One scary incident occurred recently when I was caring for a friend's pet dog while their family was away on vacation. This dog is part pit bull and is extremely strong, heavy, and muscular for her height and length, with jaws that have reduced many pieces of furniture and other household items (including parts of the house itself) to rubble. When I arrived one evening to take her off her outdoor line and bring her into the house for her dinner, I was startled to see her twist free from my grasp on her collar and bound free about the fenced yard. I called to her to come have her dinner, but she stood her ground and bared her teeth, growling a deep, gutteral growl. All the hairs on my body were now standing on end, as I extended a dog biscuit and tried calling to her again. This time, she growled more ferociously at me, her yellow eyes gleaming resentment... and barked a warning bark that clearly said, "Keep away!"
I gazed into her warning gaze and felt fear wash over me like a wet, icy cloud. In that moment I realized how deadly this dog could be if she wished to be. I then remembered that dogs can smell fear, and fear is the one emotion I could not afford the luxury of experiencing at that moment. I asked myself, "What are you afraid of?" and noted that I was most scared that the dog would sense I was losing "top dog" status, and that she would not allow me to bring her inside for her dinner. As soon as I knew what my fear was... that I would not know how to maintain a sense of dominance in the "pack," I relaxed, and did the best I could to let go of my fear and my worry. It was exactly at the moment when I relaxed that I knew what I could do! The dog's owners sometimes had her do a trick called, "up on the table," in which she would hop up on top of a patio table in the yard. I assumed my most commanding demeanor and firmly said, "up on the table," and was surprised and delighted when she complied with abashed docility.
As this dog-sitting experience reminded me, there is real power in asking oneself the right question at the right time. Next time you are feeling afraid, ask yourself the question, "What am I afraid of?" and pay close attention to the answer. Chances are, you'll discover something wonderful in yourself and the world!