“Watch out,” her father said. “You nearly hit that car! Can’t you do anything right?” His words hurt worse than blows. She turned her head toward the elderly man in the seat beside her, daring her to challenge him. A lump rose in her throat as she averted her eyes. She simply was not prepared for another battle. “I saw the car, Dad. Please don’t yell at me while I’m driving.” Her voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than she felt.
Her father glared at her then turned away and seettled back in his seat. At home, she left him in front of the tv and went outside to collect her thoughts. Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a prospect of rain.The rumble of thunder echoed her inner turmoil. What could she do about him?
Her father had been a lumberjack in his youth and had enjoyed the outdoors. He’d revelled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he was unable to lift a heavy log, he’d joked about it, but later that day, she’d seen him outside all alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable when he was unable to do something he’d done when he was younger. Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday he’d suffered a heart attack, but survived though he obstinately refused to follow doctor’s orders. Offers of help were turned down with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors stopped and he was left alone.
She and her husband asked him to live with them on their small farm, hoping that the fresh air and rustic surroundings would help him adjust. It took only one week for her to regret that invitation. Nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything she did. Soon, she was taking her pent-up anger out on her husband and they began to argue.
The months wore on and she had to do something. She called mental health clinics, explained her problem to empathetic voices, but not one had a suggestion. As she was giving up hope, one of the voices exclaimed: “I have just read something that might help you: a study was done at a nursing home on all the patients suffering from chronic depression. Their attitudes improved dramatically when they were given the responsibility of a dog.”
She drove to the animal shelter and as she reached the last pen, a dog in the shadows 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 dog was a caricature of that breed. His hip bones jutted out in lopsided triangles but it was his eyes caught and held her attention. They were calm and clear and beheld her unwaveringly. “Tell me about him,” she said to the keeper. “He appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in … that was two weeks ago but we’ve heard nothing and his time is up tomorrow.” “Do you mean you are going to put him down?” “Ma’am, we don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.” “Okay. I’ll take him,” she said, and drove home with the dog on the front seat beside her. When she reached home, she showed the dog to her dad saying: “Look what I have for you.” He wrinkled his nose in disgust and spat out: “If I wanted a dog I would have picked a better specimen than that. I don’t want that bag of bones,” and with that, he walked back to the house. She was furious as she shouted: “You’d better get used to him because he’s staying.” Her father ignored her so she screamed at him. He whirled angrily, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate as they stood glaring at one another. Suddenly, the dog pulled free from her grasp, wobbled toward her father and sat down in front of him. Slowly, carefully, he raised his paw. Her father’s lower lip trembled as he stared at that uplifted paw. Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then, her father was on his knees, hugging the animal.
It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship Together, the two of them explored the countryside.They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes, spent reflective moments on the banks of streams angling for tasty trout and even attended Sunday services together. Her father sat on a pew while the dog lay quietly at his feet. They were inseparable throughout the next three years. Her father’s bitterness faded and he and his dog made many friends. Late one night, she was startled to feel the dog’s cold nose burrowing under the bedcovers, something he had never done before, so she woke her husband , put on her robe and ran into her father’s bedroom, to find him lying on his bed, his face serene, but his spirit had left sometime during the night.
Two days later her grief deepened when she discovered the dog lying dead beside her father’s bed. Silently she thanked the dog for the help he had given her in restoring her father’s peace of mind. On the day of her father’s funeral, she was surprised to see how many friends he and his dog had made … all filling the church. The pastor began his eulogy, a tribute to both her father and the dog who had changed his life.
This story entitled; Father, daughter and a dog, was written by Catherine Moore.