My body is covered with scars. Literally, I have scar tissue from the back of my head to my toes. Very few of my earlier injuries left hidden emotional scarring. I choose to view my physical scars as my personal history, a topographical map of things that have happened to me along my journey.
If we're lucky, a scar is all that remains of an old wound. It serves as a reminder of our past, which can be a trigger for old memories. There is one scar I have that I have carried for close to fifteen years. There are some residual effects of that one, which I hope will continue to fade as months turn into years.
All my life, for as long as I can remember, I have loved dogs. As a child, I adored our little Border Collies. Then we had one of the greatest dogs ever, Barney, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever/Lab mix. I bred Labrador Retrievers for a few years when my own children were small. Sitting in the middle of a litter of chubby Lab puppies is a joyful experience. The Boston Terrier we adopted when he was just six weeks old is almost four years old. Dogs have always been a part of my life.
A switch flipped in me the day a dog bit me. My friend and I were taking our long Saturday walk through the alfalfa fields south of the golf course. As we were passing by a log cabin, the owner's farm dogs silently ran out toward the road, watching as we walked along their property. I didn't give them a second thought.
Unbeknownst to me, the Blue Heeler had slipped in behind us, and was trailing us. All of a sudden I felt a sharp sting in my calf, and I jumped, grabbing my friend's arm. The Blue Heeler had nipped the back of my bare leg, much as he would if I were a wayward cow needing a reminder to return to the herd. I didn't realize I'd been bitten until I felt the warm blood as it cooled, trickling down the back of my leg into the heel of my shoe.
His teeth marks shredded my skin, exposing several layers of raw flesh, and left me with an uneven, white patch of skin on my left calf. For several years I had a new respect (translation: psychotic fear) of Blue Heelers. Any time we met Australian shepherds or Blue Heelers on our walks after that, I nearly climbed up my friend's back to get away from the untrustworthy canines. I still adored nearly any other breed of dogs: especially big dogs of any sort: Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, German Shepherds; just not Blue Heelers. Is it rational? No. Do I feel it fair to judge an entire breed on one experience? No.
Things are changing. I'm getting better. I had to. A few years ago, we moved into the family home in a tiny rural town, and our neighbors have Blue Heelers, two of them. Those dogs petrified me every time I walked past their house, but my love of the canyon outweighed my fear of the dogs. They seem to delight in running toward me with their hackles up, barking to protect their homestead. I finally am able to draw myself up to my full height, and with all of the bravado I can muster, I tell them, "NO! Go home!" They are not eager to obey me, but they usually back down after they see I mean business.
Sometimes a small scar is all that remains of an earlier injury. If we're lucky, the emotional scarring eventually heals, and leaves only the faintest mark on our memory. I'm glad I've come this far; sometimes the emotional scar takes a little longer to fade than the physical one.