Yesterday I spent three hours grooming my faithful companion, Bonnie Jo. Bonnie Jo has an interesting history and a special place in our family. I purchased Bonnie Jo as an eight week old puppy twelve years ago, almost thirteen. I was at a Reined Cow Horse Show as a spectator, just before I started competing. I saw these Australian Shepherd puppies. I love Australian Shepherds, so I asked the young woman watching them with her children if they were for sale.
She said, “Yes, these are some of Jack’s puppies and they are for sale.” As I watched the five puppies playing with the children.
“Are there any females?” I asked.
She pointed to the red merle off by itself, “I think that is a female, the only one.”
I went over an picked up the pup and looked at her, instant love at first sight. I gently placed her down. “How much?”
“Oh, I do not own the puppies. We are just playing with them. The owner is over by that truck with the male Australian.”
I walked over to the truck, and looked at the dog sitting in the truck. I did not touch or offer to touch the man’s dog. With ranchers and cattle people, you do not touch the dogs, unless you ask permission. Also, a dog sitting on the back of the truck, is guarding the truck – touch the truck or try to touch the dog at your own risk.
“Hello, Jack.” as I started to introduce myself.
“I’m not Jack.” pointing to the dog, “That is Jack.” And he told me his name. “Jack is the sire of the puppies over there. ” He whistled and Jack jumped off the truck. A large red merle Australian shepherd trotted over and sat down on my foot looking up to me as if I was supposed to give him something.
“May I pet him?”
“Looks like he is demanding a pet. He sure likes you, does not do that with most people.”
After a quick apology about the mix up of name, I said I was interested in purchasing one of the puppies, the red merle female. The deal was made. I found a lead rope in the truck and the pup and I started getting to know one another. As I walked around the arena grounds people would say, “you got one of Jack’s pups. There are good dogs, the best. Jack works the cattle without Mr. R saying a word or whistle. Best working dog I have seen.”
I took her home and showed my husband what I had purchased. “What are you going to call her.” That was a thought, what should this little pup be named? I was thinking then it hit me. Since I had recently received paperwork about my adoption, I decided to call her my original name, Bonnie Jo. Every time I said her name, I would be reminded of the truth and not fall back into the lies of my family.
Bonnie Jo was a terrible two. She liked to play bite with me, but her little teeth were sharp. “Easy.” I would say, and she would cock her head to the side, and then play again, still rough. After having scratches all over my hands, I decided I would gently touch her nose and say “Easy” when she was too rough. I touched her nose, and she slapped my hand with a front paw. I touched her nose again and once more she slapped my hand with a front paw. Well, that was not going to work. But stop playing with her did.
She learned to sit, walk on a leash, be potty trained, even telling me when she had to go outside. She loved traveling with me in the truck and suck my soda out of the straw in the cup. Yes, she loved Dr. Pepper. She learned to drink water from a water bottle tipped on the side with water at the opening edge. She would chase the cows out of the yard, but never really learned to work by commands, but loves pushing sheep and goats away from her house. And her method of playing tug of war, with you are a another dog, is to make sure someone has the end of the rope to pull against, not take off and not share. Tug of war is a pulling game, not a stealing game. If the other dog loses their grip, Bonnie Jo slings the rope, hitting them in the head until they grab ahold then off they run and pull again. Bonnie Jo learned a large vocabulary listening to me all the time. She learned to read my moods and know when I needed someone close. And Bonnie Jo can communicate back with a arsenal of “looks”, some looks if they could kill, would. She gets upset with you, gives you a look, then ignores you.
As a pup, she got in the pen with a yearling horse, and was stomped. We took her to the vet to have her checked out. No internal bleeding, and with a few meds for pain and inflammation we headed home.
Bonnie Jo never came in heat. When she was two, I decided to have her spayed. Drop her off in the morning, and pick her up the next morning. The first time we had been separated since I purchased her. When I went to pick her up, the vet said the womb was full of infection, and had I noticed. I said no, and told how she had never come into heat. And about being stomped. The vet said she had probably had the infection since being a stomped.
Four years ago, she was bitten by a copperhead while we were feeding. I had walked into the barn where the grain is stored. Bonnie Jo was right on my heels as always. Suddenly, there was a loud clang near some metal channel iron we had on the floor. I looked back at Bonnie Jo, “Be careful girl, I do not want you hurt.” She gave me a really dirty look, and walked to the house. The next day, she was limping. I checked her foot and could find nothing, but figured she hurt her foot on the channel iron in the barn the day before. Three days later, she was packing the foot, and I saw the foot pads were totally raw, and found a puncher wound that looked bad. Another vet visit, they took her in and said she was snake bit, looked like rattlesnake or copperhead. They would have to put her under anesthesia to clean the foot. They also wanted to give her some IV antibiotics for infection and pain meds. Again, Bonnie Jo was away from me for the night. The next day I picked her up with pain meds and antibiotics. There were several more trips for changing bandages during the next three months.
Bonnie Jo does not like to take pills for anything. She is the only dog that I know that will make herself vomit, after you have forced her to eat a pill. If the pill is in food, she will refuse the food, even her favorite meat treat. I wasted one pill by grinding it to a powder and putting the powder in canned dog food. She refused to eat the dog food for a day and half, never ate the dog food. Daily was a struggle to get her to take her meds. I managed to get most of the meds to stay down, holding her nose shut for about five minutes then giving her a meat treat.
Yesterday, I bathed her. I have to put a leash on her before I ever get the bathing supplies together. Her long thick fur mats quickly. I use a conditioner and detangler on her hair when I bath her. I brush her to remove all the debris that gets caught in the fur. In spring when the temperature get warm, she gets a body clip. The rest of the time, I trim the hair on her back side to prevent manure and debris from collecting and making a mess in the house. The whole time during bathing, brushing and clipping, she is totally shaking. After several baths over twelve years, you think she would get used to it. At least my husband no longer has to hold her while I give her a bath. Still, Bonnie Jo does not like a bath or brushing or being clipped or having her toenails done. She does not fight like she used to as a pup. One of her first baths she jumped out of the tub and ran through the house, hiding under the dining table while still covered in suds.
She no longers jumps and bolts during baths. There are several things she no longer does, like jumping up on the couch, or into the truck. She does not hold her bladder well, so long trips are no longer taken. There are times she has accidents in the house. And she no longer jumps on the bed in the morning when I husband gets up, but stays in her spot on my side of the bed. She prefers a dog bed or soft rug to lay on and not the hard floor. She still insists on following me as I do chores, although she does not go into or get too close to the sheep. She only occasionally with push the sheep now. She rests a lot when we do chores, and is ready to lay down in the house when the chores are done.
Bonnie Jo is twelve this year. The lifespan for Australian Shepherd dogs is twelve to fifteen years. She is in her golden years, still going as strong as her age will allow. I know the days are number for her to be beside me, but she will always be in my heart and memories.
I love you Bonnie Jo, thank you for helping me get through some tough emotional battles, and always being by my side.