It’s not a secret that we do nursing home visits with the dogs. Some nights are more lively than others, and there are definitely times when I think about just staying at home because I’m tired or have had a bad day. This week has been a series of bad days and it was really cold, but we bundled up and went anyway, and once again, I’m glad I went.
There are some residents at the nursing home that we don’t have a lot of interaction with, and there are others that we always seek out. In one of the quieter wings, there’s a gentleman who always tells us that he really loves dogs and every time he sees the dogs, he lights up. This week when we ran into him, I think he was tired and on his way to bed, but he saw the dogs and wasn’t going anywhere until he’d had his visit with the dogs.
This particular gentleman seems to love to talk, especially to someone who understands his love for dogs. It’s clear to me when we visit that he still would love to have a dog around. He always fusses over Bunny and Flattery, but more than that, really seems to come alive when they’re around. While we were there this week, he began to tell me about his favorite dog.
Red Feather was an Irish Setter who hunted pheasants with him. He told me that after he got Red Feather, someone else that he knew gave him another Irish Setter to hunt with and she was pretty good at it, too. However, Red Feather didn’t like anyone else retrieving birds for the man and he’d do his best to make sure no one else got one. He got along with the other dogs, but he didn’t like to share the man’s attention. I loved seeing the man laugh as he talked about Red Feather getting in the front seat of his car and insisting on riding with his head on the man’s leg. He talked about how the dog was out of show lines, but his instinct and drive for hunting were the things that ruled Red Feather’s heart.
As he talked about his dogs, the man gave me a conspiratorial grin and said, “You know, it was like those dogs could read my mind. I think dogs really learn how to figure out what their masters are thinking. Not every dog was like Red Feather. He was just so smart and special.” He had told me about training bird dogs for other people, and I think he recognized that not all dogs have the same bond with their humans that some do.
I think he really hit the nail on the head as to why some of us are such devoted dog owners. Once you have a really special relationship with a dog, I think you learn a bit more about how to bond with other dogs. I think it becomes easier to forge new bonds with new dogs when you have that map of the heart to follow. We all need a Red Feather in our lives to teach us the lessons of life and love.