This is a story about Bonnie Blue, but let me tell you first why especially now she is on my mind.
Last Fall, the voters of Missouri passed a law to provide relief to the dogs and puppies that exist in puppy mills in this state. Many of them live their entire lives inside cages without even the basics of care. They survive despite the extremes of weather, hot and cold, in cages stacked one atop the other. Their fur is coated with the urine and excrement of the cages above them. After a while, you can understand why manyi grow fearful or lose their spirit. No acts of kindness for most, their sole purpose is to breed for profit.
Now the laws meant to save them may be gone even before fully enacted. Our legislators may yield to the pressures of puppy mill owners who are motivated by one thing: profit.
I feel a such a mixture of emotions, anger, sadness, betrayal. So I did the best that I could do to help and I wrote Bonnie’s story to share with you. Will you please read? Bonnie wants you to know and so do I.
THE STORY OF MY BONNIE BLUE
She was mine for a while, not a long enough while but long enough to quickly steal my heart. Bonnie was a little dog that came from a puppy mill. I adopted her from a rescuer and took her home to be mine. She looked healthy enough and happy. Yet even while I was taking her home the disease that threatened her was lying in wait in side her. We all thought she was well and safe, having gotten started on her puppy shots once she got to the shelter. From the very start she was special. She slept with me in my bed and I wondered how had I gotten by without her company.
Not long after though, just a few days after first bringing her home I noticed she had a nasal discharge. So the next night after work she and I drove across town to a new veterinarian I had heard about. I told him about her runny nose and that maybe the last day or so she seemed extra tired, but no big deal. To me, he looked more concerned than I would have expected based on what little I told him. As i continued to explain her history, he knew something I did not. Over the past few days of his practice he was concerned about something developing within the community. He had friends who were veterinarians also and comparing stories it became clear that an ugly disease was brewing called distemper. I’ve had many dogs thoughout my life and they always got their shots and distemper was just a word to me that I knew nothing about. When he told me what he believed the problem was he said we’d know for sure in a day or two but if he was right she was in the calm period before the storm. I think I sort of did a denial act for the most part and convinced myself everything would work out fine, after all, I didn’t know him or how good a doctor he was, maybe he was overreacting?
He told me to give he lots of flluds and some baby aspirin and take her temperature and record it every hour or two. He said if he was right the temperature she currently had would remain steady as it was, a low grade fever for a while. I just determined inside that I could wish her to be okay and make it happen if I concentrated on it hard enough.
But my optimism was unfounded and she declined as he predicted, she grew more listless and started to get dehydrated a lot. We made another trip to the veterinary office and he confirmed his suspicions. He said suppportive care was all that could be done, there was no medicine. He said she would either make it or not. Sometimes they can be really bad and then just overnight I’d be able to tell she was getting over it and she’d be okay. But he said that’s not usually the way it went. I didn’t want to hear crummy news like that but it did seem he was pretty much on target with her. So over the course of the next few days despite my wishful thinking, imagining that when I took her temperature it would be down, it didn’t turn out that way at all. And it was turning out to be fairly expensive on my meager salary but what choice did I have? I couldn’t give up. Sustain life was the objective and I did try to do my best but I had to leave her alone every day while I went to work. I’d rush home at night hoping against hope to see a good sign but I never did. The veterinarian told me he was treating two other cases of this but that one had like he said, just turned a corner and it was going to be okay so I kept that in mind as my goal and something to hope for. But she continued to deteriorate and we had to make another late nighite trip for emergency care. He kept her overnight to give her I.V. fluids and told me I could get her the next night.
If positive thoughts could have made a difference she would have gotten better but when I went to get her she was largely unchanged or maybe even worse. I had to watch as this beautiful girl who had, just a few nights before, had laid at my feet contentedly chewing on her new toy, decline so quickly. She started to shrivel before my eyes and grow more dehydrated. Her skin was in folds on her little body. Over the course of a few more days, she started to have seizures while her body tried to fight it off. I’d try to get syringes of water down her throat along with a baby aspirin and thats about all I did or thought about whether I was at home or at work. One night while I was giving her an aspirin, my fingers in her mouth, she suffered a seizure and bit me, not on purpose, but her teeth punctured my skin. I didn’t think too much about it at the time.
Days were horrible, I had to leave her all alone while I went to work. She was all I thought of while I was gone. I tried to convince myself that when I finally got home it would be like the veterinarian said, that she would have turned the corner and that the life was back in her eyes, no longer dull and flat but full of life again like all puppys deserve. But it never was that way. It was just a week or two until Christmas and on the late night drives to the vets office we drove past windows filled with lights from Christmas trees which only seemed to make it that much more painful, more of a mockery to see the lights and then how sick she was. She was my entire focus. I went to work because I had to but I lived for night time to be with her and hope for her. I don’t remember anymore how many days this went on, it seemed like forever. She just kept getting worse, if that was possible but I kept this vision in my head of her being like that other puppy who made it.
But finally, one night, sitting and holding her, I knew it was time to let go, I wasn’t being fair to her. With tears flowing down my face in what felt like torrents, I was heartbroken for her and angry at this stubborn disease that refused to let go of her. She was so dehydrated. It broke my heart to see her pretty blonde fur all wrinkled in the folds of her skin from how dried out she’d become. Finally, I knew it was time to surrender. I had to make myself get up from the chair I sat holding her in, rocking her like a baby. Somehow, I don’t really know how, I managed to carry her to my car and as we drove through the night, I held her on my lap, my heart still wanting to hold on and not let go. The Christmas lights turned into blurry water colors from my tears as i tried to focus on the streets and which way to go.
I had called ahead to tell him what her condition was and we both agreed the kindest thing was to let go. But it was one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life holding Bonnie while the veterinarian injected her to stop her suffering finally, and through my fingers I felt her life leave her little body. And then the tears I had been holding back just seemed to take over me and I cried like I never cried before, tears that wouldn’t stop because she was gone forever. There was going to be no Christmas for me and Bonnie and the feeling of my heart aching was the only way I knew I was still alive.
My one solace was that I had arranged to bury her at a friend’s place, in their garden under a tree. Her husband had already gotten a place ready for her. The veterinarian asked me if she had bitten anyone and I remembered that one night and I said yes. And that was when he told me. I found out that on top of everything else she had suffered, she wouldn’t be able to go home to that place under the tree that was waiting to hold her. He said I’m sorry I can’t let you take her, I have to send her body away so they can check her for rabies, its the law because she bit someone. My mind could not accept this, did not want to accept this. Strangers were going to cut her beautiful little head off in order to do their tests. How could I do that, go and leave her knowing what they were going to do to her. Hadn’t she suffered enough from this damn hateful disease? How could I walk away with nothing to remember but her little blue collar? How could I leave her there for that? But I had no choice but it also didn’t seem fair and it was not acceptable but its what I had to do.
Somehow, I don’t know how, I found myself outside and once I got there and felt the cold air on my face I found myself crying because it felt like the world was going to end and I have never felt so alone or so sad in my life. I don’t know how I got home. I just know that for days I felt dead inside. In a day or two, eventually, after how long I do not know, I managed to care enough, to drag out my vacuum sweeper and try to clean my apartment a little. And then right when I got near my chair, I heard sounds like beads being sucked into the cleaner. I turned off the sweeper and bent down to see what was making the noise. I picked up the handle of the vacuum and shook it and out tumbled one of her tiny little baby teeth that had been hidden in the carpet. Right where she was laying that night that seemed so long ago, playing at my feet. That was the last night she laid there.
NOT FAIR, my mind was screaming. NOT FAIR that a puppy that’s still losing her baby teeth should lose her life too so needlessly. Whoever had her didn’t care enough about her to give her puppy shots to protect her. And by the time the rescue facility gave her shots, it was too late because that hateful damn disease was already inside my precious little girl.
I was so sad for her, so sad for me, just so sorry about everything that for a long time I just felt sick inside and dead. I remember moving through the world in some kind of vacuum feeling nothing and feeling too much. Instead of having my new puppy with me that Christmas and being happy with her, instead all I felt was just a wish to not feel anything or think about anything because it just hurt too bad. My heart felt hollow for a long time afterward. And I remember one of the last things the vet said to me was that I should not get a new dog for at least 6 weeks because distemper is a very bad disease and it would be alive inisde my place waiting to claim any other little puppy I’d bring inside. My home was so empty just like my heart. Another little dog could not have taken HER place anyway, but knowing my home was now a dangerous place for any little puppy to be made it seem worse than ever.
I kept Bonnie’s collar for a long time, a little pastel blue piece of ribbon that went round her neck. But I finally had to get rid of it because everytime I saw it all the pain came flooding back all over again. I felt like I let her down not keeping the last part of her I had with me. I know I’ll never forget her, not ever. I called her Bonnie Blue, like the little girl from Gone with the Wind, she was my pretty little girl for a while. In my heart she’s still pretty and not like she was when she died.
And now my senator wants to say no laws are needed, that everything is fine the way it is. But he is a liar, it is not fine and there are puppies just like Bonnie crying for help and we are going to turn our backs again.
And it makes me angry and sad and hopeless inside. And it makes me ashamed of those of us “humans” that God said he gave us dominion over the animals.
What is wrong with this world, with us, that we let this keep going forever over and over to countless little dogs with all kinds of names who die way too soon.
Isn’t there somebody out there who can help me find a way to make people understand what this is all about? Why is it about nothing but money. Don’t people realize the pain? Somebody needs to find a way to do something to make the pain stop.
Lots of little dogs like Bonnie still need help but nobody wants to listen.