We will remember Excalibur

My dog Bonnie, as many of you know, died in February this year after being diagnosed with a lymphoma in her abdomen. It is still something that hurts me a lot and some days I am knocked backwards by a memory which both makes me smile and cry. I miss her and I feel a large collie sized hole in my heart.

She died peacefully with both me and Pep by her side, in the peaceful gardens of Sant Nicolau. A kindly woman vet administered the injections and with a little sigh Bonnie left this earth.

So, I can’t imagine how the nurse Teresa Romero and her husband Javier Limon will cope with the pain of losing their dog Excalibur who was taken from their home by men in Ebola protection suits and killed by who knows who, in some place who knows where.

I have been following this story ever since we heard that Teresa, a nurse in Madrid had contracted Ebola after helping care for two Spanish priests who had been working in West Africa. They both later died from the disease. Teresa had volunteered for this work and did it with all possible professionalism and with more, she did it with love. She had received the training available and followed procedures but somehow the virus got through the protective layers of her suit and she became ill.

She had been back home and living a normal life before she got sick and so her husband and several other people who had been in contact with her were put into isolation only hours after she herself was taken into hospital.

This couple had no children but they had a much loved dog called Excalibur. Before leaving the flat Javier left food and water for him, not knowing how long he would be away. There were others who could come and take care of Excalibur if necessary and as it all happened in a moment of great crisis and confusion, he did the best he could, leaving the door to the balcony open so Excalibur could go outside.

But Ebola is a serious disease and of course access to the flat was forbidden. Excalibur spent a couple of days there alone while in the outside world there began an argument about what would happen to him. Teresa was fighting for her life and knew nothing of what was going on. Javier was trapped inside an isolated room in the hospital but was able to say he wanted his dog to be cared for in quarantine to see if he was carrying the virus or was not infected at all. The authorities made it clear they intended to go in and get the dog and put it to sleep, euthanise it, kill it…. use whatever description you want…. later Teresa called it an execution.  The health officials had no intention of waiting nor of consulting other experts in the field. The dog, in their opinion, was not important enough to save, nor to monitor under care and they would get rid of it.

A campaign grew on Facebook and other social media and I was able to follow the story on the page, Salvemos a Excalibur. People went to protest on the street outside the apartment. The police went in and broke up the crowds. One day a van arrived, men dressed head to toe in protective suits entered the flat, took Excalibur away and that was that.

I read lots of newspapers at the time, both in English and Spanish. Of course there were many who thought it ridiculous that such a fuss was made about a dog when there are thousands of humans dying from Ebola. People sneered at protestors and accused them of the usual ‘crime’ of caring more about animals than people.

But I felt strongly this was about more than a dog – and I care very much about the actual dog although of course I don’t know Excalibur and my grief for him was nothing like the grief for my own Bonnie. The people involved directly were Teresa and Javier. Their feelings were ignored by the authorities, their rights were not respected. At the same time there were reports in the newspapers that Teresa had somehow caused her own infection by touching her face with her hand when removing the protective suit.  This seemed an incredibly crass attempt to absolve the health officials from responsibility – perhaps for not providing good enough equipment, or doing enough staff training, or failing to have enough staff so someone would help Teresa remove her suit. Surely there would be an inquiry which would take time to analyse what had happened. How could anyone just make public statements in the days after Teresa became ill, naming her as the one who had made a mistake?  When she wasn’t able to respond as she was in isolation and was close to dying.

Excalibur showed up a system where panic and cover-up seemed to be the response to a problem rather than honesty and respect and integrity. 

In the days that followed there was a similar case in the United States which only made the Spanish authorities seem more inept, dishonest and stupid. The American nurse also had a dog but the US authorities took it into quarantine, released photos so we all knew the quarantine was comfortable and there were toys and home comforts. They were also testing the blood and furthering the scientific knowledge of Ebola which some say can be carried by dogs but there is still a lot to learn.  When the nurse (who also thankfully survived) and her dog were reunited there were videos of the happy meeting between them.

I cannot imagine how painful it must be to Teresa Romero and Javier Limon to see these films, to go over and over in their minds the last days of Excalibur and to know that he died without good reason and without the presence of those who loved him. At the time he died no-one knew if he carried the virus so of course he was not patted or stroked or given human love. How can they bear this pain on top of everything else? My heart aches for them.

Yesterday Teresa Romero came out of hospital at last and has gone to Galicia to recover at the family home. She attended a very short press conference and thanked all the staff who had cared for her – the nurses, the cleaning staff, the auxiliaries and the doctors. She was too emotional to speak about Excalibur but her husband read out her statement. She said that her dog was like a child to her and her husband and that killing him was not necessary.

Interestingly many of the news media ignored this part of her statement – all the films showed her smiling and saying ‘thank you’ but I had to search for the statements given by her husband. 

“The worse part of all of this is that our dog was not given a chance”

  • Ambulance staff in Cadiz bought their own Ebola protection suits as the ones provided were not ‘up to the job’
  •  Health workers in Madrid and many others are calling for the resignation of health minister Ana Mato claiming that the equipment and training provided are inadequate.
  •  Madrid regional health chief Javier Rodriguez accused Teresa Romero on public radio of lying about her symptoms and making mistakes which caused her  contract the disease. He later apologised.
  • After being released from isolation Teresa’s husband Javier said ‘they destroyed our life, they killed our dog and they nearly killed my wife’
  •  He will be seeking redress in the courts on behalf of his wife and their dog. 

Bonnie’s Story – Part Five – A Full Life



Last September when we returned from the UK I was hardly able to walk as the tendinitis in my left ankle was getting worse rather than better. Of course this had an impact on Bonnie as I had to find new ways to make sure she had enough exercise.  We did more town walks normally ending up in a cafe in the sunshine

Or we went along the river path with me on the bike and Bonnie bounding along beside me.  On one of these bike rides I noticed she was slowing down – instead of me racing to catch her it was the other way around. A subtle change but I noticed it and stored it away

In October some of my family came to have their first holiday at Sant Nicolau.   It was a good opportunity to see how much Bonnie had changed over the years.  She used to be famous for barking at strangers – anyone arriving at my house would have to pass a collie test before they could approach her.  Almost before saying ‘Hello’ I would have told them, speaking over loud barks, “Please ignore her, don’t look at her, don’t try to touch her for at least half an hour. DON’T LOOK AT HER”

But living in Granollers helped her to trust life and people more.  We walked so often through the town with children running about or whizzing by on scooters, there were lots of dogs, cars, motorbikes, the constant scream of the ambulance sirens.  Living with the Resident Adolescent got her accustomed to visitors coming and going, large groups of tall gangly boys would walk past where she lay sleeping and she would hardly bother to lift her head. In general they would ignore her – not because I asked them to but they weren’t interested and so perhaps she didn’t feel they were a threat.

My ankle stopped me doing many things which in a way was a gift as I spent more time at home with Bonnie. She was quite happy to potter around the nearby parks, to come with us to the beach and play on the sand


 And to go out in the car at weekends for longer walks with Pep while I sat in the sunshine and read

These stripped trees are cork oaks

In early November we went to explore another part of the Costa Brava near Palafrugells. It was sunny and extremely windy and in the evening we looked for a hotel to stay overnight.  Llafranc is a lovely village by the sea, the sort of place you dream of settling down in for the rest of your life. The first hotel didn’t accept dogs but the second one was very welcoming and gave us a beautiful room overlooking the bay.   I loved that place and it will always remain in my memory as our last holiday together before we found out Bonnie had cancer.

When we returned home I noticed that same night that she had trouble climbing the stairs to the bedroom.  Again thinking I was being over-anxious I took her to the vet the next day. After the Erlichiosis attack I was always quick to pick up signs of possible aenemia as you never completely clear the system of the parasite and it could reappear.  But this time the bad news was different, and worse. After X-rays and ultrasound as well as blood tests they decided to operate as there was a large mass in her abdomen.  We had to wait for biopsy results to be sure but just the look of the tumour convinced them it was a lymphoma and fairly untreatable.

There are two types of lymphoma – one is multicentric and results in lumps which can be felt superficially around the body. This type can be treated with chemotherapy and has high success rates for remission. The other sort is an internal tumour, often attached to the intestines and is less common and extremely aggressive. We had this one.

We were told Bonnie had 4-6 weeks to live

She actually lived for 14 more weeks

Every week was a victory and at the time I felt very proud that she was so well, happy and alive in spite of the poor prognosis.  Never give up hope – or not until they do

We ticked off each week as a gain and at our fortnightly visit the vet was surprised how well she was.

I spent hours researching remedies, diets, supplements, and was in contact with several groups of people on the internet who are using alternative remedies to treat their dogs with cancer.  If I had relied on the vet I would have despaired. They had nothing to offer except regular visits and blood tests and a lot of caring concern

Life for Bonnie continued with walks and games and my full time attention. I was lucky to be able to drop almost everything else and just be with her. The problem with having been told 4-6 weeks is that you can’t forget it and so I was on constant alert for signs that she was in pain or the tumour was about to explode or block her digestive tract. If I had known we had that little bit longer then I could have relaxed in those early weeks. But living on a knife edge is not very relaxing.
At this time we spent a lot of time outside together, walking and then sitting on benches just being quiet and watching the world

We were very close and had some of our happiest times just relaxing into the present moment

A high priority was to stay somewhere in the country and so I rented out one of the apartments at Sant Nicolau.  It was the best decision I made and we drove up and down between there and Granollers just when the mood took us.  We spent weeks up there, just being together, it was lovely

Every time we drove up there my heart would lift at that moment when the fields spread out in front of the car and in the distance you see the mystical peaks of Canigo. And Bonnie would start to squeal as soon as she felt the car turn onto the bumpy lane

I am not going to revisit all the ups and downs of Bonnie’s battle with cancer. It is an incredibly intense experience as anyone will know who has cared for a sick animal.  The hardest part is not being able to ask them if it hurts. Knowing they will hide their suffering as long as possible means that you are constantly alert for signals that the time has come
Through all this we continued to explore Catalunya. Here we are at Sant Aniol in the interior of the Emporda beyond Besalu. It was a long walk but Bonnie continued to surprise us all with her strength

One piece of advice I read was to keep offering new activities and as collies love to learn we decided it was time Bonnie not only brought back the ball but put it in your hand.  Like this
She practised and practised over these months and it was lovely to see her eventually tossing the ball casually into Peps hand as if to say  ‘there you are, what’s next?’

We celebrated New Year at Sant Nicolau and on January 1st a stray kitten arrived in our lives.
We called her Phoenix and she immediately snuggled up to Bonnie even while she remained suspicious of us

Back in Granollers Phoenix gained confidence and Bonnie at last was allowed up onto the sofa – don’t forget that for Catalan people this is quite an honour

On February 17th I decided to take her up to Sant Nicolau again for some country air.  I was caught between wanting her to be in the countryside and yet fearing she would take a turn for the worse when I was alone and more isolated.   She had stopped eating well and continued with terrible diarrhoea.  It was getting harder to give her the remedies as she was so picky about what went into her mouth. I felt we were getting near the end and I wanted her to be somewhere green.
Chosing between fear and love – I suddenly thought I had to go to the place we both loved – my fears might be no more than a spectre.  We would cope.

We had a good day pottering in the garden and taking little walks. The almond blossom was out

Then she had a night where she was in pain.  Neither of us slept and I knew I would call the vet in Figueres in the morning and help her to go.  We went out at dawn to visit Blue’s grave and then to the church that adjoins the property. As I was singing to her in the church Bonnie went outside and when I followed her out she had disappeared.  After half an hour calling her name I found Helen and together we searched the immediate area for over two hours.
The house is surrounded by thick woods and I lost hope but kept calling, growing ever more desperate.  Was this going to be the nightmare end of everything?

I won’t keep you wondering – no it wasn’t.  Mobile phones don’t work there but when I rang home to Granollers I found that someone had called to say Bonnie was at their house.
Thank God for collar tags!  Thanks also to Saint Francis, Saint Anthony and Amma who answered my prayers.   It was like suddenly being rescued from hell.
She had not crept under a bush but kept walking for about an hour till she reached their farm.   I don’t think she was running away from me – only from the disease and perhaps instinct told her to keep going till it all would stop.

We brought her back, very tired but very peaceful.  There seemed to be no more pain.  We slept together for a while with me crying, mostly from relief to have her soft furry body back beside me. How does anyone survive the grief of losing and not being able to find?  It never would get better

So that is how our story ends. Bonnie had her second great walkabout adventure – perhaps remembering the little 12 week old puppy who went missing in the woods in Lamorna and survived. Later that afternoon she left this world surrounded by a circle of friends – Pep came from Granollers, Helen sat with Lucy dog nearby, I held her head cupped in my hands and the same vet who came to help Blue, arrived with her gentle needles and kind smile.  I felt a lightness pass through my heart as she died and I knew she was free

Dear Bonnie Thank you for all the love See you next time   XXXXX

Bonnie’s Story – Part Four – The High Road to Scotland with a Border Collie








At the end of the last post I was describing how well Bonnie took to her new diet. It was slightly harder for me, a longterm vegetarian.  Butchers shops are not comfortable places for me and ordering things in Catalan was difficult.  I felt I had to pretend the meat was for us humans, especially if I was ordering steak. Buying lots of human grade meat for your dog is not a common practice in Catalunya, maybe not anywhere.
But I did get borrowed kudos when I started enthusiastically asking for less popular animal parts.  Livers, kidneys, hearts….heads and necks….I even spent a few weeks searching for raw tripe only to find the EU has banned its sale.

Did you know that dogs like raw fish – whole and straight from the freezer?  Mackeral was popular.

Finding and storing fresh raw meat is harder when you are on the move. In July we set off yet again in the camper van, this time with our noses pointing north to explore the Highlands of Scotland.  Bonnie was in the best of health and so I took a flexible approach to her diet – dried food here, sausage and chips there, a chicken wing, half a rabbit.

The weather was very hot right from day one and as we drove north we looked for cooler days but it seemed never to happen and the sunshine followed us all the way to Inverness and beyond. We were so lucky to always find inviting waters

Rivers in France rarely disappoint

 Punting in Cambridge. Bonnie was the Queen of the Cam – tourists took photos of her

We passed through London and I showed Bonnie my old home in Stoke Newington. We were going to sleep in the van but our neighbours were still in the same house and invited us to stay overnight. Next morning we walked through the Victorian cemetary that stretches along the back

 My Catalan partner finds this interest in old graveyards totally incomprehensible but I like them and loved the view from the back window of my house

 It was like living beside a nature reserve and in Spring the dawn chorus was amazing

 I have a story to tell about this sculpture but will save it for another time

Visiting Family

We met family all along the route – without planning it we visited almost everyone, even those who are no longer with us.  One niece lives near Folkstone where we landed. Then in London we went to my brothers old home, still full of memories both happy and sad after his death the year before. Then to my sister in Cambridge. Up to the borders and another niece and nephew and grand-nephew.  After that we headed north with the sun still blazing and met another of my sisters in Newtonmore in the Cairngorms.  Close by is the river where my fathers ashes were scattered and as we were also visiting many of his hydroelectric dams we felt that we were really on a family odessey
We were heading for Inverness where I was born but first we took a right turn to Findhorn Bay. It was still incredibly hot and we stopped for some more river swimming before we reached the coast

I was born on the east coast of Scotland but we moved to the west when I was 6.  I hadn’t realised it before but my deepest sense of home is in this north eastern corner. So good to take Bonnie there.
The light feels just the right sort of light and the beaches seem like proper beaches

 We stayed at the long established New Age Centre and Ecological Community, Findhorn, famous at one time for its huge vegetables grown in sand and apparently aided by nature spirits

Of course we visited the house where I was born in Inverness and also went to see the Dolphins that live in the Moray Firth. Every day there are groups of visitors and professional photographers waiting at the point for the tide to come in bringing fish, and dolphins close behind.

All the coast line is magical. 

This is Rosemarkie where I first learned to walk.
My mothers ashes were scattered here so the place is thick with memories and feelings

For the first five years of my life we spent the summers in Rosemarkie. 
The Fairy Glen is just as mysterious 50 years on

One day we met a look-alike puppy even more foxy than ours

We headed west through spectacular mountain scenery. Every day was better than the last
Some fellow campers at Fortrose had recommended the free camping at Shieldaig

Heaven on earth – apart from the midges which finally began to attack us at nightfall
Now we were driving southward and stopped to camp on the Silver Sands near Arisaig

Here began the part of the journey requiring Ferries – Caledonian MacBrayne took us from Skye to Mallaig, Mallaig to Rhum, Ardnamurchan to Tobermory on Mull

And finally from Mull to Oban.

Bonnie is used to boats after all her trips to the Scillies and was a natural island hopper

 On Mull we camped wild, spending some nights alone in the car park above spectacular Calgary Bay

There is a nature reserve with sculptures nearby –  Calgary Art in Nature.
Bonnie with recycled sandpipers

 We stayed with my other sister in Port Appin and then slowly made our way out of the mountains down to Glasgow, stopping off to visit the spirits of our aunts  in Tighnabruich.

Clutch Foot

In Glasgow we parked the van and finally had a rest from driving. Too late I realised that over 4000km of driving is hard on the legs and I developed tendinitis in my clutch foot which took more than three months to resolve. We visited my niece who lives in a flat overlooking the River Clyde and I felt amazed that this journey had so cleverly wound its way around all the family as well as many of the special places of my childhood.

In early August we arrived in Cornwall – in spite of my ankle we managed to climb Carn Galver

After a month in our lovely cabaña we set off again for Folkstone and the journey through France. My ankle problem meant abandonning the camper van in Cornwall and we bought a little Spanish car in the UK which carried us home.
No more camping so we stayed in hotels.
One rainy night we went dripping into a family hotel in who-knows-where mid France.
They welcomed us and Bonnie with smiles and I had one of the best meals in my life.
Trout with almond sauce.

 We took a new route south and passed over the Millau Viaduct

When I was passenger  I could have Bonnie with me.

We got home in time for the big Independence demonstration on September 11th.
They took my name! – Via Catalana or The Catalan Way!

 I really expect the next episode with be the final one but please don’t avoid it thinking it will be too sad.  I leave you today in the late sunshine of that September on the coast road near Sant Pol. There were many more lovely adventures to come.  I hope you will accompany us to the gentle peaceful and beautiful end of the story.  Till tomorrow my friends




Bonnie’s Story – Part Three – The Love of a Collie

The summer of 2012 was supposed to be our summer of rest and recuperation. After we left Duna in her new Norfolk paradise we travelled slowly down to Cornwall in the camper van, enjoying peace at last.  Bonnie loved camping and it was great to take her to some favourite places like Waylands Smithy the Neolithic Burial Chamber on the ancient Ridgeway. It is a very powerful place.

We parked overnight on the Ridgeway which is one of the oldest highways across England and were kept awake by a strange clicking that couldn’t be turned off in the dashboard.  Every time it stopped and I returned to bed, it started up again. Eventually I decided we must be parked in the middle of the ley line so decided to move the van. Only a few metres back and the sound stopped

We arrived in Cornwall early August and only a few days later received the terrible news of my brothers death in London. Once again we left Bonnie with our friends and returned to London in the van.  A few weeks later we went back yet again for the funeral and by the time we were able to finally settle down in Cornwall, the summer break was almost over. Bonnie and I stayed on for another month and my partner had to fly back to Catalunya.
Can you see her?

This period of being just Bonnie and me in our country cabaña was very peaceful.  I wanted rest and time to grieve and she was happy to just play all day in the field with her friends. We took long walks together and she was the perfect kind companion as I tried to make sense of a senseless death and to somehow come to terms with the loss of a sibling. 
One sunny day we spent hours on the rocks at Perranuthnoe

In the autumn we made the journey down through France this time accompanied by my friend Val. We found wonderful campsites by rivers and on the last night in the Cathar area of south west France we stayed in a hotel that not only allowed dogs in the bedrooms but in the restaurant. Lovely France!

Back in Catalunya we had many more wonderful trips.
We returned again and again to Sant Nicolau where we felt so much at home.
Here we are in St Pere de Pescador

We took the train from Granollers to La Molina. It is a ski resort and quite deserted when there is no snow.  A sagging dolmen reminded us of Cornwall

We went walking in the hills between the Valle Oriental and the Mediteranean, often with our friends Oreneta and Chuck. Don’t they make a lovely couple?

We went to collect water from the natural spring at Santa Fe in Montseny

At Sant Hilari Sacalm – the town with many spring water fountains – Bonnie at last learned how to drink from the fountain but she always preferred the hand method

Here she is at the Font del Ferro – the water is full of iron – you can see how much she adored her new friend. He doesn’t like his picture used here too often but it would be an empty story if he wasn’t included.  After the initial moments of barking at him when they first met, she gave her heart to him completely. She loved me of course but she always went first to Pep when we came home together.
It was a doggy thing!  I didn’t care – I just wanted her to be happy and safe

I took her several times to Barcelona – always feeling very excited to be there with her. She was very good on the train and the only time it felt difficult was when we sat outside a cafe on Enric Grenados in Eixample. I hadn’t realised they use that pedestrian street for skateboarding – her pet hate.
Here she is with Barcelona down below when we went to stay overnight in Nou Barris

In April 2013 we drove to the borders of Catalunya to explore the Ports de Beseit where there are amazing rock formations

 and deep gullies of crystal clear water

 
We were camping again of course – you can’t have a better holiday from a dogs point of view.
When we were in Granollers most of her walks were in one of the two parks nearby. This is the walkway of Park Ponent. I used to worry she missed the Cornish countryside but I think she was happy anywhere and everywhere so long as I was there and it was quiet and had interesting smells.


And in the Park Nou (new park) she sometimes met friends. She had begun to get over her fear of dogs and was her old friendy self. This is Aslan – a very popular male collie sharing a ball with her

We went back and forth to Sant Nicolau, spending time with Blue

engaging in cat staring competitions

and we celebrated my birthday there with my friends Janet and Bev.
I love this photo

In April 2013 I felt relaxed enough to leave Bonnie in Granollers so I could go to a family wedding in Scotland. After so many separations it never felt easy to leave her but it is also so good to come home to a dog meeting you at the station ( and a man of course!)

A few days later she suddenly seemed strange and I went to the vet feeling like an over anxious owner but as we walked there, she deteriorated and I had to carry her the last few metres. They took blood tests and discovered Erlichiosis, a tick borne disease which is not found in the UK but is quite common here. Sheep carry these ticks and if you are unlucky – the ticks carry the disease

We were so lucky to have the 24 hour Veterinary Hospital Lauro close by. They kept Bonnie in overnight and treated her with fluids and antibiotics and she quickly responded. It had been serious as her platelets were dangerously low and she was very anaemic which is why she couldn’t walk all the way to the vet. There is a sunny bench outside the vets where you can have visiting hours

After this scare I changed her diet to a natural raw one – giving her totally raw meaty bones like chicken legs, quartered rabbits, beef chunks, liver and kidneys, even a whole chicken once, head included. She began to thrive and I had never seen her look so young and so healthy and fit.


Well as you see the story is still not finished – it is like the Arabian Nights as I don’t want it to end!  How did I ever imagine it would be in two parts?  Well, I will continue tomorrow for those of you who are still with me. It is such a pleasure for me to see how full her life was.
Highlights to come include the amazing journey to Scotland in the camper van in one of the hottest summers the UK has known. See you soon


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