A true story by Catherine Moore
"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 late
r 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
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
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 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
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 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 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 .
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..