Brady, like most dogs, is terrified of the vacuum cleaner. Whenever I get the Oreck out of the closet, he runs to his kennel and hides.
He ventures out cautiously if the ferocious beast is roaring in another room. He holds his ground as I make my way from the back of the house to the front, moving ever closer to his “turf.” He watches the vacuum vigilantly, ready to dart to the safety of his kennel at the first sign of danger.
It doesn’t help that our vacuum has headlights. When I turn in his direction, the lights glare fiercely at him, and he runs for cover.
Today, in a great show of bravery, he darted quickly at the enemy, nipped the vacuum bag, and darted away again, only rising for the briefest of moments from a defensive crouch. When I realized what he was doing–counting coup on the vacuum cleaner–I nearly laughed out loud.
But biting the vacuum is not behavior I want to encourage, so he got his scolding, and a trip to his kennel. Inside I was laughing, though, and he probably knew it.
We humans like to think we’re special, but animals do so many of the same things we do, and we can learn from each other. In this case, both dogs and humans have a practice that reminds them that simply by touching the strange other we call our enemy, we can conquer our fear.