Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Little Bad Bonnie

"Want a puppy? She's awfully cute." I heard these words fourteen years ago while working at a local restaurant. Common sense must have been on sabbatical; the next day my husband and I found ourselves at a hunt club checking out our third dog. She was adorable in spite of her questionable pedigree. Her mother, a Scottish Terrier named Cora, belonged to the daughter of the woman who took care of the club's army of hounds. Unsupervised while in heat, Cora had an encounter with a Jack Russell Terrier named, of all things, "Chance". The coupling resulted in two pups, one of which was about to become the next monkey wrench in our lives.

Bonnie barrelled into our home and straight to the food dish without a hint of respect for the canine hierarchy already in place. Sheila, our Australian Shepard, and Wednesday, the raggedy old man we rescued from the streets of New York City, saw their worlds rocked that day. Seniority had no meaning for the swaggering combination of Napoleon and James T. Kirk-she came, she saw, and she most definitely conquered.

The "Scotch Terrier" had a limited tolerance for other dogs, especially females. Since he was old enough to have maybe one or two of his senses in working order, Wednesday couldn't care less. Sheila, however, often found herself at odds with Bonnie and fights would end up with a trip to the vet's office. Our newest addition was an incendiary bomb, going off in a succession of squeals and howls at the sight of a strange dog. I soon concluded that she was not fit for public consumption.

Bonnie made the assimilation of new dogs an absolute nightmare. Our first golden retriever, Emma, was quarantined to the kitchen for months before we were comfortable enough with their relationship. We had it a little easier with Gracie, but it was still no picnic. Blood was drawn as the two dogs watched me eat an order of buffalo wings in the kitchen. After a flurry of snarls, poor Gracie broke into a pathetic puppy yowl. I picked up the sweet ball of fluff, only to have her sneeze a spattering of red spots all over the kitchen counter. Minutes later, my husband arrived home to what looked like a crime scene. We were held hostage by a canine goon.

Eventually we reached a state of compromise, thanks to Gracie's inability to hold a grudge and her willingness to submit to the little one's tyranny. However, Bonnie remained the sheriff of the household and would reprimand our benign golden at a moment's notice. She had the teeth of a Great White Shark and was not afraid to use them. As you can imagine, we were always a little on edge.

In the fall of 2005, my father's Macular Degeneration took a turn for the worse and he found himself no longer able to drive. My mother had been in a nursing home with dementia for about 6 months, so he was incredibly alone. His need for companionship triggered a light bulb- how would he like to have Bonnie come live with him? "I was thinking the same thing." he said. What is it they say about great minds?

They spent the next four years together, two crotchety seniors on the same page. Bonnie stepped into the role of my father's second wife in the same way she entered our home. No questions asked, my way or the highway. She nagged him to go to bed, woke him up for a midnight snack and demanded attention worthy of a princess. He doted on her and acquiesced to her every whim. In return, she did what the best of dogs do-she made him feel needed. "You see that?", he would say as she lay at his feet. "That's as far as she ever gets away from me." Lucky for you Dad, I thought, and lucky for me. I had killed two birds with one dog. Dad had a companion and my home was considerably quieter. But all good things do have an end.

Bonnie came back to live with us over a week ago. Both she and I are doing our best to adjust to the new arrangements. My father's cancer is advancing and as he lies in bed in a Hospice ward, he can no longer take care of "his girl". His goodbye to her will always bring me to tears, but I try to console myself by remembering the time they spent together and the incredibly great work Bonnie did. As my friend Betsy said, "Who ever thought that such a miserable little cur would have such a noble purpose?" Somehow I think Bonnie knew.

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