Murdo Girl…Letter #1

Steve took the envelope Steph had given him and tried to find a quiet place to read what he assumed was a letter from Dina. He finally settled on Alice’s flower garden

The garden was a thing of beauty. He found a little, out of the way, bench to sit on.

He turned the envelope over in his hands and looked at it. Did this envelope hold all the answers? Would it tell him why the woman who had been the love of his life, left him and their baby girl? A little thing they had been told had contracted polio and would never walk? What could this letter say that would possibly make a difference?

Steve took a deep breath and tore open the envelope. To his surprise, inside was what looked like some form of legal document. In addition to that, there was a small sealed envelope addressed to Steph. He didn’t know if he was supposed to read it, but he didn’t care. Steph had given it to him. He hoped as he read through it, everything would begin to make sense.

Dear Sis,

I’m so sorry to put this on you, but unfortunately, I feel I have to. I’ll get right to the point. Shortly before Katie was born, I discovered I had a rare blood disease. Unfortunately, it was only going to be a matter of months until I could only be kept alive through constant blood transfusions. As that was the only treatment, I knew I most likely didn’t have long to live. As you know, we had no insurance. Then Katie was diagnosed with polio. I just couldn’t burden Steve any more. I found a county run hospice in another city. I lied to get in, but nevertheless they took me. That was a year ago. The doctors think I’m in remission, but it could come back at any time.

I have stayed on to help others and I love what I do. I’m begging you not to tell Steve or even Mother. Katie must never know…Steph, I’m not coming back.

Before I left, I had an attorney prepare the enclosed document. It gives Steve full custody of Katie. Please Steph, give Steve the document, but do not give him this letter and don’t let Mother or Katie ever know you received anything from me. Believe me. This is for the best.



“This letter was written over six years ago,” Steve said to himself. “So much could have changed since then. I wonder why Steph didn’t give me the custody document before now.”

“This is so unfair, Dina. I don’t even know if you are still alive. How could you do this to all of us. How could you do this to Katie?”

“Do what?” Miss Bessie said. “My goodness Steve, you look so distraught. Can I be of any help?”

***I was following Miss Bessie and she was right. Steve looked like he forgot where he buried his best bone or where he left his new frisbee. It seems like humans just take turns being upset around here. I went over and licked his hand. That’s twice today I forgot I’m not supposed to lick. Steve patted my head, so I guess he didn’t mind. Hey…he was holding that letter the pretty girl gave him. I thought that made him happy. UhOh, I gave Jamie a whole bunch of letters. What if they didn’t make her happy. I think I’ll go hide.

“I”m sure I will want to talk with you, Miss Bessie,” Steve said. “But not right now. Right now I’ve got some thinking to do and decisions to make. I think I’ll go saddle up one of the horses and go for a ride.”

“You might see Brad. He left for a ride about thirty minutes ago,”

Murdo Girl…The little sister

Sometimes, in South Dakota, spring comes late and after a long cold winter, we can hardly wait to ride our bikes down by the river. It’s cooler there so even with our jackets on we still shiver.

We see a boat we’ve never seen before. Some of the kids leave their bikes lying on the river’s shore. They jump into the tied up boat. They don’t start the motor, they just float out into the water until the rope is stretched tight. I don’t think what they’re doing is at all right!

They pretend to fish and catch a big one. He’s so big they use a net. He might be hooked but he’s not caught, yet. It looks like it might be a catfish. If it was me that’s what I would wish.

I’m getting cold let’s ride our bikes back home. If Mom has hot chocolate we can get some. My brother is too close to the water. What if he fell? If his bike rolls in, I’ll go home and tell.

(You complain more than anyone. We can’t leave now. We’re having too much fun.

I know where we went wrong. We brought my little sister along.)

I heard what my brother said. Maybe I’ll tell Mom that instead.

Shh… I hear someone coming. Now we’re in trouble. We better get out of here on the double.


On this warm and sunny day. I walked to the river and watched these kids play. I captured their adventure on the Missouri. I was getting chilly so I had to hurry.

This delightful scene was photographed by Nancy Authier while taking a walk along the river near Pierre, South Dakota. She thought it needed a story to go with it. Thank you Nancy. It  was fun…

Murdo Girl…Sorting things out

Steve and Arf had stopped by the General Store on their way back from the research hospital in Jamestown. After talking with Steve, Sam and Katie’s doctors had decided to assign her to a counselor. Since Katie knew that her mother had left her father and her shortly after she learned her baby daughter would never be able to walk, they were concerned Katie had blamed herself. Was that the reason she and Arf had not made more progress since Katie’s surgery?

Steve felt compelled to find Katie’s mother, Dina, whose parents had owned the General Store. Dina’s father,had passed away several years before, and Helen, their mother had come to live with Steve and Katie.

Mrs. Garner, who had worked there for years, was at the store as was Steph, Dina’s younger sister.

“I can’t help resenting the fact that you’re here attempting to get information about Dina’s whereabouts,” Steph said. “You haven’t had anything to do with me since she left. My own mother keeps me at a distance. I’m Katie’s family, too but that isn’t important to you is it, Steve?”

“I was rather busy trying to raise my daughter, with the help of your mother, Helen, of course. I always got the feeling you blamed me for Dina’s leaving. I guess there was enough blame to go around.”

“What are you doing with Arf?” Mrs. Garner asked. “Doesn’t he belong to Miss Bessie?”

“Turns out Arf belongs to a lot of people.” Steve knelt down to pat Arf on the head. “He has trained to be Katie’s therapy dog. He’s doing a great job, but he needs our help. He needs to know why she isn’t doing her part.”

***I wish I could tell Steve that Katie pulled herself up and stood for a minute before easing herself back into her wheelchair. She doesn’t want anyone to know. I’m a dog so I can’t tell them, anyway, but why won’t Katie? She needs to talk. I wish this girl would be nicer to Steve. I wish she would give me a bone. Mrs. Garner always gives me a good bone when I come with Miss Bessie. Maybe you have to have eggs to get a bone. Do they sell frisbees here?

“You said you needed Dina to help Katie,” Steph said. “Is something wrong?”

“She had some surgery recently, and there is a good chance she will be able to walk again. She needs her mother to tell her she deserves to walk. She needs her mother to tell her she didn’t leave because she didn’t want to be saddled with a little girl who would never walk.”

***I don’t know for sure what Steve said, but the pretty girl got big tears in her eyes and so did Mrs. Garner. I hoped that meant they could help him.

“Wait here,” Steph said. “I’ll be right back.”

***While Steve and I waited, Mrs. Garner gave me one of those good bones. I was almost finished with it when the pretty girl came back, She was holding an envelope in her hands.

“I did blame you, Steve. I was so angry I couldn’t see the truth. I received this letter in the mail about a year after Dina left. She asked me not to share it with anyone, especially Katie. I guess she thought she was doing the right thing, but she was wrong, and so was I.”

“Do you mind if I take this with me?” Steve asked. “I have a feeling I will need to be sitting down when I read it. I promise I will return it to you.”

“I never want to see that letter again,” Steph answered. “Please take it with you.”


Jamie got up early the next morning and rushed to get her coffee before heading up to the attic to explore. Alice was there and insisted she have some breakfast first.

“I know you,” Alice said. “You’ll get distracted and won’t have breakfast or lunch.”

“Whose things are up there, Alice? I thought Brad lost his parents and sister in a fire when he was only sixteen. Didn’t he build this ranch up on his own?

“The house and a few acres were owned by Brad’s Grandparents at one time. I believe they leased it out before moving to a retirement community. When Brad came of age, he learned the house was empty and with a lot of perserverence, he was able to obtain ownership. I think he basically had to pay a lot of back taxes. Since then, He has gradually made a significant amount of improvements to the house, and built quite a sizeable and profitable horse ranch.”

“Miss Bessie says he has a younger brother somewhere.” Jamie commented.

“That’s what I heard,” Alice said. “Now let’s get you some breakfast so you can be on your way to the attic.”

***Steve was outside, and I could tell he wanted to be alone, so I went to the kitchen to see if Alice was going to feed me. Jamie was there! I was so happy to see her, I ran up to her and licked her face. I know I shouldn’t do that, but sometimes I forget.

“Arf,” she said. “It’s so good to see you. I have an idea…how would you like to explore the attic with me?”

***After we both ate breakfast, Jamie took me up some really steep stairs to a huge room that went on forever. It smelled old and I could see a bunch of cobwebbs. It was dusty and musty.

I found a ball and laid down on the floor while Jamie looked and looked and looked. After a while, I wanted to go outside, so I went to find her. While I was looking for her I saw a packet of letters. Since Steve had seemed pretty excited to get a letter, I decided Jamie might want me to bring these to her. Letters, letters, letters. When I gave them to Jamie, she looked through them and her eyes got really big. I’m just a dog, but I sure wish I knew why everyone likes letters so much.

“Where did you find these, Arf?

***Jamie was holding a picture frame.

Murdo Girl…What’s in the attic and who is Dina?

I thought I would give reading Arf’s story a shot…

It was a quiet ride back to the research hospital. Jack was anticipating his talk with Katie’s physical therapist, Sam. Katie was anxious about learning she was able to stand with the help of Arf. It was the first time she had ever stood in her whole life. She didn’t know quite why she had mixed feelings about the fact that they had made some headway.

***I was quiet because I’m a dog, and I didn’t understand why Katie didn’t want to tell everyone that when she tried to catch a butterfly, she had fallen out of her chair. The exciting part was she had wrapped her arms around me and pulled herself up to a standing position before easing herself back down into her chair. She was as surprised as I was that all of our therapy had made her stronger.Now I have to figure out why she didn’t like being able to do that.

************************************Back at Brad’s ranch, he and Jamie were discussing Jamie’s purchase of Miss Bessie’s farm.”I can’t thank you enough, Brad, for talking to Miss Bessie for me. I was hoping she would see that the farm was just too much for her to handle, now. I also think it’s very kind of you to offer your home to her and all the others who have been staying here.”

“Quite the contrary,” Brad said. “I’m very grateful they want to make this big old ranch house their home. I hated it when the cook and housekeeper were the only other people rattling around here. Mark, the hired hand, prefers to live in the bunkhouse.”

“When are you planning to move to the farm, Jamie? If you need anything in the way of furniture, you’re welcome to look around in the attic for anything you might need or want. There is years worth of things up there.”

“Really, Brad? The house is furnished with Bessie’s things, but I would really like to make the place my own. I’ll start looking and moving tomorrow.”

Bessie had been about to take her dessert plate back to the kitchen when she thought she heard voices. She chastised herself for eavesdropping, but she couldn’t help herself. She felt like she had aged a hundred years since she had made the decision to sell the farm.

“I’m sorry, Harold,” she said. “I hope you’re not too disappointed in me. I know one thing. I’m going to find something productive to do. I never get to see my granddog and I can’t just sit on the porch and rock with Helen the rest of my life.

“And why not? I thought we were friends.” Helen sounded rather dismayed


Steve and Arf were on their way back to the ranch.

“Well, Arf,” Steve said. “I guess you’ll be staying at the ranch for the next week. You won’t understand this, but Katie is going to have counseling this week, so she won’t be spending that much time in therapy. When I have a chance, I will tell you all about it, but right now, we have to make a stop at the General Store in town.”

***I didn’t quite get why I didn’t get to stay with Katie at the hospital, but I have a pretty good idea someone figured out that she was getting pretty strong. No…that can’t be it, because Steve would be acting happier. Oh well, I like mysteries. Uhoh…Miss B always says, “Be careful what you pray for.”

Steve and I went to the General Store where Miss B sell her eggs. Remember? Dogs can go in there.

“Hello Mrs. Garner. How are you today?”

“I’m right as rain, Steve. What can I do for you?”

***I’m just a dog, but Mrs. Garner didn’t look too happy to see us. Maybe she doesn’t like dogs.

“I’m hoping Steph is here. I really need to talk to her.”

Just then, a pretty girl came from the back of the store. I remembered her. She came to the farm once when Steve was there. I remember how surprised she looked to see him.

“After all these years, why would you want to talk to me, Steve.” Steph was glaring, I mean glaring at Steve.

“I need to find Dina. I need her to help Katie.”

“Why would you think I would know where Dina is?”

Steve looked as desperate as he felt.

“Because she’s your sister.”

Murdo Girl…Memories and Dreams

She sashayed through the door. She knew all eyes would be on her. The red satin dress she wore looked stunning with her fur.

Her black hair fell softly from a comb adorned with jewels. She fancied that her fate would be decided by men’s duels.

Her blue eyes sparkled as she turned to face the crowd. She knew not to speak yet. The cheers were far too loud.

She assumed all who came to see her were among the most elite. And like countless times before, they all rose to their feet.

She knew just what to do next. It would drive them all wild. She closed her long-lashed eyes and then ever slowly smiled.

With a white gloved hand she reached to take the microphone. It was then she realized that she was all alone.

Her memories, so vivid, had pushed today aside. But like all dreams that end well, a fitting future was implied.

Did her memories speak the truth? She told her story well. The proof was in her soft sweet voice as she sang, It is Well.

Murdo Girl…The farm

Jamie had been at the Sunnyvale Veterinary Clinic for two weeks before the opportunity to approach Miss Bessie about selling the farm presented itself. It was actually Brad who was with Miss B when the subject of the farm came up.

“I have so enjoyed my stay here, Brad, but it’s not fair for me to expect your hired hand to continue to take care of the farm. I think it’s time I move back.”

“I’ve been waiting for a good time to discuss something with you, Miss Bessie,” Brad said. “I guess this is the time.”

“I hope you’re not going to, once again, suggest that I sell it. Harold and I spent over fifty years on that farm and I can’t bear the thought of someone else living there and taking over.”

Miss Bessie’s expression showed her mind was made up. As far as she was concerned, the discussion had ended. Brad forged ahead, anyway.

“I understand how you feel, Miss B, but you might feel differently when you learn who is very interested in buying it.”

“For heaven sakes, Brad, just tell me who it is, but I can assure you right now, it won’t make a difference.”

“It’s Jamie,” he said. “As you know, she started her internship at the clinic in town, early. She wants to settle here and she loves the farm.”

“Jamie? It’s Jamie who wants to buy my farm?” Miss Bessie folded her arms but her expression softened. “Where would I live?” She asked. “I can’t stay here forever.”

“Give me one good reason why not,” Brad said. “I wish you knew how much better my life has been since Arf brought us all together. As you say in your prayers each morning, we’re a family.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Miss Bessie was clearly touched by what Brad, who never wore his feelings on his sleeve, had shared.

“Say yes…I’m going to need your help to convince Steve to live here with Katie, and Grandma Helen to stay on as well. It goes without saying that Arf will live here with all of us. Jamie will be close to the clinic and she will love the farm almost as much as you do.”

Miss Bessie didn’t respond at first, but Brad knew he had won her over.

“Tell Jamie I’ll sell the farm to her, but only if she continues to provide eggs to the Sunnyvale General Store. We must keep that tradition alive.”


***Steve took Katie and me back to the clinic for more lessons with Sam. I was one confused therapy dog. A wonderful thing had happened. For the first time in her whole life, Katie had stood up. Why didn’t she want to tell Steve? Would she show Sam, the physical therapist?

I want them to know. I believe that telling them is the right thing to do. I don’t want to betray Katie, but she needs me to help her do whatever it takes to walk on her own. What a great day that will be. I have to find a way to convince Katie not to keep secrets.

Murdo Girl…A day of discovery

Over the next two weeks, Steve alternated between being discouraged and being hopeful. What he didn’t know is that Arf felt the same way. They were both running out of ways to keep Katie motivated. It was more than that. She needed to trust Arf and to believe in herself.

The day before they were scheduled to go back to the research hospital for a week, Steve took his morning coffee and went out to the porch. He found Miss Bessie sitting there in her rocking chair. Her hands were folded in her lap and she was saying her morning prayers.

“Please help us to know how we can help dear, sweet, Katie. Give her the strength and understanding to continue moving forward on the path you have placed before her.

Thank you for putting Arf in our lives. Through Your gift of him, a loving family has been created.”

Steve joined Miss Bessie as she said her Amen.

“Good morning, Steve. I didn’t see you standing there.”

“I didn’t want to interrupt your beautiful prayer. I have something weighing heavily on my mind, Miss Bessie. I think maybe I was supposed to hear your prayer and maybe I’m supposed to talk with you about my concern. Do you mind?”

“Of course I don’t mind. You know how much I love you and Katie. I have watched the two of you and Arf struggle through these past two weeks. I know you were hoping Katie would make more progress.”

Steve sat down in the chair next to Miss Bessie. “I think I know the reason for that,” he said. “I think Katie believes she is the reason her mother left us.”

“Why on earth would she think that?” Miss Bessie asked.

“It dawned on me while I was talking with her therapist, Sam, that Katie must blame herself for her mother’s sudden departure,” Steve couldn’t keep the bitterness from his voice. “My sweet little girl must think her mommy couldn’t bear the prospect of raising a child who couldn’t walk.”

“Good Lord,” Miss Bessie whispered. “I’m sure you’re right. What can be done to convince Katie that she is not to blame?”

“When I take Katie and Arf back to the hospital tomorrow, I’m going to check into getting her some counseling. And then, I’m going to find my long lost wife.”

***Katie and I had one more day at the ranch before heading back to the hospital. We had done what we were supposed to every day, but Katie wasn’t excited like I was and Sam was not going to be happy. He always tells me that Katie needs me. Well, I need Katie to put her heart into getting out of that chair with wheels.

Katie asked Miss Alice to fix a lunch for us because we were going to go down by the pond and watch butterflies. She told Alice that Steve said it was okay to go as long as we stayed a safe distance from the pond.

I love to chase butterflies and to be perfectly honest, I needed a day off. Katie and I both needed to have some fun.

It was a nice day with lots of sunshine. I didn’t catch one butterfly, but Katie laughed while she watched me try. I love to hear Katie laugh.

A big, beautiful butterfly landed on a flower near Katie’s chair. Lost in the fun, she reached out to it and when it flew away, she reached a little further and tried to pick the flower. I ran to her as fast as I could, but I was too late. Katie slid out of her chair and onto the ground.

When I got to her side, without even thinking, she reached for me and with her arms around my neck, pulled herself to her feet and eased herself back into the chair.

“Don’t tell anybody Arf,” she said excitedly. “Not until I can walk.”

Murdo Girl…Calling cards

While begrudgingly cleaning house today, this came to me.

A less than bright idea came to me this morning. It swooped into my head without a word of warning.

Would I take on this daunting task? I wasn’t sure I should. And even if I should, I wasn’t sure I could.

I once was one of those who chased dirt around all day. For Betty Crockers of tomorrow, a dirty house was not okay.

I know I’ve seen my dishes, though where I can’t be sure. Oh yes! I found them yesterday in this thing called a dishwasher.

I made a list for the market of the things we need the most. I noticed this morning that we ran out of toast.

It didn’t take me long, to give up any pretense. It soon became obvious that my cleaning was past tense.

This morning after sweeping, I was going to mop the floor. What color did it used to be? I don’t remember anymore.

I put the dirty mop down to find a feather duster. The feathers must have flown away. My furniture still lacks luster.

I skipped cleaning the bathroom. It would take me one full day, to find places for my “products.” Where I know they’d never stay.

It’s now an hour later, and I really am done in. There is perspiration on my brow. I won’t work this hard again.

My husband came home from work. his shoulders really drooped. He had worked all day long and he was looking pooped.

He recognized the signs and knew what this was all about…For the third time this week, dinner would be takeout.

I put get well cards on the mantel. He asked who they were for. I said our neighbor is bringing cookies. That’s her at the door.

“I must apologize,” I said. My house is such a mess. See all the lovely get well cards? The doctor said to rest.

Murdo Girl…Why did this happen?

Sam, the physical therapist, worked all week with Katie and Arf. They both worked hard learning how to use certain words and signals to communicate with each other. They learned the exercises Katie must do several times a day in order to strengthen her spine and legs. When Steve came to pick them up, Sam gave them an excellent report and then asked to speak privately with Steve.

“This is going to be a hard road for Katie,” Sam said. “She has spent so many years thinking of herself as being paralyzed, and it’s too soon to tell how successful the surgery was. We can’t yet ascertain the total amount of strength and feeling she’ll be able to gain.”

Sam was an excellent physical therapist. He also insisted his patients give 100%.

“I’m afraid Katie may be somewhat resistant to therapy,” Sam said.

“Resistant?” Steve couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He waited for Sam to continue.

“It appears that all these years Katie has accepted her paralysis without question. Has she ever asked you if something could be done? Also, please forgive me for the next question I need to ask, but the answer is important for her team of doctors and therapists to know.”

Steve walked over to the window and thought for a moment about Sam’s question.”You’re right, Sam. Katie has always fully accepted her life in a wheelchair. Now please, what is the other question?”

Sam sat down on the edge of his desk and looked at Steve for a moment before asking, “Does Katie know her mother left right after she was told her baby daughter had contracted polio and would never be able to walk?”

Steve turned from the window to face Sam. That question hit him like a ton of bricks.


Hurry, hurry, hurry. We’re almost back to the ranch. Steve, Katie, and me, Arf, will be home any minute. Just wait until everyone sees how many commands I know. Wait until they see how much we have to do every day. I hope Katie can go walking with me soon…without the chair with wheels.I always think about what Sam says, “Katie needs you, Arf.”

Here we are and there is Jamie’s Jeep… and there is Jamie. Here comes Brad on his horse and Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen are sitting in rocking chairs on the porch. Everybody is here. Wait until they see this!wp-1587780137943562976100194823739.jpgWhen Steve got Katie out of the truck and into her chair, I ran to Jamie and nosed her hand and then backed up to Katie. “He wants you to stand by me,” Katie said. By that time, I had done the same thing with Brad, and ran to the other side of Katie. Then, I stood in front of Katie and barked once. Katie twisted her spine slightly in Jamie’s direction. Then I barked twice and Katie twisted slightly in Brad’s direction. I began to direct Katie to move faster and at the same time move her arms. Finally, I switched it up so she really had to pay attention to know which way to go. I didn’t work her too hard because she was tired from the long drive, but I could tell it helped her, because she wasn’t so stiff.”Arf just made me do spine strengthening exercises,” Katie said. “It’s fun, but I don’t believe I will ever be strong enough to walk.”***I whined and put my paw on her hand. Doesn’t she know that we’re a team? I decided I needed a drink of water. This was going to be harder than I thought.FB_IMG_1585745803492.jpg

Murdo Girl…Getting closer

Today, I’m going to give a brief update on the she shed. I will be choosing a name for it, soon. Each day it reveals more unique features and deserves a special moniker.

I have completed the ceiling and whitewashed the walls. Unlike Tom Sawyer’s successful con while whitewashing the fence, no one offered to pay me to experience the fun.

I spent most of yesterday cleaning paint off of everything including the ladder, the various tools…let’s just say everything I touched and didn’t touch.

Kip is really working hard on the outside and I will soon be able to begin painting it. He’s also going to build a little deck in front.

Isn’t he doing a great job? He said he’s going to be finished with it by Sunday. I won’t know because these days, I don’t know what month it is let alone what day of the week.

Today, I am going to tape around the bottom of the walls and start cleaning the concrete floor. I’ll be making a trip to Lowes soon to ask them how I should go about preparing it to be painted, painting it, and sealing it . If it sounds too complicated, I’ll just say I’m asking for a friend. Kip will think of something after he fixes the drainage around the SS so we’re sure no moisture can get in.

He’s also building a deck outside the double doors. In no time at all, it will be time to decorate and move in!

I’m excited!!