kinds of drugs and its side effects

Embracing Sadness: Our Irreplaceable Pets

MemoriesI’ve been feeling a bit gloomy for the last few days, experiencing a sense of dread about this upcoming 4th of July weekend that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. One more assignment to finish, and I’m ready to settle in to work on Getting Naked for Money without interruption.

Also: I found a terrific new vet for Madeleine earlier in the week. I’d been a bit worried. I didn’t much care for the vet I took Madeleine to for her free post-adoption exam and, though I adored Frankie’s former vet, I was afraid he was going to retire soon and I didn’t like the other two vets in the practice: One had called Frankie “weird,” and the other dubbed him “a bad patient.” This new vet, an engaging, thoughtful man, is not only closer to my home, but is younger (no retirement soon) and has x-ray dental equipment. After interviewing several veterinary dentists for an article, I realized that I would never have my own teeth extracted without having x-rays taken first, yet had been willing to do that for a beloved dog.

Cleaning house

So why the gloom?

In preparation for getting serious about writing my book, I decided to do a little house cleaning–emphasis on “little.” Overdoing it until I became too tired to write would defeat the purpose. As I was going through my kitchen drawers, sorting through hundreds of discount coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond, I discovered some of Frankie’s things that I couldn’t bear to throw away: My diary of his blood sugar readings; a bottle of diabetic test strips; a hypodermic needle.

A bottle with a little Vetsulin remained in the refrigerator.

Seeing those items,  I was hit by a sudden wave of sadness, remembering a routine that was at once difficult and precious. And then I suddenly realized the source of my low-key anxiety: The 4th of July was Frankie’s designated  birthday. I never knew the real day and he was my Frankie Doodle Dandy.

Happy Birthday and Happy Fourth of July, Frankie!

Another reason this was not Frankie’s favorite holiday

There’s a certain irony to that. Not only was he terrified of fireworks, as many dogs are. Frankie was pretty much terrified of people, too.

I remember taking him to a Fourth of July political event early on. Even though it took place nearly nine months after I adopted him, I guess I still didn’t get the extent to which he hated crowds. I don’t think I knew the term “socialize” at the time but I probably thought that the more he experienced new situations, the more comfortable with them he would get.

Now, Frankie was an adorable dog. Based on neoteny, or puppy-like features, he was cuter in some ways than Madeleine, who looks more conventionally “doggy.” No surprise, then, that the political candidate wanted to have her picture taken with him. Frankie tolerated it, because I was nearby. But he wasn’t at all happy.

He was a one woman dog, totally devoted to me.

I wrote about my ambivalence about his dependence on me, his fearful personality in a story titled Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Dogs.  It ends this way:

Chastened, I lifted my little dog into my lap…. At least I had one source of solace:  As long as I gave him a loving home, Frankie would never know I was an asshole.

Frankie & me at in In the Raw

Frankie & me at in an early bonding session

A Guilt-Free — But Not a Pain-Free — Zone

I realize now: You can find a new vet so you don’t have to face the pain of going to the old one without your departed dog.

You can go to that vet with the type of dog you used to fantasize your departed dog would become, one that every veterinarian would be likely to love.  No one would even be tempted to call Madeleine weird or a bad patient. She cuddles up to everyone, doesn’t object to shots or even thermometers in her rectum, but she’s also frisky and a bit mischievous, a small dog even macho guys could like.

But that won’t lessen the pain of your loss. In this case, it made it worse. I feel bad that I enjoyed Madeleine’s popularity so much.

Earlier, before I started analyzing why I was feeling gloomy, I’d thought about dressing Madeleine in 4th of July regalia. But not only is she not a dress-up type of dog (see neoteny/lack thereof, above); doing that would be trying to make her into Frankie, just as I’d tried to make Frankie into another type of dog before I knew better.

So this 4th of July post is devoted to Frankie, in honor of his designated birthday, and on “his” blog, the one I created to detail his adventures, not on Edie as I’d originally planned. Madeleine? She may or may not get half a hot dog. The new vet said she wasn’t really fat, but “comfortable,” and then amended that to say, “You know, like Marilyn Monroe.”

Madeleine, the curvy femme fatale of the canine world.

Frankie was more of a surfer dude.

Frankie says "Just get me to the beach, already!"

Laughing and crying at the same time, I know now too: Sometimes the pain of loss is going to blindside you.  Getting another dog, no matter how great, won’t stop that from happening, though time might. Or not. Frankie will always be my first dog. That’s not ever going to change

What do you do with that hurt, then? You acknowledge it, you experience it. You remember, you regret, you grab a box of Kleenex.

And if you’re a writer, you try to put it into words so others will know that it’s okay to love two dogs, one present, one departed, at the same time.

Also posted in Dog Blogging, Dog mourning | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

The Frankie Diaries, 8/23: The Three Faces of Frankie

borealis press refrigerator magnet4:15pm I come home from Trader Joe’s to find a message on my phone from my vet’s office. My heart stops for a moment, even after I realize that, since I haven’t brought Frankie in for any tests and he is sitting right in front of me, it can’t be dire news about his health. I  did drop into the office a few days earlier to pick up needles and Vetsulin, however.  Maybe they discovered that the needles were the wrong size, or that the Vetsulin was tainted.

As I always say, even paranoids have enemies.

But no. The call was to remind me that August is Pet Dental Month and that Frankie is due for a cleaning. If I make an appointment by the end of next week, I can still get the discounted rate.

Ever since the veterinary practice was taken over by a corporate entity, I am flooded with generic reminder calls and emails  (Frankie is due for his vaccinations! his senior checkup!), including one wishing Frankie a happy birthday on a random day. I usually just find them annoying or, in the case of the birthday email, which came with a cute card, mildly amusing.

But this call really upsets me because it brings back the memory of Frankie’s previous teeth cleaning.

When I picked Frankie up after the procedure last August and expressed shock that he had had seven teeth extracted, my vet said, “Well, don’t worry, this was his last dental.”

I must have looked horrified. My vet immediately explained, “He just doesn’t have that many teeth left.” This calmed me down — slightly. You really do not want to hear the word “last” in a sentence relating to your elderly dog.

But I soon became distracted with worry about Frankie’s  post-dental face.

Frankie’s Default Face

When I first adopted Frankie, back in 2004, I didn’t think about his teeth. I would have scoffed at the idea that a dog needed a professional — or nonprofessional — cleaning.

I realized fairly soon that Frankie was pretty low maintenance. He didn’t shed and rarely rolled in disgusting stuff. I in turn was a low key owner. I brushed Frankie, bathed him — not all that often — and gave him home hair cuts. I liked his shabby chic look.

So did others, it turned out. Frankie soon became a poster dog, showcased on a greeting card, napkins and a refrigerator magnet; see the image, above. He also became the star of my book trailer.

It was research for Am I Boring My Dog, the book for which the trailer was made, that convinced me that Frankie needed to get his teeth cleaned professionally. By this time, Frankie was at least 9 years old and his teeth were not in great shape.

The Elvis Sneer

Frankie with his Elvis sneer

Frankie with his Elvis sneer

Still, the multiple extractions required for the first two dentals freaked me out because, well, they were multiple extractions. They didn’t do anything to change Frankie’s cuteness however.

The third one, which left Frankie with one upper canine and two teeth on the bottom (in addition to several in the back), was different. About a week after he was back to himself, I realized he couldn’t close one side of his upper lip over his lower tooth properly, which made him look like he was sneering. Yikes. I like a dog with attitude, which Frankie had in spades, but not one of constant disdain.

For the first few weeks, I would try to pull his lip down over the bottom tooth. It didn’t work.

No one noticed, or if they did, they were polite enough not to mention it. But I noticed. At the same time, I was embarrassed that I cared. He was healthy — well, for a dog with diabetes — and happy.

What difference did it make if he had an Elvis sneer?

Frankie with his Elvis sneer

Or is it an ironic smile?

Frankie’s latest face

Which brings me back to last August, and those seven extractions. One of the teeth that got yanked was the other upper canine, leaving Frankie with only two bottom front teeth and a few in the back on all four sides.

And this brought another — note, I will not say final — change: the sweet little Mona Lisa smile you see in the picture below.

Frankie with his Mona Lisa smile

Frankie with his Mona Lisa smile

It’s not easy to get a good picture of Frankie these days. His eyes are cloudy, and because of his Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, he doesn’t often have the perky, mischievous look he used to have.

The laws of physics, not yet reversible by science, dictate that we don’t get to go backwards in time. And I am not quite superstitious enough to believe that I am being punished for being so superficial about Frankie’s looks. But this past year, with Frankie growing ever more confused, his senses less directed, have been difficult. With 20-20 hindsight, I would give a great deal to have back the Frankie of more than a year ago, Elvis sneer and all.

Posted in dog dental care | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments