Lonnie was one of the dogs I was very much looking forward to taking care of when I joined the Best Friends staff, he was part of a legendary run of dogs that had been together for a very long time with his companions Fred and Sahara. He'd been with Fred for 7 years and Sahara for 5. I'd met them up close but I always had to see Lonnie from a distance; he was a red collar (restricted to staff only) so I wasn't allowed to touch him as a volunteer.
He was a joy to take care of. His faults were few and easy to work with: he had a great love of food and wouldn't allow anyone to mess with it (he was SO enthusiastic about his morning and evening meatballs that he got them through the fence so he wouldn't miss the spoon and clip a finger by mistake!), and he was afraid of quick foot motion (such as a kicking motion) and might bite someone who he thought was going to kick him. Easy enough. I used to walk him beside volunteers and tell them that as long as they avoided breaking into any tap routines, everything would be fine - and it always was.
Lonnie was such a happy guy. Always in a great mood, always boppin' around, very affectionate and loved people - he was a licker and very enthusiastic about licking the people he liked. He was great with his runmates and could even warn Sahara to calm down - she was a good 5 years younger than the other two and could sometimes get on the nerves of the two older gentlemen, zooming around and nipping at them playfully.
Soon after joining the staff here, I had the pleasure of seeing both Fred and Sahara adopted to wonderful homes. Lonnie stayed behind with us and adapted quickly to other runs, living peacefully with some very difficult dogs! He took everything in stride. Lonnie had been here a long time, he came to BF around 2001 after the organization that had rescued him from a Los Angeles pound had him returned to them, twice, for fear biting. He was accustomed to rolling with the changes here and remained his mellow, joyful self.
In April of this year we noticed slight changes in Lonnie's breathing and made a vet appointment for him, and inoperable masses were found in his chest. Not knowing how long he had, we were determined to find the best situation for him and were very lucky when our BF Lead Dog Tech, Sarah, agreed to take him in for hospice fostering.
Lonnie absolutely blossomed in Sarah's home. It was amazing. He wasn't just a good dog, he was a great one; his issues with food largely disappeared and he stopped being nervous about fast foot motion - Sarah could dance in her living room and he didn't care at all. He was in his element, his true home, and he loved her dearly. I saw him at parties surrounded by people and he was happy as a clam, soaking up attention from everyone. He was trusted off leash and had perfect recall. By accident, by fate, Lonnie had found his person and she had found her dog. Even as his health issues snowballed and his body began to break down in so many places that it was difficult to keep track of them all, his behavior was nearly flawless. Lonnie may have now passed away, but it is because of Sarah that Lonnie truly lived. I am sad for his passing but I am so happy that his last months were full of joy and adventure.
(Photo by Gary Kalpakoff, BFAS)
I'll miss you, Lonnie. You were one great dog.