Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dog on the Blog: The Bonnie Saga - Part 1: The Early Years

Bonnie, circa 1995
This is the story of Bonnie, shown above as a youngster in 1995. Bonnie came from the Albuquerque Animal Shelter. In those days, Ricky and I would bring home mommy dogs and their newborn pups, because the shelter could not keep the puppies until they were old enough to place for adoption. So we would give the mommy dogs a home in which to raise their babies, until the puppies could be placed.
Bonnie had five puppies -- all girls, one of whom was born with an enlarged skull due to hydrocephalus. We named that baby Elise. Our vet in Albuquerque, Dr. Skains, was not sure if Elise would make it. It was clear that she would have some intellectual defecit due to her condition.
Bonnie was an excellent mom to her babies. She was very attentive and always knew what her girls were doing and where they were! Bonnie and the girls had the run of our living room.
As the puppies grew, Elise seemed to "grow into" her enlarged skull. We did not place Elise for adoption because of the uncertainties associated with her condition. By the time she was a year old, Elise had a normal-sized head and she seemed to have escaped heart and lung problems, which sometime accompany hydrocephalic dogs.
Although Elise did not learn things as fast as her sisters, she managed to play with them and enjoy her life in New Mexico.
Bonnie continued to nurture her baby girl who was "different", even after Elise was weaned and pretty much grown. It was as if Bonnie understood that Elise needed extra help.

Lloyd, circa 1995

Later that same year, Lloyd came to live with us. My son, Doug, is responsible for rescuing Lloyd.

Doug met Lloyd at a grocery store parking lot, where someone had been giving away puppies. Lloyd was the last one, so Doug took him and brought him home. The people told Doug that Lloyd was a Great Dane! As you can see from the picture, Lloyd was no Dane. Fully grown, Lloyd never weighed more than 50lb.

But what he lacked in size, he made up for in character! Lloyd was a really sweet boy, who always tried to please and never met a stranger.

Because Lloyd and Bonnie were both very young, we decided to introduce them and see if they would be friends. It was love at first sight for both! They sniffed and wagged tails immediately, and then started chasing each other around the yard. They would jump at one another, each engaging the other in play!

That initial introduction in 1995 began a twelve year relationship between Lloyd and Bonnie.

Beginning in Albuquerque, they later moved with us to San Diego. From San Diego, they moved with us to Arizona, and finally to Texas in the summer of 2005.

Through the frosty winters of New Mexico, to the year-round perfect weather of San Diego, to the scorching summers of Arizona, Bonnie and Lloyd were a happy team who adapted to each new home.

When they arrived in Texas in the summer of 2005, they settled into a comfortable play yard in the shade of a century-old live oak. Both Bonnie and Lloyd were beginning to slow down, by the time they reached Texas, and they were content to sit on the front porch of their cottage together and watch the other dogs racing around their yards and playing. Perhaps they were reminded of themselves, those many summers ago in Albuqerque when they were just pups, playing in the sunshine.

Like any older couple who have spent their adult lives together, Bonnie and Lloyd seemed to anticipate each others' moves, and knew what to expect. They would sometimes meander through their play yard, side by side, often stopping to watch a squirrel up in the tree limbs or to bark at a rooster outside their fence. Evenings would find Bonnie and Lloyd napping together in the green grass of their yard.

One sad day, about a year ago, we discovered Lloyd was having trouble getting up and walking. Bonnie was sitting beside him, looking worried. We scooped up Lloyd in our arms, and allowed Bonnie to kiss Lloyd good bye, as we took him from her play yard... and from her life.

Lloyd joined us upstairs in our bedroom, in the middle of our bed. We knew he had little time left, and we wanted to be with him when his time finally came. We lost our sweet Lloyd shortly after bringing him into the house. We were able to hold him in our arms as he breathed his last.

For Bonnie, things were never the same.

The day we took Lloyd from her, she became disconsolate and began a slow, steady downward spiral. You could see the sadness in her eyes, as she walked those paths in her play yard alone, no longer with Lloyd at her side. It just seemed like losing Lloyd was more than Bonnie could bear.

She ate only sporadically, and began losing weight. We tried to tempt Bonnie with special canned dog food -- dog food she would have dived into with Lloyd in the old days, but dog food which now held no special allure because she was eating alone.

It broke our hearts to see Bonnie deteriorating that way, and yet we understood her pain and her loss. We just did not know how to help her.

But as Bonnie was slowly losing her will to live here at the farm, events in faraway California were unfolding that would impact our Bonnie in ways no one could have imagined...

Be Sure to Read Tomorrow's Blog:

The Bonnie Saga - Part 2: An End & A New Beginning

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
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wharton, texas

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