I think the most appropriate first proper catch up post is a sad but celebratory one.
In late August, we said goodbye to the fifth member of the Wondering Wanderers team – Bonnie the dog.
Bonnie joined our family at a pivotal moment in our story – we collected her as a tiny 12 week old puppy the day before we moved to Rum.
This was remarkable for two reasons;
* It went against the advice of various people – we were arriving on a remote Scottish island which we had previously only stepped foot on twice before, in a small 4×4 towing a horse box with a static caravan due to arrive 48 hours after us. We had no idea where we would site the caravan and it was going to be on a bare field with limited vehicular access. We had two young children and a hamster. A new puppy when we had never owned a dog before was adding further to the blend.
* About that never having owned a dog before…. a big part of the reason for that was that I was hugely dog phobic and had been since early childhood. I had worked hard to overcome my phobia during our year of WWOOFing but if you had asked me just a couple of years prior whether I would willingly ever share my home with a dog I would have laughed in your face.
But hey, when did we ever do anything the easy / conventional / advised way?
I had done a bit of research on the right dog breed and decided a border collie puppy would be perfect for us, our family and our specific circumstances.
*A puppy because it would mean we were teaching a young dog in our ways and it would be small – and therefore unscary enough – for me to not feel scared of it.
* Border collies are one of the most intelligent breeds of dog, easily trained, requiring plenty of stimulation, high energy and good around other animals. This felt like the perfect fit for two young energetic children and a croft full of other creatures.
* An excellent focus for the uncertain times we were about to embark upon. Bonnie offered a distraction / small responsibility for Davies and Scarlett to spend time on while Ady and I dealt with the more tedious details of setting up a new life from scratch.
So we found a breeder, with available puppies, local to the path to Rum and arranged to meet the two available puppies in the litter – a dog and a bitch. The dog was bolder, friendlier and more robust. The bitch was more nervous and reticent and therefore the unobvious to most / obvious to us choice. We drove away from the breeder with a tiny bundle of puppy on my lap. We initially had intended to call her Wanda (to fit with our Wondering Wanderers ‘brand’) but it didn’t suit her. She slept for a bit on my lap, then woke up and was sick all over me. Davies suggested ‘Bonnie – you know, like Bonnie Scotland’ – it was perfect.
And so was she.
From the outset and for her whole life Bonnie gave the four of us precisely and exactly what we needed from her.
For Ady she was his daily companion, running up and the croft as he fed the animals, offering unconditional love, warm welcomes every time he came home.
For Davies Bonnie was a great responder to his authority and assertiveness. She listened to what he said and responded best when he said it with certainty and firm tones. She learned tricks and never ran out of patience for playing games.
For Scarlett Bonnie was the greatest pet ever, a willing recipient of as much love, attention and focus as Scarlett could shower her with. She was a constant through sometimes uncertain times as we moved around in later years and gave shape to days, weeks and months offering routine and responsibility.
For me Bonnie was the dog who gave me faith in dogs being creatures I could build a relationship with. I had a massive connection with Bonnie; she was so in tune with cues from me, whether verbal, a nod of my head, a flick of my eyes, a hand on her head, or often simply reading my non intentional body language or movements to anticipate what I might be doing and therefore want her to do.
Our Rum years were very much with Bonnie as part of our team, our times off Rum were either reliant on a trusted and worthy human being able to spend time with her in our absence, or her coming along with us. She travelled to England, Ireland and Wales with us on ferries, trains and cars. She found her space in countless other ‘homes’ for short or longer periods and was always at her happiest close to where we were no matter where that happened to be.
When we left Rum to our current home it was a perfectly timed retirement for Bonnie. She was ready to slow down from her previously busy existence of chasing up and down the croft, barking at the sun, tearing up the grass along the pig fences, herding geese, seeing off the crows and generally keeping everything in order. Instead she still spent much of her time outside but now she was contained within the garden keeping a watchful eye on the neighbouring sheep who surround our garden. In Bonnie’s head it seemed she had herded all of them into the fenced around they stood behind and she would periodically round them back up again. The fact that they were free roaming on acres of ground while it was in fact she who was contained in the smaller fenced area within never seemed to matter.
Bonnie would see off the occasional fox or pine marten and kept our smaller flock of chickens in check. She would accompany us on walks, shorter and shorter as the years went by, but would enjoy joining me in the shallows of the loch for a swim or joining us for a torchlit after dark stroll.
Bonnie visibly slowed down in her later years but remained in excellent health, very happy and very well loved. She is buried in the woodland near our house, in a spot that she used to regularly walk to with Scarlett. She is much missed – daily in our routines, but also at random moments for each of us. I suspect she always will be.
Thank you Bonnie, for being part of our family, our adventures and our story. You were – and always will be – the very best puppy.
January 2012 – August 2022