Present: How Doc Teaches Me to Walk the Walk

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDoc, On the Job. April, 2014.

A Lesson In Walking In Faith

Some days I think my dog, Doc, is better at shining a light than I am. (And no, thank you, I do not plan to engage in a debate about whether dogs have souls or whether our pets will join us in heaven. I will say that I have no plans to ask my pastor to baptize Doc.)

Here’s the thing: I worry. Since last August,  I’ve been making peace with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I tell myself reassuring little stories:

At least now we know what it is.

It won’t kill me, so that’s lucky. 

So many folks have it worse. I should be grateful

But the truth is, my world is shrinking down to fit this condition, and it’s pretty cramped in here. We hesitate to accept invitations because I do not want to be the flake who’s always cancelling at the last minute. I avoid weeknight events, and when I can’t, I request a vacation day the next day so I can recover. We used to invite friends over to dinner all the time. We need my income to keep the home we love so much–what if I can’t work?

You’ve heard it before, I’m sure: worry is practical atheism. In dozens and dozens of Bible verses, we are commanded to refrain from worry and trust in God.  That’s right, we are commanded: these verses don’t suggest that we not worry.

By now you might be wondering what my dog has to do with all this.

This: Doc never worries. We adopted him from a no-kill shelter in 2008. He had been there for over a year, yet he was the happiest dog there the day we met. Actually, he’s the happiest dog wherever he happens to be. We added him to the family  to be my Comfort Dog after my mother died. (As you can see in the photo above, he excels at that task.) But he’s added several duties to his job description since he arrived:

Chief of Security. Faithful Friend and Playmate of Grandchildren. Boss of JD the Labrador. Official Household Greeter. Perpetual Kitchen Stalker. Most Enthusiastic Dog in the World. 

But here’s where he schools me: While I’m off miring myself in the scummy pond of what-will-become-of-me, he’s splashing joyfully under the glossy waterfalls of all’s-right-in-my-world. 

What’s that? You’d like an example? Consider the Foxtail Episode, Volume Two:

One Friday evening, we notice that Doc is winking  persistently. I hold his waggy-tailed little self while Rich takes a look. We can’t identify a cause, and Doc displays no distress, so we wait. Saturday morning, it’s clear that something is really, really wrong: Doc isn’t winking anymore because that eye has sealed itself shut during the night by producing copious green secretions.

Mind you, this gruesome condition doesn’t stop him from his standard run-around-in-circles happy dance when breakfast is served. Once the dogs are fed and we humans are caffeinated, we pack Doc off to the veterinary emergency room.

He wriggles in sheer joy when he realizes he’s going for a ride in the car. Even with a nasty eye problem. Even though he gets carsick, usually within three minutes of take-off. Because he’s Doc: Most Enthusiastic Dog in the World.

Anything like this ever happen to him before? the kind vet asks us.

Yes, we tell her, and we provide the details. She listens, nods, and takes our Doc back to the treatment room. He’s licking her hand as she carries him from the room.

The vet emerges a few moments later, smiling, showing us the culprit: A foxtail. It had become trapped in his eyelashes and worked its way in between his eyeball and eyelid. I never would have spotted it if you hadn’t told this had happened to him once before. It was really hard to see, she tells us.


The Good Dr. Diehl and the Foxtail.

Now me, if a doctor had just pulled an inch-long, sharp, pointy weed from the surface of my eyeball, I’d be thinking Oh-my-gosh-that-hurt-me-so-much-it-still-hurts-it’s-hard-to-see-will-I-be-blind-in-this-eye-when-will-I-feel-better-why-me-why-me-why-me?


A minute later, a technician brings our Doc back to us. And when he sees us, he wags his tail with abandon and hurries over to us, despite the cone of shame.

He’s not worried. He’s present.

foxtail 2

The Most Enthusiastic Dog in the World. 

rabbit conga

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 (NASB)


  1. I believe my pup works for the same company and has a similar job titles. This past winter, when nearly every resident of Michigan was shuttered inside waiting for the endless season of snow, cold, and ice to, well, END, and I was worried about freezing pipes, heating bills, and keeping the pack safe, my pup was dragging me outside for three mile walks each and every morning and afternoon. I fell twice due to the ice, I had to learn hour to protect my exposed parts from frostbite, and, yes, I was cold, very, very cold.

    But, unlike those without a “Oh, yea, snow! Snowdog”, I fully experienced and will remember not only the danger, power, and hurt of this past winter, but the beauty and wonder of it. And, for an hour or two each day, I was distracted from my own worry…

    Tell Doc I said “Good Boy!” and that we are all tasking him with continuing the excellent work…

    Shiela, thanks for the writing, as usual, it brought me more than one necessary message…. I wish you the best as you deal with the fibromyalgia.

    Your friend,

    • Yeah, I think many of them work for the Awesome Dog Cartel. At this moment he is curled up beside me on the loveseat, snoring gently, while JD the Labrador lies at my feet. I do think they keep us grounded in the here-and-now, yes? “Don’t worry about frozen pipes. They’re not frozen now, and there is fresh snow out there waiting for us!”

      I will not only pass on your words of approval, I will give him a cookie. Thanks for your kind words, Bob. Be well.

  2. What a sweet little face! You don’t need to convince me that dogs are wonderful companions, as well as great therapy for every mood and situation. I’ve lived with, loved, exhibited and bred dogs for 35 years. I can’t imagine not having one nearby all the time.

    On another front… I’m glad to see you here and trust you’re making a good recovery from whatever flattened you yesterday. 🙂

    • Thank you, Carol. Can you believe that little sweet pea was homeless for over a year??

      I’m still feeling pretty crummy, to tell you the truth. I had written this over last weekend and set it to run today.

  3. Oh my. I think I’ve fallen in love. What a sweet, sweet little spirit. I’m so thankful you have him in your life Sheila. He’s a perfect example of joy and unconditional love.

    • Isn’t he a doll!? But don’t be fooled. He held a 6’5″ contractor at bay until our next door neighbor came over and convinced Doc that the “intruder” belonged here.

  4. Sheila, I struggled with fibromyalgia back in the 80’s when it was called Epstein Barr Virus, then the Yuppie flu. The hardest thing about it is you don’t LOOK sick so people don’t understand your condition. I pray that God continue to reveal to you the way through the wilderness with this condition. So thankful he sent you ‘Doc.’ 🙂

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