Friday, January 1, 2010

The Old Man and the Dog

** ****_The Old Man and the Dog_**

**"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
manin 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

**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

**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 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
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 into an operating room. He was lucky;
he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone.
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 altogether. 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 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 Dick. We
began to bicker and argue.**

**Alarmed, Dick 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. 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 to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in

**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 hip
bones 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

**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

**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 Dick, 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 wrapped his still form in the rag rug he
had slept on. 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 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. "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 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

**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.**

**Life is too short for drama, petty things, so laugh hard, love truly
and forgive quickly. Live while you are alive. Forgive now those who
made you cry. You might not get a second time.**

**And if you don't send this to at least 4 people --who cares? But do
share this with someone. Lost time can never be found.**
** **
**This only proves that God answers our Prayers in His time, not ours.***

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