Words and Images from Ed Felker

Bring Me a Dog

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A couple years ago I walked around a festival in Richmond with my friend Jay and my dog, Finn. We had all run together in a mud run/5K thing and were enjoying post-race beers and people watching. I started noticing it for the first time then, that people gravitated toward Finn. Sometimes seemingly without knowing it, they would veer slightly as they walked toward us, close enough to absently run fingers down his back as they passed, or they would rest a hand on his head as he stood next to them in a beer line. He was popular, and countless people asked about him or complimented him, but these subtle gestures were somehow more special.

At a local festival this spring, a young girl with Down Syndrome knelt in front of Finn in the grass. He sat quietly as she hugged him and whispered to him for a long while, finally separating and yelling to her Mother, “Mommy this dog loves me!” She spoke the truth.

This summer the young son of a friend met Finn out in public and put his hands on the sides of Finn’s head and said quietly, not for me to hear but just for Finn, “I love you, too.”

I am not, despite whatever my presence on social media seems to suggest, a people person. But the more time I spend with this dog, the more I realized how selfish it is for me to keep him all to myself. If ever there was a dog perfectly designed from scratch to be a therapy dog, it is Finn. We studied, we took the test, we filed the paperwork, and Finn became a therapy dog.

I chose a nearby facility that is already familiar with the therapy dog program we are enrolled in, and today – National Dog Day of all days – was our very first official visit. Half of us was nervous.

The staff could not have been more welcoming, and knowing they were aware this was our first visit put me at ease. I can’t take photos of patients and don’t want to discuss even in vague terms the types of afflictions and disabilities we encountered today, but it warmed my heart to see that dogs are blind to everything but a person’s heart and soul. We visited with ten or twelve residents, and what I saw and heard tonight made me more proud than I can ever remember being of anything my whole life.

He stood quietly as we waited, moved out of the way in hallways and elevators. He sat next to people in wheelchairs and moved closer when they could not reach him. He refused food offered to him despite being inches away from a bowl of fruit. He laid his head down sideways on laps and stayed there for easy petting. He sat still patiently when one woman could barely move her hands enough to rub the back of his neck. He shook hands to the great delight of one resident, who made him repeat the trick for those in the room not paying adequate attention. He filled the room with curiosity and laughter and conversation, about his name, his breed, his handsomeness, his disposition, his eyes. He started people telling stories about dogs in their lives, dogs long gone.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. But if I live far longer than I think I will, and one day find myself in a dining hall like the one I was in today, for the love of God, someone, please, bring me a dog. Bring me a dog that sits still for a pat on the head and reminds me with a nudge when I forget to keep patting. Bring me a dog that leans in my lap and wags his tail with the slightest touch or softest word. Bring me a dog that somehow makes me feel more loved than anyone else in the room, then moves to the next person and makes them feel it too. Bring me a dog that makes me remember what it feels like to share years with the very special dogs that warm my feet and fill my heart this very moment.

Bring me that, and I can go in peace.

18 Responses

  1. Joel Thompson

    Good stuff right here! Two of my favorites doing good shit! Not a people person…you crack me up Felker!

    August 26, 2015 at 11:09 pm

  2. Carolyn DeFiore

    Thats just beautiful … and I am so happy you have found the beauty and delight and just plain pride, in doing Therapy work with your dog.

    August 26, 2015 at 11:13 pm

  3. Anne Salisbury

    Was so lovely to read your email+ it reminded me of dogs I have had long gone:)Some dogs have ‘just got it’ with people who are ‘different’ Winston(HV) was one of those dogs+ it would seem Finn will n is the same.Thanks for sharing:))

    August 27, 2015 at 1:44 am

  4. Simon Harris

    Wonderful…….the simple pleasures a sweet dog can bring…well done Finn……..and you too….you people person ..you

    August 27, 2015 at 3:06 am

  5. Monique Simmer

    I love all your “Dispatches”, Ed, but I absolutely adore this one! (and Finn!) Ari and Barack are therapy dogs, too <3

    August 27, 2015 at 4:47 am

  6. Christine Beall

    Gosh, Ed, I have tears in my eyes! Great job both of you. Knew you could do it! Good dog Finn ♥

    August 27, 2015 at 6:32 am

  7. Nancy

    Beautifully said, Ed. I believe that dogs and horses can bring peace to a human soul. And good for Finn (and you) for being able to bring it to so many badly in need of it. I love my dogs every day for that uncanny ability.

    August 27, 2015 at 6:51 am

  8. Curtis

    Thank you. Now i have to go dry my face.

    August 27, 2015 at 8:00 am

  9. me

    Really wonderful piece. Thanks for all that went into its creation and for sharing.

    August 27, 2015 at 8:17 am

  10. You brought tears to my eyes, Ed. Great piece. Good dog

    August 27, 2015 at 8:56 am

  11. Pingback: How a Man Realized that Finn Needed to Be a Therapy Dog | Orvis News

  12. Beautiful!!! Very touching, therapy dogs give very special gifts to many so in need….they are a gift.

    August 27, 2015 at 9:46 am

  13. Sharon

    Thats’s beautiful Ed and so giving from you and Finn. The tears are rolling down my face after reading this.

    August 27, 2015 at 10:51 am

  14. Anne Dubrow

    We can learn so much from our furry friends. Wonderful that you took Finn’s lead and helped him become a healer…and now you are a team! Nope, not a people person at all! ha!

    August 27, 2015 at 1:35 pm

  15. Rebecca Killion

    Such a beautiful piece – brought me to tears. Just last month, I lost my Golden, Brodie, who exuded love from every pore. I feel selfish now for having kept him all to myself. Bless you and bless Finn.

    August 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

  16. Struggled to keep the tears at bay as I read this, Ed! Very touching words that speak to the joy these animals can bring to all of those around them. Finn is a compliment to you, the breed and himself. May he continue to impact people in this positive way for years to come.

    August 27, 2015 at 5:15 pm

  17. Good God, Ed. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes at the beauty of this post. You’re amazing. Finn is amazing. This post is amazing. I need another tissue, darn it.

    August 28, 2015 at 9:42 am

  18. Julie

    You brought tears to my eyes! Absolutely amazing… makes me want a therapy dog just to experience this.

    August 28, 2015 at 10:38 am

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