kinds of drugs and its side effects

Frankileh’s Ashes: A Thanksgivikkuh Meditation

The Menurkey -- a turkey menorah. I'm sorry I didn't get it together to buy one.

The Menurkey — a turkey menorah. I’m sorry I didn’t get it together to buy one in time. You can still get yours at

I’m spending Thanksgivukkah with Frankie. Which is a little crazy-making.

It’s not the multi-cultural, multi-prepared feast itself that is mind-scrambling: turkey from Brushfire BBQ, latkes from Trader Joe’s, cranberry and turkey tamales from Tucson Tamale company, pumpkin bread pudding baked by my friend Rebecca, to name just a few of the meal’s highlights. I’m sure the conversation — and some of the spirits that lubricate it — will be sparkling.

It’s that the feast will be held at my friend John’s house, where Frankie’s ashes are currently residing because I couldn’t bear to pick them up from the funeral home.

The anger phase of grief

I HATE that Frankie had to die.

Damn death.  And, especially, damn its aftermath, the physical detritus that’s not your loved one but that reminds you of what you lost — and that you have to deal with, whether you want to or not.

The decision to not deal with it is still a decision.

I wrote a few weeks ago that I wasn’t experiencing the type of grief that I was expecting to feel over Frankie’s passing. Well, I found a touchstone for that grief, a button to push to unleash the torrent of pain and tears: The thought of Frankie’s ashes.

I’ve discovered that every last bit of his DNA — from the diabetes test strip he peed on to the saliva-rich squeaky carrot he held in his mouth — is precious to me. Others have expressed similar sentiments on Facebook. Knowing that people held off cleaning everything from hair to blood spatters and snot from their departed dogs made me feel better about not wanting to remove that last little piece of Frankie poop from the back yard.

That’s all evidence of life. Ashes say nothing to me but loss. And anger. They bring back my mother’s death, and the fight over a cremation that she requested because “it was good enough for her parents” — a Holocaust/crematorium reference — and that other family members refused to honor because it went against their religion.

Don’t get me started.

The grief phase of grief

This has been a terrible week. It rained for two days straight. I woke up Saturday morning to a thud: A chunk of the roof/ceiling had fallen to the floor.

Clearly I wasn’t the wasn’t the only one this had happened to — we don’t deal well with rain in the desert — so on Monday every roofer in Tucson was busy looking at roofs. And no doubt raising their rates. The first person who came to do an estimate said it would cost $4,400 — just for patches.

Then I was turned down for a grant that I hadn’t realized I’d been really really depending on to write a book on my family history.

I have been grief eating so now I feel fat as well as stupid — and broke.

I know Frankie wasn’t always able to bring me out of my black moods, especially at the end when I counted him as one of my worries. But not having my furry best friend here, in any form, makes this all seem more unbearable.

What I am thankful for

I could never be accused of looking for a silver lining in grey clouds (I just realized that I don’t have a clue of what that means, meteorologically speaking. How can clouds be lined? In silver?). It’s not my nature. I tend to look for the lemons in the lemonade (a metaphor I do understand).

But it would be churlish — not to mention foolish, because of the comfort I’ve derived from them — not to express gratitude for the many kindnesses that others have offered. The wake that my friend Cynthia held for Frankie and all the friends who showed up to offer support. The wonderful Frankie art from AJ Emm and from my niece Rebecca. And all the nonartistic but heartfelt expressions of love and support that I’ve gotten from this community, here and on Facebook.

I’m thankful that most people — though, sadly, not all — have forgiven me for bad behavior I manifested under Frankie-inspired duress and grief.

I’m thankful that John is a good enough friend to take Frankie’s ashes home with him and to put up with the vagaries of my reactions to them — one minute being able to joke about Frankie not being allowed on the couch, another bursting into tears at the idea of Frankie being left alone when John goes out of town for a few months. I might have to bring the ashes back to my home before then.

I’m thankful that my friend Rebecca, who is not Jewish, is making sweet noodle kugel for me for Thanksgivukkah. I might regret some of the grief eating I’ve done because of low quality of the calories, but I will never regret a sweet kugel made in friendship.


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Saying Good-Bye to Frankie: The Gift of Knowledge

Day of the Dead Skeleton Dogs and Cats

Day of the Dead Dogs (and Cat) via Tamra Kohl/Claylindo on Flickr

Right now — and this is subject to change at any moment — I feel like I have been given a gift. I have been told by a hospice vet that it’s time to say good-bye to Frankie, but not that there is a sense of absolute urgency.  Frankie may be confused but he is not in pain.

So I can choose a date that will have meaning for me and devote my time before then to spoiling Frankie.

New Rules

  • Forget all the diabetes restrictions. Oh, Frankie will get his insulin shots so he won’t be uncomfortable and I won’t give him pure sugar until the end — I’m thinking ice cream — but he’ll get as many treats between meals as he likes and they’ll all be delicious: liver, cocktail franks, hamburger (bacon, sadly, doesn’t seem to agree with him). I’ve been told that dogs love cat food, the cheaper the better, and I’m contemplating it, but I can’t quite bring myself to go there. Today I’m thinking of going to Native SEED Search to get some sweets made with agave syrup or just fresh fruit.
  • Frankie has my complete and undivided attention whenever he wants it. No more ignoring him and then feeling guilty. Happily, he sleeps most of the day.
  • Frankie doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to. No more car rides, no more walks. No more having to work for his food.
  • Frankie doesn’t have to prove anything. If he lets me know he wants to go out to the backyard, I’ll take him out on his leash and follow him around to all the places he wants to check out, but I won’t leave him to try to figure his way back in. His wish is my command.

In short, His Frankiness will get his due, achieving the complete gratification that he always knew he deserved.

A Date for Me: Dia de Los Muertos

October is a tough month: It’s my birthday and I don’t want to associate it with sadness in the future. But I need to head out of town on an assignment fairly soon and leaving Frankie with a pet sitter is not an option. So it struck me: The Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday I’ve come to love since I moved to Tucson, is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2. It’s not creepy or scary about death like Halloween, though it’s an associated ancient holiday.

According to Wikipedia:

In most regions of Mexico November 1 is to honor children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 mainly as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) but also as Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”) and November 2 as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos (“Day of the Dead”).

I think we can agree that dogs are innocents, if not always little angels.


People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

Day of the Dead Food Offerings, via Wikimedia Commons

Day of the Dead Food Offerings, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m not planning on any cemetery visits but food offerings? Remembering funny events and anecdotes? I’m in.

So, November 1 it is. As the days go on, I’m sure I’ll get very very sad. Maybe I’ll wonder if I’m exacerbating my pain with this long good-bye, this postponement of the inevitable. But right now spoiling Frankie before and after life seem like the right thing to do.

Have any of you had the experience of choosing a date a few weeks in advance? How did it feel?

Update: Just to clarify: November 1 is the date I booked for the hospice vet to come to the house.  If Frankie should show signs of distress before then, I’ll call her to come earlier. You know what they say about the best laid plans..

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Five Things I Want To Tell You, While I Can Without Sobbing, About My Dog’s Departure

Rainbow BridgeI know it’s just a question of time before I will have to part ways with my sweet Frankie. I can’t predict how long we have — I hope months, but it’s hard to say.  I can safely predict that there will be a period afterwards when I won’t be able to think straight. So while I’m not besotted with grief,  I’d like to share a few things.

1. I loathe the Rainbow Bridge myth.

I know that when Frankie dies, many of you will be tempted to use the phrase “He has gone to the bridge,” referring to the Rainbow Bridge story, to try to console me. I will never question that you mean well and I will be grateful for the sympathy. But just so you know, I will be stifling a scream of: “I hate the Rainbow Bridge. Frankie is NOT going there.”

Let me be clear: It’s not just because the story is cloyingly sentimental — and here I apologize to those who take comfort from it — that I despise it. No, it’s the image of all the dogs romping together in a group while waiting for their beloved person to arrive that I can’t take.  Frankie has never romped with another dog in his life, at least not the life that he shared with me. I don’t like to picture him frightened, trying to avoid all the dogs that want to play with him, only without me to protect him. I’m serious. It makes me cry even to think about it.

While I have breath left in me, I’m going to keep Frankie from that fucking scary bridge.

[I have ranted about the Rainbow Bridge before, with regard to shelter pets, but it didn’t hit home to me in the same way as it does now. That said, I read over the comments and discovered many people feel much the same way I do. Check it out.]

2. To me, gone is gone (though never forgotten).

I respect your belief system — in public anyway, unless you’re a fundamentalist who wants to impose your ideas on me. Please respect my lack of one. It’s not just the Rainbow Bridge that gets under my skin; I feel the same way about heaven, angels… all the trappings of the traditional afterlife. I find solace in the idea that any pain, discomfort, fear and unhappiness humans or pets experience is ended when they die. I felt this way when my parents passed, and I don’t anticipate any change of heart when it comes to Frankie. The idea of a separate sphere where the departed’s spirit and personality live on is anathema to me; I prefer my loved ones much closer, in my heart and mind.

3. I’m not keen on corporeal memorials.

Burials, urns with ashes, lockets with a pet in compressed carbon…  all those things creep me out too. I’m sure I will be ugly sobbing over every last squeaky carrot I don’t have the heart to throw out, but once Frankie’s spirit is gone, his body will have no meaning for me. In any case, Frankie doesn’t have a special place that he loves except for my house and, though you probably wouldn’t notice, what with all the dust, I don’t plan to scatter his ashes there.

4.  I  would like to have Frankie help out with medical research.

I have the organ donor box checked off on my drivers license, but there’s no official organ bank — yet — for pets.  I’m trying to figure out how Frankie can contribute.

Veterinary schools have what are called Willed Body Donation programs but when I inquired into the one at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University,  I was told they only accept pets within a 45 mile radius. Which makes sense. But there is no vet school near me in Tucson.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to discuss this topic with my vet (the nice one). Even now, I’m only rational about this to a limited degree. Maybe I’ll muster the nerve to call a local veterinary specialty hospital one of these days. In the meantime,  if anyone has any ideas about research programs, they’d be very welcome.

5. Please don’t tell me how I should heal.

Again, I know you mean well, but I’ve got to figure it out for myself. Right now, I’m pretty sure I will want (need) to travel but who knows? I might foster a bunch of older dogs, volunteer to walk dogs at the shelter — or I might need to stay away from all dogs for a while.  Share your experiences, by all means. Just don’t present them as the “right” or “only” way to grieve.

By now you’re probably terrified at the idea of approaching or contacting me. But, honest, unless you’re going to tell me to get over it, “it was just a dog,” I really will want to hear from you; these are just guidelines. If you’re nearby, bring food — and, of course, booze. Hmmmm. I do like the idea of a wake, Cynthia David. But can we have it at your house, so I don’t have to clean up afterwards?


Those of you who have been through this — or who are anticipating it: What brings you comfort?


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Coping With Pet Loss: First, Permission to Grieve

It’s devastating to lose a loved one. It’s even more devastating to feel ashamed about your grief, to feel that you need to apologize for mourning.

Unfortunately, when a pet dies, it’s all too common for owners to hide their pain, making it more difficult to get past it.

That’s the subject of this week’s Animal Cafe interview by Dr. Lorie Huston with Gael Ross, a licensed clinical social worker and the author of  A 30 Day Guide to Healing from the Loss of Your Pet.

Insensitivity, squared

Most people don’t mean to be insensitive. They just don’t know the right thing to say. Sometimes someone well-intended will say ask the age of a pet and, if she is older, say, “Well, she had a good, long life.” As Ross points out, “It doesn’t matter. You still grieve, whether the pet is two years or 20 years old.” Read More »

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