In this story, Cinderella is a boy.
His name is Beau and he is an Estrela mountain dog who came to North Carolina a year and a half ago, sick and starving.
His Fairy Godmother, you might say, is Robin Eatman, who runs a chicken farm outside Polkton in Union County.
Eatman, who is 51, had been looking for a dog after the favorite of her three dogs, a beagle named Petie, died at Christmas 2006. She researched dogs and decided on an Estrela mountain dog, a rare breed from Portugal used by shepherds in the Estrela Mountains to keep wild animals from their sheep.
Not long afterward, in June 2007, she said she heard that Beau was being abused in Missouri and needed rescuing.
“There's a quote in the movie ‘Seabiscuit' about not putting down a horse because it can't race any more,” Eatman said. “And you don't deny a dog a chance to live.”
Janet Stanton, who lives in Iowa and whose daughter runs an animal transport service, helped drive Beau to North Carolina. She said she was horrified at how skinny and sick he was, and telephoned Eatman to warn her.
“He was the sweetest thing,” Stanton said. “We didn't know what was wrong with him. We just knew he was in terrible shape.”
He was a year old, a big, hairy dog, and to look at him, you might not have realized how skinny he was. But when Eatman patted his head, it was as if she could feel every bone. His muscles were atrophied, she said, and his legs wobbled. He was so weak, she said, he leaned against her legs to walk.
She fed him, took him to vets, gave him medicine and weight-gain pills. Beau slowly got better.
“What took us all by storm was his temperament,” Eatman said. “After all he had been put through, he was so gentle and trusting. He did all we asked of him.”
In the beginning, Eatman walked him about 50 yards every day. As he became stronger, she rode an ATV around her Misty Mountain Farm and Beau ran alongside, working up to a couple of miles a day.
His body filled out, his coat turned silky and shiny.
A beautiful friend
Eatman was able to locate Beau's breeder, and got his pedigree papers. His father, she discovered, was Portuguese; his mother, French.
She took a course on how to show dogs, and last December, only six months after he arrived in such pitiful shape, Beau championed at his first show. He has been to four other shows since then, and has won 22 ribbons including Champion and Best of Breed.
Now she has bigger plans for him. Last week she flew to Portugal hoping to find another Estrela to be Beau's mate.
He has more than lived up to his full name, Meu Beau Ami, a combination of Portuguese and French that translates to:
My Beautiful Friend.