Dave and I were asked to foster Bonnie, a six or seven-year-old female black Lab, in December 2000. We went to pick her up at Gunston Animal Hospital and waited by the desk for her arrival. When she trotted out, we were somewhat taken aback. Funny, she didn't look like a Lab! Bonnie was small, only about 58 pounds. She had a water-resistant black topcoat and webbed toes, but that was about the extent of her physical Labness. Her ears were too big and floppy. She had no undercoat. Her head shape was wrong, as was her body build. She also had loose rear dewclaws with double claws. And then was her tail. Her tail was about an inch and a half long, and the vet said Bonnie was born with it that way. While she didn't look like a Lab, Bonnie was cute in her own peculiar way. She gazed up at us with soulful brown eyes, and when we gave her attention, she wagged her stumpy tail, wiggling the entire rear half of her body. She was very friendly and eager to please, characteristic of the Lab temperament. As sweet as she was, we thought she'd have no problem finding a new home in spite of her mixed heritage.
Dave had to go out of town, so I took Bonnie to her first adoption day. All of the families and individuals with approved adoption applications came by and oohed and aahed at her. Bonnie gazed up adoringly at them and proved to be gentle with everyone, even the toddler who stuck his thumb in her eye. Everyone commented on how sweet and affectionate she was, but they all adopted a Lab who was bigger or younger or had a tail. I was discouraged, but I liked having her around the house. She was well-behaved inside and was getting along with Sam. She didn't bark until we'd had her at our house for a week. She didn't climb stairs, but she seemed content to sleep in the living room. She was one of the easiest guest dogs we'd ever had. The next adoption day was two weeks away, but nobody asked to see her during that time. I was in Florida visiting my parents, so Dave took her to the next event. He had the same experience that I'd had two weeks earlier. The one woman who was seriously interested in adopting Bonnie changed her mind when she found out that Bonnie didn't go up and down stairs. Dave brought Bonnie home and called me in Florida.
I was nervous as I awaited Dave's call. I'd grown very attached to Bonnie and really wanted to adopt her, but I was afraid to mention it to Dave. His first response upon meeting her was, "She's cute, but I wouldn't want a dog without a tail." Dave called. He told me about the woman who almost adopted her and said, "If she'd adopted Bonnie, it would have been great. I'd have been very happy. Everyone else who came by was ok, but I kept thinking, 'They're not good enough for my foster dog!'" I smiled. I knew we'd keep her. The day after we told Bonnie that she was now a Pasternak, Dave came downstairs and found both dogs curled up on the living room couch. Miraculously, they stayed put while he grabbed the camera.
Bonnie had liked Sam immediately and wanted to play. Sam was Mr. Clueless when it came to doggie body language and play, so he hid behind me when Bonnie stamped her feet and started chasing him around. She dropped into play position, and Sam stood there looking confused. Sam only played with people. Bonnie played by herself or with other dogs. Eventually, we'd all run around the living room and dining room. Sam thought he was playing with us; Bonnie thought she was playing with Sam. It all worked out. After months of persistence, Bonnie finally got Sam to run around without us. Almost two years after we adopted him, Sam actually played with a tug toy with our foster dog Bridget.
A couple of weeks after we adopted her, Bonnie was sitting in the living room with Sam and me. Dave came home from the gym and went upstairs. Sam ran after him. Bonnie ran after Sam. She showed no hesitation on the stairs and went up and down them several more times within the next few minutes. We don't know if she suddenly learned how to navigate stairs or simply realized that she was allowed to. She ran up and down them until arthritis got the better of her at age 16. (Here's an article about dogs and stairs that features Bonnie.) Climbing stairs was not the first skill Bonnie was slow to reveal at our house. We were beginning to wonder if she could bark, but she finally did a week after her arrival. Her bark was a "ROO! ROO! ROO!" so one of her nicknames was Roo. Or Roodle. Or Roodlebutt. Or Bonnaroo. She was a quiet girl and left most of the barking to Sam, but she went completely nuts if she saw a cat in her yard. When she saw a cat or another dog out on our walks, the first thing she did was tell Sam about it. She turned and shouted, "ROO! ROO! ROO!" in his ear. Bonnie's other nicknames were related to her tail, or lack thereof. One name was StumpyButt. Because she wiggled all over when she wagged her tail, she was also called Miss WiggleButt. Bonnie's name, by the way, was in honor of Bonnie Raitt and Hound Dog Taylor. Hound Dog Taylor was a blues singer and guitarist who, like the canine Bonnie, had extra digits.
When we adopted Bonnie, her teeth were in terrible shape, stained and loaded with tartar. We were also concerned about the loose rear dewclaws, which could easily have gotten caught on something and caused injury. We took her to the vet and had her teeth cleaned and the rear dewclaws removed. The dewclaw removal was done using laser surgery, and Bonnie healed quickly. To keep her teeth pristine, we started brushing her teeth regularly. She loved the poultry-flavored toothpaste so much that she got almost as excited about dental care as she did about treats.
Bonnie was a little overweight when she came to us, but she loved walks as much as Sam did, so we walked many times a day in the early years. Bonnie slimmed down nicely as you can see from her photo above. (We had to watch her with the food, though. If left to her own devices, she'd eat her food and then go for Sam's.)
Bonnie remained active, chasing squirrels in the yard and enjoying walks, well into her teens. Stairs became difficult for her when she was between 16 and 17, but she was happy to live on the first floor. She again developed an aversion to car rides, so getting her to regular acupuncture was stressful. Dr. Kocen offered to stop by our house on his way home to do her periodic treatments. We took him up on the offer and are grateful he was willing to do that for her and for us. We considered looking for a mobile vet so that Bonnie could get all of her care at home. Before we had a chance to look into it, we found ourselves next to a mobile vet van at a stop light: Critterfixer Mobile Veterinary Care. We checked out the website, then I called Dr. Marisa Gerth for an appointment. We've been very happy with Dr. Gerth. She became our regular vet during Bonnie's last year and Lucy's last two years.
Suddenly in late January of 2011, Bonnie stopped eating. Dr. Gerth ran some lab tests, and we discovered that Bonnie's kidneys and thyroid had shut down. Treatment at home failed to perk her up. She wouldn't eat and didn't want to get up off her bed. We were very sad, but we decided it was time to say goodbye. Bonnie died peacefully at home in her favorite bed.
Bonnie was part of our family from December 23, 2000, through February 1, 2011. She was a sweet, smart girl, and we're glad all of those people at adoption days wanted younger dogs with tails!
NurseBobbi's Home Page - Bonnie's mom (and the main page of this site)
Last updated 24 November 2011
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