I would avoid staring at stray dogs whenever I walked down the path.
The fear started at the age of 10. It was a chilly Sunday morning. I woke up while everyone else in the neighborhood slept. My sister and I decided to go play outside, with my parents believing that we were fast asleep. After a while, I got bored, but my sister insisted on continuing to play, so I left her outside. I shut the door, forgetting that she was still outside. Later, we heard a scream, which I recognized as my sister’s. I was terrified. I recalled her being out and realized something awful had happened at that point. As we ran out, we saw her crying and heading towards our house. A dog had bitten her. Thankfully, we were close to a vet’s clinic, and she could take injection shots. Everything had returned to normal, but I was filled with guilt, and it had all turned into a new fear-I started getting scared of dogs. My fear grew stronger after another incident.
It all started when I was walking in the park and came across two dogs sleeping next to each other. I stopped to drink water when suddenly, they woke up and hopped onto me. As I ran, they ran after me. My heart started beating so fast that I couldn’t run any further. They slowed when I slowed, stopped when I stopped, but followed me all the way to my house, where they barked for almost half an hour. It was very scary, and I felt like I was in a horror film. I could feel my heartbeat racing and I was sweating. This is when my phobia of dogs set in, and I became cynophobic. It was quite stressful for me. You don’t realize how prevalent they are unless you attempt to avoid them! At the sight of these man’s best buddies, I’ve been panicked, frightened, and petrified! I must have put my life in danger a thousand times by rushing in front of cars and trucks only to avoid a stray dog strolling on the sidewalk.
My fear started to impact my life in many different ways. For example, before visiting a friend, I’d start considering if they had a dog, -and, if they did, whether I could ask them to keep the dog away- or whether it was better to simply avoid seeing them. I used to cross the street every time I went for a stroll to avoid seeing dogs out walking with their owners. It had an impact on me even in unexpected locations, such as restaurants and offices that allow dogs. Since then, just the sight of dogs increased my heart rate with tightness in my chest, and sometimes I started breathing faster. Whenever I saw a dog, I immediately started sweating or I would simply run away.
Gradually, my relationships with my friends and relatives started to get affected as I stopped visiting them. I started avoiding going out, feeling anxious, and stayed more at home to avoid even a glimpse of dogs. Everything started deteriorating, and I started having anxiety issues. I used to get anxious whenever I saw a dog. This is when one of my friends, who had cynophobia too, recommended I visit a counsellor.
Even though I agreed to visit the counsellor upon my friend’s assistance, I didn’t think I would be able to overcome this phobia. During the first session, the counsellor asked me about my fear and my encounter with dogs. She genuinely tried to understand my fear and how it impacted me. As the sessions proceeded, we started working towards my phobia, and the counsellor helped me overcome the fear step-by-step at a pace I was comfortable with. She never pushed me towards facing dogs and let me work at my own pace. Over time, she made sure to decrease my sensitivity towards dogs, and I started to become less fearful. Eventually, through therapy, I started seeing my friends and relatives who had dogs at their places, walked down the street, and visited my favourite restaurants where dogs were allowed. It took some time, but now I can even stand and have a glance at them without any fear, and I am working more towards it.
Even though it took me time, therapy helped me overcome my fear of dogs. With the help of my counsellor, who gave me support and reassurance, I am now able to live my life without the constant fear of dogs at every step of the way. All thanks to therapy, I can now socialize, communicate, and have healthy relationships without being afraid.