made his way around the room.
I'm about to face one of those situations in which I will have to work through a long-held, irrational fear. A friend at church has a two-year-old boy who has struggled all his life with some as-yet-undiagnosed disorder. On Sunday, our church is holding a blood drive to help Ian and other people who need transfusions.
I've never donated blood in my life. I've always avoided it because I find the idea . . . creepy. I know how immature that sounds, but it's the truth. My anxiety about this is so great that sometimes when I've had to give blood for medical tests, I've been so tense that the needle pops right out of my vein. But because I love my friend and her son, I've signed up to be a donor.
I know that in terms of things to fear, this is a little thing. Any discomfort I feel will be absolutely nothing compared to all the things that Ian has suffered. So I'm hoping to do this like a grown-up and that's why I'm asking for your prayers. Specifically, I'd like you to pray about three things:
1. That I feel calm Sunday morning (and don't cause problems for the technician)
2. That we get a great turnout at the blood drive
3. That the doctors continue to find ways to help Ian get better