The dog that stole my father’s heart
For as long as it keeps ticking, and however strong the attachments it already has are, it’s capable of finding new things to adore.
Which brings us to this sordid tale — one that is also partly uplifting, and, if you want to be all technical about it, also partly shoplifting.
My dog Ace has always been No. 1 in the eyes of my father, a lifelong dog-lover.
My dad was able to quickly detect what a special beast Ace truly is. Watching them snuggle on his couch when we visited always made my insides glow.
For years now, the first thing my father asks when he calls has always been, “How’s Ace?” The first thing he asked me when he came out of a coma, that followed a heart attack, that followed some stomach surgery, was “How’s Ace?” When I visited him in Arizona a few months ago, without Ace, the first thing he asked was, “Where’s Ace?”
Since his lengthy hospitalization, my dad has mostly resided in a skilled nursing facility in Mesa, where, at one point, he was having physical therapy sessions with a dog named Henry, who belongs to one of the therapists. While those sessions are no longer part of his daily regimen, he still sees Henry — full name Henry Higgins — regularly, and apparently they’ve grown quite attached.
According to my sources, after dinner one night last week, my father rolled into the therapy gym unnoticed and snuck off with a photo of Henry that hangs there, planning on taking it back to his sparsely furnished room. It was reportedly his second attempt to steal the framed photo. After getting caught the first time, rolling along the hallway with the picture in his lap, he stuffed it under his shirt the second time.
I found this news upsetting — not because my father was engaging in larcenous behavior, but because I’ve done my best to keep Ace first and foremost in his mind. I’ve made sure his room had a “Travels with Ace” calendar. For his birthday, I sent him a sweatshirt with a giant photo of Ace emblazoned on the front. I’ve supplied him — even though my father’s not doing any traveling — with an Ace travel mug.
For some reason, whatever else he forgets, even temporarily, I want him to remember Ace eternally.
I realize it is petty jealousy, and that it’s likely limited to me. Ace, in all probability, wouldn’t mind a bit that my father has another dog to entertain, comfort, calm, console and warm him.
And in truth, I am far more grateful than I am jealous when it comes to Henry, who I got to meet when I visited, and who is pretty special and wonderful himself.
On my dad’s 89th birthday, Henry was there; Ace and I weren’t.
I can understand my dad being smitten with Henry, and I’m glad he is. Dogs and love, if you ask me, are among the top five reasons to go on living. (The other three are books, music and pizza.)
It makes me want to get Ace — not to mention myself — out there for another visit.
Once he was confronted — when he was noticed, after the second attempted theft, with a bulge under his Maui t-shirt — my father confessed and revealed his ill-gotten bootie.
No charges were filed.
And the framed photo of Henry, according to Henry’s owner, will be placed in a new location:
My father’s room.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, aging, animals, bill woestendiek, dog, dogs, elderly, henry, henry higgins, jealousy, love triangle, mesa, nursing, pets, photo, physical therapy, stolen, therapy, therapy dog, william woestendiek