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Tony a.k.a. T-bone Update: Gun-Shy

After fostering twenty-eight canines in eighteen months, I’ve gotten a little psycho about my recently adopted dogs. I like to stay in touch, at least for the first couple of months, with the families. I don’t ask for more than a smiley face text. But after picking the wrong home too many times, I’m gun-shy. The worst feeling ever is when a foster dog returns because things didn’t work out at their new homes.

Tony, a four-month-old puppy, left the Farnival at the end of April, so I’m still keeping close tabs on him. I texted his new mom, Tammy, last Thursday, asking about T-bone. Never heard back. Five days passed. I texted again. No response.

I tried to keep my worries contained, but of course the worst possible scenarios ran through my head. What if a car hit him and they’re afraid to tell me? What if he ran away and they have no idea where he is?

I finally dug out Tammy’s email address from an adoption application and emailed her. I heard back after twelve hours of obsessively checking my computer. She apologized profusely. Tammy’s daughter had dropped her phone in Tony’s water bowl, and it took her a few days to get another one. T-bone’s doing great. Look how handsome he’s becoming:



Tony Adoption Update

tony leash

(Tony in Fort Wayne)

The Berry’s, Tony’s new family, are the kind of people that make fostering dogs worth it. I’ve been in touch with Tammy every few days, and overall our little hellion is melting hearts everywhere he goes. I hear that Tony’s misbehaving by barking when he sees other dogs pass by his new home, but Tammy says they are working on it 🙂 Mostly, I get pictures about his silly antics, such as playing with his human sister’s toys or trying to walk himself on his leash.

Preparations for T-bone’s Adoption

DSC_0555(Tony, February 2015)

Tony has two more days at the Farnival. On Saturday morning, I’ll take him for his final walk with our pack. Immediately after, he’ll leave for his new home in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was three weeks old when he arrived here, and he’ll be five months old when he leaves. We’re all he’s ever known.

Mason and I put a lot of effort into Tony. We wanted to because he’s the last of Dawn’s litter. After she birthed nineteen puppies, we felt like we owed it to her. Besides socializing Tony, we house, leash, and crate-trained him plus taught him hand signals for sitting and high-fives. He’s been fixed and vaccinated. He rides like a dream in the car. He knows manners, such as sitting and waiting for his food and treats. He never begs.

Like most endeavors involving dogs, all our time training him was rewarded a thousand times over. I’ve honestly never met such a jovial little creature. Tony is the kind of puppy that has never, ever met a stranger and his open-pawed acceptance of everybody and anybody inspired me on a daily basis.

The days before a foster dog leaves are never easy, but with Tony it’s particularly hard. Yesterday, Mason had to fly to Texas for work, so he said his goodbyes early. I watched him pick Tony up and hold him above his head, while that puppy’s tail whipped back and forth, as though anticipating some kind of new game. “Take care of you,” Mason said before he lost it, cursed, and left.

As for me, I’m trying not to think about Saturday morning at the same time I’m compiling a list entitled “Preparations for T-bone” So far, it includes: wash his favorite blanket, remove his Farnival dog tag, give him a bath, pack his dog food, leash, and a few rawhides. A list makes Tony’s leaving sound so simple and efficient, yet it’s anything but.

Tony and his Foster Grandmother

tony leaf(Tony)

I got the call a few days before my mother arrived in Nashville for a four-day visit from Reston, VA. Over the phone, Tammi B. explained that her family was interested in adopting Tony. Tami was married with two sons, a daughter, and a cat that fetched. She shared the story of a beloved dog, saying when he passed away they had held a memorial service.

As I listened to her, rain poured outside my office window, but Tony and his gangsta sidekick Adriana didn’t care. I saw them happily wrestling in the mosh pit or chasing each other across the yard, kicking up muddy water with their paws. They were both filthy.

I talked to Tami B. for about thirty minutes, but within ten I knew her family would be a great fit for Tony. She was knowledgeable about dogs in general, and more importantly she didn’t even pause when I warned her about T-bone’s energy level. Besides, she lives in Terre Haute, Indiana, and was willing to adopt Tony despite the distance. They had been searching for the perfect puppy, she explained.

I felt both happy and sad. I knew letting Tony go was going to be hard, but I was glad my mother would have a chance to say goodbye. During the weeks leading up to my mom’s visit, every time she called all she had wanted to know about was Tony. She had bottle fed him when he was three weeks old, and it created a bond between them that even Tony remembered.

To say T-bone was delighted to see his foster grandmother would be an understatement. From the moment she walked in the house, he followed her around like a frisky shadow. Each morning when I let him out of his crate, he’d jump on her sleeping head and barrage her face with kisses. Whenever we got home from our mother-daughter excursions to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens or the movies, he’d ignore me and gallop straight to her, carrying a toy so they could play tug-of-war. They had a big time together.

On Sunday, when she had to leave, I took Tony with me to the airport to say goodbye. My mom said the hardest part of all was that he had no idea what was about to happen, and she had no way to tell him. I knew exactly how she felt. Grabbing his furry little head, she kissed his nose. He jumped after her, wanting to follow, and whining when he couldn’t. My mom didn’t start to cry until she called him her pet name “Tony Baloney” for the last time. Then, she obstinately stuck on her sunglasses, and we walked into the terminal.

Adoption Day at the Tractor Supply Company

T-bone hellion(Tony a.k.a T-bone)

Last weekend, I thought I was going to get into a throw-down with a thirteen-year-old freckled child named Hailey over a puppy.

ICHBA held their annual adoption day at the Tractor Supply Company on Saturday. We brought five dogs, including Dawn, Rosie, and Tony. For three hours, Donna, ICHBA’s head honcho, conversed with locals about our organization and our animals. Our only serious adoption inquiry was about Charlie, an adorable little blue-eyed Jack Russell terrier that hiked his leg on the bird feed about once every ten minutes.

Dawn acted as calm as always, accepted treats from strangers, and took several strolls around the store with Donna. On the other hand, Rosie, our big lovable oaf, behaved like the cowardly lion. Several people noticed her beautiful Cleopatra-like eyeliner, wanted to pet her, but she hid behind my legs, all sixty pounds of her trying to disappear.

ICHBA had help from a few foster families, including Hailey, a blond, brown-eyed eighth grader who fell in love with our five-month-old foster hellion Tony. And who could blame her? Tony launched himself at her like they’d been friends for a hundred years. The entire time I was at the store I saw T-bone for about 2 minutes because Hailey played, held, fed, and walked him for three straight hours. At one point, Tony was so exhausted he crawled into a crate and tried to pass out, belly-in-the-air, but Hailey was determined to spend every second she could with him and pulled him back out.

When the event was over, we started packing up, and I took Dawn and Rosie to the car. Then I went in search of Tony, who stood next to Hailey, while she begged her parents to adopt him. Like any responsible foster family, they both said no.

I reached for Tony’s leash, but Hailey wouldn’t let go. I reached again, this time heading for the Honda, but that little girl wasn’t letting go. For a few seconds, we stubbornly walked across the parking lot gripping T-bone’s leash together, neither willing to relinquish the puppy to the other.

At the eleventh hour, she adamantly yanked the rope out of my hand. I explained as gently as possible that I needed to leave, and she busted out in startling sobs. I mean howling wails, loud enough to make Tony cock his head in confusion. I may know some about raising dogs, but I have no idea how to deal with children, especially little girls bawling in the Tractor Supply parking lot.

Thankfully, Donna jumped in and rescued me, talking Hailey off the ledge by explaining that being a good foster family meant saying goodbye. When it was all said and done, Hailey and I hugged it out, parting as friends.

As I drove home, I thought a lot about that little girl’s meltdown. The funny thing is I completely understood how she felt. Every time I leave one these foster dogs, particularly puppies, at a new home I feel the same damn way. Maybe, Hailey has a future in this business after all 🙂

An Urban Hike through Nashville

Mason and I took four dogs – Meadow, Adriana, and our foster’s Dawn and Tony – for an urban hike through Nashville yesterday morning as part of their socialization training. The six of us started at the dog park on the hilltop in Centennial Park, walked down Broadway, passing the Ryman Auditorium and the already-open honky-tonks. Then we strolled along Second Avenue and the Cumberland River, weaving towards the new Convention Center. On the way back, we trekked 21st Avenue to Vanderbilt University, cut across the quad, and ended up on West End near Centennial Park again. We walked a total of five miles.

Dawn – a dog that was feral three months ago – did fantastic. It was a beautiful morning, the first sunny day of spring, and there were people everywhere. We passed a boatload of other dogs, runners, bikers, bums, buses, cars, golf carts, strollers, musicians, students, tourists, horses, a blaring fire truck, and even an ambulance. Her biggest issue was manhole covers, which she refused to walk over. After she tried to jump onto a busy street to avoid one, I stubbornly made her stand on it so that she realized it wouldn’t hurt her. After that, she walked on a few but never consistently.

The real star was Tony a.k.a T-bone. That little lady’s man broke 100 hearts in two hours. From one end of Nashville to the other we had flocks, and I mean flocks of women – young, old, and in-between – that stopped us and asked to meet Tony. That little four-month-old player has never met a stranger, and he kissed everybody and anybody. Here he is jumping into a complete stranger’s arms on lower Broadway:

T bone greeting