HAVE YOU EVER LOVED A DOG?
A Father, Daughter & a Dog - story by
"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
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
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
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 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
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
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
"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 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
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 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
God answers our prayers in His
In God we Trust...
ALL YOU CAN DO IS STRIVE TO BE THE BEST
YOU CAN BE