“I know what it means to hide your heart, from a long time ago. Oh, darlin’. It keeps you runnin’, yeah it keeps you runnin’…” Recorded by: Doobie Brothers (1976). Composed by: Michael McDonald.
You’ve heard it said, “Fight or flight.” My step-grand-dog, Dooley, knows all too well. His owner is my step-son.
Dooley, is a black German Shepherd/Border Collie mix. He is about two years old, all 79 pounds of him. The boy is always “ON”. Never still, always full of energy, and often calamity ensues. Certainly lovable, but be careful, he can injure you with his rocket-pup enthusiasm.
July 4th was an experience for us all. My wife and I headed out to east Texas, just outside of a tiny place called Lone Oak. My brother-in-law, and his large family, invited the extended family, including Dooley, out to their wooded country home for food, frolic and fireworks. The fun, family and fellowship was at its height from the very start. The roasted Texas brisket was tender, the kids were loud and the hot evening air had a welcoming relieving breeze. Dooley was loving the spacious property with his signature exuberance along with the expected drool.
Those close to Dooley know very well if he decides to run over you, you will bite the dust. If he makes the decision to get to a certain spot on the ground, the leash will drag you.
As dusk crept upon us, the anticipation of family firework launching was almost tangible. Dooley looked inquisitive, to say the least. Wherever the kids were gathered, he pushed his way into the middle of it all. So, when the box and sacks of various fireworks were presented out by the driveway to the side of the front yard, the kids were foaming at the mouth, so was Dooley.
A series of popping Black Cats were lit. Dooley was about six feet from the string of explosives. As soon as they began to ignite with an echoing slap-back of ear-popping bangs, Dooley shot off in the opposite direction like a race-pony. It was dark, with only Tiki-torches to give some holiday glow. Someone said he ran to the back of the house. My step-son was able to wrangle him like an Abilene cowboy in a rodeo. The fireworks continued. My brother-in-law escalated the flames of fun with some good sized bottle rockets. I worried about our thunder-dog of the night as the spectacle lit up the sky above. Dooley had been tethered to a cork-screw stake in the dry Texas sod after his first speedy escape, but it didn’t take long until super-dog yanked himself free. One of the kids yelled out that Dooley ran out into the woods and vanished.
The fireworks gathering turned into a search party. I feared for him, knowing that local ranchers and farmers might see him in the darkness and mistake him for a black wolf. I don’t have to tell you how that would end.
Thankfully, after a 20 minute search, Dooley was found up against a barbed-wire fence at the far back border of the property. Once they brought the poor guy back to the house, it was clear he had tried to negotiate with the fence to get to the other side. He is a city dog, uneducated in the ways of country-living. That type of fence was alien to him. He had a deep gash on his head, scratches along his lengthy legs as well as his side. Since there are deadly wild razorback boars roaming free in the woods, he could have easily been attacked if he had stayed on the lam too long with the his smell of blood in the air. He was tended to with peroxide and cleaned up nicely. I doubt Dooley will be back next year for the family Ka-Boom fest. I’m sure he couldn’t wait to get back to his quiet apartment with his comfy-couch in suburban north Dallas.
On the way home, I recognized myself in the adventure chapter of Dooley’s July 4th. How many times have we been blindsided by something dangerous or harmful and ran away as quickly as we came? Maybe I should’ve written “seemingly dangerous or harmful”.
One of my dearest friends from my high school years has been through some fireworks in life which ignited a prairie fire. He has had to walk through some flames with family, his kids, wife, divorce and property losses. A little over a year ago, his best friend (a cousin) passed away from a fast moving cancer. A few months later, his honored uncle, (the father of the one who had died) also passed away. He grieves heavily like I have never seen before. This past December, he was there when his beloved father died after three horrific heart surgeries. I recall him saying he didn’t want to be there and yet he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This week, his widowed mother, who lives alone some 200 miles away in east Texas, began to show terrible signs of dementia. She is having hallucinations, unwarranted fears and warnings of a nervous breakdown. He needs to move out there with her, but he is about two years away from retirement with full benefits, including pension. He text me saying, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” It worries me. He’s at the barbed-wire fence.
Have you been to the bared-wire before? Are you there now? Have you run so hard, so fast that you run into more potent danger, a more severe flame? Did a fear or circumstance cause you to flee out of sheer reflex? I know I have. I call it, as Dooley would if he could speak English, a defensive mechanism. Frankly, it’s human nature to run away from pain and fear.
Personally, I think of my past martial arts training. Chuck Norris, the Babe Ruth of Karate Championships, once wrote (paraphrased) “When entering the ring to face my opponent, I never once considered not winning.” To put fear aside, to stand and rely on your conditioning in training, and face the giant across from you is the goal.
My beloved trainer, Demetrius “Greek” Havanas (1950-1981)
I think of first responders and the military who train themselves to run into the inflamed building, or run toward the piercing bullets.
Fight or flight can be solved within us. It all depends upon the firm foundation beneath the feet. It all depends upon the condition of the mind and heart. It all depends upon the shield you select to carry. Otherwise, the next unexpected “it” will keep you runnin’.
Yet, there’s something to say about being grounded in times of struggle with fuel for the race.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)