Stories of an Amazing Dog
By Jude Stringfellow
As 2010 comes to an end, thousands of individuals will ponder what they want to achieve for the new year. They’ll consider it a second chance to start anew. Some may seek to perk up their health, vow to better their finances, pledge to improve their relationships or get over old ones. My resolution is to have more patience. I’ll most likely fail, but at least I‘ll try. It’s easy to make resolutions that are tough and unrealistic, but it’s easier to find reading material that claims to hold the key to inspire motivation. To be blunt, I find such material a waste of money. The fact of the matter is, all one needs in the new year is a little Faith.
On January 21, 2003 Jude Stringfellow’s 16-year-old-son, Reuben, went to help his best friend bury a litter of puppies that had died nearby in their neighborhood of Oklahoma City. What he witnessed he couldn‘t leave behind: a single living puppy born with only two functional legs being smothered by its mother. The yellow puppy—later named Faith by Stringfellow’s daughter, Laura—had one front leg completely missing while the other was badly deformed.
“Immediately, I was disappointed, because in our situation I was a struggling, single parent. I was going through a divorce, and we were in a rental home where we couldn’t have pets. We already had a contraband puppy,” Stringfellow confesses, as Faith relaxes in her favorite spot: under the bed. “Then she looked up at me. I felt like she was saying, ‘Help me. I can’t do this on my own.’ It was a look that took me over. I didn’t think she was going to make it. I said to my girls, ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’”
To everyone’s surprise, Faith survived the night. No longer able to deny the little dog’s strength, the Stringfellow pack bonded together and made the commitment to help the Labrador-Chow mix thrive despite the suggestion from a local vet to euthanize her. When the remaining malformed leg atrophied and had to be removed they worked harder together, took shifts nursing her and cohesively helped Faith through her first major battle: to sit upright. After three weeks of being enticed by spoonfuls of peanut butter raised high in the air, Faith lifted her torso off the floor and sat like a squirrel.
“Caring for Faith was a tough decision to make, but it was nothing short of miraculous.” Stringfellow continues. “At the time I was a professor of English at a community college in Oklahoma City, and I brought her with me to work. When others found out, they refused to allow me to bring her anymore. She was two-to-three weeks old. How could I leave her? Then they told me to make a decision. So I did: I quit. My son was working at CiCi’s Pizza to help bring home money. My rental house was being foreclosed on, but, hey, I was a difference in this dog’s life.”
Then in 2003, on Reuben’s 17th birthday, Faith took her first leap. “At first she hopped, but then she stood upright like a human and just walked,” Stringfellow remembers. “It was like watching your child take his first step! I thought, If she can make it, so can we. That’s when things started rolling up hill instead of down!”
After Stringfellow’s local television channel, KFORT 4, aired Faith’s story, Susan Manning of the Associated Press published Faith’s message of overcoming obstacles. It spread like a wild fire. Montel Williams and Rickie Lake were among the first to bark out requests for a cameo. Then came Oprah. Since 2006 Faith has been dubbed the talk-show queen’s “favorite guest.” Faith also has become an honorary Canadian Mountie, rubbed shoulders with several celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Samuel L. Jackson and has even toured with Ozzy Osbourne. Most dear to the Stringfellow family heart, however: Faith’s honorary rank of life long E-4 (or sergeant) in the United States Army. Literally walking proud and upright, Sgt. Faith happily serves her country, deploys across the U.S. to help wounded veterans and motivates them to keep their hope alive.
Today, Stringfellow is currently in the middle of penning her memoir and immortalizing Faith’s story on the page in a series of children‘s books. By rhyming and focusing on fun entertainment while integrating issues of morality, Faith’s message will be that of overcoming adversity and acceptance. Illustrator Silvia Gaitan and multiple award-winning writer and producer Derek Britt divulge to encore readers first the details of an upcoming project.
“‘Faith the Dog’ is a magical story that tells of one little animal’s struggle to make it in a world not built for her,” Britt describes. “At the core of the story, it tells of an individual’s willpower and self-belief to change and adapt, especially when all signs point the other way. It all starts with a child’s first few years of development and first education. Through a children’s series we aim to not only entertain, but help mold children’s minds and behavior to benefit them for the rest of their lives.”
Touted as a “beautiful story with dazzling illustrations,” “Faith the Dog” covers well-developed characters that will inspire and connect to readers, just as Faith has done. Of every sale Stringfellow makes on the book, she will donate 10 percent to Operation International Children, an organization devoted to delivering school supplies to children of war-torn countries. She will also donate 10 percent to C.A.R.E, a no-kill animal shelter in Strawn, Texas.
“I want to do more!” Stringfellow continues, focusing on a goal to create 50 Faith-based safe animal shelters across the country, particularly near military bases where abandonment is unmanageable. “I’m doing what I think is the right thing to do. I want to be the person my dog believes I am. Faith is what courage looks like in reality. If you’re looking for help and are willing to receive it, she‘ll help turn yourself around.”
Born, rejected, later given a second chance and now unconditionally loved, Faith’s story exceeds the status of just another simple feel-good story. She exemplifies what it means to prosper, win and above all, survive. This (as Stringfellow would say) is her leg-acy: To help others possess the conviction to begin anew.
Follow Faith on her website, http://faiththedog.info or on Facebook.