November 1st 2008 6:21 pm
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'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 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 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 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-daa! 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 and 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.
And if you don't send this to at least 4 people - who cares?
But do share this with someone. Lost time can never be found.
July 29th 2008 5:34 am
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From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a dog" or "that's
a lot of money for just a dog". They don't understand the distance traveled
the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a dog". Some of my
proudest moments have come about with "just a dog". Many hours have passed
and my only company was "just a dog", but I did not once feel slighted. Some
of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a dog," and in those
days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and
reason to overcome the day. If you, too, think it's "just a dog", then you
will probably understand phrases like "just a friend", "just a sunrise" or
just a promise". "Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of
friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy "Just a dog" brings out the
compassion and patience that makes me a better person. Because of "just a
dog", I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.
So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a dog" but an embodiment of all
the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the
pure joy of the moment. "Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and
diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day. I hope that
someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog", but the thing that
gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a man or woman". So the
next time you hear the phrase "just a dog", just smile -- because they "just
don't understand". -- Author Unknown
January 5th 2008 11:24 am
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'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except a wild-eyed Boxer named Mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
but none of us quite knowing the fawn and furry Boxer would soon be there.
The Lab and kitty cat were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of secret treasures danced in the Boxers' head
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had no idea the Boxer was getting ready to pull all of this crap,
When all of a sudden I heard such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Down to the stairs I flew like a flash,
But the Boxer had already tore open all the presents.
And man he was having a blast.
He lay their proud of himself as he chewed on the fake snow
and I looked all around at the damage below,
When, what to my tired eyes should appear,
But the Boxer had decided to eat our plastic reindeer,
With a hint of child like innocence, he was so lively and quick,
I thought it was a dream and gave myself a prick.
More rapid than a bear, his terror had already came,
And I shouted and called him but a few choice names;
"Now, Mouse! I shouted so loud and so firm,
I asked him to listen, but he was already on the go!
Around the house I chased him until I was totally bent!
To the top of the stairs! Around to the wall!
He dashed away! dashed away! like he was laughing at us all!
His eyes full of joy-- how they twinkled! how merry!
His cheeks puffed out from the mouth full of paper,
and me so mad I turned red like a cherry!
The drool from his mouth dropped down in a steady flow,
And his chin white with toy stuffing looked like he had eaten snow;
The ornament how he held them so tight in his teeth,
Was just a small preview of the damage he'd planned.
He tore down the wreath, I glancing up into the kitchen
I see he has eaten our Santa doll with the little round belly,
(He even ate our Christmas grape jelly too.)
It was just so much to take in, a right jolly night itself,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
With a wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon let me to know I had a lot more to dread;
He barked not a sound, but went straight to his work,
He ripped down all the stockings; with one single jerk,
And laying his paw aside his nose,
He giving it a nod, and up the Tree he rose;
He tore down that tree, and making a sound almost like a whistle,
And down it came, breaking all our crystal.
But I heard him exclaim, as he ran out of sight,
"MERRY WOO, WOO, TO WOO AND TO WOO A GOODNIGHT!"