The Adventures of Skylar Grey

Chapter 14: Of Chillows, children and Chihuahuas

Scaredy Sky is afraid of many things

Jazzy had a big, bold personality with an independent streak a mile wide. She loved children more than any dog I’ve ever known. If she saw a group of them playing in the park, she would drag me over so she could say hi. The first time I brought her to Fort Funston, she took off like a shot down the steep sandy hill, leaving me screaming her name and wildly shaking a baggy full of her favorite jerky treats to no avail. She kept running until she joined a random pack of dogs and was about the size of a pea in the distant fog. And every time we went to see Dr. Kent at UC Davis for cancer treatments or checkups, she was brave beyond belief. Even though she knew there would be some poking and prodding, she eagerly entered the building because she knew it meant more people paying attention to her — and Jazzy couldn’t get enough attention. Of course, that’s why she was no help when the house was burglarized — they stole us blind while Jazzy likely followed them from room to room with a pink stuffed bunny in her mouth (vicious pit bull indeed).

Since adopting Skylar Grey shortly after Jazzy’s passing, she’s come a long way from the shy, timid little girl she once was, but plenty of things still scare her. Some are beyond my comprehension, like Chillows, those “As Seen on TV” gel pads that are meant to keep your pillow cool on hot summer nights. Turns out they leak, but even if they didn’t we couldn’t use them because for some odd reason Sky is petrified of them.

Sky hates the vet with a passion, so I have to put a harness on her to lift her through the door, and it takes two of us to get her into the exam room. If there’s a chair or a bench, she hides underneath it. Mind you, nothing terrible has ever happened to her at the vet — just the usual checkups and vaccinations — but the very sight of the building terrifies her.

The same goes for Pet Food Express, which, like Chillows, I don’t understand. She got one bath there when she was three months old. Even though she loves to swim and will dance her way through the sprinklers with giddy abandon, she’s afraid of baths. It seems to me the pluses of Pet Food Express far outweigh the minuses — a cornucopia of treats and toys versus a bath she received many, many months ago, but Scaredy Sky doesn’t see it that way. It’s the same with the portable stairs that make it easier for her to get in and out of the car. Like most pit bulls, Sky is smart as a whip and she learned to use them right away, but I can’t store them in the backseat with her when we’re on a road trip, because when she’s not using the stairs she’s afraid of them.

She loves sunbathing on the chaise lounge in Grandma Kickie’s garden, but recently some mockingbirds nesting in the bamboo dive-bombed her and sent her flying into the house, ears pressed back tightly against her head, tail planted firmly between her little low-rider legs. I heard Kickie say, “What’s wrong, honey?” and when I got to the door of the TV room I saw Sky on the sofa with her nose tucked under Kickie’s arm. “She’s shaking!” Kickie said. “Birds,” I told her. “Skylar is afraid of birds.” After the mocking bird incident, she wouldn’t go in the backyard alone for nearly a week.

Some of Skylar’s fears are a little more rational than Chillows, stairs, and birds — like children and Chihuahuas. Children have never done anything in particular to her that I know of, but their erratic movements and shrill voices keep her trembling behind my legs. More than a few Chihuahuas have snapped at her face, snarled at her, and chased her around the dog park. One particularly surly Chi named Arthur stops Sky firmly in her tracks at the very sight of him on the Stow Lake island path, even if he’s 20 feet away. Arthur stares Sky down, his owner apologizes for his cranky behavior, and Sky bolts in the other direction. I keep thinking Scaredy Sky will disappear, but at this point I don’t think so. It’s just another endearing part of her personality. She couldn’t be more different than Jazzy, but that’s OK. I love her just the way she is — Chillow-children-Chihuahua phobia and all.

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