Home » Uncategorized

Category: Uncategorized

Flea Infestations: Using Preventative is Necessary

Ain't no fleas on me

Recently, several people wrote to me about fleas. They seem to be particularly bad this year. It’s really important to prevent flea infestations because besides being gross, they are uncomfortable and unhealthy for your pup. Fleas can cause skin problems, anemia, and tapeworm. They can even kill puppies.

Flea infestations are horrible. Years ago, Mason and I were at a buddy’s apartment in Nashville. We had just finished sharing a peace pipe, and Bo was showing me a book about the World’s Fair at Centennial Park. I remember thinking “this weed must be really good because the words are jumping off the page.” 

Only, they weren’t words. They were fleas, a lot of them. The infestation was so bad we resorted to chemical warfare. We stormed his apartment, wearing masks, glasses, and yellow kitchen gloves, and sprayed pesticides that probably aren’t even legal anymore. Before we left, we set off three flea bombs. Needless to say, we annihilated every single one. The fumes were so bad Bo couldn’t live there for a week.

Because of this experience, Mason and I religiously use a monthly preventative. Occasionally, I find a flea or tick on my freaks, but thankfully we’ve never had a problem in our house. For us, Sentinel works great. It’s chewable, reasonably priced, and prevents heartworm too. I’m not pushing this particular product. I’m just letting you know what works for us. There are all kinds of options outside of Sentinel that you can check out here. 

During the summer months, I add a topical for ticks to their monthly routine. We live in the country, deep in the woods, surrounded by nothing but greenery, so ticks are a problem. They are such a problem that we also have the yard professionally sprayed once a year or we can’t walk to the mailbox without getting a tick on our ankle. 

I know flea and tick preventative is expensive, but it’s necessary. Especially during these hotter than ever summers. If you need a short-term solution or if you have an animal under six weeks old, bathe them with Dawn detergent. But for your animal’s health and your own sanity, use a monthly preventative. 

Sara’s Meniscus Surgery Update

Thank you so much to everybody who wrote to us about Sara. For those catching up, she had surgery on her meniscus two weeks ago. The lampshade aka cone-of-shame came off this morning, so that was a cause for a little tail wagging.

We’ve been walking her fifteen minutes daily. We let her set the pace, and it’s slow but every time we travel farther. For both her surgeries, we took her to Blue Pearl Vet in Cool Springs because we like Dr. Au. He told us she would recover quicker from the surgery on her meniscus than the one on her ACL. So far, he’s been right.

A funny little side note: We like Dr. Au because he’s a geek about his profession. He’s the kind of geek who thinks everybody else will be as excited as he is about it. When he repaired her meniscus, he took out the metal plate and screws he had used on her knee during the ACL surgery. He cleaned them, dropped them in a baggie, and sent them home with her pills and instructions. I really didn’t need to see the hardware, but I respect Dr. Au’s enthusiasm. He’s exactly the kind of person I want operating on my dog.

Sara’s been an exceptional patient. She remembers the drill, no roughhousing or running, no couch or stairs either. Luckily, our pack treats her with respect. In the beginning, they tried inspecting her wound but Sara wasn’t interested in satisfying their curiosity. She’d growl. They’d back off, give her plenty of room to maneuver with that clunky lampshade. I’m pretty sure that in dog language, Sara cursed that cone more than a few times. To be honest, she probably dropped a few f-bombs. Wearing that thing must be the worst part for them. 

Several people recommended that we use the pillow guard instead of the plastic cone. We tried it. Didn’t work. She could still lick her stitches. Maybe we were doing it wrong but I don’t think so. It’s a pretty basic concept, basically a travel pillow with a Velcro strap. I think the pillow works great for restricting access to some body parts but not others. Or maybe we have an exceptionally flexible dog.

In another week, Sara should be leash free in the backyard. I’ll keep you posted.

Something to Think About


Did you know that one dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years? Just think about that. Take one long second and think about it. It’s staggering, right?

The stats are five times worse for cats.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with animal activist Carly Sutherland. We talked about how overwhelming it can be to think about the amount of homeless dogs and cats. These stats are exactly what we’re talking about.

Howling with Dessie: A Farnival Tradition

Do you howl with your dogs? I’m not even a little embarrassed to admit we howl with ours frequently. And we’ve been doing it for years. Every few months, Mason and I call all our dogs on the porch and howl until our vocal chords are sore. It’s nice if our sessions fall on the full moon, but it isn’t necessary. It isn’t even necessary for it to be dark because occasionally we cut loose in the middle of the day. A beagle mutt named Dessie inspired this tradition on a cool spring night ages ago.

Mason, Dessie, and I had been sitting on our deck in front of a steel fire pit. The fire cast an orange glow for a ten-foot radius. Everything outside the circle was pitch black. Back then, we were new to the country, so the amount of stars flooding the sky still enchanted us. In Nashville, the multiple streetlights had smudged their shine, but not in Robertson County. Out here at night, the moon and stars are the only lights.

Dessie suddenly lifted her head and strained her ears forward. Up until then, she’d been snoozing close to the fire, so I immediately noticed her reaction. Her whole body tensed, then stilled. Seconds later, we heard a coyote’s high-pitched wail. It turned into a series of shrill yips that crested in an otherworldly howl. A rash of goose bumps scurried down my spine.

Seconds later, the pack answered. Their eerie song was so loud and clear that it was hard to judge their distance. It sounded like fifty yards, but I’m sure they were several football fields away. For a moment, I didn’t know if I should hurry in the house or simply listen. The look on Mason’s face said he felt the same.

Dessie decided for us. She lifted her muzzle, threw her floppy ears over her shoulders, and howled right back at those coyotes. Her voice had that hound dog timbre, and it sounded so out of place against the coyotes’ high-pitched wildness that it bordered on comical. Dessie didn’t notice. Instead, she bayed with every ounce of her thirty pounds, intent on letting those coyotes know she also had boundaries.

But as the howls continued, something changed. Dessie’s voice stopped sounding so competitive, so territorial. In fact, her baritone notes started to meld with their falsetto ones until it all sounded like a harmony. Even to my human ears, it was obvious the message had changed, what had started as a turf battle turned into a truce.

The irony of a dog who slept on a pillow-top mattress singing with a pack who had probably just finished sharing a deer carcass wasn’t lost on me. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all resolve our issues with a howling session under a starry night? Solving problems in the animal kingdom seems so much easier than in our human one. Maybe its because differences don’t matter as much as what unites them.

Their song was contagious. I couldn’t help myself. I threw my head back and joined. Eventually, Mason did too. Amazingly, no one, not the coyotes or Dessie, missed a beat when our off-key human voices rang out with theirs. The coyotes finished howling first. Just as suddenly as they started, they stopped. The night went back to being countryside quiet. Our focus shifted back to the stars and fire, but that memory of singing with coyotes still lives on at the Farnival.

Now, whenever Mason and I cut up on the porch, when we’re howling with gusto, I always hear, ever so faintly, the baritone notes of a hound dog named Dessie.

Two Surgeries in Two Weeks

I’m sorry for the lack of posts lately but we’ve had a hectic two weeks at the Farnival. First, I needed surgery because I cracked a tooth chewing on hard candy. I actually cracked it during quarantine but because it wasn’t infected, I had to wait for regulations to lighten before a surgeon would see me. PSA: listen when someone tells you that chewing hard candy can damage your teeth. And never, ever chew it during a pandemic.

The week after my ordeal, Sara tore her meniscus. We knew it as soon as we saw her holding her paw off the ground. This is the second time she’s had surgery on her right knee since the fall of 2018. The first one was on her ACL. She was over it then, and I can promise you she’s over it now.

She’s especially over wearing the lampshade and drags it against furniture, walls, and doorframes to make sure we know it. Emotionally, it’s hard on her too. She can’t play in the backyard with Adriana or wrestle with Floyd on the porch. And when we all leave for our afternoon walk, she has to stay home alone.

The surgery on her torn meniscus wasn’t nearly as complicated as the first on her ACL, so we’re hoping for a much quicker recovery. We did take her off the opioids a lot earlier this time, like forty-eight hours post surgery. She definitely had some discomfort, but she was much happier.

Sara hated the pain meds. We had to shove that pill halfway down her throat to get her to swallow it. She had no problem taking the Rimadyl and antibiotic, but she fought the pain meds so much that we started listening to her. She was clearly telling us that she didn’t like how they made her feel. And I get it. Opioids make me nauseous. I stuck to ibuprofen after they extracted my tooth.

Instead, we’ve been massaging her knee and icing it for ten minutes a few times a day. Plus, we’ve been giving her a higher dose of CBD oil. I can’t say enough about CBD oil. It’s one trend that actually lives up to the hype. It’s been a week since her surgery, and we couldn’t be happier with her progress. She’s been doing so good that Mason took her for a ten-minute stroll on the greenway this morning, and right now she’s snoring away in the bedroom.

A Favorite for Father’s Day: Bentley’s Balls

With all the chaos and divisiveness surrounding us, I wanted to find some common ground. And I wanted to do it with a laugh. If there is one post that gets a lot of attention from a lot of different people, it’s the one I wrote about a puppy’s balls. So, without further ado, I’m reposting a Farnival classic: Bentley’s Balls. Here’s hoping it makes you smile. Have a great week.

Like every southerner, Bentley’s manners are impeccable. He doesn’t beg for bacon, jump 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 a friend in Clarksville. Laura instilled the manners.

For the past week, he’s been at my house because Laura went to New Jersey for her grandparent’s memorial service. I’ve found homes for a lot of dogs, but Bentley’s the only one I’ve been lucky enough to puppy-sit a few months later. He’s thirty pounds, pale blond. Laura’s vet guesses he’s a pit-Lab mix.

We’ve walked thirty-four miles during the past week. He has potential. I’ve noticed some fear aggression, but if nipped in the bud, then it can be fixed with socialization, exercise, and discipline. He’s still young enough to mold.

I hear his translucent nails clicking 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 with the urgency of a bank robber, 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 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 dangle 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. And in another month, Bentley’s cute little balls will also be gone.

It strikes me: why can’t guys’ gonads be the same? We clone tomatoes and sheep, why can’t we clone a puppy’s balls? Instead, men walk around with 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 unravels 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 he left next to the bookshelf sometime yesterday, and plunks it at my feet.

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.