Written by: Cherryland

woman petting dog

“The truth is, I’m selfish.”

Those words don’t quite ring true when you’re speaking to Kim Skarritt-Nelson, owner of Bowsers By The Bay, and founder and program director for Silver Muzzle Cottage Rescue & Hospice in Rapid City. Skarritt-Nelson is the heart and soul of this organization that looks to place or care for senior dogs that have been surrendered or abandoned by their previous owners.

“You see,” Skarritt-Nelson explains, “I get as much out of the time spent with these amazing animals as they do.”

Skarritt-Nelson’s “selfi shness” began when she left corporate America in 2004 and opened Bowsers By The Bay in Elk Rapids in 2011. This cage-free boarding home, grooming center and behavior therapy clinic for dogs offers everyday encounters with a variety of beloved breeds.

However, as Skarritt-Nelson became more involved in the community, she saw a disturbing trend.

“Over and over again, I would see senior or terminal dogs in shelters,” said Skarritt-Nelson. “They were either dropped off by their owners who could no longer care for them or, even more heartbreaking, these animals were abandoned and left to fend for themselves.”

In a typical shelter older dogs are often overlooked for more energetic puppies, while the terminally ill dogs are often euthanized. Over 2,000 senior dogs are without homes within 500 miles of Traverse City, she learned. Skarritt-Nelson’s heart couldn’t take it.

That’s when she created Silver Muzzle Cottage—a unique rescue mission for senior dogs and hospice care for terminally ill dogs. Unlike overcrowded shelters, Silver Muzzle provides a home-like environment where dogs roam freely during the day and sleep on large pillow beds or sofas at night, often curled up with their new pack family.

“These dogs once were loved by an individual or a family,” said Skarritt-Nelson. “We believe that they should feel that same love at the end of their life as well.”

As big as Skarritt-Nelson’s heart is, even she can’t attend to all the needs of each dog in her care, which is why a dedicated team of volunteers are critical to Silver Muzzle’s success. Volunteers take the shelter’s beloved pack on trips to the beach, walks in the woods, drives into town for ice cream, or even just long, lazy naps on Skarritt-Nelson’s newly-acquired 15 acres in Rapid City. The new location is undergoing constant renovations to provide an amazing quality of life for its canine residents and accommodate even more needy dogs in the future.

Volunteers even gather together when it’s finally time for some of their hospice pets to say goodbye. Surrounded by loving words, lots of animals and heartfelt farewells, Silver Muzzle’s team sends beloved friends off with all the love and companionship each dog deserves.

With heartwarming touches and thoughtful experiences like that, it’s easy to say that the world could do with a little more selfishness like Skarritt-Nelson and the team at Silver Muzzle Cottage.

With 12–20 dogs onsite on a daily basis, there’s always plenty to do! If you are interested in helping Silver Muzzle Cottage, volunteers can take dogs out on adventures, lend a hand with custodial work that allows the residents a clean home, or assist with administrative work like writing thank you notes or stuffing envelopes.

Visit silvermuzzlecottage.com to see how you can help.

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Written by: Rachel Johnson

Rachel's grandparents

On a beautiful fall day 10 years ago, my husband and I vowed to stand by each other in sickness and in health. It was easy to say those words. It’s much harder to live them.

I was in my 20s when we married. The “in sickness” portion of our marriage seemed decades away. It wasn’t.

This last year has challenged the mettle of our marriage and has forced me to live up to my vows. It was a task I was woefully unprepared for and honestly not well-suited to do. Anyone who knows me will tell you; I’m not much of a nurturer.

But, here’s the thing about marriage, it doesn’t really care what comes naturally to you. It’s not a vow to do what is easy; it’s a vow to do what is needed. I had an amazing example of that lesson growing up.

My grandparents were married in 1942 and remained married for 67 years. They had a very traditional marriage. My grandfather worked for 48 years in a blue-collar job and my grandmother raised seven children.

She tended an enormous garden that fed the family, she cooked and baked, she cleaned and mended her family’s clothes. She did laundry with a clothes wringer for as long as I can remember.

Then, in 2000, she started showing signs of Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t a surprise; it runs in the family. It was, however, a challenge. The caregiver of the family had become the one in need of caretaking.

It is only recently that I’ve come to understand the tremendous act of love that came next.

For the next seven years, my grandfather cared for my grandmother at home. He gardened, he cooked, he cleaned. He had help from the rest of the family. But, ultimately, my blue-collar grandfather became his wife’s caregiver. The bread earner became the bread maker.

Eventually, her physical needs and his advancing age made it impossible for him to care for her at home. In 2007, she moved into a nursing home and spent the remaining two years of her life there. Every single day my grandfather drove to the home and spent hours reading to her and eating meals with her. While he stopped seeing to her physical needs, he continued to take such sweet care of her.

As we near Valentine’s Day, my grandparents’ type of love is the love to which I aspire. It isn’t flashy and nobody is going to make a Hallmark movie about it. It is a love that is steady and sweet. One that changes and evolves. And one that makes good on the early promises to have and to hold, even when it’s not easy.


Written by: Cherryland

man standing at the base of a ski slope

Ski season is in full swing, and while Crystal Mountain CEO Jim MacInnes has seen his share of exciting winters at the award-winning Thompsonville resort, he always marvels at the power snow has on the landscape—and the people.

“Snow has this mesmerizing power to calm the spirit, but also calls us to ‘come out and play,’” said MacInnes. “Its beauty is a constant reminder why we dedicate ourselves to its preservation.”

Crystal Mountain’s leadership has long been passionate about sustainability, clean energy, and protecting natural resources as a core value of its business practices. Its dedication to sustainability is embedded throughout the resort, from promotional materials made from recycled paper, environmentally-friendly cleaning products, and energy-efficient lighting, to building the Midwest’s first “Green” spa to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The resort has also made significant investments to lower its carbon footprint, transitioning the new inn’s fossil fuel heat to a closed-loop geothermal system, utilizing 150 electric carts for golfing and an all-electric vehicle for resort security, as well as providing guests and staff with five complimentary electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Crystal Mountain was also among the first to install free public EV charging in northern Michigan.

“Just like a rolling snowball, each action we take towards sustainability compounds,” said MacInnes. “With enough collective action, we can create an avalanche of change.”

Crystal Mountain’s commitment to guests and community has resulted in numerous awards, both in tourism and environmental circles. Most recently, the resort was named “Top 12 Best Family Ski Resort in U.S. and Canada” by Conde Nast Traveler, “Innovator of the Year” by Michigan Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards, and “Environmentalist of the Year” by the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council. In 2010, MacInnes was among the first to be named a “Green Leader” by the Detroit Free Press.

”We’re very proud of our achievements as hosts and neighbors,” said MacInnes. “We hope it inspires others to make the changes they can and add to our big, growing snowball.”

When it comes to clean energy, MacInnes has long valued the partnership of Cherryland Electric Cooperative and Wolverine Power Cooperative as a Michigan leader. In 2018, MacInnes has another milestone to celebrate as the cooperatives now lead Michigan’s transition to a low-carbon future—Crystal Mountain and all other members are now powered by 56 percent carbon-free energy.

“We’re thankful our energy provider cares as much about environmental stewardship as we do,” said MacInnes. “We’re proud to be cooperative members.”

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