The Many Faces of Buddy

Today would have been Buddy the Wonderdog’s eleventh birthday. I am sorry to say that our beloved companion died on August 21st. It’s taken me a while to be able to write about it.

We had hints of the end five months ago when Buddy had two grand mal seizures, the first in the middle of the night. I had never witnessed a seizure before, so I wasn’t sure what was wrong. Was he just acting out a dream?

Buddy. Image by Amanda Jo Dahl Sales.

In the morning, I made an appointment with the vet who explained what they were. We decided to wait to see if another one happened. If it did, I would put him on anti-seizure meds. She said he could have epilepsy, or he could have eaten something that triggered it, or it could be cancer.

Buddy had a cancerous tumor in his ear, which easily could have spread to his brain or vice versa. I had chosen not to have it taken out previously (along with some skin cancer spots) because Buddy had a heart murmur. There was a risk that if we put him under, he might never wake up. I felt like he would have a better, longer life if we did not do any medical intervention.

His seizures did not return and during the five extra months we had, Buddy got to enjoy summer – swimming in lakes, riding in boats, two walks a day, playing with neighborhood doggie friends. And as you know, he discovered his true passion: fishing. He acted like the seizures never happened. Buddy also got to enjoy having his people with him all day, since I was working at home due to COVID-19 and Russ is retired.

On August 21, Buddy was fine until early afternoon. He was laying on the living room carpet, drifting to sleep when his first seizure happened. The event seemed to scare him more than before, and he stuck with me, wanting to be pet and comforted.

The second seizure happened a couple of hours later as he was drifting to sleep again. After this one, I called the vet’s office and got some anti-seizure meds. I gave him a pill right away, but it takes time for the medicine to build up to effective levels.

Buddy had two more seizures, each more severe. By that time, it was 8 p.m. on a Friday night. The vet was closed, so I called the emergency vet. They told us to bring him in.

Buddy was excited to go for a car ride and happy to hear we were going to the “doggie doctor”—one of his favorite places. He stumbled getting into the car and we noticed during the ride that he seemed to have trouble swallowing or he had a hitch in his breathing.

Due to the virus, we couldn’t go inside the office, but Buddy went without protest. The vet examined him and then called us as we waited in the car. He was pretty sure Buddy had a slow-growing brain tumor. He could treat the seizures with intravenous meds, but that would not fix the underlying problem of the tumor. He also said that Buddy’s bark did not sound normal – as if something in his throat was paralyzed by the seizures.

Things had already been ugly, but I knew they were about to get a lot uglier if we started hooking Buddy up to tubes. Russ and I made the hard decision to euthanize him.

Before the procedure, they brought Buddy out so we could see him one last time. I told Buddy that we loved him and would miss him. I explained what was going to happen. I cried. But Buddy seemed distracted, like he was eager to go back inside. So after a short time, I let him go. He knew what was best, too.

As one of my friends said, “To know Buddy was to love him.” He was such a large, exuberant presence in our lives. I’m still getting over the shock of having him here one day and gone the next. Of course, I’ve second-guessed our decision — should we have spent more time and money on his recovery? Ultimately, I feel like we did the right thing by him. We plan to spread his ashes along his favorite walking trail and his fishing spot in northern Minnesota.

My last photo of Buddy, taken between seizures.

One of my former colleagues recently wrote a story describing a University of Wisconsin-Madison study about the monetary worth of a dog’s life. The researchers surveyed hundreds of dog owners to see what they would be willing to pay for a hypothetical vaccine that would protect their dog from a fatal dog flu. Incorporating additional factors, they were able to come up with the value of $10,000.

We did not spend nearly that much during Buddy’s last day. But if some sort of procedure was available that could have reversed his brain tumor and cured his seizure damage, I would have considered it.

We are still dealing with the emotional cost of his absence. There’s no way to put a monetary value on grief.

Bye bye, big guy.

Buddy, the door-to-door salesman. Image by Amanda Jo Dahl-Sales.

The Dog Who Fished


Buddy has a new favorite pastime: fishing!

He’s had the chance to spend extra time on a clear northern Minnesota lake. It’s easy to see the young fish and bluegills against the sandy bottom. He was so excited when I pointed out the “fishies” in the water that now he whiles away many an hour wading and chasing them.

He hasn’t caught a fish yet. I don’t think he’d know what to do with one if he did. But that’s why they call it “fishing” and not “catching,” right?


I know that Garrison Keillor of “Prairie Home Companion” fame has fallen out of favor these days, but he told a great story about Bruno, the fishing dog, during a Lake Wobegon skit a few years ago. Bruno could catch fish, and caused a memorable panic during a baby’s baptism reception. You can listen to the skit about Bruno and his family on YouTube here.

I am hoping that Buddy does not follow suit.


It’s just fun seeing Buddy excited about fishing. I am hoping it doesn’t stress out the fish too much. They probably know by now that he’s not a major threat.

I hope you all are having a summer as good as Buddy’s.



A Sad Valentine’s Day


My lady, Bea.

I (Buddy the Wonderdog) have bad news to share, especially on Valentine’s Day. You know how I was talking (gushing, actually) about my live-in girlfriend, Bea in my last post? Shortly after I wrote it, Bea started getting sick. She wasn’t acting like herself, she was throwing up, and she was panting like she had a fever.

Russ and Marie took her to an emergency vet because it was the weekend and the regular vet wasn’t open. That doggie doctor thought Bea had a disease caused by ticks, called anaplasmosis. The trouble was, this doctor didn’t know that her tick exposure happened a few years ago, and she never got sick from it. It happened so long ago that Russ forgot about it, and Marie never knew about it because she didn’t know Bea then.

So, the doctor sent them home with medicine to treat the tick disease. We all expected Bea to perk right up like dogs usually do after receiving this treatment. She didn’t. She wouldn’t eat, she couldn’t go very far on our walks, and, I hate to say this about my girlfriend, but she was peeing in the house, which she never did before. I wanted to play with her, but she just didn’t have the energy.

By this time, it was Tuesday and Bea’s regular vet’s office was open. The last time I saw Bea was before Russ took her on this trip. The vet told him she had something called pancreatitis. The symptoms are the same as the tick disease, so I don’t blame the emergency vet for being confused. Bea’s fever was even higher than before. The doctor wanted to keep her in the office and get her rehydrated with an IV.

Later that afternoon, she still wasn’t doing well. The vet wanted Russ to take her back the emergency vet’s office for overnight. So, he did that.

On Wednesday morning, Russ went back right when the office opened up. Bea was still very sick, although they managed to get her more comfortable. After a long talk with the vet, Russ made the hard decision to say goodbye forever to Bea because her pancreas was just too damaged. There was no coming back from it.

We all really miss Bea. I sat for a long time in Bea’s spot on the couch after they told me she was gone. I really don’t know what to do. I am just sticking real close to my people to make sure they don’t leave me, too.

Marie says we are going to get Bea’s ashes soon and release them on a lake up north where we always had a good time together. Life just isn’t going to be the same without her.


Songs for Dogs

Marie is too busy trying to survive a gray and dreary February in Minnesota so I, Buddy the Wonderdog, am stepping in to write a post.

I want to tell you about a super great thing Marie and Russ did for me and my girlfriend Bea. Yes, I have a live-in girlfriend! Bea is a collie mix rescue dog. She was found in a ditch with her littermates next to a local highway by a mail carrier. Even though she was a stray, I think she’s priceless. She keeps me company when our masters are gone and sometimes even plays with me. Not often, but the rare times she does make me feel all goofy inside.


Bea (left) and me listening to our play lists.

Anyway, I digress. The wonderful thing our masters did for us is to make a playlist of songs on Spotify. We listened to the music during a recent road trip, and I loved it! I think Bea did, too. You can see how happy we were from the photo I’ll include with this post.

The songs are customized to our personalities. For instance, for me, they inputted that I am super-friendly, curious, and have an average energy level. For Bea, they said she is less friendly and more mellow. My music was a mix of fast songs (including Led Zeppelin, my fave!) and slower songs. Bea’s mix were slower songs, but they were classics and very tasteful.

Now, besides being able to leap tall walls with a gesture from Marie, I am a well-read dog. The New York Times recently published an article, “Does Your Pet Really Need Cat TV or a Dog Playlist?” The story argues that all pets really want is their masters, not music to make them feel better when their masters are gone. But I would argue that if the masters have to be gone, why not play some music that I like? Also, because I’ve already listened to the songs when I was with my masters, it makes me feel like they’re here even when they’re not.

Those videos for cats that the article describes sound pretty funny. I laughed (in my own doggie way) at the quote by one person, who said, “When you are watching birds and chipmunks fight over a corncob, it makes you stop thinking about impeachment.” Anything that can do that has got to be good!

Our masters used to leave the Animal Planet station on TV sometimes when they were gone, but some of those programs are violent to animals. They show people hunting animals and killing them! I didn’t like those very much. I’d much rather have music.

So, to answer the question in the NY Times story, no, I don’t really NEED my own playlist, but I’m sure glad I have one.

A Tribute to Mary Oliver

I happened to be reading Mary Oliver’s “Dog Songs” book of poems over the course of several evenings when I heard the news of her death last week. What a momentous passing for the poetry world! The thought that she will never write another word for the world to read is depressing. I’ve been in a funk for a few days.

One of my friends said that when he heard the news, it hit him like that scene in “Star Wars” when Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan is destroyed by the Death Star; a giant scream passes through the galaxy, heard only by those who are strong in the Force. In the case of Mary Oliver, I imagine many poets emitted silent screams when they heard the news.

20190121_143759I’ve long been a fan of her work. I even was able to see her read in person in the hinterlands that are Duluth way back in 1987. Her autograph is on my copy of “American Primitive” as proof!

I appreciate how Mary made poetry accessible. Her consistent weaving of themes from the natural world and the sensual world spoke to me unlike the work of any other poet.  Thank you thank you Mary Oliver for having the courage to put your words to paper and the perseverance to publish them!

I’d like to share with you some of my favorite poems from “Dog Songs,” which, as if you couldn’t guess, are poems about her dogs.

These lines are from one entitled “Her Grave,” and they echo thoughts I have almost every time I walk my dog:

A dog can never tell you what she knows from the

smells of the world, but you know, watching her,

that you know

almost nothing.

In that short phrase, Mary explains the different worlds that dogs and humans inhabit, yet how closely they are connected.

Another favorite is, “The Poetry Teacher.” This poem describes how the university gave Mary a “new, elegant” classroom to teach in – one where her dogs were not allowed. She would not agree to that and instead moved into an old classroom in an old building. She kept the door propped open and eventually her dog would arrive with his friends . . .

all of them thirsty and happy.

They drank, they flung themselves down

among the students. The students loved

it. They all wrote thirsty, happy poems.

Then there’s “The Wicked Smile,” about a dog who seems famished for breakfast and “talks” Mary into feeding it, only to “confess” afterward that someone else fed him breakfast already.

While her dog poems are not quite as strong as her people-oriented poems, they are certainly worth reading. You won’t look at dogs in quite the same way afterward.

May you all write thirsty, happy poems!

An Evening Dog Walk


I had the honor recently of reading an excerpt from a creative nonfiction story that was published in a local literary journal, the Thunderbird Review. The event took place at the Fon du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, Minnesota, and the story is called “An Evening Dog Walk.” It’s a poignant tale of a neighborhood dog walk and dating at 50.

Here’s what I read:

We lived a block and a half away from each other in a northern Minnesota town on the shores of Lake Superior.

When I first saw him in my old neighborhood, he was lying on the kitchen floor of his home, puttering with a repair under the sink. I spoke with his wife, a freelance graphic designer, about a publication project I had for her.

From differing heights, he and I exchanged hellos, and that was it.

About five years ago, we met for the second time in our new neighborhood. I was walking my dog past his house, which was a block and a half away from mine again. His house was recently built, and I had been wondering who lived in the impressive structure. While he was taking envelopes out of his mailbox, I reintroduced myself.

During the next five minutes, he spilled his woes to me: his wife had died from some awful form of cancer, a relative died yesterday, he was experiencing mechanical failures at home, and he had just recovered from the flu.

Stunned by his outpouring, I wished him well, and my dog and I continued our walk.

About a year later, I turned around in my church pew and he was sitting behind me. I reintroduced myself. His sparkling blue eyes and Joe Biden smile told me he was doing better.

He asked me to stay for coffee after the service, and our friendship began. He admitted he didn’t remember our previous encounter because he had been so upset. But he was excited to meet someone who knew his former wife and had lived in both of his neighborhoods.

It wasn’t long before we started dating. Even though he was 14 years older, we shared similar philosophies, the same neighborhood, and he loved my dog – a golden doodle too friendly for his own good.

I felt I could trust him. I felt the stomach butterflies.

Kissing didn’t come easy for him. I was the first woman he had kissed since his wife died. We were on my back porch after a dog walk and I could tell he wanted to kiss me, but after some fumbling, he ended up kissing my cheek instead. We joked about it the next time we met, and on his subsequent try, he hit the lip bullseye.

He took me flying in his small private plane, showed off the audio system in the living room of his comfortable home – a home that still contained his deceased wife’s decorating touches in every room – and he solicited my help in fixing his leaky sailboat. He even kept up with me hiking and biking around the neighborhood.

As a twice-divorcée struggling to recapture some sense of normalcy and connection, he was just what I needed. And he seemed happy to have someone to do things with once again . . . .


If you’d like to find out what happened in the rest of the story, please support the journal and purchase a copy for $5. You can find info on how to do that here.

Photo Caption Contest!



My family celebrated Thanksgiving early this year. This is my favorite photo from the memorable occasion. My dog Buddy is looking longingly at the turkey carcass.

It begs a photo caption. Suggest your best one by commenting below. I (the sole judge) will send the winner a free copy of my novel, Plover Landing. I will ship it anywhere in the world, so put your creativity caps on, people!

The contest will be open through Saturday, November 25. I will contact the winner privately for their address.

How My Dog Got Me Out of a Traffic Ticket


Buddy. Image by Amanda Jo Dahl Sales.

Two springs ago, I decided to go to Duluth’s (Bob) Dylan Fest musical gathering at a bar downtown. I wanted to arrive early to ensure nabbing a chair to sit on. I had hurt my foot or hip or something, I don’t recall now, and knew there was no way I could stand up and listen to music for several hours without pain.

I rushed out of the house and made it to the bar in plenty of time. As I walked from the parking lot to the building, I realized that I had left my Dylan Fest tickets at home. Cursing, I got back in my car and raced home.

Apparently, I raced a little too fast, because a cop stopped me a few blocks from my house.

“Do you know how fast you were going?” he asked.

“Um, about 43 mph?” I admitted.

“Yep. This is a 30 mph zone and you were going over the speed limit.”

I explained about leaving my tickets at home and not wanting to be late to the event. (I didn’t get into my medical reasons, though.)

The policeman took my license and went back to his patrol car to run a check. When he returned to my driver’s window a few minutes later, he said, “Hey, aren’t you Buddy’s mom?”

I looked at him, dumbfounded for a few seconds. Then I realized he must be the cop who lives in my neighborhood. I had spoken to him and his wife a few times while I was out walking my goldendoodle, Buddy. They LOVE goldendoodles.

I smiled and answered in the affirmative. I told him it was nice to see him again.

“Buddy’s a great dog,” he said. “I’ll let you off with a warning.”

I drove to my house, thankful, yet a little chagrined that I got let off from a ticket not because the cop knew me and thought I was a great person, or even because I am a world-famous blogger, but because of my dog, who is way more famous than I am. 🙂

Iams Dog Food Alert!


Don’t these two bags of dog food look the same? They are not! The one on the left (which has chicken as the first ingredient) is masquerading as the lamb meal formula on the right.

As you may recall, my canine companion is Buddy, a large goldendoodle. One of the reasons we decided on this breed was because I had just discovered that my youngest son was allergic to cats. To try and ensure he didn’t become allergic to dogs, too, we wanted to get a doodle because they are “hypoallergenic,” meaning that people are less likely to be allergic to them because they don’t shed hair like other dogs.

It’s been great having a dog that doesn’t shed. I don’t mind the once-every-two-month trip to the groomers to get his hair cut if it means that I don’t have to continuously vacuum up his hair in my house.

Irony of irony, our hypoallergenic dog seemed to be developing allergies. In consultation with his vet, I changed his food from one based on chicken to one based on lamb. The food I chose was Iams Lamb Meal and Rice Formula. It still had some chicken in it, but that ingredient was farther down the list than his previous food.

Changing his food seemed to help, as did putting him on a daily dose of Zyrtec, but he was still having low-key allergy issues (itchy eyes, irritated skin, etc.), so this year, I went ahead and had Buddy tested. The vet couldn’t determine food allergies with the test, but she could determine environmental allergies.

Turns out Buddy is allergic to dust mites. So are my son and I. My house is pretty much dust-mite-proofed already, but I did go ahead and get Buddy a dust-mite-free bed and special blankets to put over the furniture where he likes to sit. But they didn’t seem to make any difference in his symptoms.

The next step to determine what food ingredients he’s allergic to would be to start buying some special dog food for several months that costs $90 per bag and then introduce different food ingredients later on to see what his reaction is. That seemed more trouble than it was worth for his minor allergy issues. So I stuck with the Iams lamb dog food.

Last week I bought a new bag because I was getting low. When I ended up opening it at home later, I noticed that although the label was the same color and had the same breed of dog on it, it now said “With grass-fed lamb” instead of “lamb meal & rice formula.”

Hmmm. I looked at the ingredient list on the side and was miffed to find that chicken was the first ingredient and that lamb was now #5.  Sneaky! Iams is trying to pass off this new formula to unsuspecting people who usually buy the “lamb-as-first-ingredient” formula.


The Budster.

After some thought, I decided to try my dog on it anyway. I’m not sure that chicken is the culprit for his allergies. It’s just a suspicion, and this would be one way to check.

Sure enough, his allergy symptoms got worse. He started sneezing more, biting at his skin, and rubbing his eyes. As soon as I figured this out, I went to the store in search of a different brand of food. I discovered that Purina One has a Lamb & Rice Formula, which has lamb as the first ingredient and “poultry byproduct meal” as the fifth ingredient.

I gradually switched my dog over to it, and now his symptoms have subsided.

Curious to see if anyone else had noticed this “bait-and-switch” tactic of the Iams Company, I searched the Interweb. I didn’t find any complaints about that. But I was shocked by the number of complaints from people who blame Iams food for killing their dogs! Creepy. It made me glad I switched brands.

I also did a search on Purina One to see if there were any dog-killing complaints. There were a lot fewer.

In any event, Iams dog food users beware! They have sneakily switched the ingredients in their lamb and rice formula food and are trying to pass it off as the same thing. I can only assume this change was due to profit margins. I’m sure chicken is cheaper than lamb.

If your dog has food allergies like mine, this switch could be bad news.