Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Prison For Dogs

Two weeks before we moved to England we had to say goodbye to our dog, Bonnie. Bonnie was a middle-aged Black Lab. She was the darling of our hearts. We said goodbye to her because we were flying her over to England two weeks before we left. It was a very pathetic scene in our living room. I remember the huge travel crate that was sitting there, waiting for her. Waiting for her body. We were all crying and hugging her and saying goodbye. I know she was just a dog, but she wasn't stupid. She knew something was going on and it wasn't good. The worst thing about it was that she couldn't understand us. I was miserable over this, because what was about to ensue was only going to get worse.

You see in England, they don't have rabies and so any animal that is brought into the United Kingdom must undergo what is known as Quarantine. Depending on the animal, depends on how long the quarantine. For dogs, it was six months. Now just in case you're thinking that quarantine is like "The Kennel" it's not. When you take your dog to the kennel the dogs usually get free time from their crate to run around and chase other dogs and play together outside.

Quarantine is not like that. It's basically prison for doggies. The cell's are about three and half feet wide and about 12 feet long. They are made of cement and the dogs are not allowed to have plush toys. Rubber things were OK, but that was about it. The dogs were also not allowed to have interaction with each other and they were not allowed to play outside at all. Half the cell was indoors and it had a small doggie door that connected to the rest of the cell which was outside, but completely enclosed.

Three weeks or so later, we were finally able to see her. I remember getting out of the car and you could hear the sound of barking and howling from the parking lot. I was sick to my stomach about what it was going to be like.

Here was this dog that we had for seven years. She was loyal...waiting by the door for us to come home from school every day. She came to wake up each family member in the morning with her nose and her tongue in your face. She didn't play favorites with us kids. She adored us as much as we adored her...and we sent her to jail. I was nervous about how she would react toward seeing us again.

After we entered the place, we were led down a sterile, gray cement corridor. As we walked along we saw all the other dogs in quarantine howling, barking or sitting very forlornly on the floor. And then we were led to her cell. The "warden" unlocked her door and we were allowed in two at a time. You couldn't fit more people than that. She wagged her tail and wiggled her bum and barked for us. She was so happy to see us. I was relieved. But I still wanted to cry. Her surroundings were so bleak and mean-like and cold.

I remember sitting down on a little stool next to her. I couldn't even stretch out my legs completely because it was so narrow. Then I sunk through the doggie door and threw a ball to her on the cement run that she had. She had to be careful not to run too hard or her paws would slide on the cement and she would run into the back wall which was actually a metal fence.

It was so depressing. There was nothing to do. So I also just spent some time sitting on the ground with her. Eventually we had to leave. I don't recall that we could spend a lot of time visiting. But leaving was awful. We gave her kisses and hugs and started getting up. You could see the panic in her big brown eyes. She got up too and began to pant and make circles around us. I know what she was thinking: "Wait! Where are you going?" "What are you doing?" "Don't leave me here!" "Take me with you!"

Heartbreak, I mean stick a spoon in your heart and gouge it out heartbreak. She would try to get out with us and we would have to push her back and shut the door. Then the howling started and the whining. It was the kind of whining and whimpering that she had done in her puppy years. She wouldn't stop. We had to walk away. We would walk down the hallway to the office and we could hear her whimpering and howling over the other dogs. I was sobbing. I never left that place with dry eyes. Ever. I hated that place. I hated myself because we chose to put her there.

Eventually my mother began bringing raw-hide bones and would pull them out right before we left in order to distract her, and it worked. Finally after the horrid six months were over, we were finally able to bring her home. But she was never quite the same. That place aged her considerably and even though she lived for another four more years, that place just made her older, faster.

When she finally got out, we brought her home to our new house and new surroundings and eventually she adjusted too the oddity of it all.

Five years after we moved back to the States, we brought everything home with us and all the things we picked up along the way. But of all the new and exciting things that we brought back to the States, there was one thing that we had to leave behind. It was the little gravesite behind the garden that held the ashes of our darling dog. The one and only, Bonnie.


Dan Mega said...

I'm sorry to hear about this, but it sounds like the good memories outweigh the bad.

Colleen said...

Yes, the good memories outweigh the bad, but I will never do that again...

colleen said...

Tramatic! Amazing what 6 months in confinement can do to an animal. :(

I'm sure, overall, Bonnie had a nice life.