Dorothy Claeys, executive director of the no-kill facility, said that volunteers decided to name the dog Farrah because, like the late actress, “she is just so pretty.”
Claeys noted that German Shepherds tend to be a little darker, but Farrah, estimated to be 6 to 8 years old, has a more “blondish look and is just absolutely gorgeous.”
Aside from her good looks, Farrah has another obvious physical characteristic — she only has the benefit of sight in her left eye. A benign corneal tumor claimed her right eye, but Claeys said that doesn’t affect her personality, “Farrah is amazing and very friendly.”
When Farrah first arrived at Francisvale, she demonstrated repeated behaviors such as barking, jumping, spinning, and biting her own tail. She also exhibited unusual behavior in the presence of bright lights, which continued even after her eye was removed. The sounds of a dish touching the counter and kibble hitting a dish were other triggers for Farrah.
Through a special partnership between Francisvale and the Animal Behavior Service at Penn Vet Ryan Hospital, Dr. M. Leanne Lilly began to work with Farrah. Claeys calls the collaboration with Penn Vet “a great enrichment tool.”
The goal of the partnership is to provide quality care for the animals and to maximize their adoptability into forever homes. As an added benefit, Penn Vet provides support to adopters by offering three months of post-adoption behavioral counseling.
Dr. Lilly works with the shelter’s dogs and cats who exhibit behavior problems. She also collaborates with the volunteers and staff to promote more positive, consistent, and predictable interactions on all fronts.
As for Farrah’s corneal tumor, Dr. Lilly has no way of knowing if it developed over time, in response to trauma, or if she was born with it. Several strategies were employed to help her cope with the stressor of bright moving lights, or “sparklies” as Dr. Lilly refers to them.
“One of the easy things we did was to put contact paper over her window so that there aren’t any more reflections from cars, bicycles, or icicles coming in through. There is still a perfectly good amount of light, but it minimizes that stressor for her,” she said.
Dr. Lilly also taught Farrah to respond to the verbal cue “look” and make eye contact. She said, “Farrah learned to look straight at me. Even though she only has her left eye, that does not seem to impact her one little bit.”
The eye-contact cue was also used as a way to get Farrah’s attention. “We used that contact cue to get her attention away from anything else. That could be a shadow, a light, or if we just would like her to pay attention to us instead of something else,” Dr. Lilly explained.
She also said that Farrah is one of the few dogs at Francisvale who interacts with everyone. Because Farrah lives in the kitchen, she enjoys interaction and food. She likes it when people hang out there.
“Farrah watches what people do, and she kind of gets involved. She is the sort of dog who can do things on her own but also be involved in what is going on,” Dr. Lilly said.
Dr. Lilly also noted that once Farrah is adopted she won’t have to deal with some of the issues she faces on a daily basis, such as watching and waiting for the staff to prepare 50 to 60 cat meals twice a day.
Claeys added, “Farrah is just so smart and figures everything out instantaneously. We put food in puzzle toys and we give them to her, and before you know it, she’s got it all figured out.”
Farrah also loves belly rubs. “She is the kind of the dog that when you are petting her, she will lie down and want you to rub her belly,” Claeys said.
Farrah has been at Francisvale for more than three years and is patiently waiting for her forever home.
Claeys said, “Farrah is the sweetest dog. She is fabulous, and I honestly don’t know why she hasn’t been adopted.”
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About the author: Anne Forline is a freelance writer in Bellmawr, New Jersey. She is an unrepentant foster failure. Her three rescue bunnies, JoJo, Bennie, and Nibbles, allow Anne, her husband, Steve, and daughter, Cara, to share a home with them. Anne likes to run 5Ks and has placed a few times in her age division. She is also a certified teacher who homeschools Cara. Anne makes friends with all of the neighborhood dogs and keeps treats handy to give out when they pass by on their walks. See more of her work at AnneForline.com, and follow her on Twitter at @AnneForline.