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Portions of this article appeared in a two-part series in GREAT SCOTS MAGAZINE, Aug. - Sept., Vol. 13, No. 4 , and in Oct.-Sept. Vol 3., No. 5: "A Stone's Throw: Ripples Across Time with Scottish Terriers."

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Bonnie Sue: One Scottish Terrier's Experience with Adrenal Exhaustion and SARDS

By Russie McDement-Fogarty

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The Stone's Throw

Looking back over my life with Scotties, I realize that there have often been unforeseen and dramatic consequences from small actions. You throw a   small stone in a pond, but the ripples have a way of going far past the original point of impact, sometimes in a surprising way.


My love of Scotties was started through a "small stone"--a gift for my graduation. I wandered into a pet store with my mother and grandmother and both noticed my interest in a young female Scottie. I couldn't stop talking about her or thinking about her. She'd been in the shop a month or so past the cute puppy stage, so her price was reasonable and my grandmother decided to make this Scottie a gift to me. We'd owned a Poodle since I was eight years old so this young Scottish Terrier was a complete surprise. She had a saucy attitude from her months of confinement and made it clear she had no desire to sit quietly by my side or to gaze adoringly at anyone. No, she wanted to run and romp and see the world, and hey, if I wanted to come, great. If not, she'd just see me around. "Shock and awe" pretty much summed up my first impressions of "Babes," so named because she possessed the iron will, sense of humor and love of wandering that were found in Paul Bunyan's legendary pet, the Blue Ox, Babe. The name would have been more a more accurate reflection of all I didn't know about Scotties and my naivete' in supposing I would learn all I needed to know quickly.

Babes relented a bit and grew more loving as the years passed. In turn, I made a promise that she would have the best I could possibly provide. I had to learn exactly how to do that because it was not something I had been shown by example. Vet care was not something my kin thought much about, although my family did spay and neuter their pets and believed in the mercy of euthanasia administered through the hands of a professional, not a neighbor with a shotgun. In those beliefs and actions, we were exceptions.

I grew up in a rural coal-mining community in West Virginia. I was always concerned by the careless disregard for animals I witnessed in grownups and children alike. Where we lived, the possibility for pain animals could suffer was great. Ponies, horses, dogs, puppies, cats and kittens were all targets. If pets became ill or inconvenient, they might be shot, drowned or disposed of in some other way--perhaps being dropped by the side of the road in the dark of the night. Sometimes animals were hurt simply in the name of sport. A dog I had as a young girl was pushed off a large bridge by young men in our neighborhood. No reason was given, but a crowd witnessed the act and did nothing to stop it or assist the dog.

As I grew older, the empathy I felt for animals was such an integral part of my nature, I knew it was a God-given gift. The negative side of it was that I became sort of a bulls-eye for the neighborhood kids and they sought me out in particular to witness their more incredible acts of cruelty. One boy enjoyed watching my rising panic as he would hold a cigarette lighter beneath box turtles or other small animals. I attempted to avoid these scenes, reasoning that the violence escalated when witnesses were present. He soon retaliated by shooting our little 12-week-old puppy, Oscar, and leaving it in my parent's driveway. It was hard for me to understand why my parents did not take some kind of action. It maddened me that this kind of violence was easily accepted by the mainstream and consequences were nonexistent.

Viewing all this from the perspective of a powerless young girl in a community of strong-minded adults, I could only combat my feelings of helplessness by assuring myself that when I was older, I would do everything possible to protect and preserve the health of my own pets. It also led to a decision to be a vegetarian in my mid- twenties, a lifestyle change that sprang directly from this desire to protect the innocent. I was no longer able to mentally separate animals that were "pets" from animals designated "food." With that background, Babes was understandably a big part of my life as a young adult.

After I married, my husband Patrick spent many hours walking Babes and caring for her. When an independent dog like a Scottie turns to you for affection, you can't help but be flattered, and Pat soon fell into her fuzzy paws. I had long been suffering from her unique charm, but Babes gave Patrick the "Scottie flu" in a big way. That's how it all started for us as a family. We've had many Scotties and other pets since then, all unique, all wonderful, some with what you might think are impressive pedigrees, others without anything but wonderful personalities. But most were united by the fact that they were sick for much of their all-too-short lives. That deep affection we both felt for them and the desire to create the best health for them has shaped many decisions in our life together.


Free to Good Home

After many years of owning Scotties and other kinds of cats and dogs, another Scottie--Bonnie Sue--came into our lives, I had no idea that in trying to care for her, I would stumble upon some particularly startling information that could impact the health of Bonnie and give me a new perspective on the health problems that plagued other animals we owned and those long gone.

In 2003, I was home nearly full-time. I had recently quit the job I'd had for 13 years and was doing some marketing for a friend who'd started a pet treat business. I was enjoying the freedom this break in the action offered, most especially the time with our pets. It was completely wonderful to have that uninterrupted time with them and they responded by following me around like sheep from the time I opened my eyes in the morning until we all went to bed at night.

One day, a lady from my former workplace who knew of my deep love of Scottish Terriers called to direct me to an ad in a local sales bulletin. The ad simply displayed the phone number and the words "Female Scottie free to good home, must be spayed." I wasn't looking for another Scottie, but I didn't think twice about making the call. I knew that if for some reason we could not keep this dog, I had contacts in Scottie rescue who would help me find just the right home.

The woman who answered the phone was a longtime Scottie breeder not far from me in West Virginia. She bred not only Scotties, but other breeds as well. The breeder told me that "Bonnie Sue" was nearly seven years old, had come to her at about four years of age from a flea market in Ohio (the infamous and heartbreaking Lucasville, Ohio, flea market) and those sellers had received Bonnie from yet another breeding facility in Kentucky. Bonnie had been bred all her life and sometimes in less than optimal conditions. My understanding was that Bonnie was at the end of her puppy-producing career, and as a result, she was being considered for placement in a pet home to live out her last days. The only requirement was that Bonnie be spayed, and as that was something I would have done anyway, I gladly arranged to meet this Scottie girl the following week.

My first impression of her was pretty much what you'd expect from a Scottie who had changed hands several times and produced puppies all her life. She was a cautious girl who showed little faith in humans or what they had to offer. She had been brought into the house from her kennel, bathed and brushed and was allowed to get on the couch to sit with me. But she looked completely surprised and a little worried to be inside and in that particular spot. When I tried to let her sniff the back of my hand, she backed up to the furthest recesses of the couch and barked at me-- a high, shrill bark that some Scotties have. She turned her head and gave me a sidelong Scottie inspection as if to say: "And what will you be wanting?" Given her history, I felt she had a complete right to wonder about that.

I learned that Bonnie was given access to a metal building when she had puppies, otherwise she was outdoors on a concrete pad that offered a simple doghouse as her shelter. She was on a long leash that attached to a chain soldered around her neck. The kennel was beside a swampy area, so it was not a complete surprise to later discover at her first vet visit that she was suffering from heartworms. Bonnie had just given birth to puppies a few months before and was not looking her best as far as coat or weight, although she was nicely groomed. In light of her age and where she'd lived previously, I was advised that she probably could not be housebroken and that it would be fine if we wanted to keep her outside. In short, she did not have the hallmarks of a perfect pet, but people who feel as we do about Scotties are rarely deterred by simple things like housebreaking issues or old age. The hard life she had lived had not completely snuffed out the faint sparkle of Scottie liveliness I thought I could still see. I immediately felt that with some love, time and a spay procedure, she might relax and show more of her innate personality. I looked forward to seeing how I could shape the last chapter of Bonnie's life in a positive way and thought no more about sending her on to rescue.



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