Wee Bonnie Lass”
by Chad Thorne
first thing you need to know is that on August 7, 1997,
I lost my beloved Border Collie companion, Teddi, when
she was struck by a car. In the weeks that followed,
my grief, I knew I would get another dog. When I was asked “What
sort of dog do you think you want?” I answered, “Well,
a Border Collie, for sure. I like the females for some reason,
but maybe a bit older, a year or so [I had raised Teddi from
a pup]. I don’t have time to housetrain and I’d
like to avoid the cost of spaying.”
I looked. I searched. I checked newspaper ads and the
bulletin board at Pet Quarters. I asked around. I went
to the local animal shelter near where I lived (in Portland,
Maine) and got such a snooty reception I stalked out. Finally
I asked my dad, who was the Animal Control Officer in town
if he’d go with me to the shelter he worked out of,
in Augusta, Maine. Of course, he said. So off we went.
we stepped in the door of the shelter that Saturday morning,
September 6, 1997, I saw a couple just handing over a lead,
attached to a Border Collie, to the shelter attendant.
It looked to me as if they had taken a look at the dog
not to adopt her. “Wait!,” I yelled. “Don’t – Bring
that – let me see…“ To no avail; the
attendant took the Border Collie back to the cages.
After checking in at the counter I went out back, following
Dad who was already out there. In a minute or two I found
the Border Collie. When I took her out to look her over she
licked my hands, put her front paws on my arms, and generally
looked to ingratiate herself with me. It worked like a charm.
She growled at Dad, and shied away from everybody else, but
me she appeared to like. It was mutual. This dog was going
home with me.
She was a female, a year and a half old, housetrained and
spayed. It was as if I had called the shelter ahead and placed
my order! Remarkably, the people I had seen turning the Border
Collie over were not prospective owners, but her former owners.
Bonnie never spent more than a half hour in a cage at the
many days I became convinced that Bonnie had been abused
in her former home. She was timid and jumpy. (To this
day she doesn’t like angry voices and will flee a room
where people are arguing.) The first time I went to rinse
her muddy paws off with the hose she went nuts, thrashing,
trying to get away, biting my arms. It seemed clear she thought
she was going to be beaten. And whenever I tried to call
her, she’d run away. Not too far, but definitely out
of hitting range. I was glad I had turned down the shelter’s
offer for the former owner’s name and phone number.
of work followed, lots of trying to ease Bonnie’s
fear and gain her trust. In Portland we were near the beach
and I’d take Bonnie down there to run. Nothing I did
would convince her to come when I called. I’d have
to run her down to retrieve her. But to make a long story
short, the first time Bonnie, way down the beach, raised
her head, looked back, and came running when I called, was
August 7, 1998 – a year to the day from the day Teddi
died. It was only one of many special little gifts Bonnie
was to give me over the years.
we live in East Pittston, Maine, a little town of 2,000
souls, my home town. Now I’m the Animal Control Officer,
following in my late Dad’s footsteps. Bonnie, who has
finally learned not only to come when called but to “stay
the hell out of the damn road” when so instructed,
goes with me just about everywhere. She’s often invaluable
in coaxing in or calming a stray dog who otherwise might
not be all that keen on going for a ride with me.
for that, Bonnie is not a "working dog",
i.e., we don't herd sheep, which is the Border Collie’s
traditional role.. (We do have neighbors who have sheep and
will let us chase them around - what we lack in expertise
we make up for in enthusiasm - but that's not the same thing.)
One could describe Bonnie, even kindly, as a "biscuit
eater" and not be far wrong.
I was thinking about this as Bonnie and I took our routine
3-mile hike through the woods recently. I thought about how
nobody comes in my dooryard without my knowing it, as she
lets loose her ferocious roar. I thought about how Bonnie
stands by the door at night, hackles raised, growling low
in her throat, listening to the coyotes howl out back, and
ready to go out and do battle with these upstart canines
who dare to threaten her home and people.
In March 2002 I was diagnosed with diabetes. That spring
and summer Bonnie and I walked every day and knocked 50 lb.
off me (and a couple off her). I went from possibly needing
insulin shots to not even needing pills because our daily
exercise and my weight loss drove my blood glucose levels
January of 2003 I had a major heart attack while hiking
in deep snow with Bonnie. I got to the house, drove myself
to the hospital, and walked in under my own power. Later
I jokingly said to my cardiologist, "Damn dog. If I
hadn't had to walk her I wouldn't have had a heart attack." He
asked, "Do you walk her often?" I replied "Every
day, 45 minutes to an hour." He smiled and said, "Well,
the fact is that except for the arterial blockages your
heart is very strong. Your little dog probably saved your
The day I got out of the hospital after having the heart
attack my wife told me she wanted a divorce. I subsequently
learned that she had been meeting, and having assignations
with, various and sundry men on the Internet. In the weeks
that followed those discoveries Bonnie stuck close to me,
often gazing into my eyes with concern and love. Sometimes
she licked the tears off my face.
went to Texas with me in June 2003, and I've never had
a better companion riding shotgun. In September 2003
I ultimately needed bypass surgery. Afterward I had several
small incisions on my leg where doctors had "harvested" veins
to use in the bypass. One incision in particular just wouldn't
heal for months - until one night when Bonnie started to
clean it, and for some reason I let her. That incision closed
and started to heal from that day and I never had another
problem with it. Though it might seem a little gross to some,
I don't doubt the healing power of "mama dog spit" now.
Now every night Bonnie waits obediently for the invitation
- that always comes - for her to hop up on my bed. It's a
great comfort to me to feel her warm little body curled up
next to me and I sleep better for it.
Bonnie isn't a "working dog", but she is the
way she is because she's a Border Collie. I don't know
what I'd do without her, my constant companion, my truest
And I think that even without sheep she still lives up
the noblest purposes of her breed.
Chad Thorne. Used by permission.
* Because of my experience with Bonnie I have had the opportunity
to work with other abused dogs and to learn about their
needs. Many (though no all) can be rehabilitated. I would
be happy to share any help I can at no charge; contact
me at email@example.com.