Dear Zelda Wisdom Fear Factor bulldog humor advice therapy dog advice column

Fear Factor (1/11/06)

Dearest Zelda,

I really like this boy at school. There is a dance coming up and I want to ask him but I am so nervous! What should I do??

Shy and Scared

Dear Shy and Scared,

Well, that is a tough one. It's scary to have feelings for someone and not know how they feel about you. So what do I think you should you do?

Brush up on your dance moves! Don't let a little thing like fear stand in the way of boogyin' with your boy-to-be! Times have changed. Boys ask girls and girls ask boys... this is how it works now, thank goodness. I'll bet some boys even expect it, and I can GUARANTEE that most of them are just as scared to ask you. If you really like this boy, there's no better chance to let him know than asking him to a dance!

So just go on up and ask him. It's probably best to do it when your friends aren't around. That way there's no embarrassment for either one of you in front of other people, and it makes having a conversation a little easier without the peering eyes from... well... your peers' eyes (did that make sense?). As embarrassing as this sounds, sometimes it's easiest to be straightforward, and just say to him, "Hey, would you like to go to the dance with me?" Be strong, and be ready; the answer can go either way. He may already have a date, be busy that night, or... he just might say YES! But the really important thing is that you were brave enough to ask him, and I promise that you'll look back on that and be proud of yourself when you're older.

Whatever the answer, keep smiling. The main thing is the fact that you did it, and that, in itself, should have you dancin' in the hallways!

Good Luck !


Dear Zelda,

My dad read your column last week and suggested I write you for advice (actually he's writing it with me). I am 10 years old and I'm still afraid of the dark. My younger sister and brother make fun of me and sometimes hide the night light in our room after my parents go to bed. I'm afraid to get out of bed in the dark because I think someone is hiding under it. When I was little I thought it was a monster. I'm not afraid of monsters anymore but now it's a bad person. My family tells me no one is there, but I am still afraid. What can I do?

Afraid of the Dark

Dear Afraid of the Dark,

First things first: there is nothing wrong with being afraid of the dark. Everyone, at some point in their life, is afraid of something. When I was a puppy, I was scared whenever there was a thunder storm outside! As for you're brother and sister teasing you about it, that's just not nice! Then again, by now I'm sure you are used to the fact that living with a brother and sister means living with a little bit of teasing now and then.

But hey, it's scary in the dark, because you can't really see what's around you! And since we can't see what's in our rooms at night...we lie awake and worry what MIGHT be there. So try thinking of it this way: if your brother and sister aren't afraid of the dark in your room, why should you be? If they feel safe enough to sneak in and take the night light, that should tell you that no one is in the room but the three of you. Trust me, if there was something spooky in your room, they'd be running like "scaredy cats!" One thing that may help is to leave the door to your bedroom cracked open a little bit. That way you won't feel like you're cut off from the rest of the house, and it should leave just enough light to make the room feel a little safer. Another thing you may want to try is to ask your dad or mom if they can do a quick "under the bed peek" before they tuck you in. Make sure that you peek with them, and check out all the dark corners with a flashlight if that helps, so that you are absolutely sure there is no one there. Hopefully after a few "peeks" you will start to realize that there's nothing under there but socks and dust bunnies! Finally, if you're really worried about something under the bed, you could ask your parents to fill up the empty space with some heavy boxes or books, so that you'll know the biggest thing that could fit under there would be a really scary mouse!

Imaginary boogie men, monsters, and bad people are part of everyone's growing-up process. The only reason they exist is so that our sisters, brothers, and friends have something to tease us about. With a little help and a little patience, yours fears will be gone in no time, and you'll be back in the land of sweet dreams... catching Z's!


Dear Zelda,

I live in New York City and purchased a Doberman last year, in part for friendship and in part for protection since I live alone in a brownstone. My dog, Butch, while he looks tough, is afraid of other dogs. How can I help him overcome this fear? I took him to Central Park last week and a small terrier barked at him and he just sat down and started shaking.

Doberman in a Dilemma

Dear Doberman in a Dilemma

A docile Doberman sounds down right dumbfounding! While we all have a soft spot in our hearts for the cowardly-lion figure, you also want your dog to feel comfortable and safe outside and around other people and dogs. As we all know, looks can only get you so far.

You may want to inquire at the place you purchased Butch to see if they have any idea why he's so sensitive. Did he come from a difficult background? Did he get attacked by another dog or dogs at some point? Was he abused as a pup? Or was he just never properly socialized? If you're not able to find out why Butch is so...well...un-butch, you're going to have to start from scratch. You may never be able to figure it out, but you can start now and try to train him to be a bit more sociable and sure of himself with other dogs.

One of the first things you might try (aside from actually working with a professional) is to slowly condition him to be around other dogs in an environment where he doesn't feel threatened. Take him to a dog park, approach the park slowly, and take notice of how far his comfort level extends. It might very well be only as close as the entrance, but that's okay. Praise him and offer a treat. He'll see the dogs at a distance and slowly, each day, you can get closer and closer, always praising, "treating," and telling him what a good boy he is. The hope is that day by day, as he gets closer and closer, his comfort level will rise and his inhibitions will drop. If the dog park is too much for Butch, you could also try inviting one of your dog-owner friends over and setting up a "play date" for Butch to interact with a friendly companion on a regular basis.

As for protection... I'll leave that up to the professionals, but make sure that you find a reputable trainer with great references and outstanding credentials. This training may help to instill a little more "butch" in Butch, but make sure you don't lose your loving dog in pursuit of a Dobenator.

If all else fails, you can always dress him up in a black-studded collar and black leather cap. Actually, now that I think about it, that may be a little too "Village People" for Central Park. Stick to the training.

Good Luck!