The Old Man and the Dog
"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
"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
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
competitions, and had placed often.
The shelves in his house were filled with trophies
that attested to his
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
anyone teased him about his advancing age,
or when he couldn't do something he had done as a
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
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
clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments
for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking
God to soothe Dad's
But the months wore on and God was silent... Something
was up to me to do it.
The next day I sat down with the phone book and
methodically called each
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
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
dramatically when they were given responsibility for
I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I
filled out a
questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the
The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved
down the row of
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
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
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
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
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
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
suprize 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
his arm scornfully and turned back toward the
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
sat down in front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he
> raised his paw.
Dad's lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted
replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited
patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the
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
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
father's room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene.
But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the
Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I
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. Then the pastor turned to
> > Hebrews 13:2. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to
strangers, for by
> > 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
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. Forgive
now those who made you cry. You might not get a second