Posted by: Dr. Jennifer Fee | December 31, 2010

Happy Puppy, Anxious Mom

It was one of those cold (by California standards) grey afternoons when I went outside to bring in the dogs.  My son’s puppy came immediately, with a goofy grin on his face and tongue hanging out of his mouth.  “You’re going to feed me, right?” is the question he always seems to be asking.  Ignoring him, I called to my daughter’s dog, a small 20 pound, cream and white Labradoodle named Daisy.  She also has one-track mind, except that it’s not at all about food.  Daisy only seems to think “Ball” and “Run.”  As soon as she sees any of us, she runs to get one of her balls and says, “time to play!”  It seems impossible sometimes to tire her out.

Daisy as a puppy

Today Daisy does not appear when I call.  I looked and to my horror I saw that our gate was open.  Daisy got out! Instant panic ensued.  I ran to the front yard and asked my neighbor if she has seen Daisy.  My neighbor takes off in her truck to look for Daisy.  My husband  drives off in another direction.  I ask everyone who passes by if they’ve seen a little curly dog.  No one has.

I am sure that once she got out, Daisy just started running.  I start checking the Animal Control website, hoping that her picture would appear.  I ask God to spare my daughter from the pain that would result of losing her dog. but I have little hope that Daisy will be found alive.  A kind woman at Animal Control encourages me to drive down there, they have a dog they just picked up that matches Daisy’s description.

I am about to leave when my husband returns, holding a shaking little dog in his arms.  I cannot believe that she has been found!  I also cannot believe the story he told–she crossed a very busy street unharmed, and a small group of people started to follow her–but she’s hard to catch! A couple finally caught her and took her to their house.  Another man was driving around our neighborhood looking for people who might have lost a dog!

Crisis over, all is well.  I am thankful, relieved, and exhausted.

The next day I leave for work. My husband is fixing our broken gate.  My daughter and Daisy are playing together in the family room.  All is well, right?

All is well–until my second client of the day. This women starts talking about her plans to have her cats microchipped, and for no apparent reason (at the time anyway) I start to get highly anxious.  “What if Daisy is out again?’ was the main thought.  I told myself that was a ridiculous thought, but it was difficult to shake until the conversation shifted to another topic.

Then I was fine.  Really?  The anxiety hit me again on my way home, as I traveled down the busy street that Daisy had crossed.  “There’s no way she should have lived crossing this street,” I thought and then I had an image of her dead in the middle of the street.  I come home, the gate is fixed, and Daisy greets me at the door, ball-in-mouth.

I always tell everyone that anxiety is about the future, anticipation of things that haven’t happened yet.  This is a true statement.  However, we can use past negative events as fuel for our worry and anxiety.  Because it’s happened before,  it might happen again,  fueling anxiety.  Some research shows that women tend to do this more than men.  The researchers further assert that this may explain why women as a group tend to “have more frequent and intense worries, perceive more risk, have greater intolerance for uncertainty, and experience higher rates of anxiety than males.” (Read more here).

So what to do?  There’s a disclaimer line that investment companies use all the time that I love:  “Past Performance is not Predictive of Future Returns.”  Of course these companies are covering themselves if your investment doesn’t turn out so well, but I think the same line applies to life in general.  I repeat this statement to myself when I get anxious thinking about the possibility of something from the past happening again. 

What do you do when anxiety creeps up regarding something that’s happened in the past?  Please comment below!

Thanks to all our kind neighbors who helped return Daisy safely to my daughter!

–Dr. Jennifer Fee

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