Recently a dog was lost on the moor above the village where I live. The moor is popular with dog walkers and the little Labradoodle was out and about with its owners when four much bigger dogs ran over to say hello.
The Labradoodle became frightened and took flight into the nearby pine plantation and wouldn’t come back when called. The owners were distraught and, despite the cold, slept in their car nearby for two weeks whilst they searched for their dog.
Help came from an amazing group of people who find lost dogs. They set out camera traps on the moor and in the woods; and put feeding stations at key places. The dog was spotted on the camera traps but was repeatedly frightened again by contact with people and other dogs, and kept running and hiding.
The lost dog finders explained that the Labradoodle was in full instinctive ‘flight and survival’ mode. Any contact made them run away again.
The story ends well. After nearly three weeks of living wild, the Labradoodle was lured into a cage with food and was joyfully reunited with its owners. Everyone was very happy.
The lost dog’s behaviour resonated with me as I know ‘flight and survival’ mode very well. Past traumatic events and experiences can give rise to overwhelming anxiety and I run and hide, just as the Labradoodle did.
I don’t think rationally in this state. I explained to a psychiatrist that when I’m trying to cross a road, I feel that every car is going to hit me. There’s no logic to it and I just have to wait for the anxiety to subside.
The lost dog story was helpful because now I know that it’s a normal natural behaviour. It’s not a syndrome, condition or disorder with a fancy name. It’s instinct.
Do you experience periods of overwhelming anxiety and how do you overcome them if you do?