Spruce’s Forever Home




It seems I am always writing my ancestor’s stories, but I think there are some other stories that need to be told.  I would like to tell the story of one beloved pet.  I am a dog lover!  I have always had a dog from the day of my birth.  I have only been without a dog for a couple of months at a time in between the death of one dog and getting another one.  I’d like to tell the story of our dog Spruce.  Spruce was the name she got at the shelter and we just kept it.  I sometimes referred to her as the “throw away dog”.  When I get a dog, it is for keeps, I do not get rid of them no matter what.  Once Spruce came to us, she found her forever home.  According to her records, she was picked up by animal control and taken to the county shelter.  No one came to claim her.  If my dog ran away, I would be calling the police, animal control, and every shelter in the county to see if I could find her.  I think that if her owners had looked, they would have found her.  I wonder if they turned her loose or dumped her off near where she was found.  Then she was adopted by a couple and brought back within the week.  They claimed that she was too wild.  Then my son and daughter-in-law adopted her for my granddaughter.  She was estimated to be around three years old at the time.  They had her for a year when they divorced and moved.  Neither one could keep her because they were having a hard time finding a place to rent that would take pets. Two months prior, we just lost our Golden Retriever, Susie.  We had Susie since she was six weeks old, and Susie lived to ripe old age of 15 ½.  I planned on getting another Golden Retriever, when my son called begging me to take Spruce.  He asked me to take her for my granddaughter so she would not have to lose her dog.  I should mention that Spruce was a Beagle or as my husband would say a Bagel.  Anyway, we did take Spruce.

My husband’s name is Bruce so you can imagine the confusion when I called Spruce or Bruce.  Within a couple of weeks of having Spruce she had a seizure.  We took her to the vet and she told us to keep track of the seizures.  If she had them often, we would need medications.  But as it turned out she would have them a few times a year.  I wondered if this was the reason she was not wanted by previous owners.  She was a spirited dog and yes she could get wild.  She would run around in circles when she got excited.  When someone would come over she would run around in circles, jumping from sofa to chair, and back to sofa.  She came with a football that she loved.  It was her favorite toy up to the day she died.  We took her into our lives, and she became part of our family.  We would go camping a lot in those days with our trailer, and Spruce always went along.  She enjoyed the long walks with me while camping.  She did not like the camp fires; and wanted to go in the trailer as soon as we lit the fire.  When the grandchildren came over, they would take her outside to play.  My brother spoiled her too.  Every time he came over, he would take her for a walk.  She would sit and stare at him with her expressive eyes until he gave in and walked her.  She liked to go for rides in the car.  All we had to do was think about taking her for a ride and she seemed to know it.  She would start running to where her leash was hung and then look at us.  She seemed to be able to read our minds.  My granddaughter taught how to sit up, give paw, and a high five.  Over the years, Spruce had several urinary tract infections, and we had to put her on a special diet that she was on for the rest of her life.  She also had bad teeth and had to have several of them extracted.  She developed a heart murmur and had a bad heart valve.  In spite of all her problems, she was our little girl and we loved her.  Last January she started coughing, I thought it was probably her heart.  She was now 12 years old.  We took her to the vet and as it turned out it wasn’t her heart, it was lung cancer.  They said she had a few weeks to a couple of months to live.  We took her home with medicine for the cough, pain medication, steroids, and medication to open up her bronchial tubes. She did well on the medication.  There were times we almost forget she was sick.

In September she was having difficulty breathing, and we thought it was the end.  We took her to vet with the idea that we were going to have her put down.  But the vet told us that it could be pneumonia caused by the cancer.  She would need to take a chest x-ray to confirm the pneumonia.  So we had the chest x-ray done and the vet seemed to think she could treat the pneumonia and give her a couple of more months.  We opted to do that and took her home again with antibiotics.  She responded well to the antibiotics, but she needed to be on them longer than the usual 10 days and was on them for three weeks.  She recovered from the pneumonia and seemed to do well once again.  Of course, she had slowed down and no longer ran in circles and jumped on furniture.  She had her favorite spot on the sofa and did a lot of sleeping.  She still loved to eat especially table food.  We no longer followed the strict diet for her bladder problems.  We figured let her have what she wants.  She had her routine, when it was time for bed we would say, “It’s time for bed”, and she would get off the couch; go to the kitchen door to go outside.  She would go out and do her thing, come right in, and wait for her treat by the kitchen counter.  We would then go to our bedroom, and she would lie down on her bed, which was next to our bed.  She was set for the night.  Sometimes in the morning, we had to wake her up during the last year.  She would go outside and come right in as soon as she finished. She would wait by the kitchen counter for her medicine which I wrapped in meat.  Whenever she would not eat her dog food, I would make her scrambled eggs, or cook ground beef mixed with rice and hard-boiled eggs.  She seemed to know when I was frying up ground beef for her dinner as opposed to cooking it for our dinner.  Once again she seemed to be able to read my mind.

Over the Christmas Holiday she stopped eating or drinking, and I knew it was the end.  The vet was closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so I just tried to make her as comfortable as possible.  I called the vet on Monday, but they were still closed for Christmas.  I called the emergency vet because I didn’t want her to suffer another day.  They told us to bring her in.  My husband and I then got dressed to take her to the vet.  After I dressed, I went back to check on her and she was gone.  I called to my husband that she had passed.  My son and grandson were here and they came into the room too.  I cleaned her up and sat down next to her and cried.  I felt bad that I was not sitting with her when she passed.  I’m glad that we were the ones she finally ended up with.  She was a good dog, and she deserved a forever home with people who loved her.  We had her body cremated and the urn now sits on my fireplace mantle, and at the other end is our Golden Retriever, Susie.  I still have not been able to throw out her bed or toys.  Spruce, Sprucie, Sweet Pea, Honey Bun, Big Girl, you are loved, and we will never forget you.  Glad the others didn’t want you so God sent you to me.  Some day we shall meet again.  Until then, we will think of you and all the good times we had with you.  Daddy and I love you, RIP.


Dear Grandma

Grandma Manfroid

Helen Desens

I never knew my paternal Grandmother because she died six months before I was born.  For some reason, I have always felt a connection to her even as a little girl.  I thought I would write her a letter to let her know my feelings for her, and the questions I would ask her if I could talk to her.

Dear Grandma,

We have never met, but I hope you know me.  You died six months before I was born.  I wish that I could have known you the way I knew my other Grandmother.  All I have are a few scant stories of you.  My dad said you had a great sense of humor and that you could be sarcastic.  I might have inherited the sarcasm from you.  I wonder how much we are alike.   Do I look like you, is my personality like you?  If we could sit down to lunch and talk, I would ask you so many questions.  What was your childhood like?  How did you meet my grandfather?  How did you feel when my father was born?  Were you happy?  What was it like to have a mentally challenged son?  What were your favorite subjects in school?  How far did you go in school?  Did you work and if so where did you work?  Were you a good cook?  Did you sew, crochet, knit?  You could tell me about your sisters and brothers and your parents.  You could tell me family stories.  What was it like to live though the depression, WWI and WWII? You went to Lutheran School and Church so I guess you would believe in God and Jesus Christ.  Maybe we talk about religion and our beliefs.  I would ask you about your health.  When you were sick were you afraid?  Were you afraid of dying?  Since my dad and his brother are 14 years apart, did you have a hard time conceiving?  Did you want more children, did you lose any children?  I wish I had better pictures of you.  So that I could close my eyes see what you looked like.  I wish I had a recording of your voice so I would know what your voice sounded like. When I was a little kid I would envision you looking down at me from heaven, and I would have conversations with you.  I always felt like my father’s side of the family was missing.  We had so little contact with any of them.  As I do my research, I find that my father had a lot of cousins and they had children, yet I only knew a few.   I wish I had some recipes that you handed down to me.  You could have taught me to cook your favorites or my father’s favorites.  There are so many things I do not know about you.  I would hope that you would like me and be proud of me.  I could introduce you to my husband and your great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.  How can I miss someone I never knew, yet I miss you and have missed you my entire life.  Some day we shall meet.  Until then I love you.  Rest in Peace, Grandma.

Love from your Granddaughter,


A short biography of Helen Desens

Helen Desens was born on March 23, 1901 at home to Carl Desens and Augusta Gabbei in Forest Park, Illinois.[1]  She was the youngest of eight children (5 sisters and 2 brothers).[2]  She was baptized at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Forest Park, Illinois.[3]  She grew up in Forest Park and attended St. John Lutheran School and Church.[4]  She was confirmed at St. John Lutheran Church.[5]  On March 22, 1919 she married George Manfroid in Wheaton, Illinois.[6]  They made their home in Forest Park and later moved to Elmhurst, Illinois.[7]  They had two sons, George and Donald.[8] Helen suffered for 4 years from Chronic Parenchymatous Nephritis.[9] Helen died of Uremia on September 4, 1946 in Elmhurst Memorial Hospital in Elmhurst, Illinois at the young age of 45.[10] Helen is buried at Chapel Hill Gardens, West in Elmhurst, Illinois alongside her husband, George.[11]

Copyright ©2017 Gail Grunst



[1] Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois.

[2] Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.

[3] Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois

[4] Told to the author by Helen’s Son, George

[5] St. John’s Congregational book 1908 – 1926, Page 227.

[6] Marriage license and return.  Illinois, Dupage, Wheaton, Illinois State Board of Health,  County Clerks Office.

[7] Told to Author by Helen’s son George.

[8] Personal knowledge of Author.

[9] Certificate of Death, Registration Dist. 231, No. # 22743, State of Illinois, County of DuPage, City of Elmhurst, County Clerks Office.

[10] Certificate of Death, Registration Dist. 231, No. # 22743, State of Illinois, County of DuPage, City of Elmhurst, County Clerks Office.

[11] Cemetery Records, Chapel Hill Gardens, West, Roosevelt Rd. at Route 83, Elmhurst, Illinois.