I was hiking down a steep trail, lost in thought. Sometimes, if I allow myself to feel what I’m feeling without judging, a memory will surface and I can connect the past with the present and let it go.
As I hiked, too many memories surfaced, none of them good. Annoyed at myself for only remembering bad times I forced myself to think of something good. In the process I forgot to look where I was going and tripped on a loose stone, falling head first, narrowly missing jagged rocks as I let go of my hiking poles and twisted my body to protect my head. Cursing my carelessness, I surveyed the damage. Blood on my legs and arms showed only surface cuts, easily taken care of. My hip was bruised, but moving my arms, legs, fingers, and toes revealed nothing was broken. I sat for a moment, drank water, took arnica pellets (a homeopathic remedy that helps reduce bruising and swelling) ate a bit of protein bar, and stood up.
My options were to go back up the steep trail and hike for two and a half miles, or keep going down the steep trail and hike the four and a half miles to the trail head. I decided to keep going, focusing on the trail, watching for loose stones, sending energy to the hurting parts of my body.
I stopped suddenly when I realized a woman was watching me, a smile on her face, her dog, a collie, I think, sitting quietly beside her, looking at me, its tail swishing back and forth. Embarrassed, I apologized. “I’m sorry. I was so lost in thought I didn’t see you.”
“No problem,” she said. Maybe it was her tone of voice, or mine, but the dog got up and gently pressed its body against me, tail wagging. I petted its head, the tail swishing even faster. It’s not the first time a dog on a trail has nuzzled me, but this dog seemed to really want my attention. The woman smiled. “My dog obviously likes you. Is it okay that she’s snuggling you?”
“It’s more than okay. It feels great. I had to help my cat die a couple of months ago and I miss her cuddling.”
We talked for a few minutes about her dog and my cat. We both lived alone and depended on our animals for hugs and cuddles.”
“Are you getting another cat?” she asked.
“Don’t know. Mia, lived 17 months beyond what the vets thought she’d live, and the last five or six months were pretty difficult. I’m not ready to take care of another animal, but it’s hard living without her snuggles, particularly at night when she used to drape herself around my head after I turned out the light. Sometimes her paw would rest gently on my cheek.” I could feel myself tearing up. The dog continued to nuzzle me.
“I think my dog knows you miss your cat,” she grinned.
“Fine with me,” I nodded, grateful for the woman’s caring. Usually when I meet people on the trail with their dog, we say hello and continue hiking. She seemed in no hurry, perfectly happy to share her dog with me.
“You need a hug?” she asked.
“I do,” I admitted, more than a little startled by the unexpected question.
She moved toward me just as I moved toward her. We hugged. Two strangers on a trail, her dog caressing us both. A soft landing after a hard fall.
How would you react if a stranger offered to hug you?
Stories inspired by world tales to challenge and comfort.