Swenson column: Big dog brings big changes, big love

Fostering a shelter animal alters life and brings many rewards,

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Beets, the big dog at the Swenson home, with Ole and Lena.

My husband, Tim, and I were perfectly content with our two little dogs, Ole and Lena. They don’t eat much, shed much, or like to be outside much. They were fine to go for a bit of a walk, and be lazy the rest of the day — our kind of dogs. But Ole and Lena are getting up there in years, and we have a large house with a large yard and a huge love for dogs.

“Let’s check into fostering a dog,” I said one night as we were about to have supper. Tim looked at me as though I was half-crazy.

“Why do we need another dog? Can you imagine what that would do to Ole and Lena? They are set in their ways … so am I,” said Tim with a definitive note of exasperation.

Truth be told, we have been married for more than 25 years. His exasperation has had a lot of experience knowing when the debate was already over — and who had won.

We had to find the perfect fit when bringing a new dog into the home. Personality, temperament, size — Ole and Lena are 10 and 5 pounds respectively — size did matter. We needed a dog that wasn’t too big and certainly one that wasn’t messy. We didn’t want a puppy or a dog with much energy. Lazy, snuggly and no shedding. Those were the top three things on my list.


Enter Beethoven. That was the name the Marshmallow Animal Shelter had given him. It made sense considering he was a St. Bernard puppy. After all, the “Beethoven” movies were much beloved by people everywhere starting way back in 1992. I loved those movies! Is there anything cuter than a St. Bernard puppy?

But I had never been someone who wanted a St. Bernard. Those movies portrayed St. Bernard’s as a handful. Messy, drooling, huge, stubborn — albeit loving animals. They were bred to save people who were buried in avalanches in the Alps. Which means, they also love to dig.

The shelter had guessed he was about 3 months old and of course I wanted to meet him — who doesn’t love some big puppy snuggles? But foster him? Adopt him? No way … never gonna happen. Ole and Lena would be beside themselves with a big brute like that in the house.

But fate had a different plan. The minute he walked in the room, I knew he was our dog. More importantly, Tim knew it, too. The way Beethoven melted his heart was pure magic.

He came home with us on Feb. 21 and, at the suggestion of our daughter, Grace, we started calling him Beets.

This journey has not been all peachy-keen. Beets has had ongoing digestive problems, loves to jump up on people, drools all over everything, sheds on even more things, costs a fortune to feed, has a chicken allergy, his bark is so loud our windows rattle, and he has decided that he should sleep right in between us for much of the night.

St. Bernard’s are considered nanny dogs. They want to take care of those around them. If one of us is sick, Beets is right there to comfort us. If one of us sneezes, he will run full-speed from wherever he is to make sure we are OK. He shares his big treats with the little dogs and waits a respectable distance from them as they finish their own treats or meals (even though he easily outweighs them by 125 pounds … or maybe more by the time this publishes).


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Melissa Swenson, Publisher

Beets made a living during the time of a pandemic a bit more bearable for us. While it took many months of training, and the saving grace of doggy daycare at Lucky Dog (three afternoons a week), he is a part of our family — and he loves us unconditionally.

This big lug of lovey-doveyness was the missing piece of the puzzle in our life. He keeps us active, gives amazing hugs, is an excellent guard dog, and there is not a day that goes by where he doesn’t make us laugh and smile.

We started our fostering journey thinking that we would be helping out the shelter. As it turns out, we got the best end of this deal. And yes, we made it official by adopting Beets this past October.

There are so many animals that need the love that a responsible pet caretaker can provide. If you are considering fostering or adopting a pet; both the Marshmallow Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of the Lakes are excellent guides to help you on your journey.

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Melissa Swenson, Publisher

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