Author Topic: A Father, a Daughter and a Dog - story by Catherine Moore  (Read 1877 times)

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A Father, a Daughter and a Dog - story by Catherine Moore
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2011, 04:25:58 AM »
A Father, a Daughter and a Dog - story by Catherine Moore

"Watch out! You nearly broadsided 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 revelled in pitting his strength against the forces of
nature. He had entered gruelling 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 counselling 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 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 odour 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 grey. 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 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 duellists, 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 is
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 favourite 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 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 or 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 --- nobody cares? But do
share this with someone. Lost time can never be found.
God answers our prayers in His time... not ours.