Biff: Dogs in bed
Vail CO, Colorado
It was three in the morning; I awoke with a hairy butt resting against my face.
“Get him out of here!” I yelled to my mate.
“You’re lucky,” Ellen mumbled. “I have his claws digging into my back.
Our dog, Robby, has developed a newfound fear of thunder and lightning, which causes him to crawl into bed with us when the thunder booms.
This is a relatively new condition.
Neither Ellie nor I can figure out why this phobia began so late in life. Up until a year ago he was never bothered by thunder, fireworks or even gunshots. I’d even occasionally take him when I visited a local shooting range. The first few times I’d sit with him in my truck for several minutes to see if the gunfire was going to bother him. After awhile I’d get out, use the range and when I’d return, he’d often be sleeping.
But lately, any loud noise makes him as nervous as a vegan at a bull-fight.
This summer some of our most powerful electrical storms have occurred in the early morning.
Ellen and I will be sleeping through the commotion only to be awoken by Robby jumping onto the bed. After taking a few laps around the comforter, he’ll stick his head under the covers (thus proving that his sense of hearing is much more powerful then his sense of smell). Often he’ll be shaking so badly that we are tempted to share some of our sedatives.
To tell the truth, having an occasional nocturnal visit doesn’t really bother us. Bob is such a little thing, there is plenty of room. We are happy to calm him the best we can, plus it gives me someone to blame for any noxious odors.
But it does make me curious how a dog, or a human for that matter, learns fear.
My old man used to say, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero but once.”
I’m pretty sure that is a butchered paraphrase of a Shakespeare assertion; the message being the timid suffer with every worry, while the valiant live life in the present.
But that doesn’t help answer where man, or animals, learn fear.
The oldest cause of fear is the fear of the unknown. Early man was fearful of everything from thunder to a total eclipse.
But as we have become more worldly and enlightened, we have become less frightened of nature but more afraid of humans.
Just as my dog fears sounds he doesn’t understand, we now fear people who are foreign.
This fear exists even though we are the meanest dog in the neighborhood.
There is that old bumper sticker paraphrasing the Psalm 23: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil ” because I’m the meanest SOB in the valley.”
Almost from the beginning this country has been the meanest SOB on the planet.
With that designation came a sense of security. The events on Sept. 11 changed that. The events of 9/11 showed that even the meanest SOB on the planet is not immune to the deeds of a few religious zealots who murder in the name of God. Almost as tragic as the loss of lives was the plague of fear and loss of trust.
But the truth is ” at least in my opinion ” this country is no more dangerous now than it was 10 years ago. In fact, I would argue that it is safer.
Personally I’m less afraid of a terrorist attack than I am of getting hit by a car while I’m riding a bicycle. I’m also not fearful of any nuclear assault by a foreign nation. I think there is a greater likelihood of a nuclear accident by our own nation, on our own soil. I’m not afraid of Muslims, immigrants, or same sex marriages eroding family values or the sanctity of marriage. All those things are just distractions from what we should be worried about.
What I am afraid of is our country’s $9 trillion national debt, which is increasing by $1.8 billion a day. For perspective, this means that for every man, woman and child’s share is $31,000 and growing.
I’m afraid that one-third of the citzens of the richest nation on the planet can’t afford health insurance.
I’m afraid that with the “us vs. them” mindset caused by our national fear we have become less mindful of the death-toll of innocent civilians.
I’m afraid that some Americans will not vote for a candidate due to his skin color.
I’m afraid that political parties will try to induce unjustified fear to influence the next election.
Come to think of it, maybe the thunder isn’t what is causing my dog to stick his head under our blankets …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.