View Full Version : The Old Man and the Dog

03-12-2009, 01:13 PM
The Old Man and

the Dog

"Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!"

My father yelled at


"Can't you do anything right?"
Those words hurt worse than


I turned my head toward the elderly man in the

seat beside me, daring me to challenge him.

A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes.

I wasn't prepared for another battle.

"I saw the car, Dad. Please don't yell at me when

I'm driving."
My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt.
Dad glared at me, then

turned away and settled back.

At home I left Dad in front of the television and

went outside to collect my thoughts.
Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain.

The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner


What could I do about him?
Dad had been a

lumberjack in Washingtonand Oregon .

He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in

pitting his strength against the forces of nature.

He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions,

and had placed often.
The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.
The years

marched on relentlessly.

The first time he couldn't lift a heavy log, he

joked about it; but later that same day I saw him outside lone, straining to lift it.

He became irritable whenever anyone tease him about his advancing age, or when he couldn't do something

he had done as a younger man.
Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack.

An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a aramedic administered CPR to keep blood and oxygen

At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room.

He was lucky; he survived.

But something inside Dad


His zest for life was


He obstinately refused to follow doctor's orders.

Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults.

The number of visitors thinned, then finally stopped


Dad was left alone.
My husband, Dick, and I

asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm.

We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would

help him adjust.
Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the


It seemed nothing was


He criticized everything I


I became frustrated and moody.

Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on


We began to bicker and argue.
Alarmed, Dick

sought out our pastor and explained the situation.
The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for


At the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad's troubled mind.
But the months wore

on and God was silent.

Something had to be done and it was up to me to do

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed

in the Yellow Pages.

I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic

voices that answered in vain.
Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, "I just read

something that might help you! Let me go get the article."
I listened as she read.

The article described a remarkable study done at a


All of the patients were under treatment

for chronic depression.

Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when

they were given responsibility for a dog.
I drove to the animal shelterthat


After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed

officer led me to the kennels.

The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I

moved down the row of pens.
Each contained five to seven dogs.

Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black

dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me.

I studied each one but rejected one after the

other for various reasons too big, too small, too much hair.

As I neared the last pen a dog in the shadows

of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat


It was a pointer, one of the dog world's

aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed.
Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of


His hip bones jutted out in lopsided


But it was his eyes that caught and held my


Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

pointed to the dog. "Can you tell me about him?"
The officer looked, then shook his head in


"He's a funny one.
Appeared out of nowhere and

sat in front of the gate.

We brought him in, figuring someone would be right

down to claim him.

That was two weeks ago and we've heard


His time is up


"He gestured helplessly.
As the words sank in I

turned to the man in horror.

"You mean you're going to kill him?"

he said gently, "that's our policy.

We don't have room for every unclaimed dog."

looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision.
"I'll take him," I said.
I drove home

with the dog on the front seat beside me.

When I reached the house I honked the horn


I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad

shuffled onto the front porch..

"Ta-da! Look what I got for you,


I said excitedly.
Dad looked, then wrinkled his

face in disgust.

"If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten


And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of


Keep it! I don't want it" Dad waved his arm

scornfully and turned back toward the house.
Anger rose inside


It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my


"You'd better get used to him,


He's staying!" Dad ignored me. "Did you hear me,


I screamed.
At those words Dad whirled angrily,

his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate.
We stood glaring at each other like

duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp.

He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in

front of him.

Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad's lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw.
Confusion replaced the anger in his


The pointer waited patiently.
Then Dad was on

his knees hugging the animal.
It was the beginning of a warm and intimate


Dad named the pointer Cheyenne


Together he and Cheyenne explored the community.

They spent long hours walking down dusty


They spent reflective moments on the banks of

streams, angling for tasty trout.

They even started to attend Sunday services

together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.
Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable

throughout the next three

Dad's bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made

many friends.

Then late one night I was startled to feel

Cheyenne 's cold nose burrowing through our bed covers.

He had never before come into our bedroom at


I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my

father's room.

Dad lay in his bed, his face


But his spirit had left quietly sometime during

the night.
Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad's


I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept


As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had

given me in restoring Dad's peace of mind.
The morning of Dad's funeral dawned overcast and


This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as

I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family.

I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and

Cheyenne had made filling the church.

The pastor began his


It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had

changed his life.

And then the pastor turned to Hebrews


"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,

for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it."
"I've often thanked God for sending that angel," he

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice

that had just read the right article...
Cheyenne 's unexpected appearance at the animal shelter. . ..his calm

acceptance and complete devotion to my father. . and the proximity of their deaths.

And suddenly I understood.

I knew that God had answered my prayers after

Life is too short for drama &petty things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive


Live While You Are


Forgive now those who made you


You might not get a second time.
And if you don't send this to at least 4 people --who


But do share this with


Lost time can never begain.