Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Dog and the Old Man

“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.” ~George Elliot

I would like to share a story that my mother-in-law sent me a while back. The story is told by a young lady whose father struggles with personal anger after he can no longer work as a lumberjack because of health issues. After suffering a heart attack, he is invited to live with his daughter and her husband, but as days go by, tension begins to rise. The father is resentful of his declining health and lashes out at everyone.

The young woman prays for a resolution, but for months God is silent. Finally, she decides to call several clinics hoping to find some advice. During one of those calls, a friendly lady tells her about an article she has read about people with the same symptoms greatly benefiting from caring for a pet.

She drives to the local shelter to look for a dog, but none seem right for her father. Then, she spots a pointer in the last pen. Years have etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray; his hipbones jut out in lopsided triangles, but his eyes are calm and clear. She asks the attendant about the dog and is told that he just showed up near the shelter two weeks before.

When she gets home, she shows her father the dog she got for him, but he replies angrily that he doesn’t want a pet, and definitely not one so old and frail. Tension rises, and father and daughter face each other down as if preparing to duel. Just then, the dog walks up to the old man, sits in front of him, and raises his paw to touch the man’s leg. Time stands still. The old man continues to look at the dog who just sits there calmly, his paw still raised. He finally kneels down and takes the dog’s paw in his hand. From that day on they are inseparable. Within the course of a few months, all the anger, frustration and tension wash away, as the old man and his dog become more closely connected.

One night, the dog walks into the young lady’s room, whimpering. Considering the fact quite strange, she rushes to her father’s room. She finds him in his bed, his face peacefully relaxed and at ease in his final sleep. The dog raises his paw and touches him for one last time.

It’s not until the dog has passed away - and she reminisces about her father’s last few months - that the young lady realizes something important. She had prayed for her father to find peace, and had thought her prayers had gone unanswered. Yet they hadn’t. The girl on the phone and the dog were angels she hadn’t recognized. At the time, everything had seemed coincidental but none of it was – the woman, the article, and the dog that had mysteriously appeared at the shelter out of nowhere.

Prayers often seem to go unanswered because they don’t manifest as we imagined. We expect a result which will pacify our wants, because we are not aware of our true needs.

Sometimes the path to our greater good is an uncharted one, yet if we follow it with faith it will lead us where we need to go.

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