kinds of drugs and its side effects

Don’t Go: In Praise of the Occasional Wallow

Madeleine is a clever girl, and also a stubborn one. The other day when I was trying to leave to go to the gym, bag in hand, she parked her little butt firmly in the backyard, refusing to come in–even when I called her with a visible piece of food in hand, even when I opened the refrigerator door, a sound that usually gets a really rapid response. I finally had to pick her up and bring her indoors.

As I recently wrote, I am very glad I adopted Madeleine. Allowing happiness into your life is a good thing, as is looking on the bright side, if you can do it without nauseating all the people you know. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid painful emotions. Sometimes it’s cathartic to have a good wallow.

I’ve been filled with dread all week, channeling last year’s countdown to saying good-bye to Frankie, a year ago today. I chose Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, because I like the Mexican tradition of incorporating death as a natural part of life. And the artwork.

Day of the Dead Skeleton Dog by Lisa Luree

Day of the Dead Skeleton Dog by Lisa Luree

But euthanizing a beloved pet is not a natural part of life, even when you know in your head that you’re doing the right thing.  It haunts you, and it compounds the pain of missing that pet’s company. I finally allowed myself to go with it, to indulge in a running nose, ugly cry-fest, which is a lot better than the free-floating anxiety I’ve been experiencing as November 1 drew close. Madeleine may have sensed my sadness, even before she heard the honking nose blows, and decided it wasn’t a good idea for me to venture out into an amusement-free zone.

I appreciate the sentiment. But today I’m allowing myself to fully grieve my late, great friend Frankie, who will always have a special place in my heart. You never forget your first love, whether four legged or two.

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My Funny Valentine

Still the one...

Hotel Indigo, San Diego, summer 2009

Some days are tougher than others. This is one of the bad ones. A year ago, for Valentine’s Day, I posted this picture on Facebook and labeled it, “You’re still the one.” Frankie had slowed down, no question, but we were still having fun. He made me laugh every day.

Today I woke up and felt a hole in my soul.

Time heals. This I know. But first loves of every species hold a special place in our hearts. So here’s to you, my funny Valentine. And to all who are feeling sad on this day.

“Stay” takes on a new meaning, doesn’t it?

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The First Cut Is the Deepest: Trying to Love Again

Frankie the love bug

Frankie the love bug

A song has been running through my head lately….

In my readings, especially about pet mourning, I often come across the term “heart dog,” which I take to be the canine equivalent of a human soul mate. But what does that mean — and what are the implications of having had that experience?

I don’t think I could have loved Frankie any more than I did — still do — but I wonder….Did he earn heart dog status because he was my first dog, because he was Frankie, or both? I definitely didn’t love him at first sight — and vice versa. It’s hard to say which of us was more terrified of the other initially.

Was it the learning, the hard work, the earning of Frankie’s trust that deepened our bond? Or all that plus something even more intangible?

The bigger question: Can find I find such a connection with another dog? And what happens if I get one and don’t feel it?

So I put it to the blogosphere: Have you experienced the loss of a pet with whom you felt uniquely bonded, and then brought another into your home? What happened?

I’d love to hear from you.

But wait…

I know it’s not time yet. I want to travel. I want to heal. That said, contemplating a furry future while watching a video from the past that I didn’t know existed — I thought Rod Stewart wrote the song! — is, I think, a first step.

By the way, if you haven’t already watched the Cat Stevens version, go back and — I dare you! — tell me that it’s not about a loving and losing a dog.*

*Update!

Alert music fan Homie Danger — who deserves a “like” on Facebook, y’hear! — pointed out Cat Stevens did indeed love his dog, and even dedicated an entire song to him.

More music!

Just as I hadn’t realized there was an earlier version than Rod Stewart’s, I hadn’t realized there was a later cover, by Cheryl Crow. Must be a generational thing…

Here’s Rod:

And here’s Cheryl:

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Once Upon an Urn: The Irrational, Magical Tale of Frankie’s Return

Get a cup of coffee and settle in for a few minutes. You’re in for a bit of a long ride. But consider that it’s taken me far longer to put this tale together — a good part of a lifetime, now that I think about it.

Lake Srinigar, Kashmir. No, there was nothing in that hookah. We were just weird.

Lake Srinigar, Kashmir, my ex-husband and I and the boatman. No, there was nothing in that hookah. We were just weird.

Ashes to Ashes

No one is rational about death, especially the death of a loved one. No one.

A belief in heaven doesn’t protect you from a case of the crazies; neither does atheism. Grief just manifests in different ways, some more socially acceptable than others.

Indeed, the very fact of grieving a pet, in whatever fashion, is considered irrational in some circles, though not the ones I frequent if I can help it. If you’re reading this, I imagine you share those sentiments.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my key forms of irrationality relates to the physical aftermath of death. I’ve never been particularly squeamish about the living.  And when you have a dog, it’s virtually impossible to avoid contact with bodily fluids, including — often — blood.

But the dead. Ugh.

And that includes their ashes. You’d think that dry detritus would be unobjectionable, especially for someone who lives in the desert, but not for me. It might be the bits of bone I heard don’t get burned, or the reduction of something animate to a dirt cognate. I can’t explain it. All I know is that, although cremation seemed the best option when I was unable to donate Frankie’s body to science — see Five Things I Want to Tell You, While I Can Without Sobbing, About My Dog’s Departure — I couldn’t cope with bringing his ashes home. I had my friend John pick them up from the crematorium and take them to his house.

The crematorium also made a paw print of Frankie that John attempted to give me. Ewww! Maybe I should have made one while Frankie was alive, but I didn’t. Now the last thing I wanted was a visual representation of someone paw-printing my poor lifeless sweetie.

If your best human friend died, would you want a postmortem hand print?

That’s what I mean — irrational. Or differently rationaled. I know people cherish such mementos. I’m just not one of them.

A Stint in Limbo

Cowboy Frankie

Cowboy Frankie. Observe the hat

And so John kept Frankie in his house. For a while, I didn’t ask where. And I wavered between joking about Frankie as though he were alive  — did he enjoy the quiet in John’s house, as opposed to mine? Was he a good house guest? — to getting upset when John brought the topic up.

I give John a huge amount of credit for putting up with my Frankie irrationality (during Frankie’s life too, I hasten to add).

He inspired a greeting cards, refrigerator magnet and cocktail napkins

He inspired a greeting card, refrigerator magnet and cocktail napkins

I said good-bye to Frankie on November 1. By the time I went to Thanksgiving at John’s house, I was ready to ask about Frankie’s precise resting place. It turned out that Frankie was part of John’s entertainment unit — specifically, he was perched atop the television. I found that oddly comforting. Jokes about Frankie’s viewing preferences commenced, and I began feeling slightly less like every nerve was exposed when we discussed him.

I don’t know how long this acclimatization process might have gone on, with me getting gradually less upset at the thought of Frankie’s ashes, if John’s departure for a three-month teaching stint in Paris hadn’t been approaching in mid-January.

I couldn’t bear the thought of Frankie being alone for that length of time, and in a house that wasn’t mine. Note: It’s yet another sign of my irrationality that the phrase “a three-month teaching stint in Paris” brought up worries about Frankie’s ashes being left alone rather than extreme Paris envy.

I was now faced with the dilemma:  If I took Frankie home, where would I put him?  I never did find the Day of the Dead urn I was contemplating — I didn’t try very hard. You know, ashes — and I could neither imagine putting the plain box from the crematorium on display nor hiding it away.

It turned out the answer had been staring me right in the face all the time.

My Hippie Honeymoon

Lake Srinigar, again. One of these days I'll have to write about that

Lake Srinigar, again. One of these days I’ll have to write about that

You’ve probably been wondering where that goofy picture on the top of the page comes in. I’ve finally arrived at the background portion of the story.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I took what I fondly refer to as my hippie honeymoon, a three-month journey from Istanbul through Iran and Afghanistan to India and Nepal, with a return through Uzbekistan and Russia — then part of the Soviet Union — to Frankfurt and back to New York. I mention this itinerary, not to suggest my intrepid nature — I was 21, and if you’re not intrepid (read: foolhardy) then, when can you be? —  but to give you an idea of what it meant to schlep home an unwieldy and rather heavy item that I bought in Afghanistan: A graceful, hand-decorated vessel made of undetermined metal, possibly pewter and copper. I wasn’t sure of its purpose. If I thought about it, I imagined it filled with water and brought to a long table, accompanied by a basin, so diners in flowing robes could wash their hands before or after a meal.

It was not a sensible purchase, to put it mildly, but that was the point. It embodied everything about the trip and about the future that was exotic and magical, like Ali Baba’s lamp.

But while it invoked the intangibles of life’s promise, this vessel was also sturdy, virtually indestructible; I wasn’t worried about it breaking along the way. And I didn’t know how old it was, but there was an ageless quality to it.

More Travels

It stayed with me on all of life’s journeys, through the end of my marriage and another rented apartment in Brooklyn to a smaller co-op apartment in Manhattan, and, finally, to my current Tucson home.

It got pride of place on the top of my bedroom dresser, where I began to drape necklaces and scarves on it. In later years, the dresser top turned out to be a convenient gathering place for Frankie’s squeaky carrots, which tended to scatter. Our nearby bed — eventually, mattress on the floor — was the launching pad for most of the chases.

Frankie shrine 2You may be getting the picture already but, oddly, it took me a while to figure it out — even after I put the wire sculpture that my niece got me on top of the dresser.

But with John’s departure imminent, the proverbial light bulb started flashing.

This item, to which I never attached any noun in my mind, not even “pitcher,”  had found its purpose after all these years: It was Frankie’s urn.

It seemed obvious. Frankie the shy had traveled the world in his imagination — okay, maybe mine. What could be more fitting than for him to spend his days in a lovely urn from a faraway land?

A Well-Urned Rest

Now all that was left was to get Frankie’s ashes back.

If you think I instantly got over my aversion to Frankie’s ashy incarnation once I decided on a resting place, think again. I brought the urn over to John’s house, with the plan to return the next day when the transfer was made. I couldn’t bear to think about the process, including possible spillage, being enacted while I was present.

Yet once I was assured the deed was done, a weird but wonderful transmogrification took place. Frankie’s ashes and the urn, lid secured and spout internally stoppered, became a single beloved object that I could contemplate without fear and loathing.

I put the urn in the front seat of my car, strapped it into the seat belt, and drove Frankie back across town. Home.

Since then, I have been enjoying changing the configuration of Frankie’s dresser-top shrine.

The strands of  Mardi Gras beads that Frankie wore with such grace on the greeting card, refrigerator magnet, and cocktail napkins in which he was featured were among the necklaces that had originally been draped on the urn. And, as I mentioned, the beloved squeaky carrots were already on the dresser.  I started gathering other things from Frankie’s life, including the much mended squeaky chile, the ur squeaky carrot, and the mat on which Frankie’s water bowl had rested. I propped up the card that featured Frankie and AJ Em’s Frankie portrait on an adjacent jewelry stand.

Frankie shrine, the big picture

Frankie shrine, the big picture

Then I thought of the cowboy hat that Frankie wore in the first video trailer promoting Am I Boring My Dog. I’m not sure whether it’s better on the jewelry stand behind the card and picture or on the urn itself. What do you think? Too much?

Frankie shrine with cowboy hat, squeaky chile forwardIn case you didn’t notice, along with putting the hat on the urn, I also placed the squeaky chile atop the squeaky carrot.

I will no doubt go on tweaking this for a long time.

The limits — and limitlessness — of metaphor

I want to be clear: I don’t take Frankie’s residence in the urn to symbolize the death of my youthful dreams — or even of my middle aged ones. Frankie was my first dog, and he opened up another wonderful and exotic world for me, that of furry friendship. Maybe I’ll adopt another dog, this time one who loves to travel. Maybe we’ll go to wonderful places together.

Maybe not.

It doesn’t matter.

Call it irrational, but the rightness of the fit of Frankie with his resting place provided a respite, for however long, from grief. The message that I took from this lovely bit of serendipity was the metamorphosis — and indestructibility — of life’s infinite possibilities.

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Frankie’s Fund Is a Huge Success!

I’m generally a glass-half-empty type of person. But meeting half a goal of $5,000 — I chose that amount because why not shoot for the moon? — means that, with the help of many wonderful people who donated, wrote about, or shared my posts about Frankie’s Fund, I raised nearly more than $2,500 $3,000 to help senior dogs die with dignity, in comfort, feeling loved.

Olimometer 2.52
Goal: $3128
Left to Raise: $50


My heart is far more than half full with gratitude.  It’s brimming over into my eyes, in fact.

Thank you.

By the end of next week, I should be able to reveal the organization that will receive the funds through a grant from The Grey Muzzle Organization.  Over time, I also hope to track the dogs that are helped by the grant, and share their stories with you.

But in the meantime, I just wanted to express my gratitude to you all for helping me to honor Frankie’s memory. Frankie may not have been especially altruistic but, like all public figures, he approved of charitable giving as a way to burnish his image.

As for the thermometer, which some of you might have noticed looks a little different than it did originally…In the last year of Frankie’s life, I often adjusted my idea of what constituted success to accommodate his advancing age. I was pleased when he played with his squeaky carrot for half a minute, for example, no longer expecting him to chase it until I got tired, and praised him accordingly. So let’s just say that, in tribute to senior dogs and their successes, I adjusted the goal of Frankie’s Fund accordingly.

Good donors, good donors!

Update: Another donation just came in — there is no cutoff date — raising the total above $2,500. Hurrah!

Update 2. Wow. Just wow. Someone just donated $500, raising the total to more than $3,000. I adjusted the thermometer accordingly. This is one case where moving the goal posts has proved to be a good thing.

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Good-bye 2013. Don’t let the door… well, you know

Cynthia and Harmony

Cynthia and Harmony

This year can’t be over a minute too soon.

It’s ridiculous, I know, to think that one sunset and sunrise will somehow change the disposition of the universe, that tomorrow my driveway will suddenly sprout good-luck flowers with solid-gold centers. (I’m not even sure what those would would look like — maybe sunflowers? Which would certainly impede my ability to get in and out of my house.)

That’s what magical thinking — not to mention astrology — is about, the bargains we try to make with the universe, the order we like to think exists.

But it’s not irrational to hope that next year will be better than this one.

Misery doesn’t love company

Many things happened that made me unhappy and distressed but it will come as no surprise to anyone here that the worst was having to say good-bye to Frankie.

And, then, somehow, friends started losing their pets too. I don’t instinctively understand the expression “misery loves company”; the one that speaks to me is “I feel your pain.” Every word of a new loss felt like a body blow. The news not only brought all my feelings of Frankie back, but made me upset that people I cared about were suffering too — a one-two punch.

The four that hit me hardest, in the order of their occurrences:

  • My friend Cynthia, pictured above, said good-bye to her greyhound, Harmony, a few days after she threw a wake for Frankie. She didn’t tell anyone it was going to happen at the time because it would have made a sad occasion even sadder. That’s just like Cynthia — generous to the bone. Harmony had a great life with her.
  • Leo of Kenzo the Hovawart bid farewell to Viva. He wrote a beautiful post in her honor, Chasing Sunsets, that makes me cry even thinking about it.
An image from the tour in Viva's memory

An image from the tour in Viva’s memory

  • After a long and valiant struggle, Roxanne Hawn of Champion of My Heart lost the fight to keep her beloved Lilly alive. Again, she can express the pain far more eloquently than I can. Here is Lilly’s obituary.
Last photo of Roxanne and Lilly, champion of her heart

Last photo of Roxanne and Lilly, champion of her heart

  • As I wrote on Facebook on December 27: “The loss of Beans, my friend Kathy McMahon’s dog, hit me hard this morning. Several great pets departed the world this year, but I didn’t know them personally. I met Beans before I adopted Frankie and thought when — if — I get a dog, I want one like that: affectionate, brave, outgoing… Of course I got only one out of three with Frankie and it didn’t matter a whit but Beans was a dog to aspire to.”
Beans, a dog to aspire to

Beans, a dog to aspire to

And yet…

Some of the worst things of this past year remind me of some of the best: My return to dog blogging and the subsequent support I’ve gotten from the pet blogosphere, including two three examples today:

  • Mel Freer of No Dog About It included on of my posts among her Top 13 Dog Blog Posts of 2013 — and it was a message I was glad I could convey, about not being judgmental in the name of being a pet lover.

So I leave you with thanks for being there for me, and with best wishes for a great 2014.

And with one last plea — yes, there’s still time for a tax deduction — to donate to Frankie’s Fund. Because every dog deserves a great sendoff.

Update: This just in as I was about to push “Publish,” I got the notification that CeliaSue Hecht wrote a sad and moving post about the last days of a senior pet (which happened to be a cat) — Senior Dogs Need  A Good Sendoff — that also promotes Frankie’s Fund.

 

 

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Expect the Worst!* And Be Utterly Surprised & Thrilled When You Get the Best

Me and Frankie in front of the (old) Go Pet Friendly mobile

Me and Frankie in front of the (old) Go Pet Friendly mobile. This may be my favorite picture of the two of us

No one could ever accuse me of being an optimist, or of being warm and fuzzy. One of my childhood friends, who only began reading this blog since it returned in August, was surprised to discover the depth of my feelings about Frankie, I’m that guarded about my emotions — and apparently always have been.

In fairness, the depth of my feelings about Frankie came out of left field for me, too.

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!

I’m not suggesting that I’m unfriendly or mean — at least never intentionally. But a protective part of my personality, along with an inability to suffer fools and bullies and a tendency to shoot off my mouth, have been known to get me into trouble. And then there are my raging insecurities. I never know to what strange places they’re going to take me, public and private, anywhere from paranoia to arrogance.

What am I getting at? That, like all of us, I have a skewed image of myself, and so have been blindsided by the profound kindness that so many people in the pet blogging and pet loving community have offered me in this time of grief over Frankie — a kindness that, some claim, my own actions have inspired.

The Gifters

Frankie by AJ EmmIt started with AJ Emm, who created the wonderful pet portrait for Frankie pictured here and sent it to me as a gift, out of the blue. (If you want one of your own, click on The Art of AJ; you’ll get a 20% discount if you put in the code FRANKIE).

She wrote:

You were the first person to make me feel like I was part of the “dog blogging community” after I started PupLove. Yours was the first blog that I did a guest post for.

I was also thrilled to get the wire sculpture of Frankie — it was a delightful surprise. But it was from my niece Rebecca, who I can always depend on to be amazing.

The Bloggers

And then I introduced Frankie’s Fund.

I got the first inkling that something special was happening on December 3, the day after I first posted about the fundraiser for senior dogs in Frankie’s name.  What should arrive in my inbox but a post from Something Wagging This Way Comes titled “3 Stories about Edie Jarolim and Why Knowing Them Will Help Dogs.” I can’t even type that without tearing up again.

It is a long, beautiful tribute and an exhortation to donate to Frankie’s Fund that, through the post itself and the comments, reinforced the notion that sometimes you touch other lives in a positive way without knowing it. I remember, for example, speaking sharply to Kristine of Rescued Insanity when she claimed she wasn’t a “real writer.” I was probably harsher than I might otherwise have been because I was also talking to myself, regretting all the time I wasted — still do — not believing in myself. Because I didn’t hear back, I figured I had pissed her off rather than inspired her. Apparently not. Kristine wrote in the comments section:

Edie has been a huge source of support over the years and a reason for why I am still blogging after all this time and frustration. She admonished me once for saying I am not a “real” writer. Even though I still don’t think I am, hearing a professional writer say that to me will forever remain in my mind.

Do I have to speak sharply to you again, Kristine?

Pamela continued her efforts to spread the word today, in a post titled Too Dog Tired to Blog, proving she is a true admirer of Frankie and his tenacious terrier spirit.

***

More posts followed, several in the midst of a tech crisis that had me panicking that I had lost a year’s worth of Will My Dog Hate Me, including the post I had written about Frankie’s Fund. Subscribers to this blog got some pretty strange things in their inbox… That’s what I get for trying to change web hosts in mid-fundraising drive.

December 5

From Roxanne Hawn, on Champion of My Heart: Dog Bloggers Unite in Grief and Charity. This alert to Frankie’s Fund is especially meaningful because it also mentions the Campaign in Remembrance of Viva of my friend Leo (aka Kenzo Hovawart), who also had to say good-bye to his beloved dog recently, and because Roxanne has been going through so much herself with her sweet Lilly.

From Kerri Fivecoat Campbell, on Pet360.com, Grieving Your Dog Is Even Harder When He’s a Public Figure. Kerri is someone whose writings about dogs I have long known and admired, but we never really interacted except on Facebook. Pooh pooh social media as a time sink if you will — hey, as I often do — but in this case it led to a raised awareness of Frankie’s Fund on a great site. Not to mention a chance to bring Frankie back for a quote.

From AJ, punmistress extraordinaire of I Still Want More Puppies, on Grouchy Puppy: The Perfect Holiday Gift for the Dog Who Has Everything. A twofer! This heartfelt and appropriately pun-free post promoting Frankie’s Fund is doubly meaningful because it not only was written by one of my favorite bloggers but because it also appears on another of my favorite blogs, Sharon Castellanos’ Grouchy Puppy. Sharon is dealing with the issues surrounding the care of her senior dog, Cleo, and has been very supportive on social media too.

December 6

From Karyn Zoldan on Tucson Tails, In Memory of Frankie, The Dog Who Inspired. Karyn is a good friend here in Tucson. It’s kind of like with my niece; I expect her to be amazing, and she didn’t disappoint with this moving synopsis of my life with Frankie and promotion of Frankie’s Fund.

December 10

From Amy Burkert on Take Paws, GoPetFriendly.com’s blog, Making a Difference with Frankie’s Fund. This made me verklempt for many reasons. First, there was this:

In some ways, Edie was my mentor – though she didn’t know it. Every time she published a post, I’d pounce on it … reading it once for the story, and then going back two or three more times to study it for the language,  rhythm, and style that I hoped would somehow seep into my brain and find its way through my synapses and keyboard onto this blog.

I had no idea, but I was thrilled that someone as smart as Amy, who is a naturally gifted writer (damn her!), took my efforts so seriously — and they are efforts, since I rewrite everything endless times.

And of course there was the description of the interactions with Frankie that Rod and Amy — and, less successfully, Ty and Buster — had. Because he hated to travel, few members of my pet blogging community got to meet him at conferences.  So first-hand testaments to Frankie’s essential Frankiness, by people who actually met him, are rare and precious.

Needless to say, I’m also thrilled that a blog with as large a platform (and an RV!) as GoPetFriendly.com is sharing the word on Frankie’s Fund.

The Donors and the Sharers

Since I started Frankie’s Fund, I monitor Facebook and Twitter more closely than ever before, though I’m not always able to update my status report or put out tweets about it. Self promotion, even in a good cause, is difficult for me. So I notice every share, every retweet, and every nice comment. I realize that sounds a bit stalkerish but I really appreciate the help.

Above all I appreciate the donations, large and small, as well as the lovely dedications that accompany them. Jennifer Kachnic, the president of GreyMuzzle.org, which is administering the fund, sends all the donation forms to me. I keep a running list of the donors and the dedications made, as well as the total of the money collected, on Frankie’s Fund: A Progress Report. But it doesn’t begin to express what all this has meant to me, how important keeping Frankie’s memory alive through the worthy cause of giving senior dogs a loving end, has been.

Loss is funny. People say that when you lose a loved one, you lose part of yourself. But they don’t tell you which part. In my case, it was a little bit of my confidence, a lot of my identity. I’ve long thought of myself as a caretaker for Frankie, a former travel writer. Will I be a travel writer again, even though I have lost so many of my contacts? Do I even want to be?

All this support, all this (dare I say it?) love… it tells me those things don’t matter. That I’ll come out of this okay, whatever I decide, because so many kind and generous people have my back.

*Apologies to my friend Jackie Dishner, who writes an inspirational blog at Bike with Jackie and who signs her emails Expect the best!

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Life After Frankie: A Dog Wake & A Eulogy

Frankie in his affectionate, face-kissing days (photo by Diane Schmidt)

Frankie in his affectionate, face-kissing days (photo by Diane Schmidt)

If I’ve learned anything from losing Frankie, it’s that grief is unpredictable. Few of my reactions in the last few weeks were close to what I anticipated.

The New Normal?

I behaved very badly the first weekend, acting out. And I was bone tired for a while, wanting to sleep far more often than I usually do. Distracted? I can’t tell you how many times I left the refrigerator door open and stowed food items in odd places, freezing cheese, putting frozen vegetables in cabinets.

Nor have I been able to put away all of Frankie’s stuff. The mat where I would put his food bowl still sits there.

But in some ways my life feels more-or-less normal. Emptier, yes, and like something essential is missing that nags at a corner of my mind. But that deep, heart-rending grief I expected to feel during all my waking hours comes only in fleeting flashes. Is it waiting in ambush?  Only time will tell.

Some longstanding habits remind me vividly of my loss, such as being able to leave the front door open when I bring in groceries. No longer having to worry about a small creature escaping…that’s nine years of conditioning to counter and it brings a wash of sadness. But I had been warned that I should expect to see Frankie everywhere. That hasn’t happened. The one place I glance at, expecting to find him, is my bed. This suggests it’s been a long time since Frankie did much else besides sleep.

Yes, there was the occasional face lick and bid for my attention, the quick games of chase-the-squeaky-carrot, all of which gave me hope that the old Frankie was still in there. But although I tried to celebrate the things he could do, the fact is my days were filled with heartbreak. Those small victories, the “good boy” cheers I gave when he found his way back into the house from the yard by himself, didn’t make up for the much more frequent defeats, watching him bump into things, getting stuck in corners, searching for his water bowl…

I don’t miss that pain. As I’ve said, the Frankie I said good-bye to was a faded shadow, a sad ghost of his former self.

The Wake

I suspect it also helps that no one expects me to suppress my feelings.  I work at home, not in an office where I might encounter insensitive people. I’m a dog blogger with a Facebook page devoted to all things dog. Who of that pet-obsessed cohort would question my right to grieve?

In real life, I am also surrounded by dog-loving friends — one of whom, Cynthia, hosted a wake for Frankie this past Saturday.

It was a lovely, nurturing event, all dog-loving women who knew Frankie to varying degrees.  Cynthia made wonderful comfort food: Meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, broccoli au gratin, bread pudding, lots of wine. She FedExed in the Borealis Press cocktail napkins with Frankie’s picture on them for the event, as well as the refrigerator magnets with his image, which she gave away as favors.

I was glad that the wailing and garment-rending that I’d anticipated — and which would have been accepted, no problem — didn’t happen.

But neither did the celebration of Frankie’s life that I had hoped for. That was no one’s fault. My friend, Jillian, especially, tried to draw me out, asking me for Frankie stories. I found I was hard pressed to supply them.

Here’s the thing. Since Frankie mostly shied away from my friends and their dogs — as he did from all people and pets — it was hard to come up with amusing anecdotes.  Once he acknowledged that I was his person, Frankie’s love and attention were exclusively directed towards me. The few funny interactions with my friend Clare’s dog, Archie, and Rebecca’s dog, Charles, come across far better in writing.

The Missing Eulogy

Happily, I devoted a book and a blog to telling people what was unique about Frankie, and the record stands for itself. But by way of the brief memorial I was unable to summon at his wake, I’d like to offer a few anecdotes from the life of the immortal Frankie.

The Eternal Optimist

Frankie on the rug, doing a pre-emptive downstay (and being a camouflage artist)

Frankie on the rug, doing a pre-emptive downstay (as well as being a camouflage artist)

Some of my best memories of Frankie are of him sitting on the rug in my living room and waiting for food — his own or mine. It was where he positioned himself while I was in the kitchen, preparing his breakfast and dinner, and where he sat while I ate mine. He rarely got treats between meals after he developed diabetes, but he never gave up hope. He would sit perkily, staring at me, willing food to come his way. Sometimes he would forget his mission and space out a little, diverting his attention, but whenever I made a move he was instantly on alert again, cocking his head, focusing his considerable powers of cuteness on making me come over to him. Of course, I occasionally did — thus reinforcing his hope.

But I would always try to make Frankie work for his treats. Since he was already sitting, I would ask him to lie down before I gave him anything. Down, I would say, pointing at the ground. He would usually comply. What cracked me up most, then, were his pre-emptive downstays.  Sometimes, when he grew tired of waiting for food, he would ease himself down on the rug in hopes that this would grab my attention. After all, wasn’t lying down what I wanted from him, for whatever peculiar reason?

He was right. It cracked me up and often inspired me to give him food. For a time, I tried to tell him to get “up” when he was down, so I would be teaching him something, but it just confused him — and, finally, me. After all, under what circumstances in life do you need to train a dog to get up?

The Prancing Prince

A sympathy card I got from Amy and Rod Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com brought to mind one of Frankie’s most appealing traits. Amy wrote: “Frankie was a special dog. I’ll always remember how his little ears bounced as he pranced along behind you on a walk. Cutest thing ever!”

Because I was part of that two-person parade, and because Frankie always walked behind me, I could never view the phenomenon — or even part of it — for myself. Every time I stopped and turned around to look, Frankie stopped too. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that’s a canine example of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.)

But there were others on the regular trail we took along the Rillito River Park who noticed. In particular, two older women, sisters, were besotted by Frankie.  Whenever I would encounter them walking their three dogs — one a huge mastiff — their faces would light up, and they both would exclaim, “It’s Frankie!”  The fact that he never cozied up to them didn’t matter; being accompanied by a mastiff doubtless accustomed them to people keeping their distance. Instead of trying to get Frankie to bond with their dogs, or at least not fear them, as most other people we encountered felt compelled to do, they automatically held their dogs back, fussing over Frankie without trying to touch him.

It was very nice for both of us.

The time came when I stopped walking Frankie on this trail. Once his senses started going off kilter, he seemed more frightened of the other dogs he couldn’t quite locate, more wary of the car ride. I began taking him to a smaller park near my house for exercise at quiet times.

I missed the social interaction with friends I had met on the trail, but I could see them in other places. Even more, I missed the adulation of the two sisters whose names I never knew (or forgot if I ever heard them).

So I’ll tell you something I never admitted before. When the weather was a bit cooler and it seemed that Frankie was doing fine at the smaller park, I decided to try him on the trail again. I told myself it was good for him to walk a little more, but I had a hidden agenda that I probably wasn’t fully aware of myself: I wanted to see Frankie’s fan club.

Frankie seemed perfectly happy on the trail again. True, he didn’t do well walking alongside me when we ran into friends strolling in the same direction; he would stop so often as to make progress frustrating. That was fine. I was in no hurry, and I never pushed Frankie beyond his capabilities.

It was probably on the third day that Frankie and I encountered the sisters and their doggy entourage. It had been at least four months since we had last seen them — and they us.

Their reaction was everything I could have hoped for.

From a distance, I could see one turn to the other and point, in amazement. When we approached, they were effusive. “We wondered what happened to you,” one of them said. “We were so worried about Frankie,” the other chimed in.

I explained about Frankie’s CCD, his confusion. It surprised them.  He looked fine while on a leash, being directed by me. I can only guess that he continued to prance behind me, ears bouncing, if maybe a little more slowly.

And so we chatted a bit, and soon went on our separate ways, as we had always done.

I never took Frankie on the trail again. I knew that the park close to our house gave him enough exercise, and that he hated the longer car ride. I eventually stopped taking him for walks altogether; the vet said he’d get enough exercise in the back yard.

But although it might have been a bit selfish, I’m not sorry about that last trail walk, about giving my heart what it needed: One final public acknowledgement of my private truth, that Frankie was a rock star.

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Gratitude & Grief: A Guide to Dealing with (My) Loss

Ramsey Canyon Preserve, one of the places I visited this weekend. Nature proved soothing; people not so much

Ramsey Canyon Preserve, one of the beautiful places I visited this weekend

I had this insane idea that I would leave you with Frankie’s departure and then move on to my new  life and my new(er) blog — as though my years with Frankie could be put aside that easily or that, maybe, if I didn’t write about it, the pain wouldn’t be there. But that’s not honoring Frankie’s memory, my grieving process, or the journey of loss I’ve been taking with you all.

So here’s my first dispatch from the other side.

Gratitude

I’ve said it on Facebook but in disparate status updates and in different places — and, besides, not all my friends are on Facebook, shocking as that may be. In any case, it bears repeating, over and over:  I am grateful for every acknowledgement of Frankie’s passing, no matter how brief. Of course I value the detailed assurances that what I did was an act of love, and appreciate every personal comment. At the same time, those brief “Bon Voyages” also say to me “I read what you wrote, and how you wrote it. I’m thinking of you.” And that means a lot.

Which brings me to…

Grief — and Bad Behavior

I left the house about half an hour after saying good-bye to Frankie on Friday, setting off on a writing assignment-related research trip around southern Arizona with a friend. My mission: holding it together through emotional and physical exhaustion to get my job done and then having a cathartic evening of wine and conversation with friends who know what I’ve been through.

For the most part, I succeeded in the first part of the mission. The second part, not so much. I didn’t yet know what I expected or wanted with regard to my grief. It was unreasonable to expect that others would.

People Who Know vs People Who Don’t

I discovered that, at least for the purposes of my research, I was okay around people who didn’t know what I was going through. It was a relief not to be “Edie who just lost Frankie.” I went to several nature preserves, which were very soothing, interviewed wildlife experts, B & B owners, restaurateurs. I was functioning, all pistons charging, being my professional self.

It was the designated relaxation portion of the trip that proved the most stressful.

The mutual friend that my travel companion and I were visiting lives in a lovely, remote location — so remote that it took a longer time to get there than expected. It was nearly dark by the time we arrived, and for the last couple of miles on a dirt road, the fuel light was on.  I was super stressed.

Our welcome was warm. Wine and a wonderful comfort food dinner were provided, as promised. So why couldn’t I relax? Because of the one thing I didn’t get: Any mention of my loss, or questioning of how I felt about it.

I won’t go into the gory details. Let’s just say I drank more than I should have and got more and more upset as the conversation rolled around topics that weren’t foremost on my mind, people I didn’t know. I began feeling more and more disaffected, until I finally lost it and yelled very bad words at my hostess and my other friend.

I stormed out to the car to get my phone, to return a sympathy call received earlier that day. If you will recall, I was in the middle of nowhere. It was pitch dark. I had been drinking a lot of wine. I tripped and fell on my face — luckily in the dirt.

This did not improve my mood. Ice was provided, Ibuprofen…but no “Can we talk about why you’re so upset?” A call from friends in California allowed me to vent my anger and grief. I sulked in my room by myself for the rest of the evening, posted a few cryptic status updates on Facebook, and went to sleep.

The next morning

I woke up with a black and blue chin and scraped nose — and a heart full of remorse. I had behaved badly. My hostess had prepared a lovely dinner, provided me with a lot of excellent wine. She is a nice, sympathetic person, an animal lover, just not a mind reader.

I did not exactly apologize but explained where I was coming from. She in turn said she had thought we would get to discussing my loss later in the evening. Fair enough.

But people in pain are not disposed to being fair.

The moral of the story

I can’t speak  for anyone else; I can only attest to the efficacy of this advice for a small sample of one. But I would suggest that if a person you know has suffered a loss and they know that you know, tell them you’re sorry and ask them how they are. Then ask if they want to talk about it. If they say no, let it go.

But do it immediately, especially if they are from New York and disposed to be a bit clutzy. Don’t wait until they have worked up a head of steam, told you to go fuck yourself, and fallen on their face.

It just adds remorse and guilt to the grief.

At least for me. What about you? What do you hope for from others when you’ve experienced a loss, whether of a pet or a person?

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Frankie D., Canine Video Star, Muse, Retires

Frankie Mardi Gras 1

Party on, dudes! I’ll be with you in spirit

Frankie D. — short for Frankie Doodle or Frankie Doodle Dandy, sometimes known as Pretty Boy Frankie — does not subscribe to the philosophy of poet Dylan Thomas. He believes there is nothing wrong with going gentle into that good night. To that end, he ate some Ben & Jerry’s Stephen Colbert Americone Dream ice cream — even though he is not a political animal, he likes the caramel swirl and chunks of chocolate cone in the vanilla base — and then chilled out, his number 1 fan by his side, assuring him that even superstars can’t keep going forever but that he will always be beloved by his loyal followers.

He plans to continue his travels, just no longer in the public eye.

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