The Old Man and the Dog

I received this beautiful story and felt it needed to be shared.

The Old Man and the Dog

“Jody, Watch out! You nearly broad-sided that car!” My father yelled at
me. “Can’t you do anything right?” Those words hurt worse than blows. 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 turmoil. What
Could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and 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
Of ten . 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
Alone, straining to lift it.

He became irritable whenever anyone teased 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 paramedic administered CPR to
Keep blood and oxygen flowing. At the hospital, Dad was rushed in to an
Operating room.

He was lucky; he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for
Life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctors orders.
Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults
The number of visitors thinned then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left

My husband, Rick, 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 invitation. It seemed
Nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became
Frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Rick. We
Began to bicker and argue. Alarmed, Rick sought out our pastor and
Explained the situation.

The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. 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. A raindrop struck my cheek. I
Looked up into the gray sky. Somewhere up there was “God”

Although I believe a Supreme Being had created the universe, I had
Difficulty believing that God cared about the tiny human beings on this
Earth. I was tired of waiting for a God who did not answer.

Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it. 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 in vain
To each of the sympathetic voices that answered. 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 nursing home. 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 shelter that afternoon. 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 down. 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 gray. His hipbones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly. I pointed to the dog. “Can you tell me about him?” The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement. “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 nothing. His time is up tomorrow.” He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror. “You mean you’re going to kill him?”

“Ma’am,” he said gently, “that’s our policy. We don’t have room for every
unclaimed dog.” I 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 twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch.
“Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!” I said excitedly. Dad looked, then
wrinkled his face in disgust. “If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten
one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones.
Keep it! I don’t want it.” Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house. Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat
muscles and pounded into my temples. “You’d better get used to him, Dad.
He’s staying!” Dad ignored me. “Did you hear me, Dad?” 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 eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad
was on his knees hugging the animal. It was the beginning of a warm and
intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne. Together he and
Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down
dusty lanes. 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 years. 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 night. I woke Rick, put on my robe and ran into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene; 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 bed. I wr apped his still form in the rag rug he
had slept on. As Rick 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 dreary. 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 eulogy. It was
a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life. And then the
pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. ” Be not forgetful to entertain strangers…”

“I’ve often thanked God for sending that angel,” he said. 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 all. ~by Catherine Moore~

Cathy from PA