John Craven: “Bonny Goes Nursing”

Bonny was destined for greatness. She was born into Labrador royalty and there were huge expectations for Bonny and the rest of the litter. This high achieving canine dynasty had provided raw material for the police, customs, emergency services and assisting blind people to negotiate the perils of their environment.

All the early signs were propitious – eating, feeding, playing on schedule and, in due course, Bonny was assigned to a volunteer family to get her through her teenage puppy years. The volunteers meant well but their lifestyle was chaotic, helicopter mother, transient father and moody, uncooperative children. The saving grace was that the mother was a bit anal about law and order and, having given up making any progress with her children saw Bonny as her chance to exert a bit of control. Puppy school, regular walks, visits to the vet provided a pleasant escape and, in due course, she discovered the joy of a “dog park” where the dogs were off their leash and there was a chance for leisurely chatting to the other dog owners. But, of course, it all had to end as Bonny was destined for higher things.

What happened next is a bit of a mystery as Bonny was whisked away by faceless handlers who ran the next stage of her induction into a working career. From all available accounts she failed police dog standards because of an unfortunate lack of interest in biting people even when they were obnoxious. This was a disappointing set-back but it was not the end of the line. Customs or Border Force or some such outfit with stern looking people in black uniforms were prepared to check her out. This lot were after dogs that could sniff all manner of things that people were inclined to tuck into improbable places. Bonny loved this new job and she cheerfully scampered all over airport arrival halls sniffing at grumpy, tired passengers and, from time to time, breaking out into joyful barking. This carry-on prompted knowing smiles from the milling masses as they thought that authorities had caught another villain and the world would be a safer place. Bonny basked in this nice little vibe and, to add to her joy, she was given a special treat. However, the storm clouds were gathering. Bonny was being too enthusiastic and, like many another high-profile athlete, began to play to the crowd. The end was swift. Bonny showed great interest in a bag belonging to a very important person whose lack of enthusiasm for special attention was soon brought to the attention of the people who make the big decisions. Bonny was summarily dismissed.

The story could have ended there and, if the stars were aligned, Bonny might have found a nice little career looking after an adoring family. However, as luck would have it, the original breeders got wind of the travails of Bonny and felt there must be another way for her to achieve fame like her siblings and forbears. They decided that she might be suited to a career as a seeing-eye dog. This was not an easy career move as her previous history was a bit of a negative. Despite their reservations, the seeing-eye people agreed to give her a chance. As it happens this was an inspired move and Bonny did wonderfully well in her training and was, eventually, assigned to an older person. They made a wonderful couple, taking ever braver journeys in their immediate community and, sometimes, to distant places.  A cardiac arrest for her owner left Bonny, once more, at a loose end. The family of her previous owner loved her dearly but lived in a flat and pets were not permitted.

Bonny was taken to a vet to have her hips checked in case she had any signs of genetically determined dodgy hips which can be part of the perils of being a labrador. The sad story poured out and the compassionate, thoughtful and enterprising vet had an idea. She had just been to see her aged mother in a nursing home where the residents had their bodies fed, bathed and clothed with nary a thought for mental stimulation. There is a long history of pets, especially dogs, transforming the lives of bored people in boring environments and our lovely vet, Dr Sally, saw Bonny as a salvation in the nursing home where her mother was living.

The immediate problem was the neurotic dragon in charge of the nursing home. She felt that an occasional musical event and an even more occasional bus ride was all that her charges could manage. More importantly, didn’t dogs need to be fed expensive food and need walking and have dubious ideas about toileting?  She failed to note that, perhaps, this was not too different from the rest of her charges. Dr Sally was not to be fobbed off so easily but her offers of free vet services and subsidized feed supplies proved to be of no avail. She proposed a last ditch plan and took Bonny with her on the next visit to the nursing home and, being a consummate actor, Bonny quietly smooched around the other residents and was an instant hit. It is tempting to end this little tale with an account of the nursing home residents rising up in rebellion and management embracing the idea of an in-house dog. The reality is that the residents did quietly enlist the aid of their relatives and, after endless negotiations Bonny went to the home on probation. Needless to say she was a huge success and lived happily ever after.

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On-line: after bookings have opened

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The start date for acceptance of paper Enrolment Forms for first semester is published on the U3APP website and in the e-Bulletin. Enrolment Forms received before this date are treated as though they had been received on the start date (ie there is no advantage to be gained by submitting early). On the start date and thereafter, paper Enrolment Forms are numbered in order of receipt.  Paper Enrolment forms are processed by U3APP volunteers on the same day as on-line bookings.

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If your enrolment is unsuccessful,  you will receive an email telling you that you have been waitlisted.

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