General Non-Fiction posted September 5, 2016


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Dad did what he had to do

A Tough Decision

by prettybluebirds

Parenthood: An indelible memory Contest Winner 

Rinty trotted into my life on April 4th, 1954. I remember the precise date because my birthday fell on the second and Rinty showed up two days after we celebrated my special day with Mom's home-made cake and ice cream. I was eight years old.

As I recall, my brother Roger, and I, sat under the ancient Maple tree in our front yard. We liked to watch fluffy clouds drift over while we picked out different animal shapes. The birds sang an ode to the long awaited spring day. The sun was warm; the scent of lilacs filled the air. Life was good.

We both spotted movement a short way down the dusty two-track road that meandered past our farm house. Soon, we made out the form of a medium sized dog as it trotted towards us. He appeared to be an unremarkable, half grown, brown and white pup. As he got closer we noticed the dog was a mixed breed with a good dose of German Shepard somewhere in his background. The appearance of a dog didn't surprise us; stray dogs were quite common back in the fifties. We watched as he trotted on towards us.

I slid down the bank to get on the road and head the dog off while Roger's dire warnings rang in my ears.

"Get away from that dog," Roger yelled. You know Dad said to stay away from strange dogs. You're going to get your head bit off one of these days."

True to my nature, I ignored Roger and walked slowly up to the animal in question with my hand outstretched. I was at that time, and still am, a person most animals instinctively trust. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I show no fear, or maybe they sense my natural love of animals; especially dogs and cats. At any rate, it never entered my mind that the dog might attack or bite me. I crouched down in the dusty road about four feet in front of the pup. If the animal decided to rip my face off, I made it easy for him.

The dog sniffed my fingers and allowed me to scratch his ears. He seemed rather reserved for a young dog, but I figured it was because his life must have been tough up to now. His condition was terrible, thin, with cuts on his feet, and burrs stuck in his hair. I coaxed him into the yard, where Roger still sat glaring at me, and took the dog on out to the barn to get food for the poor critter. Thus, Rinty came into my life to stay for forever, I thought.

Dad wasn't too thrilled, but he agreed to let me keep the pup if I took care of him one hundred percent. I already cared for twenty three rabbits, the milk calves, and barn cats. One more animal to feed meant nothing to me. I was happy.

I named the pup Rinty after my favorite movie star dog, Rin-Tin-Tin. It wasn't long before it became obvious that I was the only person allowed in Rinty's affections or space. If any of my siblings tried to approach him he would either, move away, ignore them, or if they persisted, growl at them. Oddly, the only other person he liked was my Dad. I remember coming home from school and looking for my dog, only to find him following my Dad around the farm somewhere. This seemed strange because Dad never paid much attention to Rinty and didn't care for the Dog's negative behavior towards most people. As that first summer passed by, Rinty got more aggressive every day.

However, Rinty and I formed a deep bond. When winter came I taught him to pull my sled and haul feed to my rabbits as their shed was located a good distance from the other buildings. We spent hours together and I loved that dog with all my heart. Rinty, in return, did anything I asked of him and guarded me with his life. He was never an affectionate animal, but I was definitely his person to protect and care for.

The next summer Rinty's negative attitude became a major problem. Because Dad owned a large fruit farm, he hired live-in help for the summer months. Dad put up tents not too far from our house for the extra help, and my dog didn't hesitate to show his dislike for the new arrivals in his domain. Rinty wanted to kill them all. After one particularly bad incident, when Rinty chased one of the Mexican workers out of the yard, Dad said, "Enough is enough. You tie your dog in the barn and keep him there. I don't want to see him anywhere near the hired help. Do you understand?"

I understood. I felt terrible tying my friend up and leaving him all alone in the barn. I was also old enough to understand the dog must not be allowed to bite people.

I gave Rinty as much time as I could manage, but I worked on the farm too. Each night, when our work was done, I took Rinty for walks or swimming at a nearby lake. I wasn't allowed to ever take the leash off of him; Dad didn't want any more incidents like the last one. Rinty hated being kept so closely confined.

Every morning I would run out to the barn to pet Rinty and give him his food and water; it wasn't enough. The poor dog got so he barked and howled continually. At night I put a pillow over my head to shut out the barking and cried myself to sleep. Dad became more irritated every day so I offered to sleep in the barn with my friend and keep him quiet. Dad refused to allow such a thing.

"Your dog is scaring the milk cows with his constant barking," my Dad complained. "Something has got to change around here."

Something did indeed change, I woke up one morning to--silence. Heart racing, pajamas still on, I raced to the barn as fast as my feet could carry me. I even ignored the chicken poop I stepped in on the way.

"Rinty," I screamed. "Where are you, are you okay?"

There was nothing, only more silence, and no dog joyfully greeting me. The barn was empty, cows already milked and in the pasture. Worst of all, Rinty was gone. His chain remained fastened to the post, and his collar lay in the hay on the floor. Dad didn't need a chain or collar to take my Rinty away, the dog loved to follow him where ever he went. I knew beyond a doubt where Dad had taken my dog. Rinty was gone forever.

I returned to the house with tears running down my face. Dad was already seated at the table while he calmly ate his breakfast.

"You shot my dog," I sobbed. "How could you do that to him? I loved Rinty, he was my best friend, I hate you."

I turned to run upstairs but Dad grabbed my arm, and none too gently, sat me on a chair. Then I got one of the longest speeches I ever heard from my quiet Father.

"If it makes you feel better to hate me, Ruth, then go ahead and hate me. Do you honestly believe that shooting your dog was an easy decision? It was something that had to be done for the good of us all. Rinty was a danger to your brothers and sisters as well as anyone else who got close to him. There was a definite possibility Rinty could severely injure or kill someone in the future.I know you loved the dog but sometimes we must consider others besides ourselves in a situation like this. Also, do you think Rinty would have been happy to spend the rest of his life chained to a post? You think about things for a while, and if you still hate me, then so be it." I glimpsed a tear in Dad's eye as he got up and went out the door.

It took only a short time before I admitted Dad was right. Rinty hated being tied up and I hated seeing him that way. I knew the dog was dangerous but I refused to admit it. I found my Dad and told him I was sorry and I didn't hate him.

Sometimes parents must make very tough decisions for the good of the whole family. Dad didn't want to take my pet away from me, but for the safety of everyone, he did what he had to do. I also learned things couldn't be all my way when there are others to consider. I never forgot this long ago lesson in parenting and admire my Dad for doing what must have been a tough job.


Writing Prompt
Describe a memory, a lesson taught or learned, or a moment shared that will stay with both parent and child forever.

Prose only. No minimum or maximun word count.

Parenthood: An indelible memory
Contest Winner

Recognized


This is a true story and one I never forgot. I know my Dad hated to kill Rinty. Dad was an animal lover too so it must have been hard for him. I never admired my Dad more than I did after his speech that long ago day. The picture is of my brother, Roger and I playing under the old Maple tree in our front yard.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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