Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Westbarra Wee Bonnie Lass

Bonnie's Story

When our daughter was born, my beloved collie Stormy was already very old. After my husband and I had married and I moved in with him to a small townhouse apartment, I had left her with my parents where she was used to living, and visited her often. I took my cat Sooner with me when I moved, but there really wasn't room for a collie, nor a yard for her to run in. Stormy grew old and eventually forgave me for leaving her behind. My husband and I bought a house, and Stormy vacationed with us occasionally. Our daughter was about six months old when Stormy crossed over the bridge at the age of 13.5- very old for a collie, and she'd had a long wonderful life. I longed for a dog of my own again, but with a small baby- I knew I wouldn't have time for any puppy training or to play with a dog. I waited until the time was right, then adopted an older collie from Collie rescue. Lady was a blue merle, very quiet dog, of indeterminable age, very docile, calm and somewhat detached emotionally. We never knew what Lady's story was, her real age or where she came from, but we cared for her and loved her just the same. We suspect she was quite old when we got her- at least 6 or seven, and we had her for about 5 years, so she was also quite elderly, nearly blind and completely deaf when she crossed the bridge. I was very sad when she passed, but knew I had given her a few extra years she wouldn't have had otherwise. She died in the fall, and we decided to wait until spring to get the puppy that we all wanted, and we decided on a Sheltie, rather than another collie. Our daughter was going to be seven years old and of a good age to help care for a puppy. We sought out some breeders in the area and found one close by expecting a litter soon. Bonnie was born on April 11, 1993 to a litter of seven puppies- all sable and white, and descended from several generations of champions. We had to wait until the puppies were 11 weeks old before we could bring one home, and the only one left at that time was our Bonnie. She was very sweet and cuddly, very friendly from the start, and we all just adored her. She learned very quickly, and grew up to be a lovely girl- 'Westbarra Wee Bonnie Lass' was her registered name. She was the darling of the neighborhood, a stranger was just a friend she hadn't met yet.

Bonnie as a puppy

For some reason, Bonnie was a little accident prone. At about age two, on Thanksgiving, as several people were entering our house , all in different doors, she got underfoot and in her excitement to greet everyone, her tail was stepped on, and she jerked away- minus the pretty white tip. She yipped and continued through the house furiously and enthusiastically wagging her now profusely bleeding tail. She never quite forgave my father in law for that, although he was not the one who did it. When she was 4, she caught her back foot between two boards of the deck steps and severely tore and broke her hock joint, requiring extensive surgery at MSU and weeks of follow up and therapy to fix. There were bouts with strange lumps and bumps to be removed at various times, teeth cleanings etc, and she always seemed to fall off the dock into the water at least once every summer, while chasing purple martins up and down the dock, which she loved, requiring a follow-up bath, which she hated. Last fall she was attacked by a golden retriever and bitten hard enough to draw blood, but she remained unafraid and friendly after recovering. With every trip to the vet's she was always sweet and friendly, loved every one there, and they loved to see her. She was always very nervous that I might leave her there, but seemed to understand if I did. And of course, I never left her side her final trip there.

Silly Bonnie

Bonnie was indeed a very special dog- she loved children, and seemed to know the difference between an older child who could rough house with her and a little baby who needed to be treated gently. On our walks, if we met a stroller with a baby in it, she would sit just within reach of the baby, so the baby could touch her fur. If the children were afraid of dogs, she was also very quiet and sat very still, so that they could slowly reach out to touch her and feel her soft fur. Going out on Halloween night was one of her favorite things to do, since the sidewalks were just full of children and their parents. They always laughed when I said that Bonnie was dressed as 'Lassie' and I was Timmie's mom. With adults, she was always smiling and happy, very friendly with almost everyone, so if she growled or barked a warning at anyone- we took it seriously- they were not to be trusted.

Bonnie snoozing on the deck

Parlor tricks for treats was a favorite thing for Bonnie, she loved to learn new tricks and to show them off wherever we went. She knew 'sit' and 'lay-down' of course, but also 'roll-over', 'shake hands', 'turn around', and 'take a bow'. On walks, she would travel off lead much of the time, but recalled instantly and would also heel off lead if required. When we would go 'shopping' at the pet supermarket, she would walk regally next to the cart, looking for samples of this and that on the floor from a torn bag. She just loved shopping and meeting all the people at the store who adored her friendly nature.

Last spring when we decided to add another dog to the group, she was a sweetheart and soon learned what games she could play with a littler dog, how to share, and became a mentor to our Bea, showing her how to be friendly, walk nicely on a leash, and some of her parlor tricks. Bea learned about small children, and now just adores them and looks for them on our walks. It was wonderful to watch the younger Bea follow after Bonnie wherever she went, obviously learning the ropes. Bea took over all of Bonnie's 'jobs'- letting me know when the cat wanted in, going out to supervise as I loaded and unloaded my car for work, sounding the alarm when anyone came to the door, and of course guarding the neighborhood from squirrels. Bonnie gradually gave up all of these jobs to the younger Bea, and never looked back- her eyesight and hearing were failing her, and she was tired a lot of the time.

Bonnie and her new friend Bea

After the first of the year, Bonnie had a series of strange behaviors, very mysterious, and no immediate cause could be found. It seemed to come and go, but she gradually got worse, until it was finally determined that the cause could only be neurological, and most likely untreatable in such an elderly dog. She gradually got worse until it was clear that she was feeling some pain, was losing her abilities to function and was ready to go. When I arrived home from work that last Monday, she lurched to her feet, staggered a couple of steps to lean against my legs in her old way for the last time, and I knew she was ready. I told her I knew, and she laid down again. I stroked her fur for a while, and removed her collar- leaving it at home. A couple of hours later, her vet and I helped her cross over the bridge and out of pain.

Life goes on, there are other dogs that need love, and because Bea knew Bonnie and learned from her, some of what she was lives on in her. We will always remember her, and love her deeply knowing that someday we will all be together again.

Westbarra Wee Bonnie Lass

April 11, 1993- March 14, 2005

Happy Birthday, Dear Bonnie!

You would have been 14 tomorrow, and it was nice to be able to read the story I wrote about you shortly after you passed, and remember you as you were at your best. So I decided to put the whole story and pictures in here, where I can always have it to read.

You would have been so happy to be playing here with Bea and Byrdie, and I wish that you had been able to teach Bea more before you passed. She still does all of your jobs for you, and now Byrdie helps to do them too- they seem to have divided them up- Bea likes to help unload the car, Byrdie guards the door, Bea is protective of the cats, but Byrdie lets me know if Minnah wants to come in. Bea is getting friendlier, and is teaching Byrdie that strangers are OK, and they both like to snuggle up to me at night. In some ways they are different, but frequently as I watch them do those Sheltie things they do, I remember you, and I can't help but smile.
Until we meet again, I will always miss you!
Ellen Leigh

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Big Paw Blog

I've added a new link to the sidebar and it certainly is worth checking out. It's the Big Paw Blog. I subscribed to it last week, and got some very useful information in my e-mail today- something I didn't know about, and you may not either. Did you know that Avocados are toxic to our pets? There's a great article about it on the blog, and some cautionery words of advice.
Also on the site are links to Big Paw Designs- and on-line store full of all kinds of dog and cat related merchandise, rescue jewelry, and all kinds of nifty gifts! It's well worth checking out, it's a great site to shop!!!

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