Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Thousand Words Thursday

I lost my dad in January 2008. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately.

He could be a hard man to live with sometimes. Whether he was wrong or right, Dad was always right! Maybe you know how dads can be. There was only one way to do things, and that was his way. My dad had a rough childhood, growing up in the 20s and 30s, when times were so difficult. My grandfather, from what I’ve been told by other relatives, was a very stern, overbearing man. But then again, who is to judge? My father was one of 10 children himself, so it couldn’t have been very easy for his father to support all those kids.

My dad’s youth was spent fighting in World War II. He didn’t talk much about it, at least not until he was hospitalized before he died. He saw a lot in the war that must have affected him deeply. My dad was a hero, awarded the silver star for bravery in combat.

Of course, when you are a kid, you think your parents are too strict and set too many rules and are out of touch with reality. Things weren’t like you see on the Brady Bunch. Now I can look back and see that they knew what they were doing. My brothers and sisters and I have all turned out okay – they must have done something right! Now that I’m grown with children of my own, I think I can understand that my dad tried very hard to raise his 7 children in the best possible way. He worked 2 and sometimes 3 jobs to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. My mom never worked outside the home until I was in high school. She worked hard as a homemaker and mother. We lived in the country, in a small rented home on a large lot. We had ponies, ducks, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, mice – you name it and we adopted it! My mom and dad were strict and did their best to keep us on the straight and narrow.

When my mom passed 16 years ago, my dad continued to live on in the only house he and mom had finally been able to purchase 14 years earlier. His companion was Holly, a Lhasa Apso – a Christmas gift to my mom a year or two before. In 2005, my husband and I were given a miniature pinscher pup by my brother-in-law. I thought it would be a great dog for my dad, who had once owned a Doberman by the name of Duchess. I thought, with Holly getting up in years, perhaps another dog would be a good idea. Let me tell you – that idea went out the window when the min pin came to stay with us so that I could evaluate him. What a firecracker! Even though my dad was taken with him, he was way too much for a man in his 80s to handle. He was like greased lightning – you opened the door and the dog would scoot out the door in a flash! My poor dad would never be able to catch up with him if he escaped. My husband and I kept the min pin, and I decided to keep searching for another suitable dog for my dad. Holly and my dad were constant companions until the day she died in October 2006. Life without Holly was difficult for my dad. It was like the last remnant of my mom was gone now - he missed her terribly.

I turned to Petfinders one day to see if there were any other, perhaps older, min pins for adoption. That’s when we found Brutus. He was 9 years old and described by his foster mother as “a gentle giant”. He was taller than usual for a min pin and weighed 25 pounds. We made arrangements to meet him at my dad’s house. Brutus was a perfect gentleman and he took to my dad immediately. We adopted him – we had to. They seemed perfect together. Their friendship had a positive influence on my dad. He mellowed in his last year, and his gruff demeanor was gone. Dad was so proud of Brutus. He wanted to share him with others and thought about taking him to visit patients at the local nursing home. Brutus followed Dad everywhere. If my dad left the room for any reason, Brutus was at his heels. If my Dad went anywhere in the car, Brutus was in the passenger seat. My dad even took him to the cemetary to visit my mom's grave. I think Brutus filled that place in his heart that once held Holly so close. I will never forget our last Christmas with Dad. He seemed so changed, and we were all heartbroken when he passed shortly after the New Year. One of the last things he asked me in the hospital was to take care of Brutus for him. Of course, there would be no question that we would.

I feel lucky to have been able to take in his beloved Brutus. It hasn’t been easy for Brutus, moving into a household where there were already two dogs in residence, but I have a special place in my heart for this doe-eyed senior citizen. I looked into those eyes today and see that he is suffering terribly from this affliction. His foot is swollen and ulcerated and the tumor is growing rapidly. How can I keep him going by keeping him heavily medicated for pain? What kind of a life is it if he is drugged all the time? I’m afraid that it is his time to leave us and join his soul mate, my dad.

Our canine friends give us their hearts so freely, but they take a piece of ours with them when they go...

Cheaper Than Therapy

1 comment:

  1. You may have found your calling in this 1000 Words Thursday thing! You write beautifully.

    What a touching tribute to your father -- and to Brutus as well. Wishing you all the best during this difficult time.