The Ballad of Bonny Lass

The following has been a work in progress since I lost my Bonny Lass on March 13, 2017. I’ve finally finished it March 13, 2019. Though I’m sure I’ll add to it occasionally.

I am fully aware of all the bad things going on in the world and people have certainly lost more in their lives than a dog. In fact we’ve lost a lot since I started writing this entry. This is just my story and one I wanted to write for me.

A girl and her dog

bonny beach

I never had a dog of my own until Bonny Lass. I always wanted one. When I was a kid, I didn’t have an imaginary friend. I had an imaginary dog named King. He was a lovely, protective German Shepherd. Anyway, Bonny and I met in March of 2003 when my roommate at the time, Fiona decided she wanted a dog. She found a rescue outside of Orlando that specialized in young border collies and off we went with our friend Sue. It was quite a long, fun drive and when we got to the rescue place, we were excited to meet Fiona’s new dog. The rescue was interesting to say the least. It had a HUGE outdoor space for the dogs, but the dogs were kept in cages in a shed on the property and the woman that ran it kind of left a bad taste in our mouths. Fiona was deciding between two dogs: Bonny Lass and another one. The woman let all the dogs out of their cages to run around and then put them back in and brought the two dogs she was interested in one at a time to meet Fiona. Well, I took one look at Bonny Lass and fell in love. Sue and I were sitting off to the side so as not to influence Fiona on what was a personal choice. I remember saying to Sue that I didn’t know what I would do if Fiona didn’t choose Bonny Lass. I couldn’t leave without that dog. At the time, I was still living in the Boston area in the summers and coming down just for the winters. I worked on boats up there 6-7 long days a week and the condo I had didn’t allow dogs. There wasn’t a way for me to take her. Sue and I still laugh when we remember when the rescue lady had us put Bonny Lass back in her cage so Fiona could spend some time with contestant number two. Bonny splayed out and was like “I am NOT getting back in there” (a stubbornness that endeared her to me from the beginning that she always kept. She never did anything she didn’t want to do). As Sue and I wrestled her back in, Sue told her in her dog whisperer Sue way “Don’t worry, this is just for now. You’re coming home with us”. It worked, we got Bonny back in the cage easily and lo and behold, Fiona picked her! Bonny’s first ride with us was in my car back to Key West. We stopped at Petco on the way back while Fiona bought her all sorts of supples and we were all just so happy for Fiona and Bonny Lass.

Over the next few years, Bonny Lass had quite the life. I was just a part time player in it. There are so many stories with Bonny that I wasn’t a part of: she was kidnapped! She survived hurricanes! She made friends, played softball, boated and had many adventures. It’s funny to me to think about all the stuff she did before she came into my life full time! She was loved by all that met her. The original bond Bonny and I shared stayed strong even though I only saw here for a few months at a time. Whenever I came back to Key West Bonny would lose her mind when she saw me. It was always a great reunion!

In October of 2007, I moved to Key West year round. I stayed with Sue and Robyn right down the street from Fiona, Dave, Tallulah, Bonny Lass and their other dog Gunny. I saw a lot of Bonny as we all worked at Lazy Dog together. Fiona and I would take her daughter Tallulah and Bonny for walks a couple of mornings a week (I would always have to hold Bonny’s leash. I was like a little kid with her). Dave and Fiona had a TON of construction going on at the time. It was just too much with a toddler so Fiona took off for her parents on the West Coast with Tallulah for a few weeks. That left Bonny Lass home with Dave and Gunny. I was working full time for Lazy Dog and started picking up Bonny in the mornings, taking her to work with me and then bringing her back at night. Then I stopped bringing her back lol. I finally dropped her off the day before Fiona got back. It was kind of funny cause after that, whenever I’d see Fiona either out or at their house, Bonny would try to go home with me. Fiona provided her with a fantastic life but I think Bonny knew how obsessed I was with her. One morning, Fiona met me for a walk and gave me my Christmas present. I opened the box and inside was a dog tag that had Bonny Lass on the front and my phone number on the back. I was in disbelief. Fiona said that it was obvious how happy we made each other and she thought that Bonny should be mine. the dog that stole my heart 4 years before belonged to me and me to her. It was the best present that I ever received.

I was working at Lazy Dog as a kayak guide and I had a dog that went with me every time. We used to have her go with others at first if I was stuck on land but that didn’t last long. If she could see me, she’d jump out of the guide’s kayak and swim all the back to shore. I took her to work with me every day. Back when I was at the shack every day I never had her on a lead or leash. She would just hang out at the Shack. Her 3 favorite places to hang out at the Shack: 

  1. right in the doorway so everyone had to constantly step over her
  2. under the kayak rack (some of her ashes are there). This was when it was super hot. So like every day. She’d dig a hole under there and sleep. 
  3. ON TOP of the picnic table. She was the Queen and we her royal subjects. We were to bring her the finest turkey in all the land.

Not having her on a leash did lead to Bonny’s greatest trick: The ability to completely disappear in 30 seconds. She’d be in the doorway. I’d turn to help a customer and then POOF, she was gone. It got more and more impressive as she got older. She could fly for an old girl. We’d all wait a few minutes and then collectively sigh as the search began. She could usually be found at the restaurant, on the back dock or somewhere in the parking lot. On many occasions we’d get a call from the bike shop that was way on the opposite side of the parking lot “we have Bonny. We’ll bring her back in a few”. She always looked so proud when she returned from her walkabout. Even when she had to go on the “leash of Shame” after. She probably mostly thought I was an idiot for continuing to not tie her up.

Even though she liked to wander, she always wanted to know where I was. I would need to drive guests back and forth from downtown. I didn’t always take her especially when the van was full. If I didn’t tell her to “stay” and “I’ll be right back”, I would come back and find her laying by my car. That always impressed me as it’s not like I parked in the same spot every day. When she was tied up and I was gone, the second she saw me coming down the path she would start her Bonny howling as if I had left her for years. That always made me feel loved. Though she was probably more just complaining about the indignity of being tied up. 

Part of my job involved going to the cruise ship pier pretty much every day to meet our guests. On 2 of the 3 piers, she could come right to the ship with me. The security staff would take such good care of her. They had treats for her and let her grab ice out of the cooler (like she grabbed it herself. If she wanted some, she’d walk right to the cooler and one of us would open it up and she’d grab some ice and sit down for a chew). The security guys loved her so much that they made her her own Port Pass. All of the guests were missing their own dogs and would come right up to Bonny to pet her. This is where she won over those of us that live here. Because Bonny Lass hardly ever gave the time of day to anyone she didn’t know. A guest would fawn over her and Bonny would just sigh and not even acknowledge the petting. When we got to Pier B, she would go right to the first palm tree and just camp out. Without fail, when there was 5 minutes left to go, she’d come right over to me like “let’s go, let’s wrap it up”. Now most days we had two tours to meet. I’d bring one group to the vans and would have about 20-30 mins before I needed to go meet the next group. We’d go to the Fury Surf Shack where she had her own water bowl for a water and ac break. Bonny was often “one and done” with the groups. She almost never wanted to got out to the ship for a second tour. She’d either stay in the Surf Shack or most of the time, she’d hang out at the Fury Jet Ski booth. We’d be walking back to the pier and she’d just make a left and go behind their rope and lay down. It was hilarious. Everyone at Fury took such great care of her. At the Mallory Square Pier I had to keep a close eye on her as she liked to wander around a bit more there. Usually though, she’d find some shade at security with the police officer friends she loved. She knew all of them well because when a ship was at the Outer Mole, Bonny wasn’t allowed to ride the shuttles out to the ship. No problem, the guys at that security were happy to have her stick around while she waited for me. Now one Officer (Mike) was known as a cat lover. And I think Bonny knew it because though she knew him, she never really gave him the time of day. Until that one day when a squall ran through and Bonny was freaked out. Mike put her in his police truck to get her out of the storm. She warmed up to him after that. 

Back then we could bring dogs to the Conch Farm so me and Jerry would hop on his boat with Bonny and her boyfriend Cash and head to happy hour a couple of times a week. Whenever I lost sight of her, I knew where to look. She would inevitably be sitting by the fish tank just staring lol. Lots of Fridays she was as much a fixture at the Conch Farm Happy Hour as I was. Richard would bring Tucker and often times both dogs would do the crawl with us and be sleeping away at La Te Da at 2 in the morning waiting to go home while we solved the world’s problems with Sassy over Complicateds.

Boating was such a huge part of our lives. Every Saturday and often on Sunday too we all go boating. There was absolutely nothing that Bonny Lass loved more and my best memories are of boating the days away. Saturdays were with Richard and Bethany in the later years. There was exactly one official seat on Richard’s boat. And if you sat in it, you can bet that Bonny Lass would work her way up to that seat so she could see over the side on the boat ride out. She rarely slept on the way back lest she miss a dolphin sighting. Man she loved dolphins. She would whip herself up into a frenzy howling and whining, just wanting to swim with the dolphins. The three moments of dolphin chasing that were my faves:

-on the Irish Mist when we first realized her obsession. We stopped for a pretty large pod and before we knew it, she had jumped off the boat and was amongst the dolphins. We all thought she was going to drown or get attacked. But at least she would go doing what she loved!

-Jerry and Sam loved to do sunset on the boat. Before the kids we used to go out all the time and Jerry would throw the anchor and cook an amazing dinner. It was right around sunset when a dolphin popped up and sure enough, SPLASH, there went Bonny after the dolphin. The problem was we were in a sharky area at peak shark time. we pulled the anchor and motored to get her 3 times before we finally tied her up (hey, there were cocktails and it was just about dark. no idea how she kept seeing it!)

-Another time was at Boca Grande before they got super strict about dogs. All of a sudden Bonny took off down the beach and jumped in after a dolphin. I ran down after her. Everyone threw everything on the boat and had to go get her. She was relentless.

Her need to be near me was put into action the first time I took her snorkeling with me. I didn’t think anything of leaving her on the boat when I jumped off and swam away. She started HOWLING. We all figured that she’d eventually stop whining. I stuck my head up at one point as you usually do to see where I was in relation to the boat when it occurred to me that it was quiet. I figured “great! she stopped”. But wait, there she was swimming out towards me. In water that I couldn’t touch the bottom. Oh boy! she was going to drown me! I had to swim back to the boat as quickly as possible so she wouldn’t use me as a floatation device! From that point on, whenever I went snorkeling, she had to get tied up. She loved boating more than anything. She knew my boat bag and would start running around as soon as I brought it out. This was tricky during mini season as dogs weren’t allowed on the boat. I legit used to wait til she was asleep and then put the bag out my front door so she wouldn’t see it.  I told Jerry that I wanted him to take me out to Snipe’s Point with her ashes once I was ready. He said just let him know and he’d drop everything and go. And he did. One beautiful weekday Jerry, Tyler and I set out. It was so fitting that dolphins popped up and led us out there for a bit. I buried most of her ashes there and think of her every time I’m out there. 

Another favorite beach of ours is the one across the street from my place. You could find Bonny and I there most days for sunset. And you’d find her looking for fish or collecting rocks. Some of her ashes are buried there as well. 

It’s definitely hard for some folks to understand. I get it. Bonny Lass went EVERYWHERE with me. She came to work, she came with me on errands, she came out to the bars, she came with me to friends’ houses. Everywhere. I think that made things even more difficult after she died. I couldn’t really escape here memory anywhere. She was welcomed even in places that dogs weren’t allowed.

The day she died was one of the hardest days of my life. She was more than a dog to me, she was my doggy soulmate. It’s 2 years later and I’m crying as I type this. The way people rallied around me after her death was amazing. And not just my closest friends. The whole island was amazing. From friends to people I barely knew. Everywhere I went people wanted to tell me how sorry they were and how much they liked her. More than a few people would just cry when they saw me. Patti said it was just so weird to see me walk in or by and not see Bonny Lass 3 feet behind me. More than one person remarked how it just broke their hearts not to see her loping behind. I got so many amazing gifts and flowers (even from the florists themselves). It meant so much. 

It’s been 2 years. When I lost my Lass, I was lost. I knew I was going to get another dog but figured it would be awhile. About 2 weeks after she died I was looking at rescues and saw this sweet little black and white dog whose eyes just kind of reminded me of Bonny. I couldn’t get the puppy out of my head. I felt like guilty about wanting her. Sue was the one that made me really think hard about getting her. She said “look at the life you can give a dog. You owe it to a dog to rescue it”. She was right. I didn’t intend to get one so quick. But 5 weeks after Bonny died, Leia was mine. She definitely reminded me of Bonny yet for sure has her own personality. I didn’t think I could love another dog (and it’s not the same love as Bonny Lass), but man, do I love my Leia. I really think Leia saved me. 

bonny memorial


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2 Responses to The Ballad of Bonny Lass

  1. Sarah Evans says:

    Beautiful testimonial. Made me blub all over again. Nicely done.

  2. Erin says:

    I love this so much! I think Bonny may have been in the van when you picked my husband and I up for a kayak tour! Those dogs of our hearts…nothing like it.

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