Dec. 17, 2009
Animal behaviorists classify our dog Hank as a fear biter. He has nipped a few people, including our niece Darci, whose theatrical background probably has concocted a much more fantastical story about the scar on her derriere. After Darci screamed we sought professional help.
An animal psychologist prescribed methods meant to change Hank's behaviors, including a collar that would squirt lemony water in his eyes when he barked. DC and I shook our heads at such means to an end.
A veteran dog trainer looked at Hank and immediately said he was sorry, Hank couldn't be helped.
Our last resort was an animal psychic from Iowa who told us Hank is an alpha male overwhelmed by his responsibilities as protector.
His behavior would be the canine equivalent of the psychosis at play in the movie "Dr. Strangelove," the Cold War strategies of pre-emptive strikes and mutually assured destruction. The Cold War manifested FDR's insight about fear being the only thing to fear.
Love and fear are the two ways of looking at being alive. We all know those who see threats everywhere and think those who don't are naive or crazy. We all know those alight with the goodness they see. Most of us live somewhere between those poles, but a stronger belief in one or the other informs our world.
Advertisers have always sold their products through our fears. Real men have big-screen TVs. The women they want have fragrant houses. Or spic-and-span houses.
Fear of disease sells drugs, but we also know fear creates disease -- in bodies and in the body politic.
Governments can try to control people through fear. Extreme examples are obvious, but subtler manipulations are always being used. When divided by our fears we are more easily controlled.
Love is not so readily abused but can be. Remember the famous "Love Story" line? "Love is never having to say you're sorry." Fear created that sentence. John Lennon said love is having to say you're sorry a thousand times a day.
Hank views most everyone in the world as a threat unless he knows they're safe. Those who are safe include DC, me and our parents. He might still fear us but be able to control it just as we control him. Hank never allows himself to be cornered. I suspect he was hurtfully cornered before we found him.
Hank's sister Lucy is his opposite, a dog who wants everyone to pet her, who is curious about others, not fearful of them. Lucy's love excepts only cats and groundhogs and possums. She probably has her reasons.
Saints have walked among us showing the way. They have loved, not feared; they have embraced the light, not the dark. We know both. Each breath provides a choice between them. St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Joy to you and to the world.
Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.