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.