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Foster Failures by Melissa

In fostering circles, if a family adopts one of the homeless animals they care for, they are called “foster failures.” It’s literally a term. By that definition, Mason and I have failed because we adopted Meadow. It happened at the end of last month, and I wanted to compose an essay to announce it, but I got busy with the fundraiser, and then we had a few ICHBA emergencies, which I’ll tell you about later in the week. It’s getting to the point where my delay feels like a lie, and I hate deceiving all y’all. One day, I will write an essay about why we made the choice we did, but for now, drum roll, please: It’s official. Meadow is staying here.

I can tell you that the decision to add a sixth member to our pack wasn’t made lightly, so it doesn’t feel wrong. In fact, it feels awesome. We are thrilled that Meadow is a member of the family.  Surprisingly, so is Donna, ICHBA’s founder, who understandably frowns at foster failures, but can’t deny how Meadow has flourished at the Farnival. Donna even waived the adoption fee 🙂 She thinks that Meadow should be ICHBA’s cover girl for the 2014 adoption season, and I tend to agree. She is a beautiful beast, isn’t she?

Meadow 3

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.

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.

Finding Sophia by Jennifer Blair

Sophia and Ben

Sophia and her six-year-old buddy Ben

In August of 2013, I hit an emotional low. Numerous issues plagued me even though I seemed to be living a picture-perfect life.  I had a devoted husband, precious children to love, a good job that I enjoyed, a beautiful home to live in, and nice cars to drive. I couldn’t understand why my life seemed to be spiraling out of control.

I took a leave of absence from my job to work on myself.  Among other things, I tackled personal happiness.  I wasn’t happy and wanted to know how I could find it again.  I asked myself all sorts of questions: “What makes me happy?”  “What USED to make me happy?”  “What am I lacking in my life that will bring me happiness?”  One of my answers was – you guessed it – a dog.

During that difficult time, I came to the realization that I really, really wanted a companion dog.  One to be my buddy.  One to follow me around, cuddle with me, ride in the car and go places with me. One day, wandering around the Williamson County Animal Shelter, I saw a Great Pyrenees called Barbara. I fell in love.

I went home and talked with my husband Jordan. He agreed to go see her, so we loaded Holly, our Labrador, in the truck and headed toward the shelter. Less than two hours after I left, someone had already adopted Barbara.  I cried. I was so disappointed. I thought I had found the dog for me.

The same day I called about another Great Pyrenees I found on Pet finder. Her name was Carmela. In her picture she looked more “feminine” than Barbara and smaller too. She was beautiful. Things got even better when I called ICHBA. I really liked Donna, the lady that I spoke to about Carmela. I wanted to adopt a healthy dog that had been vetted. And Donna seemed to care so much about helping the animals in her program that I decided I would try to adopt Carmela.

We met Melissa and her husband Mason when they brought Carmela to our home to do a meet and greet.  That was another step that I had never been through with a rescue organization before – and I was nervous.  I felt like my house wasn’t clean enough, and I really wasn’t sure if we would live up to their expectations! Carmela was just as beautiful in person as she appeared in her pictures, and I knew by her calm temperament (even letting our small children hug and pet on her) that she would fit in well in our home. When Melissa asked if I wanted Carmela, I couldn’t pay the adoption fee fast enough!  Yes, I wanted Carmela!

Carmela went home with Melissa and Mason that day so she could be spayed.  I was just fine with that; I didn’t want her to have to recover in a new place, surrounded by new people. But it would be a lie if I didn’t admit that I was so sad to see her go.

In the days leading up to her arrival, we searched and searched for just the right name for her; we liked Carmela but it just wasn’t….right.  Her new name had to be regal, elegant – just like Carmela was. It was my dad that suggested Sophia.  My reaction was immediate. It was a perfect name for a beautiful dog.

Since Sophia joined the family, she has done great. Besides a few accidents on the carpet (which we expected from a dog that had lived outside) and the fact that we have had to teach her some manners (she loves to try and steal food right off your plate or out of your hand J) she is a darn near perfect dog.

Most importantly, she makes me happy every single day.

(For Sophia’s history, click here)

Sheps by Melissa


A Ziploc stuffed with Sheps dog food sat on Amy’s polished dining room table. A bag cost ten bucks with tax at ALDI’s and lasted for a month. I never read the ingredients. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. I pushed the clear baggie to the side. Artie’s slick nose wiggled, capturing the scent of the artificially colored pellets. Street urchins aren’t picky.

Artie sat next to my Vans, pushing his eighteen-pound wiry body against my shins, too overwhelmed to investigate his surroundings. He’d never been inside a house as enormous and new as the Johnson’s. For that matter, neither had I. I reached down, stroked his shammy cloth-feeling ears, the leather-like softness sifting through my fingers.

“What are you feeding him?” Amy asked.

I hesitated.

As a foster family we’re required to provide food, shelter, and love. Shelter is easy. The Farnival consists of afifteen hundred square-foot house roosting on eight acres of mostly wooded land. As far as love goes, it’s boundless and unconditional. But paying for a foster dog’s food is another story. Our own pack includes five dogs and three cats, and we live on a Dave Ramsey-style budget.

But there’s another reason it took me a few seconds to answer. I know it’s not right, but I couldn’t help comparing the Johnson’s wealth to the flea-infested, scrawny creature Artie had been when I first met him. From the second Mason and I had turned into the their paved driveway, bells from the Bellagio started pinging in my ears. Artie had hit the jackpot.

Mason noticed my hesitation, flipped his eyes at me. That’s when my internal yin and yang started brawling. My yin screamed: just be honest, Melissa. It’s that easy. But yang countered: he doesn’t have to ever eat Sheps again.

Yang had a point. The inside of the Johnson’s home was just as impressive as the outside, twenty-foot ceilings with towering windows. Clean, unworn fabric covered the couches, tasseled throw pillows arranged at each end. A glass coffee table displayed photos of pretty, bobbed, blond Amy, her husband, and three children, all dressed in white, posing on a Florida beach, like pictures out of a glossy high-dollar magazine. Seeing those pictures is what pushed yang over the top.

I’m going to hook you up, little man, I said.

Artie looked up, dialed into my gestures and thoughts like no human could ever be. He trusted me, but I had earned it.

“Science Diet,” I finally lied.

Mason dropped his head, the brim of his Predator’sbaseball cap hiding his eyes. Raised as a Southern Baptist, my husband’s morals are impeccable. Lying goes down as rough as moonshine.

“I can pick some up tomorrow,” Amy said, not even looking at Mace or me, completely unaware that I lied. She stared at Artie with a gaze registering only tenderness. The Bellagio bells started pinging even louder than before. I smiled, just a little. Amy and her family were that rare combination of rich and cool. Artie would be loved here. This was a good place. A victory in our war against animal overpopulation.

“Any special kind?” Amy asked.

As soon as she opened a bag of Science Diet, she’d notice the difference between the cheap Shep’s pellets and the grain-like texture of the good shit. But by then, it would be too late.

“He seems to like the lamb and rice,” I answered.

Artie set his nose on my knee. He flicked me a wink.