15, today


Bonnie spends two or three hours everyday walking into walls, one after another after another. Bump, bump, crash. Bump, bump, crash. When she dies, the first thing I’m going to do is to wash smudges off walls. Until then, why bother? It would be like raking leaves if leaves never stopped falling. I’ve heard people talk about how well dogs adjust to being blind. Bonnie became blind at 13, turned 15 today, and the adjustment has all been downhill. I doubt that this dog (who once figured out for herself that could carry a ball and Frisbee at once by putting the ball in the bottom of the Frisbee) has the mental capacity to adjust, although it’s hard to tell given that she’s not only totally blind, she’s 90% deaf. There isn’t a day goes by but what Peggy and I don’t wish that she would die already.
Nothing ever brought us more joy or more sorrow than Bonnie. I blame throwing tennis balls to her with a throwing stick, hard, hundreds of times a week for more than a decade for ruining my shoulders. I threw those balls because she needed the exercise. Now, I’m mad at the universe for making me suffer for the rest of my life because I tried to do right by my dog. Yet, I must admit that I mostly enjoyed our ballgames—as well as hiking together and her running alongside my bike and, oh yeah, camping (except for when she rolled in something). 
People were forever stopping to visit as I threw her ball across a drainage canal and she ran to a pedestrian bridge to cross the canal for it. They would say something about how fast she was, and then she would shift into yet another gear and go even faster. Sometimes, ten or fifteen dogs would gather in this same field, and every last one of them would be trying to catch Bonnie, and she would be running in and out among them like a fighter plane among bombers.
In her second year, she turned into a hellion and started attacking other dogs, including her lifelong friends, so that was the end of doggie friendships. After that, the only dog she ever played with was this great big old part husky named Freeman. Freeman liked to kill things, and he would have killed Bonnie if he could have caught her, but she was so fast that she could run in, nip his hindquarters, and make her getaway before he could get turned around. Freeman’s person and I used to have a lot of fun watching our dogs’ little game, but we were also glad that Freeman stayed pretty close to us because we never knew but what we might have to make him cough up Bonnie (I know, you’re not supposed to break up a dog fight; you’re supposed to stand there and watch your dog gurgle through a crushed trachea after you let her do something dangerous).

Sure enough, one day Bonnie was running backwards with the usual derision in her eyes and a big smile on her face, no more than ten feet in front of Freeman’s gaping jaws, when she tripped and landed on her back. At that moment, Freeman became an optimist and doubled his speed. Bonnie didn’t just get up, she exploded up, spun around in the air, and hit the ground running. In that moment, I was glad my dog was okay, but in the next, I wondered if she would ever play with Freeman again. As it turned out, she never stopped playing, neither did she stop running in reverse right in front of him and occasionally tripping. I just loved the spirit in her that said, “The world is my oyster, and I can do any damn thing I please.” I spent half of my time trying to protect Bonnie from the results or her own cockiness (the pink collar that Peggy bought for the little puppy that she wanted to name Clair just never did seem right on the dog that became Bonnie).
To see Bonnie as she is now, so beaten by life that she’s afraid of a cat that doesn’t mean her any harm, is very hard. I’m tempted to say that it’s harder than the death of my mother, but I guess it’s just hard in a different way. So, why don’t we put her down? I could even do it myself as far as that goes (I really have it in me), but she still enjoys her 45-minute walk each day, and she still wags her tail when I roll her tennis ball to her. When the tail stops wagging, it will be time.

20 comments:

lotta joy said...

I've heard it said "If dogs aren't in heaven, I don't want to be there either".

IF there was such a thing as souls, they should have been given to animals instead of humans.

You owe a lot to Bonnie and I know where you're coming from when you say YOU could put her down more easily than having a stranger stab her with a needle. THEY KNOW, Snow. THEY KNOW.

Our Bichon KNEW why we were at the vets for the last time. He'd never acted so skittish in his life.

He was blind also, and if not for Joe: and if not for being in Florida at the time, a gentle trip into the back yard and an instant of horror (for ME) would have been much more merciful.

kj said...

ah snow. this is so sad. everyone who's ever loved a dog understands every word. you know i have a new dog and he is not a well dog. i wonder how we will handle his needs.

your bonnie was a spitfire. the story of her lost capacity is one not just about dogs. here we are: still appreciating rolling balls even when we can't see them and still wagging our way through love

this just about made me cry. and yes, you will know when it is time; not with confidence, but you will know

love
kj

Stephen Hayes said...

I've had to putdown several dogs and you know when the time is right, when they stop enjoying the things they love.

Putz said...

oh wow. two things, one, i feel bad that you had to ruin your arm for . but her, but that is hind sight which is really worthless, and the second is the love you have for her and i am sure peggy also is as great as it is for anyone in the jhuman race even in your immediate family< wow, dogs i have had all my life and DUKE is a very good dog, and tute is a very good cat and with the onset of my retirement i have grown closer to them thatn to my wife or my kids, although i still retain great affection to the afore mentioned<>><><<>so love them either in their living or in their death

The Elephant's Child said...

It is always hard when the day comes, but as others have said you will know it. While she is enjoying her walk and you she is essentially still enjoying life and not ready to let it go.
It peeves me though that we can make the decision that a dog or a cat have no quality of life and their day has come, and not make the same decision for ourselves.
Quality of life is obviously going to be a big issue for me as the MS progresses, but all I can do is say firmly that I don't want to be saved, not that I want to die. Hiss and spit.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Your Bonnie is a blessing. So glad she still loves her walks!

TICKLEBEAR said...

In human years, she's 105!!!
let's see if you're still wagging your tail when you turn 105.
Give the girl a break.
I by no means suggest to prolong a life, human or animal, at any cost. In my field of work, I got to see the virtue of euthanasia when a human is suffering needlessly, but as long as she derives pleasure, let her, please!!!
:)~
PLEASE!!!
HUGZ

Marion said...

A bittersweet write about your beloved pet, Snow. I'd keep her until she gets to where she loses her dignity, then it's time to let her go...

When we had to put down our Great Pyrannes/Golden Retriever mix earlier this year, it broke my heart. He was a huge dog and his back legs kept going out on him (arthritis) and he was losing his dignity which we couldn't stand to watch. Cody was the first dog we'd had in 20 years. We rescued him from someone who didn't want him. He loved cats and raised the 6 we have. He'd find wild baby kittens outside and bring them to us in his mouth. He was the most loving, gentle dog I've ever known and I'll miss him every single day till I die. xoxo

Kerry said...

What a great dog, Snow. She has had a great life thanks to you and Peggy, and her wagging 15-year-old tail is proof.

The death of much-loved dogs has been one of the hardest things I've had to face in my life. In many ways it has indeed been harder than the loss of certain people, which seems messed-up, but it's true. Can't help it.

vjack said...

Thanks for sharing this. It does sound like Bonnie is still enjoying her life and seems to know you are there. I've got a dog of the same age, and I'm really dreading losing him. It will be the first time I've had to go through that on my own. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sad man, and yet strangely happy as well. Encompasses life, I guess. The good and the bad. I am so sorry Bonnie cannot be her young self again anywhere but in your mind.

angela said...

having to make that decision is the worst. My red healer was 15 when he went down hill really fast and I had to make the decision to let him go. I hope you get a little more time before you part company but Im sure she will be waiting for you with her frizbee and ball at the rainbow bridge.

julie said...

Bonnie is a lucky girl and so are you. I have a little cow dog, Zoe who is very old...so old I'm lost track..14 maybe. She was rescued in the hills near here where she and her litter of puppies had been dumped. She had been abused and to this day often acts as if I am going to strike her...something I've never done. She has had a good life with us and just this week we've talked about letting her go. She is blind and can barely walk and has more selective hearing than she's ever had. She cries a lot because she wants to get around better than she does...or maybe her old body hurts. Her favorite thing to do is to lay on the patio at night and keep the night things away. During that hour or two she seems to be able to see and hear just fine.... She loves that time...and I just don't know if there is still a balance...good quality and misery. Or if it's just me who hurts when I see her struggle to her feet only to sit back down... sigh...no point to this comment really...just that I understand.

Owen said...

Truly enjoyed reading this.

Wishing you and Bonnie well, no matter what.

I can't help but think that I would want someone to put me down if I ever became blind and deaf and incontinent and whatnot... should I live so long... But I guess people look at people differently than for dogs when questions like that come up...

Zuzana said...

This was a beautiful tribute to an old friend. I have heard that people mourn the passing of their pets more than of family members. That is due to the unconditional love pets provide, never asking for anything back. People can unfortunately never do this.
Love all the images, she seems like a fine dog.;)
xoxo

Linda@VS said...

Snow, you know the story of my blind dog, Butch. He was only seven when he lost his eyesight, and he was one of the lucky dogs who adapted beautifully. It was the loss of his hearing (about five years later) that undid him. I think his hearing had been a navigational tool; without it he often isolated himself, staying safely in one place. Even then, his sense of smell was functional, and he frequently found his way to the kitchen. I know exactly how you feel about Bonnie; my thought processes were much the same as yours. All I can tell you is that day after day after day I didn't know what was the right thing to do for Butch--and then one day I did. That day he let me know he'd had enough. As hard as it was to let him go, the years of loving him far outweigh the pain of losing him. I think Bonnie's love and trust are her gifts to you--gifts that will linger long after she's gone. Hugs.

All Consuming said...

Sh'e such a beauty, I really feel for the three of you here, but I think you're right, you'll know when it's time. To share love and life with an animal, I have to say in particular a dog, as I have never had a cat, is such a rewarding experience, I'd never have guessed it in a million years beforehand, not the true extent of it anyway. Much love to you, Bonnie and Peggy, hugs and woofs all round from over here. xxx

A Plain Observer said...

I dont know that there will ever be time to put her down. There will always be something she does that will make you want to see her one more day. I never found the right time to put my Porkchop down, and I doubt you ever will.

Snowbrush said...

I have so appreciated the responses to this post that I feel as if I should thank everyone individually, but I had rather spend the time visiting you because I'm way behind with that.

Writing this has enabled me to be more patient with her and even to enjoy her again. She's my little sweetie, and I think we're going to be okay now, not because I treated her badly before, but because my heart wasn't in treating her as lovingly as I would have liked. I had gotten pretty burned out.

Marion said...

Awesome post...xx