Bonjovi: The Blind Australian Cattle Dog

29th Jan, 2020

Written and photographed by Didi van Matroosberg

Bonjovi wasn’t born blind but was bitten by the other pups in his litter. We believe this might have been the result of jealousy over feeding or similar circumstances. He was rescued by someone in KwaZulu-Natal and taken to Alicia Tewson of Australian Cattle Dog Rescue South Africa, who took him in as a foster and started looking for his forever home.

A friend of mine tagged me on his story on Facebook, where I read about Bonjovi and then did a study of the breed, as I’d never had one. Once I figured that I understood the breed, I applied to adopt him.

Because we live and work on a nature reserve, we’re the ideal home for Bonjovi. We’re always here and our dogs are with us 24/7. We have a guest farm called Matroosberg Reserve, which is well known for welcoming snow every winter in the Western Cape. We receive many guests during the year who ask about our animals, as we rescue a lot, each of whom comes with their own background.

Bonjovi is somewhat of a celebrity and has his own Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Bonjos-Matroosberg-Adventures-1035591936631323/), where people follow his progress.

Our reason for wanting to adopt Bonjovi was that our youngest child has a slight speech impediment. The idea was to get him a special needs dog and then take him and his dog to school sports and old age homes. And because Bonjovi is blind, people ask lots of questions, which motivates our son to speak. We got Bonjovi in July, and within three weeks we already noticed the progress in our son, and the love between the two boys just grows stronger every day.

We soon realised that Bonjovi didn’t like the smell of the old age home, as it made him feel insecure. But what he does love dearly are all the kids at school. He loves the attention, all the running with the kids, and the interaction. Teanu’s school sees him as some sort of mini-hero for raising and teaching this blind puppy.

Bonjovi follows instructions really well and from anybody. He will sit, stay, lie down, wait, and, of course, following us on our bicycles is one of his favourite pastimes.

He joins me wherever I have to work on the reserve during the day and hates being left behind, which doesn’t happen often.

He rides on the quad bike with me when we go up the mountain and works alongside us on the 4x4 trail in the snow, which he loves, and one our Golden Retrievers always goes along and the two of them can spend the day playing and sleeping.

What we have learned from Bonjovi in the last months:

  1. You don’t have to eat ALL your food… eat only until you’ve had enough.
  2. If you need to trust someone, make sure it’s a trustworthy person.
  3. It’s ok to need help from time to time; it doesn’t make you weak.
  4. If you can learn to open the door for yourself, you don’t have to rely on anyone else.
  5. Always get enough sleep.
  6. Play often.
  7. Turn your face towards the light – even if you can’t see.
  8. Love unconditionally.
  9. Breakfast in bed is the best way to start the day.
  10. Protect those you love at ALL times.

With our second ACD rescue, we were worried that this could have a negative impact on Bonjovi, so we first fostered the second pup. But it seemed that Bonjovi and Bruno Blu became brothers in breed, and the love they have for each other is amazing.

When strangers come to our house, Bonjovi will always sit between me and the strangers, or between the people and Teanu. He’d first have to OK any contact, especially contact with him; nowadays he also blocks off Bruno Blu, and once he’s approved the initial contact, he’ll let people touch his brother. This is probably the most unique part of Bonjovi. It’s like he doesn’t know that he’s blind and the others can see. He’s older and wiser, so he protects the younger one.

We often laugh out loud at Bonjovi’s antics. Yes, he walks into things, but he has a certain way of walking when he’s unsure, so he never hurts himself. He’s just a puppy, so chewing things and digging holes is part of his life, just like any normal puppy. The best part is when he forgets that he dug a hole in the morning and trips into it in the afternoon – the look on his face is one of “damn, I forgot I did that”.

This puppy loves everyone in our family, and he’s good with cats, other dogs, guinea pigs, chickens, turkeys, peacocks and ducks. He loves water but will only play in the shallow end of the lake, as he’s unsure how far it’s going further. Once the weather picks up, we’ll definitely go swimming with him so that he can explore more.

Bonjovi has the most amazing soul, a loving heart and persistent attitude that we all love to bits.