What memories stand out about your parent or grandparent? As we think about their childhood and adult years, there may be common themes that run through their lives. Fun memories that I have center around my mother’s love of animals and her pets, especially her little dogs, who were such companions in her widowhood.
Anna Mae Kelsey was born in mid-winter on 20 January 1928 to Florence (Creer) and Ed Kelsey at Burley, Cassia County, Idaho. She was the youngest of six children, and her mother always referred to her as “her baby.” Growing up on a farm, the earliest picture we have of Anna is her riding one of her father’s prize sheep. She talked often of feeding the “bum lambs” – those unfortunate lambs whose mother had either died or rejected it.
The Kelsey farm, like most other farms, had dogs, cats, and horses. They were working animals, but the Kelsey children enjoyed playing with them as well. My mother often talked of Bud, their horse, and how she loved to ride him in the fields.
Anna’s love of animals didn’t end with childhood. By the time I was born, my parents had settled on 40 acres south of Burley, Idaho. Growing up, we also had dogs, cats, and horses, but no sheep! My dad had a feedlot for a time with several hundred head of cattle and lots of dirt “roads” between the corrals to ride my bicycle. My dad tried to make a horsewoman out of me, but I was never comfortable on our horse, Geronimo! I much preferred reading, playing the piano, roller skating, or riding my bicycle.
One of my favorite pastimes was racing the dogs. I could always beat Spot, an old Dalmatian, but had to work to keep up with Katie, a young English Setter. My mother enjoyed having the animals on the place, and when they were ready to have their puppies would let them come inside to stay warm. She was always kind to the animals.
When my Grandpa Kelsey died, my mother bought a house dog for my Grandmother Florence to keep her company. But my grandmother didn’t want a dog in the house and was afraid it would trip her, so we brought Sugar home to be our house dog. We all loved Sugar, and I especially liked feeding her food I didn’t want to eat under the table. When Sugar died my parents didn’t get another house dog but always had an outside dog.
My father passed away in 2011, and my mother promptly went down to the local dog pound and picked out a little house dog that she named Sparky to keep her company. Unfortunately, Sparky only liked my mother! He nipped at the rest of us so we were not sad when he died.
My mother’s final little house dog and her best companion as a widow was Sully. Thankfully, Sully liked everyone! Sully and my mother were inseparable – especially in the last year of my mother’s life when she could no longer go on long walks or drive her car. Being homebound is easier when you have a faithful companion with you every minute of the day.
2020 was my mother’s last Christmas, and she passed away at home on 4 February 2021 with her little Sully at her feet. Throughout her life, she had a love of animals and her pets, and my memories of her last ten years will always include her faithful companion, Sully.