If you’ve every doubted that having pets can comfort and enrich your life¬† through healing companionship then this story by author Catherine Moore is a beautiful illustration of how pets can bring healing and wholeness into our lives. This particular story is about a dogs companionship but any pets companionship can bring comfort and healing.

“Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!” My father yelled. “Can’t you do anything right?”

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¬† sounded far calmer than I felt.

Dad glared at me, then turned away. When we reached home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside. The rumble of thunder in the distance seemed to echo my inner turmoil. What was I going to do about my father?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Oregon and at one time had even made a lumberjack video, synopsis of a day on the job. He was a surefire outdoorsman and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack contests, and had placed in the top three often. The shelves in his den were filled with awards plaques trophies.

As he became older, he was irritable when anyone teased him about his age, or when he couldn’t do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-eight birthday, he had a heart attack. At the hospital, he was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived. But something inside him had died. His zest for life was gone. He wouldn’t follow doctor’s orders. Any suggestions or offers of help were brushed aside with sarcastic comments or insults. Visits from friends and neighbors slowed down, then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.

My husband Richard, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our organic chicken farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I was regretting having invited him. He wasn’t happy with anything. He criticized everything. I became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Richard. We were bickering and arguing all the time now.

Richard went to our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly marriage relationship 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 I figured it was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each one but didn’t get any answers or ideas for what I could do. 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.”

The article described a clinical study done at a residential 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.

That afternoon I drove to a local animal shelter. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. Each cage contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs. I studied each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons too big dog, too small dog, too excitable dog. As I neared the last pen a dog walked to the front of the cage and sat down. His face and muzzle were mottled with shades of gray. His hipbones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught my attention. Calm and clear, they stared at me.

I pointed to the dog. “Can you tell me about this one?”

“He’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere, sitting in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be down to claim him. That was two weeks ago and we haven’t heard a thing. His time is up tomorrow.” He made a well known gesture.

I turned to the officer in horror. “You mean you’re going to kill him?”

“Ma’am,” he said gently, “we don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.”

I looked at the pointer again. “I’ll take him,” I said..

When I reached the farm I was helping our new dog out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the porch. “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 one than that bag of bones.” Dad turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. “You’d better get used to him, Dad. He’s staying!” Dad ignored me. “Did you hear me, Dad?” I yelled.

At those words Dad whirled angrily. We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the dog pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him. He raised his paw.

Dad’s lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw. Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The dog waited patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the dog.

Dad named the dog Cheyenne. Together they spent hours walking down the gravel roads in our community. They spent afternoons angling for trout. They even attended Sunday services, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable for the next three years. Dad’s bitterness anger drained away, and he and Cheyenne made lots of friends. Late one night I felt Cheyenne ‘s nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never come into our bedroom at night before. I woke Richard up before running into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face calm, but he was gone.

Two days later I found Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad’s bed. As Richard and I buried Cheyenne near a favorite fishing spot, I thanked Cheyenne for the help he had given in restoring life to Dad.

The morning of Dad’s funeral was overcast and drizzling. I was surprised to see how many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church. The pastor’s eulogy 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. Suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all by sending an angel named Cheyenne.