A Permanent Hiatus

3way play(The best picture ever)

I think it’s appropriate I started fostering dogs with a pack of five and I’m going to end my volunteer work with a pack of five dogs. I’m sorry to report the Farnival is taking a permanent hiatus. There are a bunch of reasons why I made this decision but mostly its because I’m not nearly as tough as I thought I was. Every time I say goodbye to one of these dogs my heart breaks. There are only so many times my heart can be broken before it needs to heal. It’s time to heal.

Concerning our last foster dog Bee, she left yesterday afternoon. Donna worked her butt off to find other living arrangements. I’m happy to report when Bee left here, she was responding to the e-collar. As far as her future, I’m not sure if I want to know what happens. That’s one story that might never have an ending. I know Mace and I couldn’t have gone through with euthanizing her. For that reason alone, we aren’t cut out for this type of work.

I literally can’t put into words what these two years meant to me. It’s definitely been an emotional roller coaster. These mutts have made Mason and I laugh until our sides hurt and cry until we had headaches. We’ve saved the lives of thirty dogs in two years. I know it’s not much when you consider that 2-4 million animals are euthanized every year in the U.S., but I can’t help and feel some pride.

Although I won’t be updating, I’m going to leave the site up for a bit. Maybe talk to Charlotte about helping me set up a Farnival Hall of Fame during her winter break from college. I don’t know why but I feel like the stories of these homeless dogs need to stay alive for a while longer. Maybe I’ll try turning them into a book someday 🙂

I can’t thank y’all enough. You loyal freaks gave me the motivation to keep writing through this whole experience, even when I was grieving. I’ve made so many friends through the Farnival that listing them would take a whole other post. I have to give a special shout-out to Charlotte for designing the site, the numerous contributors for exposing their hearts, the Pidgeon’s for their unending support, ICHBA for letting us adopt three awesome dogs, and most of all, Mason. Mace, I don’t know anybody else that would have helped me chase a feral dog through a southern ghetto in the middle of July. You didn’t ask for any of it, but you’ve been by my side through all of it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The Aftermath

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I’m worried about Adriana. My independent little soul is depressed. Bee’s attack shook her up pretty bad. It’s breaking my heart to see her so down. She won’t play at all, particularly with Bee. Every time Bee tries playing, Ade hunkers under whatever is closest. Last night, tired of watching her pout, we took her to Dairy Queen for a pup cup, then for a slow stroll where I let her sniff whatever she wanted. I’m really, really trying to stay mindful of my behavior at home and act like nothing has changed. I don’t want Adriana to suffer long-term fears over Bee’s attack. I also don’t want her being afraid in her own house, which makes me wonder if Bee should continue living at the Farnival. Am I risking my animal’s safety by letting Bee stay here?

But what about Bee? She has nowhere to go. I spent a long time on the phone yesterday. First I talked to ICHBA’s head honcho Donna. Donna and I both agreed that euthanizing her has to be on the table. Donna said, “How can we adopt her out knowing about this?” And she’s right. Then, I talked to Bee’s first foster mom Miss Judy. Miss Judy said Bee had several aggressive incidents when she stayed at her house. The worst was when Bee attacked her other foster dog Duke. Unlike Ade, Duke has backbone, and it turned into a brawl. Judy is a small woman, about five-feet tall. She wasn’t strong enough to break up the fighting dogs. She had no option besides helplessly standing by and letting them go at it. Luckily, Duke outweighs Bee by at least twenty pounds, and he pinned her down. Judy also thinks euthanizing Bee is a responsible decision. Judy kept repeating, “Melissa, we can’t save them all.”

But then, I look at Bee, and I can’t even imagine going through with it. 99% of the time she’s just a high-energy dog, which means 1% equals a death sentence? Is euthanizing her the only responsible decision? I’m really struggling with this one. What happened to the good old days, when my biggest problem was Shady Shae pooping on the couch? Sometimes this dog rescue business straight-up sucks.

Let’s Talk About Aggressive Dogs and E-collars

Bee chair

We finally broke down and put an e-collar aka shock collar on Bee last night. We’ve witnessed aggressive behavior on several occasions, but we were easily able to correct her. Her outburst yesterday was way over the top. Frankly, yesterday’s behavior qualifies her as a borderline red zone dog because it was dangerous.

Mason and I were sitting on the deck, enjoying the pleasant temperatures of a late summer evening. As usual, Meadow, Adriana, and Bee were throwing down in the mosh pit. Occasionally, we’d glance at the dogs playing, but mostly we were enjoying the sounds of the numerous birds chattering back and forth, the cicada’s underlying buzz.

Adriana’s frightened screeching broke through our peaceful evening like a car alarm. From my chair, I saw Bee on top of Ade. I don’t know what started it, but Bee clamped onto her neck and whipped Ade’s head back and forth. Our deck sits at the top of the yard, about fourteen feet off the ground. Bee and Ade were fifty yards away. It took Mason fifteen seconds to get off the deck and down to the yard. The whole time Ade’s screaming got louder and louder. Those fifteen seconds felt like a hundred years, every second ticking like a decade.

Finally, he grabbed Bee, wrenched her off Ade. Adriana bolted for the rusting swing set, taking cover under the sliding board. The second Mason released Bee, she shot at Ade, clenched onto her ruff and shook her like a ragdoll. Some trigger had gone off in Bee and she wasn’t stopping until she inflicted pain. Bee outweighs Ade by twenty pounds. And Ade isn’t a fighter. She assumed the same submissive pose wolves have assumed for hundreds of years, crouching down on her back. But Bee wouldn’t stop. Ade’s weakness only infuriated her. She just kept attacking.

By the time Mason got Ade in his arms, I was in the yard, my sight zeroed on Bee, who circled Mason and Ade. I tried grabbing her, but Bee is way faster and easily skirted my reach. Even with Ade in Mason’s arms, Bee wasn’t done. The moment she lunged at Ade, I got a hold of her and threw her down, pinning her against the ground. I’m not a strong woman, but adrenaline is like a power surge, and someone was hurting my girl. Bee instantly submitted.

As soon as we got everybody inside and calmed down, Mason dusted off the e- collar and strapped it on Bee. I’m thrilled to report that Ade is fine. Her neck was pretty bloody last night, but the wound isn’t nearly as bad as it initially looked. She’s been avoiding Bee, but who could blame her? As far as Bee is concerned, I’m worried about her future. Who is going to want a dog with that kind of trigger? Who is going to be responsible enough to handle a dog like her? Ninety percent of rescue agencies in the United States won’t accept a dog with aggression issues. In the worst cases, euthanizing them is the only option.

I’m trying to remain hopeful about the e-collar. I keep thinking about Todd Langston’s advice. He says e-collars can produce amazing results, even with the toughest dogs. Let’s hope he’s right because I don’t even want to think about the alternative.

Thank you, Meadow.

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Last week we took Meadow and Dawn to the Springfield library to visit a group of three to five year-old children gathered for story time. When we got there the focus became less about a character called Penny the Pig and more about fist bumping Meadow. After the ten plus children got their chance to high five Meadow, they started heading back inside for more popcorn. Kids’ attention spans are about as long as firing firecrackers.

But one little girl named Ana didn’t want to leave. She had shiny hair, pink shorts, and a dimpled smile. At one point, I handed her Meadow’s leash, and you’d have thought I pulled a star from the sky. She lit up. Ana had come to the library with her grandmother, who stood off to the side, quietly taking pictures. The older woman never stopped smiling.

Ana wouldn’t let Meadow kiss her, but she turned away from her licks with such an enthusiastic giggle it tempted Meadow to keep trying. After running up and down the sidewalk with Meadow by her side wasn’t enough, Ana asked me if she could walk Meadow and Dawn. She was a bold little girl, but she had a few problems managing both leashes. She finally conceded that as a beginning dog walker she should probably only handle one at a time.

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When we said our goodbyes, Ana’s smile disappeared. Her eyes widened. I swear a shadow moved over our heads. My heart melted right then and there. I asked her if she would mind helping me walk Meadow to the car. Miraculously, Ana’s smile returned.

Later that night, I wrapped my arms around Meadow – who had been snoring on the couch since we got home – and whispered into her shaggy ear, “Thank you for making a little girl’s day.”

P.S. Meadow and I are both hoping we see Ana again this week at the library. We also heard a rumor Rosie might be making a guest appearance at story time. We’re crossing our fingers and paws.

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Shady Update

eyelashes

I think our foster puppy Shady Shae might have found a home, and we haven’t even put her up for adoption yet. When we were driving up the Pacific Coast earlier this month, she stayed with Judy. Judy also fosters dogs for ICHBA. Like us, she recently lost an elderly pack member and another one isn’t far from the Rainbow Bridge.

In the five days I was away, Shady wormed her silly little self right into Miss Judy’s heart. Judy said having her around was like, “a breath of fresh air.” She asked me if I’d “mind” letting Shady live with her so our ear-licking, couch-pooping puppy can win over Judy’s husband. I told her that of course I minded. But I’m thrilled for Shady. I can’t imagine it’s going to take very long before we hear an official announcement. I’ll keep you posted.

Shady Shae aka Q-tip

Shea tongue

Each morning our foster dog Shady Shae jumps on my head and sticks her tongue down my ear. If I let her work on it for too long, she’ll start nibbling on my lobe. Shady loves cleaning out ears. I’ve caught her cleaning out Meadow, Ade, and Dawn’s ears on multiple occasions. And she won’t stop until they give her the warning growl, like “knock it off, kid.” Me? Well, I’m queen freak. I let her go at it until I get out of bed. She’s cuter than any Q-tip.