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      Ashley Kirklen faces her fears of animals

      Cynophobia is when a person has an abnormal fear of dogs.

      Anyone who knows me well, would most likely diagnose me as a cynophobiac.

      They'd also be surprised, yet happy to know, I'm conquering that fear little by little.

      Fear deprives us from life's most wonderful experiences.

      Since age two, a fear of cats and dogs has held me back from being comfortable with and loving animals.

      I attribute this fear to my mother. She is afraid of many animals for reasons I don't know or understand. As her only daughter, I followed her everywhere and probably picked up on this fear.

      At this stage in my life, I've decided I didn't want to live in fear of animals that many people find so much comfort in, so I went to UPAWS to meet some furry friends.

      When I got to the shelter, any confidence I had possessed immediately left, and I shrank back to that two year-old girl who wanted to squeal and run for her mother, but I put on my big girl pants, because it was show time.

      To my surprise, I wasn't the only person at the shelter who experienced a fear of animals.

      Even a couple UPAWS staff members had shared my fear in the past.

      "When I was growing up, we weren't really exposed to animals, so I kind of had a fear based off just the unknown and I think my mom was a little bit fearful so, I think it kind of transitioned over to me and I had a really hard time being around dogs up until I was about 18 years old" says UPAWS manager, Lareina Vanstrien.

      Ann Brownell, also works at UPAWS. She started at the shelter as a way to become more comfortable with both cats and dogs.

      "I love cats now, I just adore them, but at first I thought, I'm not sure. They're kind of scary, they're going to scratch me" adds Ann.

      Through education and interacting with the animals, Ann came to love them.

      As I continued touring the shelter, I also became more comfortable with the animals.

      Thanks to UPAWS and the animals, I've been able to chip away at a life-long fear.

      Here's to the fear that's held me back, made me feel unsafe and in a way alienated me from society.

      You no longer control my life.

      I've faced my fear.

      Visit UPAWS to learn how you can help save black animals in May with their "Back in Black" campaign.