The Old Man and His Dog

Blogger Barry: This article by Catherine Moore is one of the
sweetest dog stories I’ve ever read. Don’t be too surprised to
feel a little tear on your cheek. Being close to dogs all my life,
and feeling their constant, devoted love, it prompted the thought
of how they do keep you balanced, rational and sane in a crazy
world.

By Catherine Moor.

“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 Farmer in Kwa Zulu natal
and the Free State. He had enjoyed being outdoors and had revelled
in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had
entered gruelling farming 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
doctors 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, Rick, 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.

But within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation.
It seemed nothing was satisfactory. I became frustrated and moody.

Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Rick. We began to bicker
and argue. Alarmed, Rick sought out our pastor and explained the
situation. The clergyman set up weekly counselling 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 grey 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 did not answer. 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 in vain to each of the sympathetic voices
that answered. 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 assistant led me to the kennels. The
odour of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of
kennels. 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 kennel, 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 grey. 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 assistant 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, guessing someone
would soon 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 blew the hooter 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
duellists, 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 Buster .
Together he and Buster 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 Buster
lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Buster were inseparable throughout the next three years.

Dad’s bitterness faded, and he and Buster made many friends.

Then late one night I was startled to feel Buster’s cold nose
burrowing through our bed covers.

He had never before come into our bedroom at night. I woke Rick,
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 Buster
lying dead beside Dad’s bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag
rug he had slept on. As Rick 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 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 Buster 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.

Buster’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.

Blogger Barry: Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoyed. Please
use the comment and follow buttons.

Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
Professional Public Speaker, Trainer and Corporate Entertainer,
Motivational speaker, Guest & Key note speaker, Seminar &
Conference speaker, Team Builder, Comedian, Master of Ceremonies,

For your Strategic Planning sessions, Management or Sales meetings,
Conferences and/or Seminars, Award functions, Year end parties,
Christmas parties,

Cape Town, South Africa.

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