Not too long ago, I had a blister.
You know the kind. Raw, red, and it hurt like Hades.
I earned it the old-fashioned way. I was on a get healthy/lose weight kick with that compulsion that shows up once in a while, usually in the spring, when you remember summer is coming and there will be capris, shorts, tank tops, and even, gasp! the occasional swimsuit. And you are pudgy and soft around the middle from too much sitting at the computer.
One morning while on a business trip to Dallas, Texas, I was feeling particularly ambitious and I got up early, drank some juice, ate a banana, and pulled on my workout clothes. I happened to be wearing an expensive pair of running socks with pads on the toes and ankles, in a cool shade of silvery blue and green.
Out behind the hotel was a walking trail and I walked for a while to warm up, then began a slow jog. Every once in a while I stopped to adjust my iPod (meaning, to catch my breath) or take a drink of water (meaning, to try to stop breathing so hard.) I sped up in the shade and slowed down in the sun and had a lovely time, as lovely a time as you can have while jogging.
After a bit, I noticed a stinging feeling on my ankle. It was hot and humid, and the heat caused my feet to swell a bit. My new socks were slipping down and my shoe was rubbing the back of my ankle. It stung but I ignored it and kept going. After a few more laps, I headed inside. I was limping by the time I got to the middle of the lobby. And by the time I made it back to my room, it was clear I had a pretty nasty blister. You know what they say–everything’s bigger in Texas.
After some Neosporin and a Band-Aid, I was good to go. But blisters heal slowly, right? and by the time I got home from the trip, it still looked pretty nasty. I kept it covered and tried to forget about it.
The morning after I got home, I was standing in front of the mirror in my fuzzy pink robe when I felt something strange on the back of my ankle. It didn’t hurt exactly. It felt warm and tickly.
I looked down and Sprinkles, our six-month-old silky terrier puppy was licking my wound.
I wasn’t sure whether to yell because it was gross or just say, “Aw, thank you, honey.” Sprinkles was doing what dogs are born to do–take care of us. No one knows the definitive history of dogs or who first domesticated a wolf, but for thousands of years dogs have been our best friends. Dogs and people just go together.
And the blister incident wasn’t a one-time thing with Sprinkles the puppy. Every morning she waited for the moment when I’d leave the shower to brush my hair and put on makeup. As soon as I got distracted getting ready, she moved in. She wanted to help my blister heal. She was persistent. She was diligent. She wasn’t going to give up until it was fixed.
My blister finally did heal and Sprinkles stopped her fixation with the back of my ankle. And to be honest, I sort of missed it. I felt loved, like she had been trying her best to connect with me, take care of me, and heal me. There is a special kind of connection and interdependence when the relationship is working right. And in that interdependence there is health, and hope, and healing.
Sprinkles came into our lives at a critical moment and she has turned out to be my unofficial therapy dog. There’s something about stroking her back that is soothing. She greets everyone at the front door with a tail wag and a smile. When we go on walks, there is a spring in her step and her joy is infectious. She is a bright spot, always. After a difficult year dealing with breast cancer and other challenges, she helped me to heal in far deeper ways than a blister on the surface of my heel.
When I’m working, Sprinkles often sleeps on a Snoopy pillow under my desk. When I’m writing, I often reach my foot out to nudge her, reminding myself she is there. Her presence touches something deep inside me, where the emotional and spiritual wounds hide deep.
Awww, thank you, honey.
This story appears in a different form in the introduction to my book, Dog Tales, published by Harvest House in 2011.