A true fairy 'tail'
Interview by Michelle Zimmerman
Photo courtesy of @rescue.dog.charlie
Photo courtesy of Sarah McCutcheon
I caught up with first time adopter, Sarah McCutcheon to talk all things Bonnie! Bonnie was rescued off the streets in De Soto, Texas by Hearts & Bones Rescue, and made her way to Toronto by way of New York City, via the Toronto Humane Society. She is a Shephard mix and is approximately 2.5 years old. A few of Sarah’s favourite things about Bonnie include her loving and intelligent nature and her daily dose of zoomies!
Why did you decide to adopt a dog over going through a breeder or from a pet store?
I was in a phase in my life where I was finally able to seriously consider getting a dog; however I hadn’t fully decided whether I’d adopt or go through a breeder. I had yet to start an active search, but I genuinely feel that Bonnie and I finding one another was fate meeting opportunity.
On a day off, I decided to drop by the Toronto Humane Society to visit the dogs; not with the intention to search, merely to visit and to get a dose of canine cuteness. And then I saw Bonnie. I had to meet her, and I couldn’t just walk away. As their process appropriately delineates, I needed to be interviewed prior to our meeting. I was asked pointed and necessary questions about my fitness to be a dog mom and it made things real. This was a huge responsibility to not take lightly. Bonnie had been put on hold for another potential adopter, and had just been taken off only minutes before. We were brought together, and I knew that if I was ever to get a dog, Bonnie was the one. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What sort of characteristics were you looking for in a dog prior to adopting?
I hadn’t clearly defined specific characteristics of what I was looking for, before having met Bonnie. Meeting her and being so smitten was a surprise and remarkably, she seemed to check all the boxes! Generally however, I was looking for a dog who would complement and enrich my life. I wanted a smart, loving, medium size, female dog who was young and still ‘impressionable.’ Ideally, I was also looking for an active dog who would enjoy the outdoors, time at my cottage, and would play well with others (kids, other dogs, and adults).
What has the journey been like?
Bonnie has enriched my life FULLY and in ways I never imagined. When contemplating getting a dog, family and friends correctly warned, “You’ll have to head straight home after work everyday. They’re a LOT of work.” I saw these as ‘cons’ to being a dog owner. But, my experience has been the opposite. I genuinely get excited at the end of my work day to go home to her; to be greeted in such a way that makes my heart explode, and to know I am responsible for her well-being. The platitudes of their ‘unconditional love’ and ‘being your best friend’ have proven true for me and Bonnie. To be her ‘person’ is indescribable in the most fulfilling ways.
Is adopting a dog what you expected? And what advice do you have for people who are thinking of adopting?
Make no mistake, a rescue IS A LOT of work! Having grown up with family dogs, I felt I was an experienced dog parent.
I was naive to the unique needs of a rescue and also, to the responsibilities of having a dog on my own. Bonnie was 1 year and 3 months when I got her and she had “the basics” down. She was house broken and tolerated her crate without incident. She’s exceptionally smart and easily trainable, with the investment of time and technique. Nevertheless, she came with some behaviours that weren’t evident, initially. She was an anxious girl, which I suspect is common among rescues. Group training classes were not constructive for her - or the other attendees. She also demonstrated significant ‘leash reactivity’ when overly excited and given that she’s a big girl (65 lbs) and I am not, that was an unexpected challenge. Expecting to have a running partner, I realize this was not in her (or my) best interest. She’s also demonstrated some resource guarding over high-value items that demanded attention.
In all these areas, we’ve worked hard with experienced, price trainers and handlers and continue with their lessons on our own. It’s been a big investment in both time and money, but one that has provided us with the tools for her to grow, to be her best and for me to reap the rewards of having an incredible dog. I look back to old videos of Bonnie when she was new to me, and now see her insecurities and ‘tells’ to which I was naive. My heart hurts thinking about what her experiences must’ve been in her first year, and I feel so fortunate to have learned how to offer her the safety and love she deserves.
How have you changed as a person since getting Bonnie?
Bonnie has injected an element of unconditional love and joy into my life. During difficult times, her presence provides immense comfort and reassurance. During periods of joy, she’s there to join in the celebration. Over time, Bonnie has become exceptionally perceptive to my feelings/experiences and amplifies life’s meaning.
To be clear, this has taken time. There were periods of immense stress and anxiety. A rescue is WORK (and expense!) and requires commitment that, inevitably, will be exhausting. We’ve weathered many sleepless nights while finding our ‘rhythm,’ - nights spent mainly outdoors because of tummy troubles, midnight visits to emergency clinics, complaining neighbours because of a new family member with a history of upheaval, finding her place in familiar surroundings, stressful situations due to resource guarding… It’s an intense ride! Bonnie being so special to me is scary! I worry about her when she’s not with me! If she’s unwell, anxious, etc. I carry and take responsibility for her condition. I don’t have children, but suspect the intensity of emotions may be similar.
Close friends and family have commented on how happy and grounded I am since getting Bonnie. I wholeheartedly agree. It’s been an experience I wouldn’t change for the world.
These stories tell us how much a dog, more specifically a rescue dog, can change our lives. They will never be able to tell us what they’ve been through before landing their furever homes, but these dogs are always so willing to move on and open themselves up to loving new people, and we can learn a whole lot from them.
Photo courtesy of Sarah McCutcheon