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Silvio Dante: Update One

sil flop

Silvio is one of the goofiest dogs I’ve ever met. Granted, the way he looks – with his extra-long ears, flapping tongue, and paddle-sized paws – influences this impression, but even his walk is silly. My friend Nancy says his step resembles a Tennessee Walking Horse because Sil picks up his front ankles in an exaggerated prance that becomes more pronounced the faster we move. And yet, his back legs don’t go forward at all but swing in a side- to- side motion that has a different rhythm than his front paws altogether and seems exhausting to maintain. It’s hilarious to watch.

I’ve never been around these large breed hound dogs before, but Silvio is the second one we’ve had at the Farnival in just as many months, and I am sold. His fur is as soft as velvet, and like Benny, our first tall hound, he’s a particularly docile creature. One walk a day manages his temperament.

Speaking of easy, even though he had never lived inside before coming here, he hasn’t had a single accident in the house. After Rosie, it’s a welcome change.

Benny Update by Melissa


It happened quick. One afternoon Donna called, said Benny had a meet and greet, and that night he was gone. A Springfield, TN family with three young children adopted Benny, which is great news for everyone at the Farnival because he only lives ten miles away. His new family has a huge backyard and a boatload of tennis balls. They can’t wait to take him to the dog park and this spring’s little league games. Donna, ICHBAs administrator, said she heard that Benny’s new dad already likes snuggling with him on the couch.

Howling with Benny by Melissa

Benny 2

Benny doesn’t talk.

He hasn’t barked or howled since he’s been at the Farnival. When he itches his ear, he’ll make this cute little moaning sound or he sighs once he gets settled for sleep, but that’s about the most Mace and I have heard from him.

No one here wants a barker, but Benny’s complete silence intrigues us. His continued reticence is something Mace and I had only witnessed in abandoned dogs temporarily because they were so scared. But I don’t think Benny’s frightened nor do I think it’s an emotional issue. In fact,  since he’s been neutered, he’s turned into the coolest, jolliest, most laid-back dog we’ve had since we started fostering for ICHBA.

But Benny’s a hound dog, and a big one, and I imagine his howl would be beautiful, a deep baritone melody, so by the fourteenth day of silence, I couldn’t handle waiting anymore and called in the troops,  Mason, our entire pack, plus foster dogs, for a howling session

At least once a month, all the dogs and Mace and me assemble on the deck and bay until our vocal chords are sore. It’s nice if our howling falls on the full moon, but it’s not necessary. It’s not even necessary for it to be dark. In fact, we’ve been known to cut loose in the morning and afternoon.

We started these wailing conventions as an answer to the coyotes that hunt and migrate in the woods behind our house during the warmer months. The coyote’s eerie keening was something it took me a long time to get accustomed to hearing when we first moved to the rural south, but now I can’t get enough of it.

The coyote’s haunting chatter lasts for several minutes, but always starts with the leader’s cry. Before long the pack answers in harmonious yet opposing yelps, all of it reaching several erratic crescendos, which are the very definition of coordinated chaos, before fading away. Sometimes the silence is only a pause before the unearthly music begins all over again, but other times the stillness truly signals the end.

Curious, I had read up on coyotes and learned their surreal chorus is a form of communication that can mean two things: the leader could be calling home his group after individually hunting or the pack could be advertising territorial boundaries. We started howling because we wanted to answer the coyotes, letting them know how far they could roam before they crossed our turf. But the tradition carries on because it’s fun.

The day we decided to persuade Benny to howl was warm, one of the first warm days since March began. It wasn’t hard to gather everyone together because all of the seven dogs living at the Farnival were already sunbathing on the deck. Mason had just gotten home from Gainesville, Florida that morning. He was tired, but just as anxious as I was to hear Benny talk. We knew that if anything could bring out his voice, it would be a howling session.

Mace and I threw back our heads and started wailing, and before long Joe Poop, Dessie, Sara, Floyd, and Meadow all jumped up and joined, throwing back their snouts and howling full throttle. Unlike the coyote’s e eerie song, our baying has a warm, inviting tone, and our notes rise and fall in harmony. Miss Annie Daisy, our six-pound Yorkshire terrier, is the only one that doesn’t howl, but she still makes noise, yipping like a back-up singer that can’t sing but is so cute that no one cares. Every dog appears solemn and devout while we sing, as though our united howling is as sacred as church.

In the midst of it, Mace nudged my knee, pointed to Benny. Benny wore an attentive and curious expression as he witnessed our wolf-like ritual, calmly turning his long snout at Mace, then me and finally on Meadow, but he remained completely silent. We howled for a full five minutes until even Meadow, who acts the most devout of all, tossing back her blond head with gusto, grew tired of wailing.

Every once in a while Benny’s floppy ears seemed to perk, but he never made a sound.

“Come On Down!” by Geoff Reed

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(Benny’s gross balls: the result of a 2-year-old unneutered male)

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, The Price is Right was my favorite game show and Bob Barker was The Man. I liked it how the contestants would jump and down and the ladies kissed Bob as the bells and ringers went off and the lights flashed. I liked the models, the big wheel, the fabulous showcases and the audience shouting “higher!” or “lower!” at whoever was on stage trying to gage the price of an item. I loved it how Johnny “O” would call out a name to “Come on down,” and how the contestant would leap up and run down the aisle to be greeted by Bob. He hosted the show from 1972 to 2007 and closed each show by telling the audience, “Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered.” Even back then, I remember thinking that was pretty cool. These days, host Drew Carey carries on the tradition as well.

I like to think that Bob still watches at home sometimes and that he is proud of himself for all the work he has done to help animals in general and using his platform to educate impressionable minds like mine. He is ninety years old, still involved with animal welfare, a vegetarian who likes to drink Margaritas at his Los Angeles home that he shares with a pet rabbit. The cost of an average spay or neuter is about a hundred dollars, which I know is a lot of money for some people, but for me, the price was always right.


(Quick note from The Farnival: If you live in the Middle Tennessee area, please click here for a list of low-cost spay and neuter clinics. Like Geoff, we think Bob’s The Man too. Good news: since the picture above was taken, Benny’s balls have been removed.)

Meadow: Update Three by Melissa

Meadow cuteness LARGE


For details on Meadow and Bentley’s love story and background, click here.

Meadow sulked for a few days after Bentley left. She spent an inordinate amount of time at my feet or roaming the fence line in the backyard. Her spark, the one that Bentley’s adoration ignited, had definitely dulled.

It’s amazing how much things dulled for everyone here at the Farnival since Bentley left for Alaska. In some ways I love the subdued energy and in other ways I miss the challenge of “taming” Bentley. That wild beast never ceased to push my limits. Even when he cuddled, he cuddled hard, jostling until he got as close as possible.

But, a few days after Bentley left, Benny Fazio a.k.a. Big Ben arrived at the Farnival and distracted us from our reflective state. Like every other male dog living in our pack, Big Ben fell in love with Meadow. And although she has perked up since his arrival, she isn’t nearly as fond of Ben as she was of Bentley. The problem is that his coon dog genes can’t even compare to Bentley’s lab-like athleticism. Bentley sprinted while Ben lumbers. Bentley jumped over fences while Ben face-plants it in the dirt.

Another problem is that before Ben got neutered, he tried to hump Meadow constantly. Eight-month-old neutered Bentley pretty much ignored Meadow’s gender, but her femininity matters (in the extreme) to two-year-old Ben, mainly because when he got here, he still had his testicles, which had been allowed to flower into the ugliest gonads I’ve ever seen, black bulges covered with white hair that squished between his legs like bloated parasites in a defunct pond. I wouldn’t allow those things near (let alone on) any furniture until they got chopped, which thankfully happened a few days ago.

Poor Ben. Even without his balls, he sometimes longs for Meadow, happily trying to keep up with her graceful swiftness as his big paws clomp over dirt, long ears flapping like loose banners. She stops and waits for him to catch up, wearing a hopeful look. When he catches her, he grips her waist and tries to hump her, thrusting wildly, all while doing these little weird leaps in between pushes, which look like a forward twerk. It’s the most unusual doggie-style I’ve ever seen. Meadow, with her flowing blond hair and elegant demeanor, looks up at my window, cocks her head with an irritated expression, then easily breaks Ben’s grip. He’s no match for her.

Meadow springs away, finds a red plastic Kong that her and Bentley had chewed and wrestled over before he left, and settles under a chestnut tree to gnaw on it. Ben glances at her with his mopey long snout and starts digging in a hole, as though unfazed by her rebuff. Meadow pauses, unused to being ignored, and then seems to shrug her shoulders and goes back to licking the Kong.

Meet Benny by Melissa

Benny CU

Benny is a fifty-four pound, two-year-old coon dog mutt with long ears and legs, a mopey face, and a gentle disposition. He’s smart and learned how to use both stairs and a doggie door within two hours of arriving here. He’s pretty much house-trained, but every once in a while he lifts his leg on popular spots like his crate or a doorframe. After a few laps on the trails behind the Farnival, he learned proper leash etiquette really quickly. Now, he lumbers right beside my thigh. With continued training, he’ll be a dream on walks, no pulling, yanking, barking, etc. Nothing much seems to bother him. He’s great with cats and other dogs. He’s very quiet; he’s been here a week, and I’ve yet to hear him howl. Benny doesn’t seem to need a lot of anything except for love and loyalty. To adopt Benny click here.