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.

Just Your Average Winter’s Day Walk and Squirrel Attack


Image credit:

My daily noon dog walk yesterday began like many others. Buddy and I took off down my street, heading toward the woods. Snow was falling with a few inches accumulating on the ground. As we neared the intersection at the end of my street with the forest beckoning beyond, I noticed what looked like a pile of brownish-gray leaves on the curb.

Buddy immediately perked up, and before I knew it, he was running at the leaf pile. His retractable leash played out its full fifteen feet, and my shoulder jerked in its socket as Buddy kept trying to run at the leaf pile, which had unfurled into the form of a gray squirrel.

I have learned the hard way that when it comes to my dog and squirrels, the health of my shoulder muscles is more important than trying to save the squirrels from his hunting instincts, so I let the leash go. By this time, Buddy was behind the squirrel, which came running out into the snowy intersection.

One would think that the squirrel would run anywhere but toward another threat (me). But this squirrel headed right at me, my dog on its heels. The squirrel hopped through the snow sluggishly. Whether this was because of the snow depth or because there was something wrong with it, I couldn’t tell.

As the squirrel came closer, its course stayed true — right toward me. I remembered a time when I was young and a wild squirrel climbed up my leg to get my peanut butter sandwich.

I spread my legs a bit wider to discourage the squirrel from any leg-climbing ideas. Did it think I was some sort of stumpy tree? The squirrel kept coming, passing directly between my boots. Buddy was a few feet behind, his leash dragging through the snow.

Uh-oh. Buddy was headed directly between my legs, too. He is a very tall, eighty-pound dog. I lifted up one leg so he could pass under.

Then I heard the tires of a vehicle slowly crunching through the snow. I looked away from Buddy and saw a white pickup truck approaching. More chaos. Just what we needed!

The squirrel continued its sluggish trajectory to a tree in a neighbor’s yard. In the meantime, I was able to grab Buddy’s leash and command him to “Leave it!” (As in leave the squirrel alone.) The command actually worked. He stopped and I grabbed up the slack in his leash, holding him tight and out of the truck driver’s way. The squirrel was now high in the tree.

The driver, seeing that all was under control, eased into the intersection. Beneath my scarf I began laughing at the scene that must have confronted him. Through his frosty window, I saw that he was laughing, too.

We waved at each other and he continued on his way.

Wishing you Excessive Greeting Disorder for the Holidays


I love my bunny toy.

Marie is distracted with the passing of her parents, so I, Buddy the Goldendoodle Wonder Dog, am writing this guest post. I usually write a post for the holidays. This year, it’s just a bit earlier than usual.

Mistress Marie suggested that I write about two things she’s discovered about me over the years. I am seven now, so you would think she could have written about these things herself earlier. But no, she didn’t, so now I have to.

She claims I have Excessive Greeting Disorder (EGD). I get super-excited whenever somebody comes to our house, especially if they are somebody I know. I run (Marie uses the term “gallop”) through the first floor of the house, back and forth, from the window to the back door whenever somebody knocks.

I don’t think I have EGD because I do not jump up on the person when they come into our home. I am well-behaved. I just sniff them a lot and turn around in circles, wagging my tail and knocking over anything it hits. Sometimes I even smile. However, if the person doesn’t know me, they might think I am baring my teeth. Really, it’s a smile, not a snarl.

Marie also thinks I have EGD because whenever she leaves the house, even if it’s just to walk to the mailbox, and then she comes back inside, I always greet her. Not as enthusiastically as I would a friend or stranger, but still, I am happy to see her even if she’s only been gone for two minutes. This makes her laugh.

I think her ridicule of me for greeting her after a walk to the mailbox is misplaced. I am only trying to make her happy. And besides, I really do miss her for the whole 120 seconds she’s gone. It gives me time to wonder if she’ll ever return. It gives me time to fear that something happened to her on her trip to the bottom of our driveway. All sorts of catastrophes are possible. A bird could poop on her. A car could swerve over too far and crash into her while she’s standing at the mailbox. Another dog could come along and steal her away from me. I am so relieved and happy when she comes back! I would like to know what is wrong with that.

The other thing she wanted me to write about is my Life Motto. She claims that it’s: When in doubt, act like a goofball. She says it’s my motto because whenever I am uncertain or in a new situation, like seeing something strange in our yard (such as a snowman), or the first snow of the year, or meeting a neighbor who is holding some sort of tool I have never seen before, my first reaction is to run around in circles, with my legs bent at incredibly awkward angles.

I would like to explain that this is an entirely reasonable response to a first snow. What could be more fun than tearing around in circles in new snow?? And in terms of seeing snowmen or neighbors who are holding tools – these are threatening things and if I act like a goofball, that takes the threat away because it distracts everyone.

Since this is my holiday posting, I need to work that into the topic somehow. My holiday wish for you is that you greet your friends and relatives like you have EGD. We could all use more excessive greetings in our lives. And I encourage you not to fear acting like a goofball. It will make everyone laugh. And everyone needs more of that, too.