We got Bonnie the third day of my junior year of high school. I remember vividly, because my parents had gotten me my very first car the week before and I drove out to the Troutdale Humane Society to meet up with them and help pick out the new dog. We agreed on a tiny female from a litter that had been dropped off, with their mother, when they were just a few days old. One of the staff members had taken them all to his house until the puppies were old enough to adopt out. He and his wife kept the mother. Our previous dog had died the spring before at the age of six from lymphoma and we were all anxious to finally get a new dog. The house just didn’t feel right without one.
My sister and I sat by her cage while my parents filled out paperwork and paid the adoption fees, trying out potential names, giddy with the idea that we’d soon have a baby animal in the house.
As all puppies do, she turned the house upside down. We roped off a section of the family room for her and put down some newspapers. We quickly discovered that she was a chewer, destroying anything left within her reach. She also was an eater, gulping down all things edible (and more than a few things that were questionably edible) often before we could stop her. Once, she managed to scoot her body up onto the kitchen counter and grab a two-pound bag of pitted prunes from the fruit basket. She ate the whole thing and had to be baracaded in the basement for three days as she had some of the most horrific diarrhea known to humankind.
One of my family responsibilities during high school was to take her to the park across the street. Back in the mid-ninties, Wallace Park had an unofficial dog run up behind Chapman Elementary School and people came from all over the neighborhood to bring their dogs over there. During Bonnie’s first couple of years she loved playing and running with other dogs. When we’d arrive, they’d say, “Oh good, Bonnie’s here! She’ll get them running.” And she always did, leading a pack of eight or ten dogs in a lopsided circle down the hill and back up again.
When I went away for college, I’d often tell my mom to put me on the phone with Bon when I called home. She’s line the phone up with her ear and shout, “Okay, go ahead.” I’d give her thirty seconds of my best baby/puppy talk. Bonnie never made any noises in response, but when she got back on the phone, my mom would always tell me that Bonnie had cocked her head to the side, like Nipper in those old Victrola advertisements.
She liked carrots, watermelon, peanut butter and popcorn. She’d take bits of celery if you offered them, but then go and spit them out on the living room rug. When I’d come home after a long time away, she would leap up on her hind legs (until arthritis prevented it) and cry out in a way that made me feel like I had been truly missed. Last December, when I headed back to Philadelphia after Christmas, I knew it was a possibility that it would be the last time I would see her. As I said goodbye, I gave her a little bit extra love.
Last Friday, my mom called as I was driving to a fundraiser at Penn Treaty Park. I knew immediately from her tone that something wasn’t right. I questioned her and she said, with tears in her voice, “Bonnie had a stroke this afternoon and we had to put her down.” She had been on the phone with my sister when she started twitching and acting strangely. She lost the ability to walk in that moment and totally emptied her bowels on the hallway carpet. My father lifted her up and sat with her in the back of the van as my mom drove to the vet’s office half a mile away. It took just five minutes to ease her out of her body and this world.
She left us exactly 13 years (to the very week) that we got her. She was a wonderful dog and she is missed.