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I’m working on a decoupage lampshade to memorialize my dog.

Yes, since you asked, my boyfriend and original owner of said lamp is a bewilderingly tolerant man. One of us is very lucky to have the other. The other is lucky enough to live surrounded by a growing collection of eclectic canine memorial items. Count this blog as the next on my list.

This list has not grown without good reason. While missing Bonnie’s physical presence would certainly be reason enough – after all, she was the most demanding 72-pound, 2-foot-tall presence in my life – that isn’t even the half of it. Anyone who knew her (and she had quite the human fanbase) would agree that The Bons was something far more than a dog, and therefore left a lot more than a typical doggy paw print on our lives. I am not the same person as the 23-year-old who found a boxer/pitbull wandering around Lansing’s north side, and her feisty, tough-shit self had more to do with that than most reasonable humans would give me the benefit of the doubt to believe. But that’s OK. The important thing is that I’m aware of her influence, and that’s why it’s so important for me to keep reminders of Bonnie around. The following are just a few of the things she taught me by her sassypants example.

  • If you’re not happy where are you are, you should leave. Life is short and we get one. Bonnie decided she did not want to spend her life producing backyard, rent-making puppies for some trashy, drugged up losers. She knew she could be happier, so she left.
  • If you’re being mistreated, don’t even make a plan. Just go. Bonnie did not get lost. She made no plans but decided to leave. This became clear when she was almost returned to a home full of trash, verbal abuse and causal Tuesday-afternoon drug-taking, and to humans who had named her “Jasmine” but called her “$%#-ing bitch” upon her homecoming. All it took was a simple, “So…do you care if I keep her then?” and she became Bonnie. Which, naturally, was the exact kind of good fortune that she had known would only befall her if she left.
  • You have needs and they are important. Who else is going to make sure they are fulfilled if not you? Bonnie was one demanding little girl. Sure, I had saved her from a life of misery and fed her and bathed her and loved her, but when Bonnie decided that yes, she really did have to poo ten minutes after you’d gotten into bed she had no trouble insisting upon it. She knew she deserved love and care and food, so she didn’t let those long-term satisfactions overshadow her short-term needs. In human terms, this means I didn’t have to put up with people who would make me miserable on a day-to-day basis because they’re supposedly in it for the long haul. The long haul is just the short haul on repeat; “I’m doing x, y, z for you” just isn’t enough when I need a, b & c today.
  • You can only be loved for who you are if you’re brave enough to be yourself. Before Bonnie, I honestly didn’t think that I could be the parts of me that were knowingly difficult to deal with if I wanted to be loved. But Bonnie was often difficult to deal with, and she knew that. She was a naughty dog, period. And I could not have loved her more. Because her wonderful, sensational, beautiful naughtiness was such a true part of her high spirit, I actually loved her more for it. Had I never felt that love for her, I never would have believed someone could love me the same way. Because I am difficult to deal with sometimes. Because I, if I really want to be honest, am sometimes sensationally naughty due to my own high spirits. And I am just fine with that. (Speaking of which – again darling, sorry about the lamp. Asking might have been a more appropriate approach.)
  • Not everyone needs to like you. Some people don’t even deserve to like you. Bonnie was so loved by many, and she loved almost all humans. And then there were some humans and some dogs that she had a very strong desire to dismember, or at least to vocalize that she was thinking about it. This was rare with humans, but if Bonnie didn’t get a good feeling about a person, she wouldn’t waste her time on them. She was permanently on call to protect me and Gunshy from weirdos and creeps and leashed dogs walking politely three blocks away. She didn’t need to be loved by them because she knew life is not a popularity contest, particularly when she had a family and herself to protect. I, who was formerly agreeable to a fault, will now treat assholes like assholes, if the situation calls for it, because I have a family and a career and a me to protect too.
  • Even if you’re just a dog, or just a girl, or just a blonde, just go ahead an exceed people’s expectations. Exceed their imaginations. We girls come up with all sorts of reasons to doubt ourselves, but not Bonnie. She was a little blonde lady pitbull who knew none of the prejudices about blondes, ladies or pitbulls, so she walked right through them. She might have had an inkling that she was supposed to be “just a dog,” but that didn’t stop her from being practically human. She spoke, she listend, she argued, and clearly she did a whole lot of thinking. Bonnie wasn’t “just” anything. I don’t think I should be either.
  • Love the people you love fiercely. That’s what Bonnie did. With her whole heart and her whole body, pinning you to the ground and almost ripping your nostrils with her teeth as she attempted to kiss you and love you more. Sometimes being loved by Bonnie was a little frightening, because she loved with such reckless abandon. And because she was rather strong, a little nuts and had sharp teeth. But honestly, why love in any other way?

Bonnie left us the same way she came; out of nowhere on a Sunday morning in August. She changed everything for me when she arrived and again when she left. The biggest challenge for me during her life, besides her incessant naughtiness, was to allow Bonnie to be Bonnie and to let myself grow along with the lessons she had to offer. The biggest challenge in her death is to not forget them.

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