Dog’s Best Friend
Jessica Mashburn’s Furr Frame pinups find animals fur-ever homes
By Billy Eye
“No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” – Christopher Morley
For the last decade, Jessica Mashburn and her world-renowned partner in rhyme, Evan Olson, have been performing Wednesday evenings at Print Works Bistro. When she’s not on stage belting out the Great American Songbook, Jessica’s passion is rescuing and finding homes for stray animals.
A volunteer at the Guilford County Animal Shelter, she launched The Guilford County Furr Frames Project in 2019, digital picture frames found on the front counters of businesses all around the county with a rotating array of portraits spotlighting shelter pets up for adoption. By year’s end, over 200 dogs and cats were safely nestled in their fur-ever homes. Here are some of their success stories . . .
Bandit is a disarmingly adorable bulldog mixed with mastiff. “Pitt-mixed mutts are the majority of the breeds found at the shelter,” Mashburn says. “There’s a stigma about the breed and, I’ll admit, when I first thought about volunteering, I had a little bit of apprehension about that,” she says. “Eventually, they’ve become my favorite breed. I find them more emotionally similar to humans in that they develop their personalities based on how they’re treated, and so do we.”
When Bandit’s family began having kids, they penned him up outside. “He got really jealous and upset and broke out of his yard one day. Another dog attacked him and the owner of that dog hit Bandit over the head with a tire iron and hurt him really badly,” Mashburn recalls. Not wanting to bring Bandit into the house, “The family surrendered him to the shelter. It was really hard on him so I immediately decided I would advocate for him. I got him involved with an amazing rescue group, Underhound Railroad, now Bandit is living with a teacher in Georgia and doing really, really well. I actually drove him down there.”
Beauford, a Staffordshire terrier stray, was never an aggressive pooch but physically very strong. Any time someone wants to adopt a shelter pet, they are paired up in a fenced-in yard to determine if the chemistry is there. “There were a lot of people who would take Beauford out in the yard,” Mashburn explains. Larger than he looks in the photo, “It would be a bit of a tough walk because he was so strong on the leash.” But Beauford’s story has a happy ending: “He ended up being adopted,” Mashburn tells me, adding that she once spotted him at the Petco with the family that he happily adopted.
A Staffordshire/Labrador mix, Cinnamon was surrendered when she was about a year old. “A lot of times,” Mashburn allows, “people want a puppy but surrender them to the shelter whenever that puppy makes the mistake of becoming a dog.” In Cinnamon’s case, her family hadn’t anticipated how much time and energy it takes to be a proper canine companion. “Her spirits were very low, she was clinically depressed and would just lie on the floor,” the singer remembers. “I actually had to carry her outside in my arms. She didn’t want to walk.” Cinnamon’s journey forward was fraught with loneliness and ill health. “She got really sick at the shelter with a respiratory infection which is very common in confined quarters,” Mashburn tells me. By chance a woman who had worked for 20 years for the school system saw a picture of Cinnamon on one of the Furr Frames. “She had a dog that looked almost exactly like her and reached out to me about fostering Cinnamon. She absolutely fell in love, adopted her and I’ve gone to visit them a few times. Cinnamon is definitely in her forever home.”
Most likely a Staffordshire terrier mixed with shepherd, Penny possesses those plaintive puppy dog eyes girls looked for in a high school sweetheart. She remained at the shelter for a long time. “Penny needed to be like an ‘only child’ with no other dogs around,” Mashburn says. “She was not aggressive to humans, she just felt threatened by other animals.” Taken in by a young person living in a small apartment, “She ended up back at the shelter but was adopted again and now has a good home. She hasn’t been back to the shelter so that’s a good thing.” Mashburn suggests people who normally only adopt golden retrievers or Labradoodles should reconsider getting a pit breed dog, “because they’re missing out on a really beautiful connection with an animal.”
Sir Diesel was found roaming around extremely emaciated, basically starving. “It took the medical team a while to get him to a place where he could be on the adoption floor. He’s a very large dog, a Great Dane/boxer mix or some variation,” she notes. “He felt very threatened by other dogs. He ended up getting rescued by Tails of the Unwanted; they put him through a great training program to help him get over his fear of other dogs eating his food. He was also very wary of certain males, it may have been because of some sort of abuse he suffered.” Eventually but Sir Diesel was adopted by a North Carolina Highway Patrolman and his wife. “He’s living the good life now with a dog brother named Hercules who was adopted through our shelter.”
Jessica Mashburn doesn’t limit her rescue efforts to our canine friends. “There are feral cat colonies all over Greensboro,” she tells me. “If there’s a shopping center with a wooded area behind it, you can bet there are stray cats living there.” On a recent excursion in search of someone’s lost kitty, she says “I discovered a feral community, about 20 of them, all spayed and neutered by local organizations. They live peacefully on some property owned by Guilford County Schools. They’ve been fed for the last 10 years by a woman who doesn’t speak English but, when I met her, there was an immediate feeling of universal compassion. Even though we don’t speak the same language, we were both touched by the survival and spirit of these cats in that same way,” she says, pausing. “I think it’s great that, within the city of Greensboro, there is a great deal of cooperation for existing feral colonies. These cats, who are not domesticated but would never hurt anyone or aggressively bite a human being, just want to be left alone to live out their lives in the environment they were born into.”
If you’re thinking of bringing a pet into your life this year, Jessica’s advice is, if you can afford it, consider adoption first. There are so many incredible companions that are waiting here at the shelter, or maybe that stray in your neighborhood, wishing with all their might to be taken into a loving home.” OH
Billy Eye ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog but I’d be lyin’ if I said he was cryin’ all the time.