Stories and Feathers

IIMG_0777 was sitting at my desk thinking about what to write about for my next blog post, and my dog Floey trotted up to me and sat down. “Hey, Mom, can I talk with you about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately – ever since my last grooming?”

“Sure, Floey. What’s on your mind?” I looked at her and smiled. “You really are a pretty dog, Floey. Even though you’re mostly white, you somehow manage to stay clean, despite the snow and slush all around. Even your new turquoise neck scarf from the groomer still looks clean. And the beautiful pink and turquoise feathers the groomer put behind your ear are still in place.”

Floey grinned at me and looked right in my eyes. “Actually, that’s partly what I want to talk with you about, Mom – the feathers. Remember, when you adopted me you learned that I was born on an Indian reservation in northern Minnesota.”

“That’s right, Floey. I remember. Animal Rescue and Veterinary Support Services (ARVSS) rescued you and all your brothers and sisters when you were six months old and brought all of you down to southern Wisconsin to find new homes.”

Dakota-Sioux-American-Indian-Pictures3“Yup. I’m really thankful that ARVSS rescued us and that you and Mim adopted me. I know that I’ve become part of just the right family, the one the Great Spirit had in mind for me when I was born. But back to my story… Two weeks ago, when Denise, the groomer at Bark of the Town, put these two feathers behind my ear, I started thinking about my Indian heritage. You know, Mom, getting my first two feathers is a really big deal.”

“Wow, I didn’t know that, Floey.”

“I know you didn’t. You said the feathers looked cute on me, so I know you like them, but I also know you don’t know the significance of them. You don’t know the Indian stories behind getting feathers, and that’s what I want to talk to you about.”

“That’s wonderful, Floey. I’d love to hear your stories.”

“The most important thing to know is that a feather is a symbol of bravery and courage. A young Indian is given their first feather when they have done some courageous act that qualifies them to be considered an adult. They get another feather each time they do something outstanding. I guess I earned my first feather for being brave around the hair dryer, and my second feather for keeping up my courage and good nature while my nails were trimmed. I was so proud when I walked out of the groomers wearing these two feathers. I feel like my bravery was recognized and I’ve been honored appropriately. I feel proud, and good about myself. I feel like I’m proudly wearing my first symbols of adulthood.”

IMG_0774“I’m glad you told me all about this, Floey. I never would have guessed the significance of these beautiful feathers that you are wearing so proudly. I was actually a little surprised that you hadn’t rubbed them off over the last couple weeks.”

“Oh, I’d never do that, Mom. I’m so happy to wear these feathers, and to think about the stories of my heritage. It’s important for me to tell you these stories so that we all understand each other better and so that our stories will never be forgotten.”

“Oh, I agree with you, Floey. Being a storyteller is one of the most important things we can be. One day last week I ran into a friend of mine who was having a bad day. She was discouraged in her job of caring for someone with Alzheimers disease. She felt emotionally exhausted and totally unappreciated for her efforts in trying to care for this woman. You know what brightened her mood and lightened her day?”

51eT93GoU3L._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_“What, Mom?”

“I was able to tell her about a book that was written by a storyteller who knows all about caring for people with Alzheimers. The book is Creating Moments of Joy by Jolene Brackey. The stories in this book are sure to give my friend greater understanding of the disease and new ideas to help her care for her client.”

“That’s great, Mom. I think you might deserve a feather for helping your friend by telling her about this book of stories. You weren’t exactly demonstrating bravery – kindness, maybe – and I think that counts for earning feathers, too.”

“Thanks, Floey. I guess one of the most important things you and I are teaching each other is the value of sharing our stories. Let’s make a pact – we’ll always tell our own stories and listen to each other’s stories.”

“Good idea, Mom. I’m sure that’s what the Great Spirit has in mind for us.”

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3 thoughts on “Stories and Feathers

  1. A friend of ours whose father has dementia just showed us a picture of her parents sitting together over dinner, with big smiles on their faces. After living a couple years in constant tension caused by his forgetfulness and her impatience with it, they’re enjoying life together again. A big part of the change was her mother reading this book, and now understanding better how Alzheimer’s is affecting her husband, and learning more effective ways of living together in peace. This is a great book of stories to share. Glad you’ve ordered some copies.

  2. I had forgotten to read this until I found it in my email again today. Lovely! Thank you, Floey for sharing!

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