Bonnie, the Golden Retriever who couldn’t retrieve

“Come here Bon-Bons! There’s a good girl. What you doing eh?! Silly poppet”.

Bonnie was our family dog, who joined us in September 2006. She died peacefully on my brother’s lap in November 2019. She was an incredible dog.

She was born on 1st July 2006, which for a completely different reason, was quite a memorable day for me and my family. For it was the day that England played Portugal in the World Cup quarter finals in Germany. It ended in a 0-0 draw, but Portugal went through on penalties. Bonnie was born on this day in a litter of two, which was interesting, because that’s more than the number of goals England scored that day. After endless begging and nagging by myself and my brothers, mum and dad eventually decided to start looking for a puppy. We had many discussions around the dinner table as to which breed we would go for. We had considered a Rhodesian Ridgeback, but this would have proved difficult given how powerful these Lion hunters were, and that my younger brother was only 9 at the time. There were few, if any Labrador and Retriever breeders or litters in the area. However, in August, we had seen an online ad for two – one month old Golden Retriever puppies local to our area. We paid them a visit, and this was when we first met Sassie.

As we entered the lounge, there she was, stood up on her hind feet leaning forward against the makeshift enclosure. Her little tail wagging back and forth, cooing at the sight of new visitors. She was a pale cream in colour, her eyes dark black and her coat looked like velvet. She was next to her equally gorgeous brother, Ted. We stayed for an hour or so, playing with the two siblings. I vividly remember when my dad had Sassie in his lap, and she climbed up his chest to lick his face. I could tell he was smitten with her. On the car journey home, it had already been decided – we were getting Sassie. It’s just that were was one catch – we didn’t particularly like the name Sassie. Her mother was called Cassie, which was a lovely name, but Sassie just didn’t ring true as the name of the dog that was coming into our life. Bonnie was one of the names we had brainstormed en route to our second visit to the house. It wasn’t too dissimilar to Sassie, and felt a lot more friendly as a name. After some deliberation, Bonnie was our final favourite. Who came up with the name has been a hot topic of contention between me and my brothers, but I somehow think it was I who suggested it first.

She moved to our family home in September, when she was still very small, but had enough energy to run around the garden ten times over before she got tired. Naturally, training her was a difficult period, and took a lot of perseverance. Behind closed doors, she was incredibly well behaved. She would always listen to your words in the hope of receiving a treat, and in the garden she loved playing tig. There was just one thing that she would never do, and that was the job that was in her DNA – to retrieve. In the rare event where she managed to hold the ball, stick or toy in her mouth after we threw it, bringing it back was too much to ask. She knew how to heel, but coming back with said item was not in her skill set. Regardless of this, we weren’t hunters and didn’t shoot pheasants or ducks for fun, so Bonnie was free to continue being goofy and dyspraxic until her heart was content.

She had a good life. She was loved and gave love to us as much as she possibly could. At times she was a pain to take on dog walks. She went through phases of misbehaving and wandering off, where she’d get lost and have to be rescued by strangers. She had a very good memory though. She knew her walking routes like the back of her paw, and occasionally managed to wander home all by herself after getting lost, despite petrifying and infuriating us at the same time. She loved her food, and would do anything to get a treat. She’d regularly approach fellow dog-walkers when off the leash, sit in front of them with her paw raised, begging for treats. One thing she couldn’t get enough of was belly rubs. Bonnie wasn’t the type of dog who would roll on to her back, rather she’d lie on her side and raise her hind leg in the air, inviting you to rub her belly. She was incredibly soft, not just in touch, but in personality. She would never be aggressive with other people, and would only ever growl if she felt threatened by other dogs. Even as a puppy, she wouldn’t bite or nip – it just wasn’t in her nature. This is why we loved her so much.

She was more than just a pet. She was a member of our family. To me personally, she was also a form of therapy. Whenever I have had to come home in the past due to illness, she’d be there for me, and gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I would feed her breakfast, I’d let her out of the house when she needed to go to the toilet, and I’d take her for walks. This allowed me to get out of the house, to walk to the park and breathe in the fresh air. It was therapeutic. At times, if it hadn’t been for Bonnie, I would have struggled to recover.

I love my job. It involves caring for humans. It also involves stopping humans from becoming very sick, and can involve saving lives. However, I had always wanted to be a vet as a child. I loved animals in general, and adored dogs of any kind. I had explored the prospects of veterinary medicine and surgery as a teenager, but it soon became a pipe dream when I realised that, in fact, putting down sick animals was not something I wanted to do on a regular basis. I have so much respect for those who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. I have even more respect for the vet who put Bonnie to sleep. It was the right thing to do. My parents told me she was comfortable and at peace. It was the right time as well.

Bonnie will be sorely missed and will not be forgotten. She was a kind, soft and peaceful dog who gave joy to our family and friends. She was a means to recovery when I got sick, and was a companion at the darkest of times with her light fur coat.

Published by Jimmy Pete

I work as a qualified doctor in Wales. I also live with Bipolar Affective Disorder. I love rugby, long walks and drinking coffee! I have a very loving and caring group of friends and family that look out for me in times of need. They have allowed me to progress to a point in my life where I am confident enough to talk about my mental health, which I hope in turn, allows others to open up about their issues.

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