The Most Phobic Dog in the World

Boxer, the most phobic dog in the world, needed a home & moved as I started the book

Boxer, the most phobic dog in the world, needed a home & moved as I started the book


Back in August, when a friend called to ask if I could give his dog a home, I was thrilled to become Boxer’s foster mom. I’d met him a few times, but had no idea my new roommate is in the running to be the most phobic dog in the world.

To say that walking Boxer was a challenge is an understatement. He’ll only walk familiar routes and is terrified of anyplace new. If an object appears that wasn’t there the day before, it’s trouble. Maybe it’s an orange pylon or a car parked where it shouldn’t be — he’ll go no further. If he hears a Harley, he runs for cover. I don’t even bother trying to walk him downtown – it’s way too noisy. And when trains passed through town, we’d have to stop for ten minutes while he was frozen in fear. We couldn’t even walk towards the train tracks the first few months, even if the coast was clear. You never know, he seemed to say, one might be coming!

The day I assembled my new Ikea sofa was traumatizing — all that banging and moving and cursing left him quaking. Now, anytime I move anything, he runs. Open the closet where the broom hides – he runs. My floors are scratched by his scrambling escapes from unexpected sounds, noisy trucks, and the rowdies upstairs.

One of his funniest phobias is getting his picture taken. I have no idea why. I tried for months to snap his picture, but he’d run every time. This became hilarious at my birthday party. Every time someone would take out their camera, he’d flee. The only reason I even have the photo of him above was because he was playing monkey-in-the-middle at the park and I snapped this when he wasn’t looking.

When I was a dogwalker and pet sitter, phobic animals were part of the job, so I thought I’d seen it all. Cleo, one of my favourite furry friends, was a collie-cross. She developed agoraphobia as she matured and couldn’t be coaxed out for a walk. My dearly departed dog Jules developed a fear of thunder late in life, and hid in the bathtub during storms. (She also barked at jello – I have no idea why.)

Then there was Willow, a Siamese cat with behavioural issues. She peed on everything and hid whenever her owners were away. I’d read The Dog Who Loved Too Much by Nicholas Dodman, so I was familiar with his theory that Prozac could help animals, but I was skeptical. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Willow’s one day and started reading a note her human had left. It said I might notice a change in her  — Willow was now on Prozac. I looked down, and there was phobia cat, weaving around my ankles and purring.

I’d just started writing The Patron Saint of Dogs when Boxer arrived. He’s been an inspiration for the novel and has helped me heal – and come to terms with my grief and guilt over Jules’ agonizing death. We all have our scars, and I suspect Boxer had a traumatic experience during his imprint stage.

As Boxer has settled in, he’s eased up – a bit — and I’ve found a few bizarre solutions. If he poops after we’ve left the park, we can only get to the garbage bin behind my building via detour. He will not approach the bin from the east – he’ll plant his feet and nothing can drag his eighty pounds an inch closer to the brown monstrosity. But walk around the building and approach that same bin from the west? No problem!

He’s adapted to certain sounds, too. If a train passes by, he’s cool. Take a new route to the park? It doesn’t faze him anymore. Dogs, like people, have their hang ups, and Boxer certainly does. With a bit of acclimatization and patience, he’s settled down and we’ve both learned to adjust.

But move the coffee table an inch? He still bolts.

About The Patron Saint of Dogs
Writing The Patron Saint of Dogs is my way of helping to save abused and abandoned dogs and cats in the real world. A portion of every sale will be donated to animal rescue organizations in Canada and around the world. My name is Colleen MacDougall and I was a dog walker and pet sitter for 11 years. Many of the furry characters in this book are reincarnations of wonderful animals I was able to know, love and help, especially Jules, who is Grace's partner-in-crime now, but was my furbaby and the very first person I hope to see in that great off-leash park in dog heaven.

8 Responses to The Most Phobic Dog in the World

  1. Pingback: The Adventures of a Wet Retriever | The Patron Saint of Dogs

  2. The stray cat that joined my family a year ago was fearful of everything. She was the most skittish kitty I’d ever known. Oh what a difference a year makes. I know we can’t compare beautiful Boxer with a cat. She’d surely be offended. But perhaps with time and your continued love and patience, she’ll keep making progress. I wonder if they have Feliway for dogs.

    • Boxer does not mind being compared to a cat, as long as your skittish kitty doesn’t mind being compared to him 😉 I know there are herbal remedies that can help calm dogs. I believe there are homeopaths that can help canines, too.

  3. Boxer is a beautiful dog! I’m glad that he is with someone patient & understanding like you. We had a miniature Schnauzer that i am convinced was a paranoid schizophrenic. He finally confined himself to the living room and Heaven forbid we move ANYTHING to a new place! My heart goes out to you & Boxer.

  4. Boxer sounds very much like Pearl. Certain noises send her into a total panic, and when I first fostered her, I couldn’t get her out for a walk at all. She particularly fears children’s voices (which is sad) and she can’t stand the sound of a football being kicked. Time works wonders, though – she’s much better now, and many sounds that freaked her out at first don’t worry her anymore.
    I’ve never attempted to assemble Ikea furniture but I can imagine the cursing that would come out of me if I ever had to do it! My ‘trigger’ is computer rage – both Pearl and Millie get nervous if they sense I’m having computer trouble because they know I’m likely to start shouting at it. I’ve never directed my anger at the dogs, but they still don’t like to hear me shouting. I try to keep the cursing to a minimum because I know it upsets them, but sometimes I just can’t help having a good old rant.
    Millie is the opposite of Boxer when it comes to having her photo taken – she absolutely loves it, and has even been known to plant herself in front of total strangers if there’s a camera pointing at them!

    • Thanks for sharing Annabelle!

      Pearl’s problem with children may be their high pitched voices. A dog’s hearing picks up higher frequencies, so it may hurt her ears. Talk to your vet and have him check her ears next time you are there — she may need them cleaned, or not cleaned, quite so much.

      • I think you’re right, it is the high-pitched sound of children’s voices – it’s not the kids themselves, if a child comes up and strokes her, she’s fine with it. She has to go for a dental soon so I’ll ask the vet to check her ears at the same time. Thanks for the heads-up!

If you like The Patron Saint of Dogs, please share it. All feedback is welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: