Shannah woke up confused. It looked like she was in an emergency room, but she couldn’t remember how she ended up on the tiny stretcher.
The sounds of high-pitched voices, clunking footsteps, and a gurney’s wheel snapped her mind to attention. As they brought the newest patient in next to her, a metallic, coopery, sickly sweet odor reached her olfactory gland.
Memories of a little Shannah came rushing to her mind. She saw flashes of herself dressed in a red bathing suit begging Mommy to let her go swimming. She saw the older kids trotting the pony. They teased her when she wanted to ride too. “Ride Grandma’s dog, Cookie, he’s more your size. Leave the horse-riding to the big kids.”
Next she remembered that Mommy came and took her off the lovable old dog. “Dogs aren’t meant for riding.” Shannah longed to be bigger so she could go swimming by herself and ride the pony.
Out of nowhere, Aunt Rosie’s German Shepard, Toby, came bounding across the yard. He growled savagely and leapt through the air pouncing on the little girl. His jaws clamped around her head, his claws dug into her chest. The dog shook her mercilessly.
Shannah remembered lying helpless on the ground; her blood was soaking into the grass. Suddenly the dog lunched for her throat. Just as he was biting down, Shannah could hear people running and her mother’s scream. Out of nowhere, an adult grabbed Toby and hurled him across the yard.
Shannah covered her ears to block the noise. Slowly she realized the screams were coming from her mouth. It was no longer 1970, but 2010. Before she came out of her reverie entirely, she could her doctors yelling orders. “Get 2mg of Ativan IV push stat. Restrain her before she hurts herself.“
She wrestled with the nurse who was restraining her. She twisted and screamed in terror until the medicine finally reached her bloodstream and allowed peace to calm her shaken spirit.
After a drug-induced rest, Shannah awoke to see the nurse. She loosened the restraints and gave her a sip of water. “Do you remember what happened before you came to the hospital?”
Shannah frowned, “I was walking in the park. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, it felt like someone was watching me. But then I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the ER. The smell of blood gave me horrific flashbacks to the time I was attacked and almost killed by a dog.”
The nurse smiled gently, “Well that explains a lot. The report says a dog broke away from his leash and sprinted at you. He knocked you down and your head pounded the pavement. The owner managed to pull him off before any real damage was done. He swears his dog has never hurt anyone before. Dogs can smell fear. I wonder if you saw him out of the corner of your eye and your body reacted.”
Shannah nodded, “I’ve been terrified of dogs my whole life. But that flashback I had was so real. Whenever I talk about that day, I can close my eyes and smell the blood that was matted in my hair.”
The nurse finished taking Shannah's blood pressure. “Smell is a powerful memory trigger, combined with the incident at the park; it’s no wonder you had a panic attack. You should talk to someone to help you overcome your fear. But now you need rest. The doctor said you could likely go home tomorrow. They don’t like to give tranquilizers to head-injuries, but you were frantic, the doctor thought it was worth the risk. However, I’ll be keeping a close watch on you.”
Later, Shannah’s minister came in for a visit. After hearing her story, Pastor Jim took out some oil. “I’d like to anoint you and pray.” Shannah nodded. He rubbed the oil on her forehead and placed his hands on her. “Thank you Jesus for Your protection. Please order these demons to leave Shannah. Give her strength to hand over her burdens to You. Amen.”
Later, when her husband came to visit, Shannah smiled. “I think it’s time we got a small dog.” She laughed at the astonished look on her husband’s face. “No really, I do believe my phobia is gone. It’ll be a good thing for the whole family. It’s amazing how light I feel. It must be because I finally decided to hand my fear over to Jesus.”
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