LIVING TREES RESEARCH
BONNIE THE SCOT

She was short, stocky and had a gentle nature. Her hair was coarse, jet black and not really conducive to lots of pats, but she was so adorable you just couldn't help yourself. We called her Bonnie because that's what she was, a bonnie girl - Scottish all the way through. Although independent and now and then aloof, she was free with her kisses and affection and always wanted to be with someone, anyone. She had decided as just a very young girl that because she loved everyone and everything, it should only follow that everyone and everything would love her. She should have been right, of course.

Our family had recently moved from the wonderful country town of my growing up years. I loved Echuca. It's a real Australian town (almost city now), filled with all the delights of the bush, mingled with wonderful wide streets and the best cake shops in the world. It was a hard move for me - I left behind not only familiar sites and my home, but friends of a whole lifetime. After all I was five years old now and five year olds have priorities!

My parents were aware of my lonely situation and my grandpa in particular filled in lots of holes in my day. His dogs, Spot and Red were fun and good company when Grandpa was home. When he wasn't then I was on my own. Thank goodness for Cocky and Kitty and new places to explore. Besides we had moved in behind my grandparents and they lived near the Essendon Airport - aeroplanes came and went with a fair regularity and they were incredible to watch and to hear. I had a new little sister, she was fun and cuddly and tried to be patient with my constant ministrations. I wasn't allowed to take her for walks in my pram however, so Cocky had to continue to satisfy my needs that way. Kitty substituted from time to time, but she was not quite so easy to catch when she saw the pram come out of the house. She knew.

Bonnie came into our lives quite suddenly. One day, my father asked with a twinkle in his eye, if I would like a puppy. Of course I said yes. And he produced Bonnie the Scot. She was adorable - her big eyes and perky ears always taking in everything around her. She was a pedigreed Scottish Terrier and she held her head high, as if knowing she came from somewhere special. All that didn't matter to me - she was a puppy, friendly, fun and ready to play. We enjoyed hours together every day. Spot tolerated her and mostly avoided her, Red romped and rolled with her and they formed a lasting friendship. As I mentioned, Bonnie was ready to love and accept everyone and everything. Most of her conquests responded in like manner.

I suppose my parents had really purchased Bonnie with a view to raising and selling the popular Scotties. I decided they had brought her home to be a new companion for me. The yard was fenced and we rarely took the dogs out of the yard. Sometimes grandpa would take Spot in the car when he went visiting, in fact Spot actually saved his life once - but that's another story. Usually, however, the dogs and I spent our days together in the front or back yards. It was a good thing too, for in those days of open paddocks and few homes, large packs of dogs would roam the area. They were someone's pets, and individually often gentle and friendly, however together they became a hunting, vicious pack of attack dogs and quite dangerous for human and animal. Several had to be shot when caught attacking sheep. One pack actually attacked a horse in a nearby field and did considerable damage before the owner came out and began shooting at the dogs. My parents often cautioned and forbad me to leave the yard, in case the dog packs were wandering around. I was happy to comply, the packs frightened me considerably.

Bonnie was a clown. She could mimic almost as well as Cocky. She learned to bark (sing) "Jingle Bells" with perfect cadence. She would say "please" (one bark) and "thank-you" (two barks). There wasn't a trick she couldn't perform without perfection and ease. She even baled Cocky up a time or two and no-one had been able to do that before! I believe in Cocky's way, he respected and liked her, although to hear him talk, one had to wonder. One of her best performances was skipping rope. I would get my skipping rope out and begin to jump. Bonnie would come up to me and after sizing up the situation, jump in front of me and skip right along. She never missed a beat, and seemed to look at me with the utmost compassion and patience when I would trip on the rope. "Poor human" she was probably thinking. When I would come home from school and sit on the back step in the sun reading or doing my sums, she would come and sit by me and look over my arm as if she were listening to every word I read or actually reading along. When I got out my arithmetic Bonnie would whine and slump down as if she too, shared my feelings of dislike for the subject. Could she read? How did she know it was arithmetic instead of reading? Did my body language give her a signal? Guess we'll never know and I know that it wasn't something I contemplated much back then. I just enjoyed her companionship and love.

When Bonnie was about 2 years old it was decided that she should earn her keep and so was bred to another Scottie. We were so excited to have those puppies! Bonnie got round and fat and began finding little areas in the yard where she would go round and round, making the earth smooth and comfy. Although to a seven year old, it seemed a long time, it really was quite fast and we had eight little fluffy balls of fur squirming and wiggling in a large cardboard box that Bonnie had commandeered as her home. The puppies were so much fun and Bonnie was an excellent mother. She would give a pretty convincing growl and show a few teeth if anyone came too close to her babies. Yet, she would let my father and I pick them up and snuggle them. One day the kitty came a bit too close to the nursery and Bonnie flew out of her box and scared that poor cat almost to death! She chased her up the nearest fruit tree and with a "hmmphff" and shake of her head hurried back to her pups. I remember the kitty staying up that tree for a number of hours before she was brave enough to come down. I'm certain she meant no harm, just curious, but Bonnie took no chances and brooked no nonense. Disdainful Spot even felt of her wrath a time or two before he decided he would be better off on the other side of the yard. Bonnie was more gentle with her friend Red and even let him peek into the box once or twice. However, the look on her face obviously warned him that his visit was to be short and sweet. He complied.

When the puppies had just opened their eyes and began taking on their individual personalities, tragedy struck our happy home. Someone left the front gate open. We still don't know to this day if a passer-by opened it as a lark, if a visitor didn't latch it tightly or if one of the dogs, jumping against it, loosened the catch. Whatever the cause, it spelled horror for us. A dog pack came into the next field, and Bonnie being the excellent protector and mother of her babies began to snarl and bark and frantically run back and forth in front of her precious box. The dogs, hearing her barks and cries, came running into our yard. My grandmother and I raced outside, she grabbed her straw broom and I a large stick and we began yelling and banging the ground ahead of us. We tried hitting the dogs, only to be surrounded by a ferocious, snarling pack. Red and Spot did their best to drive the savage dogs away. Our cries for help and the noise of the dogs alerted my grandfather, and he came tearing outside grabbing a shovel on his way. A neighbour fairly close by also came running and together we pounded, yelled, hit and shooed at those crazed-driven dogs. I was terrified and when it was over and the pack had dispersed and disappeared into the surrounding fields, I sat on the ground and cried and cried, shaking like a leaf. Bonnie came over and licked my face and hands, whimpering and crying herself. We gathered ourselves together and checked the cardboard box, the puppies were all fine and accounted for, but Bonnie was limping.

She had been badly mauled along one leg and shoulder by the pack while she protected her pups. We cleaned the wound and applied some ointment. When my father came home from work that evening, he again cleaned her wounds and inspected her closely. He discovered she had been injured more than we realised and making her as comfortable as he could, made plans to take her to the vet the next day. How could we know that the tragedy had not yet been played out fully?

I heard my father talking to my mother the next morning in concerned tones. He could not find Bonnie, the pups were cold and hungry - it was obvious she had been gone for some time. My mother and I brought the pups onto the back porch and fed them warmed milk with a baby bottle. They were ravenous - how long had Bonnie been gone we wondered. Then we began the sad search for our beautiful Bonnie the Scot. We found some blood on the ground and followed the trail to the front gate. It was closed and latched, but scratched and broken in a couple of places. From the patches of blood on the gate, it was clear to us that Bonnie had been dragged over it. How could we not have heard her barking? Was she grabbed while at the gate protecting her territory? We searched for several hours without success. The pups had to be fed often and so it became my job to see to it. Bonnie did not come home that night. After the pups were fed next morning I began another search on my own. I walked all the way to the creek, a long way from our home. I called until I was hoarse, and I cried for the fate of my sweet dog and friend. Along the creek bank I found several indications that some kind of fight had occurred. There were large tufts of dog hair and dug up ground with claw marks. I called and searched through the long grasses, aware I was in danger of being bitten by snakes, but I didn't care, I had to find my Bonnie. After a long time, I turned to go home. Something sparkled in the grass right by the creek, I ran over and there lying half in and half out of the water was Bonnie's collar. It had been broken at the buckle. I sat in the grass and cried. I cried for my dog, for her babies and for the loss I felt.

I took the broken collar home and showed it to my grandparents and mother. I could tell by their faces that I would not see my sweet Bonnie again. When Dad came home he was furious, first at me for taking so many foolish chances - searching alone, going near the creek, looking through long grass. Secondly, he was furious at dog owners who allowed their dogs to roam and turn savage, and thirdly he was most furious at the frustration and sadness he felt at the loss of our Scottie. He went down to the creek area and searched more thoroughly than I could have, but Bonnie was never found.

Although we never did find our pretty girl, nor discover her exact fate, we did have her puppies. All eight thrived on the attention and constant feeding we lavished upon them. We discussed keeping one of them, but they reminded us so much of Bonnie, we simply couldn't do it. They grew and turned into miniatures of their mother, in every way. Gentle, friendly and so much fun. Even Spot, obviously sensitive to what had happened and knowing their mother was gone, took over the protector position and was often found nudging and prodding a wayward pup back into its home. Once we even found him curled up with eight little black bodies lying in various positions on and around him. He really wasn't such an old grump at all! Red took on the job of surrogate mother by cleaning and loving the babies the way Bonnie would have. In fact, a couple of times there were altercations between Spot and Red as to who would do what with them! Eight Bonnies. Eight Scotties. They were a wonderful reminder to us of not only their mother, who would always be in our memories, but of the goodness of nature. In protecting her babies Bonnie gave her life. Nature gave us eight reminders of a good dog. A very good dog. Bonnie the Scot.

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