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Regis Auffray

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The Old Man and the Dog
1/28/2008 4:48:07 PM
A story that offers substance for thought...

The Old Man and the Dog         

by Catherine Moore

"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 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 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 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  dogsball jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but rejected  one after the other for various reasonsbtoo 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 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 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. "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 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. 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.

Je ne t'oublie pas, J******.

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More Blogs by Regis Auffray
• Changes Are Coming - Monday, December 13, 2010
• More on Paraprosdokians... - Thursday, October 28, 2010
• Paraprosdokians - Sunday, October 17, 2010
• Why Can't I Own A Canadian? - Friday, August 13, 2010
• Puns for the Educated... ...?!? - Thursday, February 11, 2010
• Aspiring Writers - Sunday, January 17, 2010
• For All Who Have Wept, Weep, and Will Weep - Thursday, December 17, 2009
• A little more in the realm of humor/humour... kids see it. - Sunday, November 22, 2009
• A Little Biblical Humor - Tuesday, November 03, 2009
• Sharing a smile or two... - Tuesday, September 08, 2009
• Grandma's Smokes - Thursday, August 27, 2009
• The Sandpiper - Saturday, April 25, 2009
• Newfoundland Ghost Story - Saturday, April 04, 2009
• Please help... only takes a couple of minutes. - Saturday, February 21, 2009
• À Propos the Economic Crisis... - Saturday, February 07, 2009
• When Insults Had Class - Saturday, January 31, 2009
• Puns - Saturday, January 17, 2009
• My daughter's article - Friday, November 28, 2008
• The Apocalypse Quiz - Sunday, November 23, 2008
• A Lesson on the Limerick - Sunday, November 02, 2008
• Love - Wednesday, September 24, 2008
• Synesthesia - Sunday, September 07, 2008
• The Human Body - Sunday, August 03, 2008
• A short note about "only..." - Sunday, July 27, 2008
• The English Language - Thursday, July 10, 2008
• Age - Wednesday, July 02, 2008
• A New Element Found! - Tuesday, June 17, 2008
• A Sobering Look At The Results Of Rising Oil Prices - Tuesday, June 03, 2008
• Why Computers Sometimes Crash - Monday, May 12, 2008
• For The Pun Of It - Friday, April 18, 2008
• Rachel Corrie - Friday, March 14, 2008
• LOVE - Sunday, February 17, 2008
• Oh Where, Oh Where Has My AD Mail Gone? - Saturday, February 16, 2008
•  The Old Man and the Dog - Monday, January 28, 2008  
• Attitude - Saturday, January 19, 2008
• The Hospital Window - Saturday, January 12, 2008
• Wisdom? - Wednesday, January 09, 2008
• Guess what? Happy New Year (J t'a J...) - Saturday, December 29, 2007
• Je t'aime, J......, - Sunday, December 09, 2007
• Why...? - Saturday, November 24, 2007
• More on blood... - Sunday, September 23, 2007
• Blood Types and Personality - Wednesday, September 19, 2007
• Love... - Sunday, August 19, 2007
• Help save the EARTH! - Monday, July 09, 2007
• Happy Fourth of July... - Wednesday, July 04, 2007
• I'm still here... - Wednesday, June 27, 2007
• Why... - Wednesday, June 20, 2007
• I did not know... - Saturday, June 16, 2007
• Often since meeting you... - Thursday, May 10, 2007
• Encounters... - Saturday, March 31, 2007
• Blog Tag... - Sunday, February 25, 2007
• Sadness - Friday, February 09, 2007
• The limerick... - Saturday, January 06, 2007
• When? - Saturday, December 30, 2006

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