Dad, Cap and the ‘Surfing Madonna’

The other day, as I drove by the “Surfing Madonna,” I thought of my dad and our dog named Cap.
I think of my dad Hank most every day. My father is my best teacher. He is honest, hard working and humble. He puts family, community and others first. He lives by a code of integrity and common sense. My friend Marina says “Hank is a man’s man.” I try to be like him.
My dad taught me a lot of things, but one lesson he taught me about making the right choices came when I first met the stray dog that would become ours.
I first saw Cap, our dog-to-be, while delivering newspapers on my route. He was a golden retriever-like dog with a goofy grin. He looked like a dog I once knew that hung out by our Webelos meetings at the old fire station.
I saw him after delivering a paper to Mrs. Spinney’s house. I whistled to him and he began following me around for my deliveries. Thinking that he might be lost, I road my bike over to the fire station. To my surprise, he followed me back to my house. For my sisters and brother it was love at first sight.
Cap had no tags and we didn’t know where he came from. He just appeared. My mom fixed him up a bowl of table scraps that he proceeded to wolf down with great joy. The question we asked her was, “Can we keep him, please?”
“We will have to talk with your father,” was all mom said.
Dad came home from work to find four kids on the floor rubbing Cap’s tummy. All we wanted to know from dad was, can we keep him?
Dad was firm. “We are not keeping that dog. I am not going to keep a dog tied up in the backyard. It’s not fair to the dog.” He said that we could call the pound in the morning to find his owner.
The next morning the pound informed us they’d gotten no calls about a dog like Cap. They said we could bring Cap to the pound or we could hold him for 10 days. If no one claimed him we could adopt him. To the happiness of us kids, and to the chagrin of my dad, Cappy got a 10-day reprieve.
“Who is going to take care of the dog?” my father wanted to know. He couldn’t bring himself to call the dog by its name. “We are not keeping a dog tied up in the backyard,” he said.
Each day we’d rush home from school to see the dog. Those 10 days passed quickly.
My dad watched uneasily as Cap got his own bowl and his own collar. The dog was settling in. Can we keep him, was all that we wanted to know. We looked at my dad, my dad looked at my mom and my mom looked at Cap, who sat there wagging his tail.
With a look of consternation my dad realized he didn’t have the numbers. My mom was caving. Dad was between a rock and hard place. “We are not keeping a dog tied up in the backyard,” was all he said.
The tenth day ended on a Saturday, my newspaper delivery day. It also meant that Cap was going to the pound, I thought. I rushed to get the paper out so I could get home to say goodbye. I remember riding down the street on my bike. As our house came into view, I saw my dad in the backyard with my brother and sisters; they were digging holes to build a fence. I rushed to join in the effort. It seems my dad was right — we weren’t going to keep a dog tied up in the backyard. It wasn’t fair to the Cap!
Years later, after all the kids had left home, I came back from college. I watched as my dad loaded Cap into the pick-up truck for the drive to the hardware store to start the Saturday chores. As they pulled down the street, Cap sat looking out the passenger window with that goofy grin, and my dad gave his head a little pat. I think he was glad we kept that dog. Seeing how happy my dad was with Cap, I think there’s a similar feeling in many of the residents of Encinitas when they first see the “Surfing Madonna.” I think the City Council would be glad, too, one day, if they decided to keep the “Surfing Madonna” right where she is. It seems, sometimes in life, that when we do something for others, we ourselves reap the joy we might otherwise not know.
Thanks to all the dads out there who are putting family and community first. And thanks to my dad for giving me such wonderful gifts and such a wonderful life. Happy Father’s Day to all!

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