A few months ago, I reached a point in my therapy where I realized I needed to spend less time in front of the computer and more time out in that strange place referred to as “the world”. Spend time with “people”. The point, I suppose, was to face some of my anxiety by purposefully putting myself into a new situation. So, I volunteered for a couple of things, one of which was fostering dogs from my local humane society.
I love dogs. My father bred red tick coonhounds (also known as English coonhounds), so I grew up with them. Some of the earliest pictures of me are of my mother balancing me on the back of my father’s prized hound (the hound didn’t appear to be enjoying the experience but he was a sweetie about stuff like that). We own two dogs right now, Husky/Boxer mixes.
What I’ve learned so far is that:
- Television is a fascinating experience.
- When entering a new environment, every inch of it should be thoroughly sniffed.
- Eschew the nice, new toys. Go after things lovingly put on display.
- Corners of tables are good for sharpening teeth.
- Back yards are frightening. Crap by the bed.
- Doggie doors are magical portals and should be approached with extreme caution.
I’ve also learned that I did not pay nearly enough attention when my father educated and disciplined the dogs he raised and trained. I’ve been flummoxed over what to do when a foster won’t use a doggie door, perplexed when my dogs snub the foster, and deeply troubled when the foster turns out to be part Houdini. (Our dogs grew out of their Houdini phase long ago, though we still don’t entirely trust them.)
It hasn’t really put me into situations where I’m around strange people, save for when I have to take the foster back to the shelter to be taken away for adoption, but it’s put me into strange situations. I suppose, in a way, my goal has been fulfilled. One of the things I have anxiety about is being wrong, of doing the wrong thing. Here, I have to take charge of a situation and be responsible, putting to use what I’ve learned in my therapy sessions.
It’s something I’m really proud of, actually. And I love to foster. If we ever have to stop, I’m going to be very disappointed. It’s not often that you get to do something where you see that you’re making a tangible difference.