The Beagle and I

I know that this spot has been technically saved for my mom but in this case, I think you will understand why I am writing. I also know that it has been awhile since I have been put thoughts to words on this forum.


That sweet smile, always present. 

Our sweet beagle died on Monday of a short bout with congested heart failure. Barley had been diagnosed two weeks ago and the vet figured it would be six to twelve months before it took him but it went so much faster than we thought.

Barley was a rescue dog from Kentucky that we adopted five years ago through Second Hand Hounds in Minneapolis. We finally convinced my husband that it was time that our family get a dog and for some responsibility for our girls. I also thought it was a great idea for a dog to visit my mom. We always had hunting dogs growing up on our farm and one of the first dogs I can remember was a beagle named Happy. Rumor is I fed him way too many of my mom’s homemade doughnuts and he left the farm that day, never to come back. I think getting Barley was a way of saying I’m sorry about Happy and I will take good care of Barley.

I’m not sure of Barley’s life in Kentucky. I do know that he looked rough when we were finally approved to adopt him.  We also found out a few years ago that he is full of buckshot, which we are hoping wasn’t on purpose. We met him at his adoptive home and he rushed at us with tail wagging and slobbery kisses. I was smitten. I had to call and beg Steve that we would be a perfect fit. And I do mean beg. He has always said that Barley is “my” dog, especially when he would get into some trouble. And he might have gotten into a fair amount of mischief in his five years.

We are only going to mention briefly the sudden weight gain after a few months by girls who continually left out their food. He’s had it all. Girl Scout Thin Mints, Hot Cheetos (thanks Sophia), Frosted Flakes, waffles, blueberry muffins, chicken, Emme’s retainer and candy wrappers licked clean. His favorite spot was Sophia’s garbage can and shelf attached to her bed. We are also pretty sure he could move a chair and get to our stove. There is nothing he disliked except a healthy raw carrot. We tried numerous diets, only to be foiled by the girls leaving out food. As soon as Sophia would leave for the day, his first move was her room. Most of the time, he was lucky. And happy, no pun intended.

We are also only briefly going to mention his escaping the yard. Especially when we were gone for the day, accidentally being left out. The last Barley adventure landed him in the Plymouth police car. He was thrilled with the treats in the squad, the police were not as thrilled with his escape. No collar on, but he was chipped. Fortunately my neighborhood knows his cute mug and I was alerted he was on the run. Everyone knows Barley in the neighborhood.

He was such a good boy.


Last May, I had some unexpected minor surgery to remove a mass that was benign. One ovary and both Fallopian tubes were removed. But what replaced my  body parts were a sudden onset of anxiety, self loathing, deep sadness and overall lack of my self-worth. It was awful. Drowning. Tired. Angry. Sad.

There were times I wanted to be sucked into the ground. Disappear.

I have never felt this way in my entire life. I saw my primary doctor, talked to my GYN doctor, went to a healer, started to see a wonderful therapist, shared with my close friends and even went to a vortex healer. I hated this feeling of despair.

It’s hard being a nurse and helping families, having an irritable teenager, church on Wednesdays, school events, family issues, sporting practices and games and overall managing a household. I felt overwhelmed.

There was talk of hormones, delayed grief, post traumatic from the emergency surgery and the term perimemopause.

One morning, I broke down at work. I could not stop crying. My heart was beating out of my chest and I could not control my sadness. I went home and crawled into bed and heard the thump of Barley jumping on the bed and him crawling in besides me. He settled in close to my head, one paw on my heart and just licked my face. He didn’t sleep but just stared at me like…how can I help you? What can I do?

And so there is Barley and I.


Barley thought we might have run too far that night.

Over the last few months, he has been close to my side. Almost too close at times. Waiting to be petted, kissed or even better…a treat.

We have started to relax by the fireplace at night. He, in his bed, made up by the girls. Me, close by, normally reading. Sometimes he just stares at me and other times comes over to lick my face or lay on top of me. Right on top of me. Normally with a paw right on my heart.

I think he knows about the feelings I’ve been having. And in his dog way, becoming the best therapist a girl could ask for. No amount of medicine is similar to this.

When I knew he was going to die, I could not stop sobbing. Ask my neighbors Glenn and Mary. They graciously came over and got Emme to school, stayed with me while Barley took his last breath and Glenn helped me get Barley in the car.

I think Barley  knew he was dying because right before he died, he looked in our bedroom mirror for the longest time. Just staring at himself, while sitting side-saddle. I hope he knew how much we loved him and how much he helped me the last few months. Always a lick, smile or stare. My sweet boy. Better than any pill.

He passed away on the rug, right by the door. Peacefully and with me touching him, just like we’ve both done to one another.

When I arrived at the vets, they told me to go in the boarding door. I wanted to make sure it was open so I left Barley for a minute and walked in. There, staring back at me, was the cutest beagle puppy. No other dogs around and he was just sitting staring at me. I’m not sure if that was a sign from Barley, a younger version of himself staring back at me but still….

Man, we loved that dog. He will be missed.








The Best Friend


My Mom lost one of her best friends today and I have been sad all day. I love this picture of both Don and Marilyn so happy at our wedding. She has been a part of my life ever since I can remember and I know my home town is grieving her loss.

I think you are a lucky person when you can find a human being that you can connect with and my Mom was lucky to have found Marilyn. There were many pictures to pick from but I kept coming back to this one, so happy and I can still hear her gentle laugh.

My first memories of Marilyn was driving in our old car, heading out to Glacial Lake State Park. She gave me a long lecture on my habit of biting my nails, but soften the blow by saying that I had a “cute figure”. I wasn’t even sure what that meant at the time.

I used to spent hours at their house when Mom and Dad went out. We used to come out at night and watch the bats fly around and how Don used to say they wouldn’t bite us. Uff-da. I remember how their house was layed out and the hours we spent playing cards and how their kitchen table was a little nook. She was always baking and her kitchen was heaven.

After my Dad died, she looked out for my Mom and reported back to me. She was the one to call and say, “Your Mom got turned around on her walk today”, and “You know she is living off toast and cheese”. She was firm but gentle and told me I needed to do something soon. Even though the words were hard to hear, I listened and did what she said. I moved her into Holly Ridge and Marilyn was devoted to visiting her, taking her out to church and meals.

When I made the decision to move Mom closer to me, Marilyn was one of my first calls. I asked her opinion and she gave me advice. She wanted Mom to live closer to me and that we would both be happier. Again, she was correct. It was hard to move her away from her friends but I hoped they would see each other again some day. They never got the chance.

In the last few years, I have received the sweetest, most encouraging cards and emails from Marilyn. She would remind me how much she missed Mom and tell me that I’m doing ok and that she was proud of me. I have saved all of her cards and they hold a special place in my heart. Even though we were 120 miles away, I still felt her love. Just like a second mother.

Tomorrow, I will bring her picture and let Mom know. We last sent her flowers a few months ago and I know Mom was happy about that.

Peace and love to her family. I know she was very proud of all of them. Bless you, Marilyn. You were a loved friend.


The Thank You

The last few weeks have been very busy for me…school starting for my girls, hockey season looming for both Emme and Sophia, my first year chairing for our schools book fair, my nursing job, Steve, church and taking care of Mom. Now that the girls have started school, I am returning to yoga class in the mornings to I can feel centered and calm, if there is such a thing.

A few weeks ago, my friend Becky and I walked in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event at Target Field. We have raised nearly $3,500.00 and this is my 7th year walking in this important event. The last two years, Mom has not attended; part of it is that she doesn’t like to get up early, crowds sometimes add to her confusion and she is not able to walk the shorter route any more. She knows that we still raise money and that I sent out many letters with pictures of her and the girls. No matter where her memory is at for that particular day, I always discuss things that I do with Mom. Some days things click for her, other days I keep my comments as brief as able. She still remembers the event and I have showed her the pictures of our past walks.

Thank you to each and everyone of you who donated…My Mom and I both have amazing friends who give so generously to a cause that is near and dear to our hearts. Sophia’s friends and their families also donated and I am so glad that she is as passionate about this cause as I am. Again, thank you from both Mom and I.

I also have been thinking about all of the “Thank You’s” that I hope that I have not forgotten. It certainly is not intentional. It has really taken a village to help care for Mom. Trust me, I have listened to everything you have said to me. Your advice, your comments, your concern, your love…even if I didn’t want to hear what you had to say, I noted your concern in my cramped, overloaded brain. So deep in my heart, I thank you. Here are just a few long over due ones:

My Mom’s beloved friends: She has made so many dear friends in her long life and they have stood by her when her memory started to fade. Marilyn, Joyce, Ardis and Ruby have gone above and beyond the last few years. They are true friends who continued to bring her to church, take her out to events and dinners in my hometown and overall just keep an eye on her. They still write her sweet letter and I am grateful for them. They would worry about her walks, her confusion and her lack of eating and I would hear about it. I will say, it is never easy hearing your Mom is not doing well and that she is confused. I sometimes picture her wearing her cute outfits, tan, strong, working in her garden and happy with life. I am grateful every day for these ladies. When you see them, hug them for me.

Jerry K: Who let me know that Mom’s mail box, at her assisted living, was getting full. I knew that things were progressing when he wrote me to say that she was not getting her mail. She LOVES getting the mail. In my hometown, she would walk every day to get the mail. I loved that he kept on eye on her, especially when  her key would end up of missing. Reason #154 of why small towns are the best. Thank you Jerry!

Lois B: Many reasons to love Lois…in a previous blog called The Coins, I wrote about Mom putting her rare coins in the church offering. Someone saw her do it and she called me to let me know. I am sure she thought they were change to give to church. Now that I think back, I can laugh about it. Lois also found my Mom’s much loved purse in the church pew. When Mom called to say she lost her purse, I about lost my mind. I still had let her keep her checkbook, cash, and her important cards in there. It also is her favorite item in the world. I had bought her a purse with a printed picture of Sophia on it, had it especially made and spent way too much money on it, but my Mom took it everywhere with her. I called church, Water’s Edge, Tom’s Food and everywhere I could think of. Lois finally found it neatly tucked under the pew where she most likely sat. That was a long three days and taught me a lesson to remove those items. If you see Lois, please give her two hugs for handling two crisis issues.

Lara A: Who worked very hard selling my Mom’s house and I’m sure, saw me fall apart during the sale. I owe her and huge thank you and I am sure a case of wine.

Sarah W: Who wrote me the most beautiful note that I keep in my office. It was about hanging in there and that it’s ok to cry; all the while knowing how important it is to remember that tomorrow is a new day. I treasure that note.

Melanie L: Offering me legal advice when I needed it and listening to me vent. She’s a great attorney if you need one.

Carol F: After we moved Mom into our town’s assisted living, I was coming to see her every month. I would pay bills, set up her medications for a month, clean, shop and just go for drives with her. As you can imagine, it was getting harder for me to see Mom every month due to my own family obligations. Carol stepped up the plate, was my eyes and ears when I was gone. She did laundry, checked on her food supply and helped me with errands. I am very grateful for the time she spent with Mom.

Ross: Knowing that he is doing the best he can at this very moment. I am thankful that he calls her and that he makes an effort.

Bremer Bank in Starbuck: As you can imagine, money gets a little goofed up. Patient, kind and willing to understand an eighty year old woman and her daughter. Many times over they went above and beyond to help me or alert me that we had a problem. I miss the interaction with them and it is not the same down here.

Steve: He doesn’t have a choice but to put up with me every day. He listens, comments, sometimes stays quiet and loves my Mom, even when she calls him Baldy. For some reason, she always remembers his name. Her love for him has always been deep.

Clare Bridge: They have done such a good job in the past year. As I have stated, its not always easy. One of the nurses Amanda is leaving for Grand Forks and has shown Mom love, compassion and overall such good care. We will miss her and say thank you and good luck. I’d even like to thank my Mom’s roommates daughter, who many of you know, I have a hard time with. She has reminded me that life is too short to worry about things like too much chocolate, nuts and coffee. Enjoy what you have right now for soon, it may change. I will ALWAYS continue to bring my Mom things that she enjoys, especially her Snicker Bars.

As I think of people, I will continue to write about them…I think it is never too late to say that you are grateful for what they do for you and how they have impacted you. I hope that you all know how grateful I am to all of you who help me.