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The Mangy Dog

- 20 October 2013, 07:10

“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 l ift 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
everythin g 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 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 proved
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 hip bones
jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it
was his eyes that caught and held my
attention. Calm and clear, they beheld
me un waveringly.

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

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 friendshi p. 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

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

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..


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