Personal Essays


Meet Gus.

Gus is a Munsterlander. In other words, basically nobody has ever heard of this dog breed. This breed of dog has a black head and it’s body can be varying amounts of long white and black fur. Our buddy Gus, has more white fur than most Munsterlanders you see in Internet photos. 

Gus likes long walks through reeds and fields, getting as muddy as possible training with a hunting dummy and pointing to every noise he hears. His secret wish is to be a lapdog, despite weighing nearly 80lbs.

Do you remember the classic Dr. Seuss Christmas special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas?” Near the end of the Grinch’s adventures, little Cindy Lou Who helps the Gringe learn how to love. The story puts it this way:

Well in Whoville they say, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes in one day!

That was me.

Tyler walked in one night and said, “I have a proposal.”

“Nope, sorry. You already married me.” I replied.

“Look, it’s nothing serious or very important…” and he proceeded to tell me about Gus.

My heart felt like it would explode out of my chest. “Oh my God,” I thought, “maybe we can have a family.”

Tyler and Gus, both looking quite dashing.


Gus was raised as a puppy by one man and his other dog, Rocky. This man who cared deeply for Gus unexpectedly passed away. Less than 24 hours after the “proposal” Tyler made, Gus was sniffing and wandering around the homestead.

And in true Pedersen style, we were completely unprepared for a dog.

Gus, trying to crawl into my lap.


As a child, my dad had a black lab named Sam. I was quite young when Sam died, 9 years old. And I missed him terribly. I wrote a silly little song on the keyboard in my room, while crying uncontrollably, about what a great dog Sam was.

But I don’t actually know that much about Sam.

Sam was my dad’s hunting dog. He was not a family pet. He lived in a kennel outside and I don’t remember ever going for walks with him.

Did you have any doubt Tyler would build Gus a dog house, complete with homemade roof trusses?

What I do remember is sneaking into his kennel and sitting with him inside his dog house. I remember the wet dog smell and the mud and dampness of the doghouse. I remember leaning on his silky black coat and pretending to be a dog. I still remember the horrid taste of his dog food and my concern that my parents fed him something so disgusting.

I remember movies like “Free Willy” and deciding that Sam, too, should be free and helping him escape from the confines of his kennel.

Tyler is inside the dog house trying to convince Gus to give it a try.


I remember the long talk my parents had with me about how Sam was different then the whale in the movie and how it was dangerous for him to roam free on the streets of Sioux Falls.

And even after accepting this, I remember the dog himself, tunneling and hacking his way out of his kennel often enough that we would ride our bikes around the neighborhood in the searing August heat looking for him.

Gus has, what I would describe as, some major aggressive separation anxiety from people. The dog hates being alone and becomes destuctive when he can’t physically see any humans.

A very muddy and anxious Gus, who moments earlier had gotten his head stuck in the hole he chewed in the bottom of the kennel door. This was after he pulled the side of the kennel into a v-shaped door. It was a stressful day for all Pedersens.


He has managed to take a pretty hard fall trying to jump over a fence, got his head caught in the chain link kennel that he tore apart with his jaws of steal, flung himself at our porch windows, tore off the tar paper on the front of the house, and yelped, whined and barked until his voice was hoarse…


He is sure motivated.

He has made for a stressful marriage, with Tyler and myself trying to figure out our dog rearing styles and our respective responsibilities in regards to having another family member in the home. Guess which one of us takes the dog for a three mile walk every morning at 7am?

We have both found ourselves worried sick over what kind of trouble he might get into.

But, that is the price of being a caretaker for a dog. And I do hope we make it. I hope we survive long enough to give the dog a home…and my knee holds up enough that I can keep up with the miles and miles of walking each day…and that we both are able to sleep again and talk about something else besides the dog.

Because he sure is a handsome lad, a wonder dog, so to say. And it’s nice to have someone to take care of.

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