MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Father, A Daughter, and a Dog

My cousin, who knows my love of dogs, and the love I had for my father, sent me this via email. I do not know who wrote it, but it brought tears to my eyes with it's touching beauty and how a dog changed this elderly man's life: 


"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 hip bones 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. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this, some have entertained angels without knowing  it."

"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.

Author Unknown

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Help Pets Displaced by Colorado Wildfires

Please help CO animals displaced by our recent wildfires. This post taken from the Denver Dumb Friends League:

Help humane societies in fire-ravaged parts of Colorado

As of June 28, active wildfires in Colorado have consumed more than 148,000 acres, displacing tens of thousands of people and their pets. Because of the urgent need to house these displaced pets, local humane societies like the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, Larimer Humane Society and the Humane Society of Boulder Valley have stepped in to help.
The Humane Society of Boulder Valley and the Dumb Friends League have already sent teams to Colorado Springs to help care for animals at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region that have been displaced by the Waldo Canyon Wildfire evacuations. The PetAid Disaster Relief Fund provides some reimbursement and coordination to local shelters involved in relief efforts.
In addition, the Dumb Friends League has taken in more than 55 adoptable pets from shelters along the Front Range, helping create space for the temporary housing of displaced pets. The Humane Society of Boulder Valley has taken in more than 50 adoptable pets.
To help these organizations continue to provide care for displaced animals, you are encouraged to donate directly through their websites: