It’s an age-old story. Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy and girl go kayaking together …


This is really a photo essay. It’s the story of a senior dog’s whole new life, a rescue, yes, but also an adventure not yet finished.

Gertie had been rescued once before she came to us. Through no fault of her own, and despite people who loved her, life threw curve balls and darts at this dog. A sensitive girl, she picked up on the stresses of the world, building up a rather large and complicated case of anxiety that dominated her days. She worried. She took that worry out on anything within chewing range. She barked and howled if left to face it all alone. Some days she needed to be aloof. Some days she needed to act like Velcro. She loves food, but some days she couldn’t eat. Other days she ate the wrong things. The anxiety showed itself clinically as IBS (a short term that lets people not think too hard about “irritable bowel syndrome”) and that made everyone miserable.

Then she met Marla. And Marla took her home to meet Ron. Oh boy, was that ever a good day.

Marla is a veterinary technician at one of the clinics trying to find solutions for Gertie. Her skill set and understanding of Gertie is the perfect match for helping Gertie heal. Marla is unphased by injections, medications, frequent vet visits (they go to work together) or the need to buy carpet shampoo by the gallon. In Gertie, she also saw the dog her husband was seeking. Someone to watch Vikings games or read with, someone to stay home when the rest of the family insisted on taking big long hikes, and as it turns out, someone willing to hop into the kayak and spend the day on the water together.

We don’t write fairytales, so not every day is perfect in Gertie’s journey to recovery. The diagnostic tests from the vets have been stubborn to improve at times, but the progress in those numbers and in Gertie’s outlook is clearly on the upswing.  Best of all, Gertie is discovering a whole new world opened up for her by two people who see the small adventurer inside. So here come the photos, of Gertie at the barn hunt…Gertie kayaking…Gertie camping…and for sure, Gertie sleeping with her truest comfort in the world. All of this is new for her, made possible by love and skilled veterinary care.

It’s a rescue, yes. But even more, it’s a life that is defined by the spirit, not the past.

Mary Gustafson    

THE BARN HUNT (This sport turns a dog’s natural curiosity and hunting skills into a game. Courses are made out of straw bales and the dogs navigate them to find the target contained in a specialized tube.)







 Photos courtesy of Marla Richter





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