German Shepherd Rescue of New England, Inc.

Waiting at the Rainbow Bridge

#097 Bonnie



1996? – 7/27/2002  

It is with the heaviest of hearts and the greatest sadness that we must tell you that Bonnie has gone to the Bridge.

We all have had dogs whom we’ve loved dearly and then lost. You love some in one way, and others in other ways, each one worming his or her special way into your heart for different reasons. You love them, care for them, worry about them, enjoy their company, and eventually sadly, you bury them.

While we love them all, once in awhile you get to meet and maybe even live with a dog that is about is perfect as they come. These are dogs who somehow touch everybody who meets them, dogs who are polite, nice, friendly, charming, and disarming no matter what has happened to them previously, no matter how awful the human race has kicked them around.

These rare canine eternal optimists greet each day with quiet courage and confident enthusiasm, whether that day includes unconditional love, good food, adequate shelter, and play and companionship, or the day is only filled with the hum of biting insects or chilling frostbite while the dog is abandoned in a pen alone, forgotten outside, or allowed to suffer with a physical illness for over a year with no medical attention. These optimist dogs from these sad, unreal types of situations somehow remain giving,  trusting animals with humans, in spite of how they are treated. Who knows why.

These special dogs somehow take this neglect and hardship all in stride and don’t become withdrawn or bitter as most dogs and certainly most humans would become in like circumstances. Instead, these special dogs reflect back only the good parts of what we humans broadcast to dogs. These special dogs only reflect back love, friendship, trust, kindness, compassion. If only we could all be this way.

When these types of dogs who have been poorly treated in life move into a rescue situation where they are finally loved, fed, sheltered, receive veterinary care for their illnesses, and are valued, they are just thrilled that that day, somebody cared. These dogs don’t carry grudges. Instead, these amazing dogs give back something intangible, but wonderful to you and your family, and give of themselves to strangers too, just because that is their nature.

Bonnie was such a dog.

Bonnie, a beautiful female German Shepherd Dog, endured years of extreme neglect for the majority of her life before landing in some wonderful foster homes with GSRNE. She was suffering from a long-term, undiagnosed illness when we took her in this spring, with symptoms that could make anybody grouchy or withdrawn. But this magnificent, gentle dog just took the good from each day and seemed to ignore the bad. Despite being abandoned by humans for most of her life, she gave every human she met a chance to shine in her presence.

As we worked to diagnose and treat her illness, she patiently endured it all, magically making friends and fans in every veterinary clinic she attended, never getting upset with anybody even when her tests or procedures were not comfortable for her. To ask for more attention, she’d sometimes pick up her food dish and run around with it, endearing her to even the toughest of souls. She could even squeak a squeaky toy with dignity, which is something few dogs can really pull off well!

Bonnie just lived each day looking at things with the glass half full, even after we had to do emergency back surgery on her and she endured some complications from her illness that made her uncomfortable. She didn’t complain and never got angry at anybody, nor did she withdraw from life. All creatures, human and otherwise, seemed to sense that this dog wasn’t an ordinary creature. There was something more to this dog. Wherever she went, whatever she was doing, when around people and even other dogs, she gave, and gave, and gave of herself selflessly.

Until there just was nothing left to give.

Bonnie was recovering from her back surgery, done at Tufts Veterinary School Hospital almost 6 weeks ago. She was walking and even trotting around, and was excited to eat, go outside, and to settle in around her foster people or greet new friends she met along the way. She was healing as the vets at Tufts thought she would – it was tough surgery, and her 2nd issue, megacolon, was not easy to deal with for her, but Bonnie just didn’t let on that anything bothered her. We and her vets truly all expected  great results for Bonnie over the next 8 weeks of recuperation.

And then out of the blue recently, she bloated. Bloat, for those of you who don’t know, is a terrible illness that hits German Shepherd Dogs and some other long- or deep-bodied breeds. The stomach and intestines fill up with air that cannot escape, causing incredible pain because of the distention and pressure in the gut inside those organs, and the pressure on other organs. Sometimes the stomach flips over on itself, called “torsion,” and blood and oxygen supplies to the major organs is cut off. Extreme pain, distension, pressure, and distress results, and if there is no intervention in time, eventually, a slow death happens. Bloat is something that just  happens sometimes – nobody knows for sure why. But for an animal already compromised physically, bloat can be especially devastating.

Bonnie’s foster mom was only away from Bonnie’s side for about half an hour that evening, but bloat can hit that quickly. When her foster mom saw Bonnie’s classic symptoms occurring out of the blue around 11:15 pm that evening, she knew what was happening. And she knew that there was no time to falter or try to wait to see what happened. She and her sister and a friend got Bonnie into the car and raced to an emergency veterinary clinic. In the car, they called me at home to ask what our next steps would be. With a panicked feeling, I told them that yes, go to the emergency clinic and ask that the attending emergency vets speak to our Tufts vets after stabilizing Bonnie, so that we’d have all the information we needed. Half an hour later, the emergency clinic vets had seen Bonnie and taken xrays, and had spoken to the vets at Tufts, too.

Meanwhile, the GSRNE Board conferred quickly – the money didn’t matter, we knew that somehow, German Shepherd Dog lovers would help us with that. The
question was: What was best for Bonnie? Could she endure another major surgery, given she was already compromised physically? She was lying there in excruciating pain, suffering beyond what any creature should have to suffer. Could we ask her to go under the knife again, this time slashing open her belly, hoping her internal organs weren’t too badly damaged, forcing her body to try to heal a 2nd time while she was already compromised from previous surgery? Could she survive this? Should she have to endure this? We had to decide on options quickly while the vets conferred.

Then as the GSRNE representative, I spoke to the attending vets who looked at Bonnie. Xrays at the clinic showed that Bonnie had indeed torsioned, and needed major emergency surgery to save her life. Her prognosis was guarded, borderline at best. I had remained hopeful up until that point, but the picture did  not sound good for her.

As the vets paused to get my answer on how we wanted to proceed, I wondered once more if we could ask Bonnie to try to pull through another major surgery, plus deal with her current surgical healing issues with those complications as well,  when the odds were strong that she’d suffer through the surgery and the post-op  period, before slipping away slowly. Her body just seemed to be telling us that she  couldn’t do it anymore – she just had nothing left to give. She had selflessly given herself away.

A life filled with physical neglect and ignored physical ailments had taken its toll on her body, and while we and many veterinarians and techs and friends had tried everything to save this extraordinary dog, I knew what the answer had to be.

I felt hot tears burning my eyes and making little trails down my face as I made the call: we would let her go. Bonnie would suffer no more. Around 11:45 pm, Bonnie’s brave foster mom cradled Bonnie’s anguished, exhausted face, told her how so many people loved her, kissed her, and the vet let Bonnie drift off to a painless, permanent sleep. One final sigh proved that Bonnie had escaped her worldly pain. No matter how awful most of her life had been, at least she left this world while surrounded by people who cared deeply about her, who had been touched by her special nature. She left us knowing she was loved.

Bonnie was a dignitary among German Shepherd Dogs, and among dogs in
general. I think everybody who met her, felt that – it was as if she had a life force that attracted everybody, calmed people. Every single person who met her from the time we first heard about her, fell in love with her. How anybody ignored her aura for the first 6 years of her life is beyond me. She caused more smiles and good feelings than any animal I know. If there are angel wings for dogs, Bonnie is wearing one of the most beautiful pair now.

GSRNE volunteers and friends went to extraordinary lengths to help Bonnie – her foster parents, her many vets, her vet techs and vet hospital caretakers, the fabulous people who donated so generously to her cause because somehow they, too, knew she was special, the people who emailed and inquired about her condition from time to time, worrying about her, and the people who asked about adopting her. Everybody recognized that there was something different about this dog that needed to be cherished.

But now she’s gone. If GSRNE people and friends gave one thing to Bonnie, the dog who gave to everybody else, it was the feeling that she was loved and wanted and admired, every day she was with our foster homes or with other GSRNE people. As she always should have been. It’s important that finally in her life, a group of people gave something positive back to her, reflected back what humanity can be, instead of what it had been.

Bonnie was a creature like few people will ever meet again – she was as perfect as they come. Bless you all for offering all the help you could for her.

The world will miss her.

-Janice Ritter


Please see page two for more about Bonnie’s history