large, old black dog showed up on my sister Joanne’s doorstep, thirsty and hot.
The owner of eight dogs, she took pity on the old dog, who wore no collar
nor identifying tags. She ushered him inside, gave him water and a bath and called
Joe immediately made himself at home. Amidst the clamor and
busy movement of the other resident dogs, Joe sat calmly with what looked remarkably
like a smile.
Eventually, his owners were found and Joe returned home.
He came back to Joanne’s about a week later and waited patiently on the porch
to be let in. He seemed happy to once again join the household. It was then that
I met Joe. He was such a sweet gentleman that I immediately loved him, too.
course, his owners were called and came to collect him again.
later, Joanne and I were driving back from lunch and saw Joe wandering, muddy
and thirsty, a few blocks from her house. We put him in the car and took him back
to her home. She once again bathed him and he settled into his familiar and comfortable
What I noticed was his seeming efforts to stay out of the way
and make his body as small as he could. We agreed he was trying to be small so
he wouldn’t be any trouble and could stay.
Of course, Joanne called his
owners and they again came to get Joe. We sadly watched him leave, knowing he
might be back but hoping he was loved enough to be kept safely at home.
with Red, Chelsea and Pupper
behavior reminded me in a way of our father, who lived with my family for almost
ten years after our mother’s death. He and his own two dogs lived in the guesthouse
at the back of our driveway.
Our household was a busy one with three children,
exchange students and animals. In the turmoil, Dad seemed to make himself fit-in
the way Joe did. He cheerfully helped out around the house and offered to run
errands we needed, including picking up the kids at school.
of those sometimes harrowing drives are now part of our family’s collective memory.
Weekdays, I worked at the animal shelter and appreciated enormously Dad helping
me with the eleven dogs and two cats at our house during the part of the day when
no one else was there. Just one old man and the thirteen friends who adored him
as much as we did.
Joe, whatever his downsizing efforts, could never become
small. His gentleness and size were ever evident when he was in the room. Dad,
no matter his own “small” efforts, also could never have been small in our lives.
He was an integral part of raising the children, sharing our sadnesses and joys
and being a reliable oak in our family forest.
He grew elderly but, always
smiling, retained his youth in spirit and memory.
I was young, I thought our 5-foot-9-inch father was ten feet tall in his cowboy
boots and Stetson. He certainly stood even taller in my mind when he took care
of some problem I considered catastrophic.
I remember vividly when I, as
a teenager, had a difficulty with a merchant downtown. When I tearfully told Dad,
he took my hand and saying, “Come with me,” marched purposefully back to the store.
I looked up at him, congratulating myself on having such a father. He might well
have been a knight on a huge horse in full armor, off to slay dragons and vanquish
In my youth, I thought things had to be “perfect.” I have since
learned, painfully at times, that little in life is perfect.
however, a few perfect times. I was lucky in my youth to experience many such
times. Those times made up for the difficult ones. I was lucky to be young in
the forties, fifties and sixties when life seemed so much simpler. Lucky to have
parents who loved each other and their children. Lucky to have two healthy, happy
sisters, even when we didn’t get along. Life gave me more than my share of good
I owe a huge portion of this to my “knight” who lived “large” with
us in the little house out back. Thank you, Dad.
(This story is dedicated
to our much-missed father and grandfather, James Tinkle West. 1915 - 2002)
© Dianne West Short
Shoe Horse, Don't They?" July
9, 2012 Column
Related Topics: Fathers
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