Bonnie’s Story – A Border Collie Goes to Live Abroad

It is a week since Bonnie died.  I have no idea why she got cancer but it is impossible to avoid wondering if something I did caused this change to happen in her body. In this Part Two of her story I will describe the good and the bad experiences that we had after moving. I don’t suppose I will ever know if the big change I put her through could have harmed her health but I do know she had many wonderful adventures and even just the fact of the fabulous weather meant that she was able to go places and do things that would not have been possible if we had stayed in Cornwall. 

Part Two  Bonnie Moves to Catalunya and the Mediterranean

The trip down south went very well. Blue found it tiring but Bonnie of course enjoyed the journey and the feeling of being in a pack on the move. We travelled with my friend Marta and stayed in hotels,stopping off for snacks in French cafes. It was a wonderful moment when we had a break and for the first time felt the warmth of Mediterranean sunshine amidst the scent of wild herbs

It certainly was different to suddenly have three dogs in our house. There were beds, water bowls and cosy corners all over the place and we had to create routines for eating and walking that made everyone happy.  I became the dog woman of Granollers.  I had worried that Blue would hate being in a busy town but actually she began to blossom here. She walked fairly slowly due to her arthritis but on the streets she had a good excuse for dawdling – the smells!  She loved sniffing all the corners, all the smells of other dogs and people. The warmth of that first winter immediately started healing her aches and pains and she got a new jaunty lease of life.
For an older dog I think that a town house is perfect.
People in the street were incredibly friendly and welcoming to us.

We all went to the mountains and the woods and to the beach and enjoyed lots of cafe stops with the dogs happily waiting under the tables for treats to drop down to their level.

Problems started gradually between Duna, the resident springer spaniel and Bonnie.
 Duna couldn’t cope with the new hierarchy and although Bonnie was submissive and avoiding conflict, skirting around the edges of Duna’s domain, it gradually turned nasty.   At first they played together but Duna occasionally would launch herself at Bonnie and fight, tooth and nail. What was amazing was how strong Bonnie was in her own defence. She found her teeth without a doubt. She always won these fights, sometimes having Duna on the floor, bleeding from her face and neck. Bonnie would always walk away at this point and then Duna…..would relaunch the attack.

How do you separate two fighting dogs? 

I searched the internet for advice and found one very useful piece of information that I want to pass on here.
If you try to separate two fighting dogs by holding their collars you will probably get bitten, by mistake, but seriously bitten sometimes to the bone. What you must do is grab the back legs of the aggressor – not the victim who you would make more vulnerable – lift them up and walk backwards as if you have a wheelbarrow. It absolutely works and they can’t reach you to bite. 

Bonnie was well trained and I could stop her fighting with a command but clearly I had to first remove Duna from the battlefield. Bonnie would then stop instantly.
We were all damaged in these struggles. I badly hurt both my hands and dislocated a finger. Bonnie became nervous of meeting other dogs, Duna sustained many wounds, and both Pep and I were bitten before we discovered the above method. Blue was able again to keep a distance from most of these problems but once I saw her go for Duna, nipping her back legs as Bonnie dealt with the front end.
It was a situation that couldn’t go on and we all went through a desperate time.  Duna spent more and more time on the lead and out on the patio.  Fights happened on the street, on the beach, in the woods, at home, in cafes, at the houses of friends. I became increasingly desperate to find a solution.

In spite of this we did have many happy adventures. Duna was unpredictable and sometimes left Bonnie alone for weeks. We went to Almeria in the camper van and impressed our neighbours by our ability to live in such a small space with two people and three dogs, two of whom had to be separate.
They all loved swimming in the warm Mediterranean sea. 

By May things were so bad between Duna and Bonnie that I took her and Blue away for a country break. We went to Sant Nicolau for the first time, a place I had found on the internet and all that interested me was that they welcomed dogs and we could rent a cottage for a week of peace

Blue was ailing by this time and in her doggy wisdom she had several lovely days before going into a rapid decline which meant I let her go while we were there. The vet came to the house and it was a peaceful and gentle death at the end of a long sunny day. The owners – now my friends – could not have been kinder and more helpful and so we were somehow led to the best ending in the best place.

Blue died in this magical place and is buried there under some apple trees, her presence marked by one of my sculptures, the Blue Dog. Bonnie loved to lie on the grassy patch when it regrew.

Bonnie and I were alone for the first time in our lives. The day after Blue died we went to Llança and shared a plate of steak and chips looking out over the sea – comforting each other

Then we went for a swim in one of the lovely coves. This was the day – sorry the photo is not good

It felt strange and exciting to be together alone in this new land, the beginning of something new. I thought it would last for so many more years

Later that summer we yet again made the journey back up through France, camping all the way to Calais and the tunnel. The two dogs were kept apart at all times

By this time we had decided to definitely find another home for Duna. I have to add that Duna was and is a beautiful dog and very loving when she is is not feeling passionate hatred. I knew it would be easier to find the best home in the UK, in the country with someone who was going to give her the outdoor life she deserved. We were so lucky to find exactly the right couple who fell in love with her days after we arrived and she now lives a blissful life. Her days are spent with the man who works on farms and gardens,  evenings are spent either fishing or walking with her new owners, and at night she is to be found lounging on the sofa or the bed, cossetted and adored by the woman. 

From that day in July when Duna was adopted by her new family, Bonnie’s happy and exciting life with us truly began. She became our be-by dog and accompanied us always wherever we went.
We spent the rest of the summer in Cornwall where she was queen of the cabaña where we stay.

In Part Three I will finish Bonnie’s tale of her life with us – till tomorrow

Bonnie’s Story

Last week my dear dog Bonnie died.  She lived twice as long as the vets predicted but it was only weeks in the end. Some of it felt like years, but it was only 14 weeks from the first diagnosis.

There is so much I could say but I don’t know where to start so I am going to tell Bonnie’s story. While she was ill I often talked to her about her life and adventures so here it is for you.

Part One.   Life in Cornwall.

Born on Midsummer Day in 2001, Bonnie was a much loved puppy in the smallholding in West Cornwall where she started life. Her mother was called Sprout and was black and white but with the prick ears that were passed on to Bonnie. Here is Bonnie with her mum and one of her sisters

Bonnie went to live in Lamorna and this is where I first met her at a neighbour’s house.   She was introduced as the new puppy but I was surprised that she was living in a barn, tied on a long rope.
I fell in love with her from the first moment and whispered to my friend “She’s my dog!”

Her early adventure was to run away at the age of 12 weeks and for 11 days she was lost in the autumn wind and rain.  She survived by eating blackberries and turned up, with a purple muzzle, at a neighbouring farm. Her owner was then persuaded to keep her indoors but left her alone much of the time with a cat for company. Thus started her love of cats.
Circumstances meant that the owner was not able to care for her and Bonnie came to live with me, changing her name from Biscuit to Bonnie.  What a happy day when my Easter Bonnet arrived home!

Home was a Cornish granite cottage and Bonnie had a new big sister – my dog Blue. As you see it is normal in British homes to let your dogs sit on the chairs. It amazed me when she came to Catalunya that she just knew it wasn’t acceptable here.

Nearby there was an ancient stone circle, the Merry Maidens and all year round this was one of our most visited and favourite places

And we had all the Cornish coastal path to explore – Blue always taking the lead

So many friends to play with and when Grace arrived next door Bonnie herself became the big sister

Playing ball was always her favourite game – to the point of obsession. This proved to be a blessing later on as even when she felt lousy she always would perk up at the sight of a ball

Bonnie was a typical collie in that she was suspicious of strangers but adoring of friends

She didn’t like being in town but loved travelling and was always happy to leap into the van for a trip.
We went to Scotland the first Christmas after I got my camper van and while Blue had to have a large cage in order to feel safe, Bonnie was happy to lounge on the seat

When I went to Catalunya I didn’t intend to stay forever but life takes you by surprise and when I met my partner and moved in with him I had to make decisions about my dogs. It feels like a huge thing to take dogs out of the UK and especially to bring them to a hot country to live in a town.  So I arranged for them to stay in their familiar home with friends of mine moving in to look after them. It was one of the hardest times for us all. I enjoyed my life here and they enjoyed their life there  – but we missed each other and my visits were bitter sweet for me and –  perhaps –  for them

With other people living in my house, I often stayed at my friends who live next door.  The dogs came over too and we would all sleep together as cuddled up as possible.
When I think back on it I can hardly believe that we all lived like this for so long.

There was another problem at this time. My partner also had a dog and when she first came to visit Cornwall it seemed they would all make a happy family.  We hoped to find another house with a garden so we could all live together in Catalunya. But Duna never accepted Bonnie. And she came to hate her. It came on gradually but there were signs from the start

The summer we visited Cornwall with Duna and then left my dogs behind again was terrible for me. I knew they were happy at home and I didn’t know if they would adapt to a new life in Catalunya but I had to find a way to bring us all back together. I started work on organising to rent out my house, create a living space for us to stay in when we visited and to get pet passports for Bonnie and Blue.  I knew Bonnie would be fine but would dear Blue, so connected to home, benefit from the change? 
My only certainty was that the weather in Catalunya would be better for their joints.

In December 2011 we set off to begin our new life. The journey took us from Lamorna to Folkstone, through the Channel Tunnel and all the way down through France.
It was the beginning of a great adventure.
I was terrified. Blue was willing and Bonnie was keen to get going!

Tomorrow Part Two – Life – and Death – in Catalunya


I went back to Sant Nicolau today with Tiffany and Bonnie.
Lots of ideas flowing – plans and projects!

We had a lovely lunch with Helen and Francis and practised our translation skills, trying to explain some of our crazy English conversations to Angie who is from Honduras. She was one of the participants at Blue’s burial and will never forget her first dog funeral, something that would be totally eccentric in her own culture.
One of my reasons for going up for the day was to deliver my Blue Dog sculpture to her new home. She will watch over Blues grave and be a solid presence in the beautiful garden.

What a lovely place!  It was wonderful to return.  Blue – you good dog you!


This morning’s walk with Bonnie was lovely. Sunny with a little breeze so we could walk without getting too hot.
The blueness of the sky

was even bluer with the wires

and the pylons

The blueness of the wild flowers

and the field of barley –  I think it is barley – only five minutes from the busy streets

Sometimes Granollers is beautiful

Time to Leave

Well I am packing my things now and getting ready to leave St Nicolau.
I am sure I will be back.

I went and sang in the little chapel this evening. Just me with Bonnie lying outside, her head resting on the doorstep. And somewhere the chameleon who lives inside the porch.
Tomorrow it will be one week since Blue died. I can’t believe it.  I think in Buddhist traditions the spirit stays around for 7 days after leaving the body and I am so glad to have been here during this time. It will be hard to leave anyway but I am telling myself that Blue’s spirit will be back home in Cornwall by now. Waiting for us when we get there in July.
I am going to bring one of my sculptures to sit in the garden here – the Blue Dog. Will be good to have something solid here as a reminder.

The last few days have been quiet, staying close to home, writing and reading and singing and gardening. It is incredibly soothing to get my hands into the soil and pull up weeds.
And it is one way to say thank you to Helen and Francis for all they have done for us.