[StBernard] Old Man and the Dog...TISSUE ALERT!

Westley Annis Westley at da-parish.com
Thu Jan 17 23:27:04 EST 2008

>From a friend of mine. Jim

I think I read this in Guideposts several years ago....beautiful

The Old Man and the Dog

"Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!" My father yelled at

"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
seemed to echo my inner turmoil.

What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon. He had enjoyed
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

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,
to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his
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.
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
room. He was lucky; he survived.

But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He
refused to follow doctor's orders. Suggestions and offers of help
were turned
aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, then
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
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 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
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

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
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
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
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.
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
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
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

Cheyenne's unexpected appearance at the animal shelter. . .his calm
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

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.

More information about the StBernard mailing list