Her name is Muzzy, and she's a siderodromophobic. It has taken me weeks to figure out why she acts restless and anxious in the wee early morning hours, when the rest of us are still asleep. For a couple of weeks, I assumed that the aimless moving around, the licking of her lips, and the yawning were the result of nausea caused by antibiotics. I got her medication and a new diet to deal with the nausea and the puking, but the roaming-and-licky-lips thing has continued. And then, this morning, I figured it out. She seemed so anxious during our morning walk, a usually happy time. She even jumped up, put her paws on my chest, and looked me right in the face, as if to say, "Don't you get it? It's the train!!!!"
MoPac and the railroad tracks lie just across the street from us. And, indeed, this morning, as we walked a slow moving freight train was rumbling north along with the morning rush hour. The trains don't blow whistles along MoPac—at least not since neighborhood groups complained to the City for years. But even the quietest of the train emits a low but persistent rumble along with just enough vibrations to set the picture frames on our walls askew on a regular basis. I usually sleep right through the trains, but I do notice that I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. I get up and go to the bathroom, and it isn't until I get back in bed and try to fall asleep again that I become acutely aware of the low thrumming of a freight engine and the steady beat of hundreds of train wheels against the track.
Poor Muzzy. I know that dogs are highly associative. She may have developed this fear on a morning when she woke up to puke and got tossed outside to do it. The discomfort of her tummy and her dislike of being outside alone in the dark while a noisy train was passing by may have imprinted her pea-sized brain as a fear of trains. What am I to do for her? Ear plugs? Doggie tranks? A house in a trainless zip code? She's going to have to deal with this, or we'll never get a good night's sleep.
For those of you who are interested, siderodromophobia is, technically, the fear of traveling on a train. Sidero comes from the Greek and means "iron." It is used in chemical names, such as sidero-calcite. Dromo, also from the Greek, means "running." (According to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, a dromomaniac is one who is crazy about running or roaming.) The word siderodromophobia was first used in 1897 in an early psychology book describing newly documented fears, such as arachniphobia—fear of spiders. Fear of railways is a particularly nineteenth century phenomenon, as the iron horse made its way across almost every continent in the world during that period. Why couldn't Muzzy become aviophobic—afraid of flying? Or coulrophobic—afraid of clowns. <