(Bonnie’s story is not about the most pleasant subject, but if you are uncomfortable reading about it, imagine how poor Bonnie must have felt living it.)
We want to tell you about a dog who is sweet and loving with people, great with other dogs, and who is a lady in so many ways: her name is Bonnie!
Bonnie is a lovely adult female GSD – most people would melt to meet this dog, even if they are afraid of GSDs. She’s that sweet and gentle!
We want to tell you Bonnie’s special story, because she needs your help, and she needs it now.
Bonnie was raised by a person who left her in an outside pen, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. She was alone out there in that pen with only crickets and black flies for friends in the summer, and piles of snow and frostbite on her ears in the winter. She never enjoying sleeping at her owner’s feet, or feeling the gentle hands of the person she loved caressing her ears, or scratching those itchy spots we all get sometimes. She never had the joy of sleeping next to her family, or the optimism of mooching table scraps at dinnertime. She interacted with few people overall for most of her life. And yet – Bonnie was and remained a friendly, loving dog. Her temperament was like gold!
After Bonnie spent 5 years living that way, her owner died, she was taken to a shelter, and GSRNE took her in. We helped her find another home that seemed quite good. Initial reports we heard back on her sounded great. Until we were called the following year about her. The owners called and said that they felt that they couldn’t afford Bonnie’s veterinary expenses. It turned out that she’d been having diarrhea *for over a year*, but she’d received little actual veterinary care for this. Can you imagine how that would make you feel, to have an illness like that for a year? Yet Bonnie didn’t complain and remained the nice dog she is. The owners felt that they loved Bonnie, but that they just couldn’t afford any medical care for her.
Of course, GSRNE took Bonnie right back. We immediately learned that she was loaded with whip worms. We treated this immediately, and the horrible explosive diarrhea stopped after a few days. But after 10 days, it started up again. Another curious symptom was that Bonnie also seemed to feel she had to defecate a lot and strained a lot when outside, but she wasn’t producing anything for all the straining. Something was obviously still quite wrong.
Our vets ran all sorts of tests on her but were not able to come up with anything concrete. After a couple of weeks of time spent at the veterinary hospital, we sent Bonnie to foster care and she saw another vet in that area, but still nobody knew for sure what was wrong. Food allergy? Worms, still? Stress? Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Something else? We continued testing for different ailments, tried changing her food, but nothing helped and her condition continued to worsen. We were baffled and the vets were baffled.
So GSRNE voted to take Bonnie to Tufts Veterinary School Animal Hospital in Grafton, MA, for diagnosis, even though we knew we’d be running into major expenses then. Once we got her there, the vets at Tufts did some more tests and more exams, but this time the exams were by specialists. And that is where they started to suspect what the problem was.
They suspected something called “Cauda Equina Syndrome,” and it’s something that German Shepherd Dogs are susceptible to as they age. It involves a narrowing of the spinal column around the spinal nerves due to changes in the tissue or bone in the spinal column. The symptoms depend on which nerves in the spine are being pressed on by these tissue changes. The dog can experience terrible pain if nerves are pressed one way, or certain parts of the body just don’t seem to work anymore if nerves are pinched in other ways. To verify this diagnosis, the Tufts vets asked GSRNE to allow them to do an MRI on Bonnie’s back to be sure of the diagnosis and to pinpoint where the problem in the spine was so they could try to fix it.
By now, GSRNE had spent around $800-900 on initial care, plus another $1000 on the dog’s veterinary bills at Tufts alone for tests, exams, and hospitalization. An MRI would cost around an additional $1200 and of course, wouldn’t fix anything yet. These bills were mounting into astounding amounts of money for a rescue group to pay for one dog… but Bonnie was so sweet, so courageous, and was being SO good through all of these procedures, we wanted to give her a chance. GSRNE authorized the MRI to be done.
The MRI clearly confirmed the diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome – she had a major problem with disk tissue that was pressing on a set of nerves so hard along her spine, that the nerve had slowly just stopped functioning. The major nerves in trouble were the ones controlling Bonnie’s colon/intestinal functions, so that over time, she just couldn’t “go” by herself anymore but would feel like “going” a lot. All of a sudden, her symptoms all made sense with this diagnosis, and as we considered how awful this made her feel, and yet she maintained her sweetness the entire time, the more in awe of her we became. What a dog she is!
At least finally getting a clear diagnosis was wonderful! But the vets said that the only way to repair Bonnie’s problems was to do back surgery to remove the problem tissue so the nerves weren’t pressed on anymore. The estimated cost was an additional $1400 if there were no complications. Estimates were set at an 80-90% chance of full recovery for Bonnie.
The GSRNE Board had to discuss this carefully. We had to consider realistic choices, and had to do it soon. Should we spend huge additional funds on just Bonnie and hope to raise MUCH more in funds to pay for her costs, so that we would still be able to help the other GSDs coming into rescue later this year? OR would we have to sadly put Bonnie to sleep for costing too much to fix, and leave the funds we had left to pay for the needs of other GSDs with less severe health issues? This was a painful discussion to have, as everybody knew Bonnie and wanted to help her, but we did need to remain fiscally responsible, too. Could we find the funds to do this somewhere, somehow?
In the end, because Bonnie is SUCH a nice female GSD, so gentle and sweet, we wanted very, very much to help her. She’s truly had a crummy, crummy life her entire life, and yet is STILL incredibly sweet! Why couldn’t something go positively for her for a change? So when the Tufts vets asked us the final time if we were willing to do the back surgery, we said “For Bonnie? Yes!!!” And we resolved to start running additional fund-raisers so that we could save this incredible dog with the perfect temperament from an early death, and so that we could continue rescuing and helping other deserving GSDs this year, too.
Therefore, Bonnie recently had her back surgery and it was considered to be very successful! She had some mild complications, so we ran over the estimated veterinary costs, and ventured into a final bill of around $4200 just at Tufts. But she’s recovered from those issues well so far, and is now on the road to recovery!
She can walk again and is now back in her foster home for her 4-6 weeks of surgical recovery!
Bonnie should start having colonic functions on her own anywhere between 4 weeks and 6 months, with an average time for this to happen being 2-3 months. However, much to everybody’s surprise, it seems that she’s already gotten partial feeling and function there after only 2 weeks, much to her foster home’s and GSRNE’s happiness!!! Hopefully this is a portend of future quick healing and full recovery for this wonderful, courageous dog!
But the help that Bonnie needs is far from over. Our final bill at Tufts for Bonnie’s care, with our rescue group discount, came to approx. $3650, plus our vet bills at the other 2 veterinary clinics, which was around another $1000 total. GSRNE spent approx. $4500+ on Bonnie’s care, because she’s a fabulous dog who deserves a shot at a better life. She’ll need some post-op care once a week for awhile, so that total will grow a little more still, as well. When she’s recovered, and we have good reason to feel she will, she’ll be placed up for adoption again,this time to a special home who will snuggle her, and love her for being the stellar dogs she is.
So now, GSRNE needs to complete paying these bills for Bonnie’s back surgery and care. We took a gamble, hoping that we could raise the necessary funds for Bonnie’s operation so that we can pay her bills and ensure that other GSDs coming into rescue this year will receive the care they need. GSRNE always tries to give these golden-temperament dogs whatever care they need – finding a great dog in any breed is a gift! Being able to say “yes” to veterinarians who can help these dogs is another gift!
Would you help us help Bonnie and others liker her this year?
If you would like to help Bonnie, tax-deductible donations can be made in Bonnie’s name. Make your check out to GSRNE and send them to:
P.O. Box 299
Wayland, MA 01778
Donations over $250 will receive a receipt for your tax records. You can use your cancelled check for regular donations under $250. We thank you, and Bonnie thanks you for caring!
We want to thank Tufts Veterinary School Hospital for providing GSRNE with a discount on veterinary expenses for Bonnie – we are incredibly grateful for their discount of $600. We are also very grateful to Dr. Labato, to Bonnie’s neurologist and surgeon, and to the team of veterinary students and vet techs for their help with Bonnie’s care. We especially want to thank vet student Leslie W. for her special care of Bonnie during Bonnie’s stay at Tufts. We’d also like to thank the people who worked with us at Tufts so kindly at the front desk, on the phone, and behind the scenes for Bonnie as well! The Tufts team is something to behold!
We’d also like to thank GSRNE members Jack and Lianne H., Bonnie’s foster parents, for fostering Bonnie even though caring for her pre-op was emotionally difficult, and caring for her post-op too. Without a foster home to care for her post-op, Bonnie couldn’t have had the surgery and wouldn’t have made it! Jack and Lianne are true GSD people, though, and it shows. Finally, special thanks go to GSRNE member Donna J. who drove a long, long way to photograph Bonnie for us all.
Thank you all very much for caring so much about Bonnie.