Merlin, my Welsh Corgi, and I were walking toward the barn on a cool, quiet morning on our way to feed. The cows were hungry; I could tell as soon as we approached, and they began to tell us all about it.
“Moos” were floating on the air as we walked past the cows on our way toward the hay barn. Merlin’s leash handle was held firmly in my hand. He was pulling hard on his tether and I could see his broad, muscular chest heaving forward, pulsing under the pressure of his harness until we got to the barn door.
When I opened the barn door, it made a loud screeching sound. Its offensive song caused Merlin to pull back in fear and bolt. All of a sudden, the leash handle was no longer firmly in my hand and began its dog chase.
The faster Merlin ran, the more he became convinced that he could never shake his pursuer — the leash. He never realized that he was being chased by his own fear. It took me a long while before I was able to him and put his pursuer back under my firm control. We walked back to the barn together.
Merlin felt safe and comfortable when surrounded by the stacks of hay that filled the barn. While he settled in, I scooped up some hay and walked out to feed my hungry cows. That’s when I realized they were teaching me how to better deal with fear.
The lesson began as soon as I thrust their breakfast over the corral’s fence. My lurching motion caught them by surprise and they instantly jumped back. What they did next was a stark contrast to Merlin and his dog-chasing leash.
When surprised and antagonized, my cows took a step back and then stopped. I noticed the way in which they stepped back. They kept their eyes firmly fixed on me. This allowed them to begin to carefully assess the danger rather than run away in uncontrolled fear. They were carefully determining the level of threat they faced. They demonstrated an intriguing testing phase.
They didn’t rush back in. They stood back for a few moments until they could evaluate what was coming next. They held their ground and gathered their courage. I watched as they moved their heads side to side while always looking forward.
They focused on determining when they could move forward safely again. They didn’t run when they didn’t need to. They only stepped carefully forward as soon as they could see it was the right thing to do. When they did step forward, it was done with a show of strength.
When they stepped, they came forward boldly. Well, they appeared to come forward bravely, but they were faking it. I could tell. Anyone who doesn’t know them as I do would find their behavior confident and perhaps even intimidating. They hid their fear and covered it with movement toward their ambition.
Cows don’t allow fear to rob them of their motivation and desire. Even though they may be a little frightened, they still move forward to enjoy a great breakfast. They don’t allow their own imagination to chase them away from what they need and want.
Merlin and I walked home to have our own breakfast. I held his feared, dog-chasing leash firmly in my hand. As we strolled, I realized that I, too, waste a lot of my life being chased by my own imagination. I could learn a lot from my cows.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.