Stephanie Burgis
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little victories
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This morning, writing felt like a slog through deep mud and falling rain, and by the time I hit about 300 words, I was feeling absolutely desperate and burned out. I was soooooo ready to give up for the day. But with Patrick's encouragement, I kept going, whimpering every time I checked my word-count and saw how little I'd progressed...until suddenly, it took off! I ended up writing over 1200 words and actually liking them, and even figuring out some new twists and turns in the plot. Whew!

Better yet, there's really good news for Maya after several days of worrying. She's always been absolutely terrified of fireworks and any other loud banging sounds, and unfortunately, over the last week, something in the neighborhood (a machine set up to scare away birds from the local farms, maybe?) has been letting out banging noises every couple of minutes. They're not loud enough to bother a human, but Maya panics every time she hears one, and over the last few days, it's gotten so bad that she's been too scared to even want to go outside. Every time we forced her out for a walk, she tucked her tail up tight against her belly and started shivering so hard with fear that the leash would actually jiggle in my hands. When we got back home, she'd hide under Patrick's desk and refuse to come out.

We've tried everything we could think of, with no luck, and she's just gotten worse and worse...until yesterday afternoon, when I suddenly tried a new tactic. Instead of ignoring her and just walking ahead as if nothing were wrong (as most of the dog advice columns recommended) or trying to soothe her (which just makes the fear worse - omigod, they're scared too! see, there is something wrong!), I started to play with her. Or at her, really. I made silly noises. I made eye contact with her, gasped, and then looked around wildly. Her eyes brightened. Her ears perked up. She looked around, too. Her tail rose up tentatively and began to wag. She threw herself into the game. And everything got better.

We've taken her out three times since then, and every time, starting a game has successfully distracted her from the fear. It still hasn't gone away - if I stop talking to her and playing with her, her tail sinks back down between her legs and she begins to look small and hunted again - but it's a huge improvement, and we are so relieved. This morning I took her out, we played, she relaxed, she sniffed around calmly, we walked back into the house, and she crawled right into my lap on the couch for a cuddle. And I was so glad.

Hurray for little victories.

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