kinds of drugs and its side effects

The Frankie Diaries, 8/19: Get Off My Lawn

Just do it, the old Nike logo said. And so I committed myself to bringing back this blog without quite knowing how to re-enter gracefully, how to fill in the blanks of the past year.

I’m still not sure, but the other day I hit on the diary format, of using moments in a typical day as a jumping off point for associations about different topics. It may be another false start, but it feels right for now. I’d love your feedback.

After this first entry, I worried that I might sound a bit obsessive about Frankie.  And then I remembered who my audience is.


A study in camouflage

Where’s Frankie? Snug as a bug in a rug in his doughnut bed

4:55am I hear the click of Frankie’s toenails, the shake of his collar, and know he is getting ready to find his way into the bedroom.  This morning ritual is comparatively recent. Frankie slept on the bed with me — actually, a mattress on the floor; I got rid of the frame in 2008, after he injured his back — almost from the time I adopted him.

Then one evening, about eight months ago, things changed.

I was used to Frankie’s annoyance at being asked to move from dead center of the bed.  He was — and remains in some ways — a rather imperious little pup.  At least two pet sitters admitted to me, after the fact, that they had decided to sleep on my living room couch rather than intrude on Frankie’s repose.

I instructed them to just give him a gentle push. After a put-upon snort, I said, Frankie would get up and find a corner of the bed to settle into. Apparently, they found my nine pound dog’s invisible DO NOT DISTURB sign too intimidating to ignore.

But on the night in question, Frankie didn’t respond to my nudge by grudgingly relocating. Instead, he hopped off the mattress and trotted across the hall to my office, where he nestled into his fleecy doughnut-shaped bed.

This threw me for a loop.

I recalled that when dogs are sick they often like to go off on their own. When Frankie didn’t return to the bedroom, I became convinced there was something horribly wrong with him. Too worried to sleep, I kept getting up and going in to check on him. I watched until I was certain that he was breathing, that his sleep rhythms were normal.

I thought the incident might be a fluke, until the same thing happened the following night. This time, I came up with a different strategy: I enfolded Frankie in his doughnut bed, picked him up, carried him across the hall, and placed him in a corner of the mattress. He settled in briefly, then disengaged himself from both beds and walked into the office again.

I brought the doughnut bed to him so he wouldn’t have to sleep on the bare hardwood floor.


In less than a week, I accepted Frankie’s departure at bedtime — and his return to the same mattress the next morning, after I left it for day —  as the new normal. In many ways that was okay. Often, I slept better, not worrying about whether I was going to move over and disturb him, or whether turning on the radio when I couldn’t sleep would bother him.

It took me a while, but I finally figured out what my real concern was.

Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to read our dogs’ signals, even beyond the Canine 101 lip licking, paw lifting and gradations of growling. Are they in pain? What obscure sound is making them afraid? How can I fix their world?

This is challenging enough under the best of circumstances, but since last September, when Frankie was diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, I have had to learn a new language. There is some basic vocabulary shared by most dogs with CCD —  disorientation, for example —  but each one speaks a distinct dialect.

What I feared most about Frankie’s nightly departures was that they signaled the beginning of his withdrawal from me. Not recognizing loved ones is as common a symptom of CCD as it is of Alzheimer’s, the human disease it most closely resembles — and probably the most heartbreaking one.

Happily, that turned out not to be the case with Frankie. At least not so far.

What, then, is his bedtime withdrawal about? I finally came to the conclusion that Frankie had experienced a “get off my lawn” moment, a la Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. At the age of 14, Frankie is a grumpy old guy, and he was declaring that he needed his space.

Come to think of it, Frankie has other things in common with Clint Eastwood: He also spends a lot of time addressing empty chairs.

But that’s a story for another diary entry.


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We’re Baaack!

Frankie says, Yo, I'm still here!

Frankie says, “Yo, I’m still here [mutters a word under breath that seems to start with “b”]!”

It’s been exactly a year since I last posted on this blog.

I had my reasons for taking a break, some valid, some delusional.

“I’m starting a new blog and I’m not good at multitasking” falls into the valid category.

“I want to leave on a high note, with Frankie as a forever young — okay, perpetually middle aged —  superstar” falls into the delusional category. On some level, I suppose I thought it would be easier to pretend tough things weren’t happening if I didn’t have to talk about them.

It turns out, not so much.

Getting a reality check is one of the reasons I’ve decided to return to the pet blogosphere, on an as-yet-to-be-determined basis.

Frankie and I have some unfinished business with you all.

First things first

Those “tough things” I’m alluding to: Frankie has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, CCD, doggie Alzheimer’s… whatever you want to call being a bit out of it much of the time, although he’s generally in good health. Trying different treatments, attempting to adjust to his new circumstances (and mine), figuring out how to explain what’s going on to other people… all that is difficult.

So my goals are:

Taking back some sanity

One of the key reasons I decided to start posting again is that I need to air the crazy that’s been festering in my brain. When I’m not pretending tough things aren’t happening, I’m imagining that I have the power to prevent them or make them better. I’m convinced that I’m not doing enough, say, to reverse the laws of physics by turning back time.

I definitely need to re-enter my own guilt-free zone.

Giving back some information

During the year that I was away, I continued to get  questions and comments on my Seven Canine Diabetes Myths post. I answered them all and was very pleased to be able to help.

I never wanted Frankie to be the poster dog for diabetes — as I wrote very early on, he’s a dog, not a disease — and I feel the same way about CCD. At the same time, if I can help others who are going through a similar experience, why wouldn’t I? These days I know a few things about CCD, even beyond the information included in the excellent article by Dr. Janet Tobiassen-Crosby that I solicited when my friend Clare’s late dog, Archie, was first diagnosed. I know more medical stuff, yes. But I also know first hand how it feels to live with a dog experiencing the syndrome.

And how it feels to live with an old dog, period. It occurred to me that I was being horribly ageist, implying that Frankie wasn’t worth writing about any more because he was getting on in years. We tend not to discuss old age in humans very honestly and it’s worse when it comes to our pets — in good part because we lack a clear understanding of what’s going on with them. I plan to share my findings.

I’d also like to provide a place for people who need to vent about what they are going through — or what they went through — during this phase, a safe haven for all kinds of feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Okay, almost all feelings. If you’re seriously contemplating giving your dog to a shelter because you want a newer model, I really don’t want to know about it.

Returning to the community

I’m still feeling my way around here. I don’t know how often I’m going to blog, or how involved I’m going to get with various aspects of pet blogging. I’m not here for the pet products or the SEO.

I’m here to hang out with my peeps.

You guys get me, in all my Frankie-obsessed glory and misery. It’s been exciting to find members of my human family on Freud’s Butcher — which is still going strong; check it out — but I sometimes feel a bit like a misfit. You may not fit the standard genealogical definitions of kin, but you are my soul family, and you’re stuck with me as a member, for better or worse.

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Auf Wiedersehen, Will My Dog Hate Me

How do you say good-bye to people with whom you’ve spent more time for the last three years than any of your friends and family members (except for a small furry one)? People you’ve come to respect and care about deeply?

You don’t.

It’s true that I won’t be blogging about pets any more. But I haven’t been fully present since I announced that I would be working on a new project last January. And being half here is neither what I want nor what you, gentle readers, deserve. The topics we’ve been having a conversation about, from rescue and training to BSL and tainted food, are too important to be given short shrift.

That said, this blog has most of all been about sharing experiences with people who understand that our pets are family members and that loving animals is a key part of what makes us human, in the fullest sense of that term. And I will always be part of that community, which has given me more than I’d ever imagined was possible — support, advice, and help in real life.  Not to mention permission to discuss dog poop.

I was going to say a long good-bye, share some of my favorite posts, recognize individuals who have been particularly supportive, but I found it impossible to choose. And pulling the bandage off quickly is best. Besides, my last post, about Frankie, said it all. And it’s the image I want to leave you with: My muse, the always amusing Frankie, forever in his prime.

I hope you’ll come over to my new blog, Freud’s Butcher, a journey into the life of my mother’s family in Vienna (you knew there had to be a reason I was suddenly throwing around German phrases, didn’t you?).  It would be great to see old friends. But even if you don’t, you’ll still be with me. You don’t cut part of your heart out when you move homes.

Unless, of course, you’re relocating to Transylvania. Then all bets are off. badge

Here it is — my last Saturday pet blogger’s hop:

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