It was before 7 a.m. and school had already been called at William Kelley due to potentially threatening weather. The Lake Superior winds were whipping.

As I sat in my living room, I debated whether to venture out for my morning walk. As I stepped outside, I knew I could quickly turn around. I was not the first one out in my neighborhood on that day. Down the block, 89-year-old Ardelle was walking with her cane and her sheltie, Toby.

Ardelle grew up on a family farm outside Nielsville, Minn. She describes mutts as always around the farm growing up. Ardelle and her husband, Bennie, moved to Silver Bay in 1956 and raised their six children there.

Dogs have been a constant presence in the home. One of the toughest moments in these years was when their dog was run over outside the home. Ardelle describes this loss as “like losing a friend.” She’s very conscious about Toby’s leash because of this. Bennie died in 2004.

Toby would be the house’s fourth sheltie and Ardelle’s first dog after Bennie’s death. Ardelle got Toby from a breeder in Cotton, Minn., who didn’t even charge her because Toby couldn’t be housebroken. Ardelle has never had such problems in the 13 years that she and Toby have lived together.

Toby helps keep Ardelle active. They take two half-mile walks a day regardless of weather conditions upon the North Shore.

Toby does more for Ardelle than provide exercise and serve as good company. One of the most pronounced challenges of Ardelle’s advancing age is hearing loss. When her phone rings, Toby barks to alert her.

The same thing happens when people come to her door. Ardelle is confident that Toby’s presence means that she doesn’t have to worry about home break-ins.

Like there is no such thing as a perfect human, Toby isn’t a perfect dog. Ardelle admits that she can’t leave wastepaper baskets on the floor when she leaves or else Toby will knock them over and create a huge mess.

Ardelle has given much back to the Silver Bay community over the years. She has been a long-time volunteer for North Shore Area Partners. She helped provide respite for caregivers and assisted in cleaning homes. She currently helps make quilts for the church’s Mission Circle to be distributed to both people and agencies in need throughout our communities.

Ardelle is hoping to be able to stay in the home that she’s lived since 1957 for as long as possible. She loves the view that her window provides. She recalls a recent day when she counted a group of 18-20 deer in a group walk past her house.

A few months back, she even got a sighting of a Canadian lynx that was wandering the neighborhood. Regardless of how nice a senior living facility might be, this doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for Ardelle.

The concern with assisted living facilities is they don’t always allow dogs. The ones that do might view Toby as a nuisance due to his excessive barking. Ardelle also doesn’t wish to leave behind all the friends that she’s made in Silver Bay.

While living with Toby doesn’t provide Ardelle a risk-free home life, Toby helps keep her active physically, socially and mentally to keep making decisions for herself. There is no greater gift that any of our companions either human or animal, can provide.

If you wish to help support the continued independence of seniors like Ardelle within Northern Lake County, please consider supporting the North Shore Area Partners Annual Fundraiser on July 13 at the Silver Bay Reunion Hall.

Pastor Stew Carlson is the grandson of the late Beuna May Carlson of Lindstrom, Minn. He is also the board chairman for North Shore Area Partners and pastor of Sychar Lutheran Church in Silver Bay. He can be reached at