It started out as a typical and peaceful morning of walking and mindful meditation with my dog Jack on the trails behind my house. On the way home we passed the house where a traumatized dog lives that has attacked Jack before. She was barking but was inside the house so I didn’t worry. Then a minute later I saw a large black animal racing towards us — it was her. She went straight to Jack and attacked him, growling and biting his neck. I was screaming for help and trying to get her off but couldn’t. This went on for what felt like an endless five plus minutes and then the owner, a neighbor, and some construction workers came out to help. We got the dog off Jack for a second, but then she broke away and attacked again, this time to his leg. I saw the fear and pain in Jack’s eyes. I felt helpless and out of control. And then I heard an inner voice telling me to find my anchor and breathe. It was as if another person was talking to me.
We finally separated the two dogs, and I went straight into problem-solving mode. Although I was in shock, I put Jack in the car and drove straight to the veterinary hospital in the town where we used to live. They had his records, and that would probably take less time than finding a new vet in our new town. I was panicked, but my inner voice helped me problem solve the best solutions. I moved forward to do what was needed and got help from the people who could help (e.g. asking my husband to call the neighbors to make sure that the dog had her shots). I told myself that everything will be ok. Jack was alive and seemed to be okay.
He had four lesions including one that was pretty deep. At the vet’s office they worried me even more by raising the possibility of surgery, but then decided on stitches and antibiotics. If that wasn’t enough stress for one day, I got a call while sitting in the vet’s office from my sons’ school. It was an automated message saying that the school was on lock-down because a man with a gun was seen in the creek next to the school. “Please do not call or come to the school. We will call you when we have more information.”
At first, my negative self-talk kicked in... “I can’t take anymore today, this can’t be happening.” But I quickly realized that panic was not going to help anything. I had to change my thought channel! “Find your anchor, breathe, and think positive,” I told myself. Self-talk kicked in again. “I’m sure everything is ok, it’s probably a false alarm, there is nothing I can do except think positive.”
To top it all off, I had a dear friend getting a scan to make sure the cancer in her breast hadn’t spread. I was on pins and needles because she’d been saying that her GI system wasn’t working properly. This is my sixth friend diagnosed and dealing with cancer in the last year. I saw a missed call from her and started to worry about the test results. Self-talk kicked in to say, “There is nothing I can do right now, except think positive and hope for the best.”
What a day! My kids were completely shaken up — they had to be under their desks for over an hour and twenty minutes, and then police came into the classrooms with guns to check on things. I was upset and angry that they had to deal with something like that.
When I went to bed that night I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing with all the thoughts and images from that day. I was feeling sick about all my friends who are battling cancer. I was pissed that my dog couldn’t stop shaking in his bed next to mine. I was furious that my children had to undergo so much fear at such a young age. I couldn’t stop visualizing the big black dog that came running out of the house, fangs out and ready to attack.
Then I quickly realized that I needed to find my anchor and breathe. I needed my inner coach to help knock out the negative and fear-driven thoughts. “I am grateful that my girlfriend’s cancer has not spread. I am grateful for her and other friendships in my life. I am thankful that my kids are safe and that the school took good care of them. Jack is still breathing and so am I — in and out, in and out. I am grateful for my anchor and breath!” I changed my thought channel from thinking about the big dog coming at me and my boys hiding under desks to thinking about hugging my family and being able to spend fun time with them in Arizona at spring training. Images of relaxing in the sun, watching baseball, and splashing in the pool were my last thoughts before drifting off to some much-needed sleep. Self-talk and mindfulness rescued me once again!
Don’t forget, what works for us, works for our kids! Practice, reflect on what works for you, and share it with your children. They need to see that they are not alone in needing and using tools to regulate themselves and find peace of mind.