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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.

Could Livia and Bentley share blood?

BentleyLivia(Livia Soprano and Bentley)

By far, the most intelligent, spirited, and ferocious member of the Magic 8 is Livia Soprano. She’s unstoppable.

For the past three weeks, something about her extraordinary intelligence and indomitable courage was so familiar that it nagged at me like a forgotten item on my to-do list.

Then, one day last week I was flipping through some old pictures and ran across shots of Bentley (the Farnival foster dog that we almost had to euthanize because of aggression but now lives in Alaska) when he had been six to eight-weeks-old.

The puppy on the right of the split screen is Bentley a few days after I found him in a tree on the Springfield Greenway last summer, almost exactly a year ago, at a spot on the trail less than a mile from Smith Street, the place where Livia was born.

Down to the white stripe between their foreheads, they look like mirror images. Am I crazy? I don’t know. You decide.

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.

Saving Bentley: Update Seven by Melissa

b and med couch color

Meadow and Bentley

Charlotte, my seventeen-year-old sidekick, said it perfectly when Bentley finally left us on Tuesday, March 4th, “What a saga.” She’s so right on.

I found Bentley in a tree on the Springfield greenway last summer during a thunderstorm when he was six-weeks-old. A former friend adopted him, but didn’t socialize him, which meant that when she finally ditched him, he suffered from fear aggression and bit people when he saw strange dogs.

There were several weeks when we thought he might have to be euthanized and that was a very dark time at the Farnival. But then we met the saintly Maddison, who not only trained us to manage Bentley’s aggression, but, in the end, she decided to adopt him.

On Wednesday, March 5th, Bentley left with Maddison, her daughter, and his new dog-brother Cole, for Seattle, WA, where they’ll catch a flight to Wasilla, Alaska. I know that Bentley will reappear in my stories time and time again, so I don’t really have to say goodbye.