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Bentley’s Balls

I posted this essay first in 2013, then again in 2014. For the third time, back by popular demand, here’s… Bentley’s Balls 🙂


Bentley, 2013

We clone tomatoes and sheep, why can’t we clone a puppy’s balls? Instead, men walk around with semi-deflated balloons covered by chicken-neck skin that sprouts pubic hair like weeds in a snubbed garden. It doesn’t seen fair. 

 

Like every southerner, Bentley’s manners are impeccable. He sits on command, doesn’t beg for bacon, get on the leather couch, or pee on the hardwood floors.

I found him when he was six weeks old in the trunk of an oak tree on the Springfield Greenway. I don’t know how he ended up in such a strange place, but, now, he lives with my hairdresser in Clarksville, TN. She instilled the manners.

For the past week, he’s been at my house while Laura goes home to Michigan for her grandparent’s memorial service. I’ve found homes for nineteen dogs, but Bentley’s the only one I’ve been lucky enough to puppy sit a few months later. He’s thirty pounds and pale blond. Laura’s vet guessed that he’s a Pit bull-Lab mix.

We’ve walked thirty-four miles in seven days. He has potential. I’ve noticed fear aggression, but if nipped in the bud, it can be cured with socialization, exercise, and discipline. He’s still young and small enough to mold.

I hear his translucent nails clatter down the hallway. His gait is easily distinguishable because it sounds clumsy and inconsistent. He hasn’t established a pattern yet. He bolts through my office door, like he robbed a bank, then suddenly halts.

I swivel around and face him. I bend my elbow, giving him the sign to sit. He sits properly, on his haunches, gangly front legs poker straight. His ears are cockeyed, one hangs in an upside down triangular shape and the other points straight to the side. It gives him an irresistible expression.

Besides his impeccable manners and crooked ears, Bentley’s balls are his best feature. There’s no other way to say it. As he sits in front of me, I have a perfect view. His gonads are downy and slightly pink. They don’t hang but bulge with the size and firmness of grapes. I notice because I don’t often see a dog’s gonads. My mutts were all neutered young.

It strikes me: why can’t guys’ balls be the same? We clone tomatoes and sheep, why can’t we clone a puppy’s balls? Instead, men walk around with semi-deflated balloons covered by chicken-neck skin that sprouts pubic hair like weeds in a snubbed garden. It doesn’t seem fair.

Bentley’s watermelon pink tongue hangs from the side of his maw. His sharp, young teeth are vividly white. Everything about him is pink, white, and clean, even the inside of his cockeyed ears. He shakes his head and grins.

You’re silly, I say.

You’re sillier, he answers.

He lunges for his frayed tennis ball, which was forgotten next to the bookshelf sometime yesterday, and plunks it at my feet.

Let’s play, he says.

Okay, I answer.

I leave my work until later in the day. It’s hard to focus when a puppy wants to play. He bounds away, swishing his tail in joy. For a moment I watch. His balls barely jiggle.

Foster Dogs Who Fell in Love

Meadow and Bentley

It was love at first sight for both, one sniff of the behind and they were inseparable.

I miss fostering homeless mutts for a thousand different reasons, but watching the relationships they formed is one of the top five. In fact, the most beautiful love story I ever witnessed happened between our foster dogs Meadow and Bentley.

On a frigid morning five years ago, their silhouettes emerged in the backyard. I watched them from my office window, fingers suspended over the keypad. I was working on a project with an approaching deadline.

The mutts wore similar blond coats, and in the cold pale air, their fur looked white. I had no idea how long they’d been playing outside, but they were locked in the midst of it at sunrise. If the past ten days were any indication, they would rack up two more wrestling matches before bed.

Their dance looked like a mash-up of ballet and rugby. Meadow leaped, twirled, and lunged around him as elegantly as a ballerina. Bentley acted like the rugby player, agile but unsure how to focus his energy, all legs and muscle. He was a Lab-pit mix and wore his fur short and wiry, while Meadow’s fluffed long and wavy. They both weighed around fifty-five pounds, but he was taller and she was wider. He was clumsier. She was faster.

When their shapes crystallized under the morning sun, I realized I hadn’t gotten any work done because I couldn’t tear my eyes from Meadow and Bentley. Their affection was exhilarating, intoxicating, unfiltered. They couldn’t talk, yet their body language screamed their love, as though they stood on the rooftop with megaphones.

I told myself to focus and clicked open Gmail. I had a note that made me swallow hard, twice. Donna, ICHBA’s head honcho, wrote that Bentley got adopted. An ex-military dog handler, someone who could handle his aggression issues wanted him. They were moving to Alaska.

It was the best news possible. I couldn’t have scripted a better outcome. Yet, I couldn’t celebrate, not quite. It meant separating Meadow and Bentley. Like Romeo and Juliet, their relationship was doomed from the start. Except, it wasn’t so much where they came from. It was that they were heading in separate directions.

***

I was cutting up a pound of strawberries when Meadow and Bentley burst through the doggie door. They had just finished their second round of wrestling.

Meadow dropped on the kitchen’s tile floor and panted in fast huffs. Bentley, equally hot, bounded next to her. In the human world, he’d be called whipped, but canines don’t recognize labels. He feverishly licked her long snout. Meadow, annoyed by his affection, abruptly stood up and pranced into the living room.

Bentley was dumbfounded. He rotated his maw from side-to-side, sniffed the floor where she had been resting. Then, he settled for licking her drool.

Both of the dogs had special needs. Meadow had been adopted and returned once, Bentley twice. Bentley suffered from fear aggression and attacked whatever and whoever was closest whenever he saw strangers. Meadow, on the other hand, didn’t mind being around any human or dog, but she shredded shoes, rugs, towels, furniture, and children’s toys when she was alone.

Back then, I thought it was strange that these two special needs dogs found each other. It was love at first sight for both, one sniff of the behind and they were inseparable. I had wondered if they sensed each other’s neediness. In retrospect, I realize that’s exactly what they did. Don’t dogs do the same for us? Don’t they sniff out our emotional issues, then try their best to heal them? Why wouldn’t they do it for each other?

An hour after she snubbed him, Meadow dropped a Kong by his paw. Now, she wanted him to play. Meadow’s fur was still slightly wet from running through the dewy grass and it kinked around her ears like an 80’s hairdo. She was a one-of-a-kind beauty and completely aware of it. Bentley didn’t even try to get off the dog bed. Instead, he gently nipped at her ear. She plopped down, threw her head over his neck and fell asleep within minutes. They napped the entire afternoon cuddled against each other.

***

That evening Bentley and Meadow circled the yard. The winter sun was setting fast but they were unfazed by the fading light. It was their last dance, their last few hours together. They sprinted so fast that when they stopped, they needed a few yards to slow down, like a runway for a plane. Once in a while, they clashed in a flurry of paws and tails. What a wonderful way to say I love you.

They couldn’t have known it was their last dance. Or did they? Dogs can read microscopic body language. Did my body communicate the unease I felt about saying goodbye to a dog who had lived with us for four months? The unease I felt about separating Meadow and Bentley? Or was I projecting my feelings?

What I did know, even then, was that dogs are masters of living in the moment, and even if they had known about their impending goodbye they wouldn’t have acted any differently. On that evening, all that mattered to Bentley and Meadow was each other. So, I watched those two homeless mutts dancing their last dance and felt a profound sense of gratitude, gratitude for witnessing such a beautiful love story.

Farnival Update: Never Say Never

Adriana and Meadow

I started this blog as way to raise awareness for the animal overpopulation problem in rural Tennessee. When I stopped fostering, I thought I wouldn’t have anything to write about. I was wrong. Over the past three years, I encountered situations unique to being a dog mom, so unique that I composed blog posts in my head, scrawled notes across that invisible notepad addressed to every dog-loving freak out there. For instance, one day I stared at my mutt’s nose sweat swirled across the Honda’s windows and instantly thought, that’s art. On another occasion, I pulled a tick out of Meadow’s clenched butthole with a pair of tweezers and thought, who could possibly understand?  Needless to say, I really missed y’all.

There is never any one reason for a big life change. In retrospect I can’t pin the end of our fostering days on Loubie alone. A big problem with doing any kind of rescue work is that it doesn’t pay. After fostering 30 dogs in two years, I had 53 bucks in my savings account. I had to return to a full-time paying job. So, besides being a dog mom to four fantastic, hilarious, and complicated rescue mutts, I’m an assistant director on a television crew that travels over 100 days a year with the NHRA Drag Racing Tour. Balancing a career in television sports with my pack presents a whole other set of issues we’ll address in the months to come. Have you ever had problems finding the right dog-sitter? Have you ever missed your dogs so much you walk through pet stores just for the smell?

Also coming up: we’ll check in with our friends at ICHBA, interview a lionfish hunter from the Florida Keys, and visit the Puget Sound Goat Rescue, where I’ll introduce you to Rosebud, a three-legged goat.

FYI: At the Farnival we treat animals with as much respect as humans and make no apologies for it.

We’re Back….and still sniffing paws.

(Adriana and Melissa)

Hello there! It’s been almost three years since I’ve posted any updates. At that time, I thought I’d never return to blogging, but I miss all you freaks too much. And I miss writing about dogs! With that said, I have to admit the highlight of the last three years is my budding relationship with a three-legged goat who lives in Seattle, WA. I can’t wait to introduce y’all to Rosebud.

A lot has changed, which I plan on updating you about starting around the end of summer. The one thing that hasn’t changed is my penchant for smelling my dogs’ paws. Have you tried it yet? Like I said before, you’ll never want to live without that scent again.

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

DSC_0051(Adriana)

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.