CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There isn't much that Murry, our 8-year-old wheaten terrier, is afraid of. He doesn't fear other dogs, moving cars, falling anvils. If a tiger were charging, he'd splay his paws and wag his tail or show his adorable belly. If a dog-hating armed robber broke in, Murry would bring him a shoe.
That's not because Murry is brave. It's because his brain is the size of a pea.
But I love my pea-brained mop dog. He's my most constant companion. I can't imagine how I'd survive these hot summer days without his sopping wet beard, freshly refilled from the bucket, cooling my leg as the water dribbles down from where his chin rests on my knee.
Not counting deep thought and pop quizzes, there are only a few things that Murry is truly afraid of. The first is the groomer, for whom he has a seething hatred, along with a knee-knocking fear. The others are thunderstorms and fireworks.
Our family's two other dogs represent opposite ends of the anxiety spectrum. The silky terrier, Chewie, is essentially fearless, almost stupidly so, while Roo, our closet dog, has phobias so specialized she even has one for vertical men.
That Roo chose to share Murry's fear of thunder and fireworks seemed unsurprising to us, but to Murry, her fear compounds his, as though Roo's trembling gives him proof there's something to fear.
And gives us reason to dread holidays like the Fourth of July.
Not long ago, Geoff and I were on the back porch with the dogs when a storm started to brew. For some reason, when the thunder rumbled, I gave Murry a nudge and said in a playful voice, "Get it, Murry."
He barked at the thunder.
"Good boy," Geoff encouraged. "Get it, Murry. Chase it away."
More thunder, more barking. Instead of growing more fearful, Murry was soon hopping and woofing at each fresh crack of thunder, thoroughly enjoying that he was being encouraged to bark. He seemed to forget to be scared.
Roo, however, was barricading all the doors with heavy furniture while Chewie was busy sticking forks in electrical outlets.