Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Old Man and His Dog....

Many of you know that I have an absolute love for dogs and am truly blessed with the love given to me from Kramer and Lucy....they are everything to me. Earlier in this blog I made an entry on "time" and how valuable it is to each of us. This story unites both dog and time. Be sure to live each moment....this moment won't come again. Be kind and loving to others every single moment.

The Old Man and the Dog

by Catherine Moore

"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
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 t he 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
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 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. "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.

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

Live While You Are Alive.
Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.
Forgive now those who made you cry.
You might not get a second time.

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