Bonnie to the Rescue

October 4, 2011  

Once cast aside like trash, this pit bull pup became a service dog and hero

Kathryn Bales

Photos by Melissa McDaniel

Bonnie entered my life at 10 p.m. on one of the coldest nights of the year. She was about 10 days old, and she looked like a skeleton. Her tiny body had been placed inside a cardboard box and tossed in a dumpster. Fortunately, my neighbor heard her crying and went to investigate.

I did what I could to warm her up and fed her some warm rice water to help with the diarrhea that my well-meaning neighbor had caused by feeding her a can of cat food. I figured that if she hung on until morning, she might have a chance.

My husband came home about then and was somewhat curious about what was happening. I was a little nervous about showing her to him, as I had promised that I would not get any more pit bulls. I had two large males when we first met, and he never quite got over his fear of them, even though friends called my oldest one “Mother Murphy” because of his extraordinary gentleness with small animals and humans. Bonnie, as yet unnamed, spent the night sleeping on his chest.

The next morning I fixed her some warm goat’s milk and rice, and set her on the floor to learn how to eat. Clyde, our kitten, joined her and kept her face clean. The odd pair became inseparable, and so she got her name. My intention was still to keep her until she was old enough to spay and then find her a good home.

The Natural

One morning when she was about 4 months old, she was laying on the recliner watching me try to teach my service dog prospect to pick up the phone I had tossed on the floor. After about 10 minutes, she climbed down, picked up the phone and brought it to me. At that moment, her future was ordained.

She soaked up every task I taught her and learned more on her own. She was about 6 months old when I attached “Service Dog in Training” patches on her harness and began public access training. She took to it like she had been doing it her entire life. The noisy machines in the casinos didn’t faze her, and she actually enjoyed listening to live music. Our favorite groups would greet her by name when we would walk to our table.

One Fateful Day

Everything was wonderful, and then we experienced an accident.

Bonnie was asleep in the passenger seat of my pickup when I made a violent maneuver to avoid having an elk jump through my windshield. When I felt the truck begin to roll, I threw myself on top of her and held on to the seat frame rails, holding her in place with my body. When we stopped moving, it was evident that we were going nowhere until help arrived.

After about 30 minutes, I heard a vehicle coming and held my flashlight out through the wing window, waving it back and forth. We soon had a collection of vehicles around us, but the doors wouldn’t budge, no matter how many men were pushing on the crow bar. They decided to break out a side window, and Bonnie and I covered up with my heavy jacket.

I slid my jacket over the edge of the door so that Bonnie wouldn’t be cut and told her to get out, but she wouldn’t leave my side. About the third time I ordered her out, she crawled through the opening. After she was safe, I discovered that there was not enough headroom for me to get on my knees and crawl through myself. I called her back to me and held the handle of her harness while she pulled me out.

A Friend Through it All

When the EMTs arrived, they gave both of us a thorough checkup and pronounced Bonnie fine, though still in shock, and insisted on taking us to the hospital. The staff was fine with Bonnie’s presence, except for one nurse who wanted her taken to the pound. The EMTs attempted to explain that she couldn’t do that with a service dog, but she wasn’t interested. There would be no dogs in her ER, period.

The lead EMT came back into my room and explained what was going on and asked if I would like him to take Bonnie home with him until I was released. That seemed much easier than getting into a big fight, so I agreed. Later he came back and drove us to the next town so that we could catch the bus to our destination. I contacted a hospital administrator concerning the nurse and her need for ADA training, although her nursing skills were exemplary. The level of care I received at the little county hospital surprised me.

Bonnie, who left the hospital still shaking like a willow in a hurricane, bounced back to her happy, normal self. It seems the EMT’s wife has multiple sclerosis, and Bonnie spent her time introducing the woman to some of the benefits of having a trained service dog.

Only one of our original rescuers was surprised by the fact that Bonnie is a pit bull. The rest seemed aware that the headlines the media loves so much are for shock value in order to gain readership.

When Bonnie retires, I will be looking for another pit bull to train for her replacement. The breed’s intelligence, loyalty, strength and natural friendliness make them ideal for the purpose. When strangers ask me if she is mean, I usually reply that the end farthest from her teeth can break bones!

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9 Responses to “Bonnie to the Rescue”
  1. SixDegreesPGH says:

    Yes, those tails are dangerous. I get smacked by them a lot at the shelter if I’m not being tackled for kisses. 🙂

    • @SixDegreesPGH Yes, their tales are very dangerous lol when my kids call me to let me know they’re home that’s all I hear in the background are their tales wagging happily against their crates.

    • Kmbrlycoates says:

      My new pittie has a ruthless tail, especially after having to go out in dewy grass! That thing hurts! She’s a rescue, was severely malnourished, fungal infection, etc, and we fostered her. And have never loved a dog more:)

      • AndyWhiteman says:

        @Kmbrlycoates@SixDegreesPGH Never had the tail problem. Red Dogg is well mannered with her tail. Outdoors may be a full wag but indoors there is a slight wag. She is well aware that a full wag will conflict with furniture, walls, etc.

  2. Great story and Bonnie’s first picture looks like she’s saying na-na boo boo to whomever tossed her aside. Thank God for your neighbor checking into the “cry” for help. Great story!! My family found out we will start fostering soon!

  3. AndyWhiteman says:

    Pit Bull? What Pit Bull? Bonnie looks more like a Vizsla. She looks like my Red Dogg who had one grandparent who was a Pit.

    Bonnie sounds great! A dog wants to care for its owner. They view the owner as their property. Red Dogg has picked up on my schedule and tries to keep me on schedule. My last dog, Hank, was an Australian Cattle Dog/Pit Bull. Hank self trained himself as a service dog and alerted me 6 hours before I had a medical problem. He also alerted to low medicine levels or dehydration. I asked my dog if I could reduce my medicine by one pill per day since they are expensive. The doc told me to try it. After 3 days of taking one fewer pill per day, Hank would alert me at night. I took a pill that night and the next day reduced my meds by one pill. Hank alerted after 3 nights. Tried one more time and he alerted again. I finally told the doc that my dog ruled out reducing my meds.

  4. Kmbrlycoates says:

    Thank you for posting this, I am new to the pit world and am loving learning more. I am working towards becoming a hospice nurse and would love to incorporate dogs in my work:)

    • AndyWhiteman says:

      Great idea! I was in the hospital in 1991 due to a head injury. The hospital also had a rehab class. The facilitator brought a therapy dog. Somehow that dog was attracted to me and would frequently lay on my feet. She probably could sense how much I like dogs.

      I have read on other dog blogs that therapy really benefit the clients in assisted living and hospice situations. I know I had a bonding with the dog.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @Kmbrlycoates Sounds like a great idea! Keep us posted!