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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-07-2003, 02:05 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 825
Angry "Dad &Cheyenne"

"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 often placed.
The shelves in his house had been 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 67th 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.

A raindrop struck my cheek. I looked up into the gray sky.
Somewhere up there was "God". Although I believe a Supreme Being had
created the universe, I had difficulty believing that God cared about
the tiny human beings on this earth. I was tired of waiting for a God
who didn't answer. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do

The next afternoon 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 pen 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 out 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
that that bag of bones. Keep it! I don't want it!. Dad waved
his arm scornfully and turned back into 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

That 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

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 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 I suddenly understood. I knew God had answered my prayers after
Lizgirl is offline  
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-07-2003, 03:44 PM
Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 724
That was beautiful, very sad but beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
BrendaLynn is offline  
post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-07-2003, 07:21 PM
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I cried my eyes out! beautiful and touching!
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-07-2003, 08:35 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Very touching!
Laurie is offline  

animal shelter

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