The Old Man and
"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
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.
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.
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,
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
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
Dad lay in his bed, his face
But his spirit had left quietly sometime during
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.
To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
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