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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.

Shady Update

eyelashes

I think our foster puppy Shady Shae might have found a home, and we haven’t even put her up for adoption yet. When we were driving up the Pacific Coast earlier this month, she stayed with Judy. Judy also fosters dogs for ICHBA. Like us, she recently lost an elderly pack member and another one isn’t far from the Rainbow Bridge.

In the five days I was away, Shady wormed her silly little self right into Miss Judy’s heart. Judy said having her around was like, “a breath of fresh air.” She asked me if I’d “mind” letting Shady live with her so our ear-licking, couch-pooping puppy can win over Judy’s husband. I told her that of course I minded. But I’m thrilled for Shady. I can’t imagine it’s going to take very long before we hear an official announcement. I’ll keep you posted.

Shady Shae aka Q-tip

Shea tongue

Each morning our foster dog Shady Shae jumps on my head and sticks her tongue down my ear. If I let her work on it for too long, she’ll start nibbling on my lobe. Shady loves cleaning out ears. I’ve caught her cleaning out Meadow, Ade, and Dawn’s ears on multiple occasions. And she won’t stop until they give her the warning growl, like “knock it off, kid.” Me? Well, I’m queen freak. I let her go at it until I get out of bed. She’s cuter than any Q-tip.

Eating Cicadas

DSC_0025

When we left off last, I was talking about bad habits that foster dogs bring to the Farnival. Bee taught Adriana how to hunt frogs and Shady was pooping on the couch. Well, I’ve uncovered a new habit that isn’t necessarily bad but it is interesting.

Over the past two weeks, when Ade and Bee weren’t throwing down in the mosh pit, I noticed them jumping at branches. For the longest time I thought they were just being goofballs. But then, I was outside and saw them leaping into the trees and knocking down cicadas so they can eat them. Who knew? Dogs are truly, truly resourceful little freaks.