My dog, Bijou, has learned to go up and down the stairs. It is amazing to me that, at five years old, she is suddenly able (and willing) to do this.
Bijou was so small as a puppy that a flight of stairs must have seemed daunting to her. She was tiny, so I would just scoop her up and carry her whenever I went upstairs. This continued until she was full grown. If I left her downstairs when I went up, she would sit at the bottom of the stairs and cry. Many times, we tried to teach her to walk upstairs on her own, calling her and coaxing her and even bribing her with treats. She could not do it. We even tried carrying her halfway up and leaving her on a middle step. She would flatten her body to the step in terror, as if any movement would send her tumbling to the bottom of the stairs. We finally gave up.
Bijou learned to manage going up and down the outside steps to our front porch, but this did not translate into an ability to tackle the stairway between our first and second floors. We knew she was physically able to master those stairs, but her fear kept her trapped on the first floor. Our other two dogs, Zuzu and Bibi, who are the same size as Bijou, can handle the stairs just fine. At times, everyone in the family would be upstairs and we would hear a forlorn Bijou giving a little bark to let us know she was trapped downstairs.
The other day when I got home from work, Sam announced that Bijou had gone upstairs several times during the day. I was amazed. He said he had been in his room and, when he looked up, Bijou was standing by his door. He took her downstairs, but she kept returning. That evening, Bijou demonstrated her skills by going up the stairs several times. Of course, she still could not go down the stairs, so we had to keep carrying her down with us. After just a couple of days, though, she had mastered that as well. Now, Bijou is free to travel up and down the stairs whenever she wants. Once in a while she forgets. We will hear her crying downstairs and we have to remind her that she can walk up herself. We call her and she comes.
I am so proud of Bijou. I do not know what inspired her to overcome her fear. I do know that she has a lot more freedom now that she is not dependent on us to carry her from floor to floor. All of this makes me wonder. What is it that I could do perfectly well if fear was not holding me back? This is a hard question to find the answer to. It’s hard for me to take an honest look at what holds me back from achieving my goals. I am sure that there are tasks and accomplishments and unfulfilled desires at which I could succeed if I were not “flattened” by fear, as Bijou was flattened to the middle step for fear of falling. I want a freedom like the one that Bijou has found. I want to climb the impossible stairways in my life.