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Frankie’s Fund: When You Can’t Do, Give. When You Can’t Give, Share.

Old Dog Haven's Hank: The Real Face of Frankie's Fund

Old Dog Haven’s Hank: A face of Frankie’s Fund

It hasn’t been the best last week for me. Well, really, month. Okay, year. But I’ll save the whining. Because whatever I’ve gone through, it’s a heckuva lot better than what’s happening to a lot of senior dogs this time of year.

‘Tis the Season

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


Sickening but true: Lots of people dump their old, sick dogs at a shelter because they want a newer model. Or — perhaps sadder, but not as sickening — they leave them there because they can’t afford medical care for them, and they may not realize that it’s very unlikely that their old dogs are going to get adopted, that they will spend their last days confused and scared.

This is where Frankie’s Fund comes in. It’s administered by the Grey Muzzle Organization, a 501 (c) (3) charity — so yes, donations are tax deductible — specializing in senior dog care of all sorts. I chose to commemorate Frankie, who got a great sendoff, by channeling all contributions to hospice care. The money will go to Forever Fosters, people who take in dogs that may not have long to live and provide them with palliative care and, above all, the comfort of a loving home.

If You Can’t Do, Give

Right now I can’t imagine being able to care for sick senior dogs, knowing what the outcome will be sooner rather than later, even if later is as long as a year or more. Who knows? When I get over the pain of Frankie’s loss, I may be able to. Or not.

That doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me grateful for those who are able and willing to provide this crucial care. And it makes me a fund-raising zealot.

Which is why I’ve extended the money-raising deadline from the original Christmas to the end of the year.

So far, so great

As the thermometer, above, shows, I’ve raised nearly more than $2,000 in a month during which I had two — count ’em — major computer meltdowns. I couldn’t have done it without the support and generosity of the pet blogging/social media community.

Two thousand dollars is an amazing amount of money. It’ll be a great help to some senior dogs at the end of their lives. But there are so many of them out there. And why not aim high?  So I’ll stick to the original goal of $5,000. Who knows? Maybe there’s a major donor out there who is just waiting for the right cause to touch her or his soul.

If You Can’t Give, Share

imagesNot everyone can afford to give at this time of year. You’re tapped out with buying gifts, with spending money on necessities, with donating to other charitable causes that are near and dear to your hearts. I completely understand.

But if you spend any time on Facebook or Twitter, I know you can give up the time you’d spend on reading one political article that would only make your blood boil to post about Frankie’s Fund. It’ll make you feel better, I promise.

Here’s a good link for you to post (rather than this one): The Faces of Frankie’s Fund. It explains what the fund is and how to give. I’m not going to tell you how to write introductory text to a Facebook post (or, better yet, a blog post); you’re better than I am at knowing what works with your readers.

Amnesty!

Consider this an amnesty post, for a final week of Frankie’s Fund. Hey, in spite of your promises, you’ve been busy and forgot to donate or share. And then you got guilty and just wanted me to go away. Again, I completely understand. I’ll pretend I didn’t notice. You’ve still got time.

I already suggested ways to share. Here’s…

How to Give

Please go over to Grey Muzzle’s donation page and keep scrolling down past the Payment Information section until you get to the box with the header “If you have a special purpose for your donation, please let us know” and enter “Frankie’s Fund” in the slot under “I want my donation to be dedicated:”

My email address, to be put in the slot that asks for it, is writestf at me.com

And then be sure to check the box to the right that says “Please send an acknowledgement to the individual or organization to whom I am dedicating my donation.” If you don’t want me to make your name public, I won’t. And I will never post the amount of the donation. But I need to able to tabulate and showcase the donations total.

I’m not going to lie. The donation site has been glitchy. Please persevere. Or let me know if you’ve been having problems, in this comments section if not via email. I’ll get it sorted out, I promise.

If You Already Gave and/or Shared

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have already done enough — to the point when I will start feeling guilty if you do more. Play with your dogs. Eat more Christmas cookies. Bask in my gratitude. You deserve it.

Posted in Animal Welfare | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Faces of Frankie’s Fund: Pups Helped by Grey Muzzle Grantees

Claire of Blind Dog Rescue -- before

Clair of Blind Dog Rescue — before

Tissue gathering alert.

Today I’d like to make it clear that Frankie’s Fund isn’t about Frankie, except insofar I want to keep his memory alive. My little guy had a great life — and a great death.  Things are not so sanguine for some seniors who are considered unadoptable and who face their final exits in a shelter, terrified and confused — until, that is, they come to the attention of groups that the Grey Muzzle Organization helps.

And Grey Muzzle is the recipient of your donations to Frankie’s Fund.

Here, in the words of Grey Muzzle, are the stories of four dogs saved by some 2013 grantee organizations, dogs given loving foster homes where they could live out the rest of their years — or in one case, days.

Which is the mandate of Frankie’s Fund.

Old Dog Haven

Hank Old Dog Haven

Hank of Old Dog Haven

Hank was 15 years old when he made it to one of our grantees, Old Dog Haven [Editor’s note: You’ve got to love a group that proclaims on its masthead “God rest ye hairy gentleman/you have a home today”].  We help fund their Death with Dignity Program.  Hank was dropped off by his owner and was obviously neglected and flea infested.  He had the worst mouth the staff had ever seen.  He also suffered from dementia.  He was placed in a foster home with the care and pain relief he needed and died a peaceful death in a loving home.

Amos Old Dog Haven

Amos of Old Dog Haven

Amos is another senior dog who made his way to Old Dog Haven this year. He was brought in as a stray or runaway, but that is unlikely as he could barely move his back two legs and could only walk a few steps. He had disc disease and brain cancer was found. He lived for five more days with a foster family and passed away knowing he was finally loved.

Blind Dog Rescue Alliance

Clair is a 14-year-old Chihuahua that came to our grantee Blind Dog Rescue Alliance in October.  She is a sanctuary dog and will never leave her foster home as she is in their long-term foster and hospice program we fund.  Claire came to them with a severe case of Demox mange, moderate renal failure, arthritis, one tooth and severe eye infections (see before picture, above). 

Clair -- after

Clair of Blind Dog Rescue — after

She is on a special diet, getting the care she needs and her hair is growing back.  Claire will begin laser therapy to help with her arthritis.

Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas

Tess golden retriever rescue

Tess of Golden Retriever Rescue

Tess, an 11-year-old Golden, is being helped and fostered by our grantee Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas.  We help fund their Senior Permanent Foster Program which pays for medical bills for senior dogs that are unadoptable, but deserve to be in permanent foster homes for the rest of their life. 

How Can I Help, You Ask?

By donating to Frankie’s Fund, of course. The organizations highlighted here may or may not be those to which your contributions find their way in 2014 — grantees will be chosen in January — but you can be assured that work of similar humanitarian — caninitarian? — quality will be accomplished by them, that your money will go towards helping seniors considered unadoptable find a final foster home.

So… head over to Grey Muzzle’s donation page and keep scrolling down past the Payment Information section until you get to the box with the header “If you have a special purpose for your donation, please let us know” and enter “Frankie’s Fund” in the slot under “I want my donation to be dedicated:”

My email address, to be put in the slot that asks for it, is writestf at me.com

And then be sure to check the box to the right that says “Please send an acknowledgement to the individual or organization to whom I am dedicating my donation.” If you don’t want me to make your name public, I won’t. And I will never post the amount of the donation. But I need to able to tabulate and showcase the donations total (see the thermometer, to your right; donations have been great but there’s still a way to go to reach the goal of $5,000 by the end of the year).

I thank you. And so do the sweet oldsters who are getting a second chance for love and a great sendoff, maybe not as splashy as the one Frankie had, but beautiful nevertheless.

Frankie for blog-004

 

 

 

Posted in dog hospice | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

What Does It Mean to Give Your Pet a Good End? Maybe Not What You Think

judge copyFrankie was not a judgmental dog.

So I was sad, and little bit angry, to discover that some people have used praise of Frankie’s Fund, which is dedicated to helping homeless senior dogs get a great sendoff, to diss others’ ways of saying good-bye to their pets.

Judge Much?

As far as some folks are concerned, everyone is required to witness their pet’s final breath. A commenter (on another blogger’s Facebook post about Frankie’s Fund, not one of mine) wrote:

My pet peeve is when people say I couldn’t be with them at the end cuz it would be too hard. I always say nooo you owe it to them to be there to say thank you and love them right til that last breath. Hard yes, but would you want to die alone….

Another commenter agreed, writing:

They need to know that this isn’t happening because you don’t love them but because you DO. Been there done that and assured her that I love her til her last thankful look at me and last breath…..she KNEW I loved her, hated to let her go but wanted her to be pain free and no longer suffering

I am judgmental about many, many things when it comes to people and their pets. Drop your old dog off at a shelter because you want a newer model? You deserve to burn in hell. Mistreat your dog by hitting her, starving her, chaining her out in the cold? I hope you suffer those things yourself.

But being unable to watch a medical procedure after giving your pup a lifetime of loving care? This does not make you a bad person.

Here are a few questions I would ask of the “last breath” hardliners:

  • Do you watch your dog undergo anesthesia if you are bringing him in for a procedure like a dental cleaning?
  • Do you think your pet anticipates that one tranquilizing injection is going to be different from any another?
  • Do you trust your vet to treat your pet kindly?

If you answered no to the first and second, and yes to the third, I think you get my drift. Unless you are by his side freaking out (more on that in a minute), your dog is not anticipating anything different than what he would undergo in the course of a typical vet visit.  And when your dog is taking that last breath, he is hardly alone if he is with a trusted vet.

Irrational R Us

Hey, I get the irrationality.

I keep focusing on the moment that the hospice vet moved in too quickly to give Frankie his tranquilizing shot before he was fully involved with eating his ice cream. He balked in fear and I told her to wait. She did. In another minute, you could have bonked him on the head with a bone and he would not have moved away from the bowl, he was that focused on his sweet treat. The second attempt at the shot went fine; Frankie soon slipped down drowsily while he was still eating.

No way did Frankie sense this was his last supper.

But I nevertheless replay that one moment of fear in my head endlessly — which is nutty, when you think about it. Frankie balked at many of the insulin shots I gave him, often trying to run away. Why should the final shot be any different?

Because I knew its significance, even if Frankie didn’t.

When it comes to saying good-bye, you want everything to be perfect — as though that would mitigate your profound regret at having to let go, or give you some control over your grief. The end is never perfect, by definition, because you are losing a loved one, even in the relatively rare case when a pet dies in his sleep.

We all do what we can do

We all have different attitudes towards death.

I couldn’t — still can’t — deal with Frankie’s ashes. And I don’t think I could do what Leo of Kenzo Hovawart fame did with his dog Viva at the end  — take her body home so that his other dog, Kenzo, could say good-bye. Does that make me a bad pet caretaker?

Also: The hospice vet warned me that Frankie’s bowels might loosen when he died. I was okay with that (though it didn’t happen), in part because Frankie was small. But I completely understand wanting the last image you have of your dog to be one of him enjoying life, not suffering the indignities of death.

I’m not denying that the moment of death, when life leaves the body, is significant, though I didn’t notice anything in Frankie’s case. It was the vet who told me, after checking his heartbeat, that Frankie had passed. But when my friend Karyn put her greyhound, Painter, to sleep, I stayed in the living room with her other greyhound, Lilly. All of a sudden, Lilly gave a little shake, as though she had felt something. I don’t doubt that this shake occurred at the moment of Painter’s departure.

Karyn was there with Painter at the end, but if she had stayed in the room with me and Lilly while a very kind man gave Painter a final injection, I would not have thought less of her. What counts are the many, many things she did to let Painter know she loved him after she rescued him — not to mention the fact that she rescued him in the first place.

And that spirit of Painter that slipped away? It’s in Karyn’s heart, just as Frankie’s is in mine. You don’t have to be at your dog’s side at the very end for his spirit to find you. This I know.

Perhaps most important: Not everyone can suppress their grief over having to say good-bye. And an event that might be taken in stride by your pet, such as getting an injection, would indeed become fraught with confusion and fear if you were sitting there, weeping copiously.

A Two-Step Guilt-Alleviating Program

But I know that getting over the guilt and shame is easier said than done. So I’ve come up with a two-step program for dealing with not being able to be present at the end, for whatever reason.

1. Ask forgiveness of your pet for not being at her side.

I must have apologized to Frankie three or four times a day for things like accidentally kicking him when he got underfoot or spending too much time talking to someone who had a dog he was scared of. He always forgave me — because he never remembered that I did anything wrong, if he ever perceived it in the first place. And because he knew I loved him.

So do whatever you tend to do to apologize. You’ll receive absolution, I promise — well, at least from dogs, who are never vindictive. I can’t vouch for the cats.

2. Forgive yourself.

Because — and I can’t say this too often — you haven’t done anything wrong.

As for those who would judge others for their behavior at a very personal, individual moment:  Don’t. Save your righteous indignation for people who abuse animals, not for those who can’t bear to watch that final needle go in because it pierces their soul.

***

Did you appreciate this post? I hope you’ll consider donating to the very nonjudgmental Frankie’s Fund, which provides comfort for dogs at the end of their lives; it’s administered by GreyMuzzle.org, specialists in causes relating to homeless senior dogs. I’ve already raised close to $2,000 because of the generosity of many donors, but I am aiming for $5,000 by Christmas, which is only 9 days away.

Posted in End of pet life | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

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!

Posted in Pet loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Frankie’s Fund: A Progress Report

Last week I introduced Frankie’s Fund, administered by Grey Muzzle.

The Goals–And the Gets

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


It’s devoted to providing palliative care to homeless senior dogs so they can leave this life in comfort, feeling loved. And of course to keeping my beloved Frankie, who retired with the sendoff he deserved, in the public eye.

Click here for details about the fund and how to donate.

Many wonderful people have already donated. I’ve listed them below (with the exception of those who asked not to be listed).

And several people have shared the information on their blogs and on social media; I’ll soon talk about that here too.

But there’s still some way to go to get to the goal of $5,000 by Christmas.

So what are you waiting for?

Thank You, Thank You

The donations have been pouring in. Most of them had dedications to Frankie and/or personal messages to me, which I will cherish. I’ve noted only dedications to specified other dogs, below.

As of late December 8, the following people have donated (in alphabetical order):

  • Alexander, Ruth
  • Altman, Erin
  • Anderson, Susan
  • Applegate, Georgia: In memory of my 14 yr old Shih Tzu, Chico, who recently passed over. We sent him off the way we hope every dog would be sent, with love and dignity.
  • Badertscher, Vera Marie: from Bogie
  • Balinsky, Sharon
  • Banker, Debbie
  • Bendel, Peggy
  • Boren, Rebecca
  • Bouchard, Jackie
  • Boulanger, Sharon
  • Burkert, Amy and Rod
  • Crosby, Janet
  • Cunningham, De: To help those seniors who find themselves alone in their final days. May they know love.
  • David, Cynthia
  • Davis, Kate
  • Davis, Lydia
  • Fivecoat-Campbell, Kerri: In memory of Lilly [the heroine of Roxanne Hawn’s Champion of My Heart blog]
  • Flick, Deborah
  • Friesecke, Karen
  • Gerring, Lori
  • Halberstadt, Mary: In Memory of Vintage’s Mischief Managed – “Harry,” my grandpuppy.
  • Hammond, Sara: Remembering our dear Simon.
  • Hawn, Roxanne
  • Keefe, Janet
  • Kaemerle, Kate
  • Kelley, Laura
  • Lane, Hilary: To the memory of my heart dog, Frisbee, with endless gratitude.
  • Lehr, Robert
  • Mattox, Deborah
  • McMahon, Kathy
  • Miller-Young, Jody
  • Moses, Marlene
  • Myers, Kevin
  • Oakes, Sue: (Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom of “The Golden Life”)
  • Peterson, J.E.
  • Postiglione, AJ
  • Praisner, Michele
  • Rachael
  • Rae, Robin
  • Raines, Elaine
  • Reynolds, Kate
  • Robinson, Jillian
  • Scheltinga, Leo
  • Schmidt, Diane
  • Southwick, SJ: In memory of Ruby
  • Spector, Lisa
  • Stade, Kirsten
  • Sutin, Marilyn: And from Rosa
  • Tonks, Kristine
  • Watson, Jenni
  • Webster, Pamela
  • Wolfe, Debby
  • Zoldan, Karyn
  • And one who wished to remain anonymous: In honor of Hobo and Lucy, for the old ones who are not forgotten

I’ll keep updating this list.  If I’ve missed posting your donation, please let me know. I want to make sure it’s counted in the total and that you’re thanked. And if you want to dedicate your donation to a special dog in addition to Frankie, let me know and I’ll post it here.

Posted in End of pet life | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Frankie’s Fund: Help Give Every Dog a Great Sendoff

Frankie for blog-004Many people have asked if there was an organization to which they could donate in Frankie’s memory. This has touched me no end.

I confess that Frankie was not very philanthropic. Like most dogs, he was your basic narcissist: My food, my yard, my person. But I was that person and he gave me endless joy. I love the idea of being able to keep him in the limelight, while doing some good for other dogs.

But which dogs? There are so many worthy causes.

Who Are You Calling Old?

I adopted Frankie when he was five or six. During most of the nine years I spent with him, he would have been considered a senior. The label was meaningless — he was a frisky little bugger, often exhausting my energies —  but it apparently prevents some great dogs from getting adopted.  And there are no sadder words in the English language than “homeless senior dogs” — dogs that have spent years with people and then end up in shelters, confused and upset.

So I thought of Grey Muzzle:

The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other non-profit groups nationwide.

We are not a shelter or rescue group. Rather, Grey Muzzle funds programs such as hospice care, senior dog adoption, medical screening, and other special programs to help old dogs at animal welfare organizations across the country.

Giving Dogs the Loving Sendoff They Deserve

But that’s still pretty general. I wanted to do something in Frankie’s name that was a bit more distinctive, given his own distinctiveness.  And  the last couple of months I spent with him gave me an idea.

Just as I believe every dog deserves a good life, I believe every one deserves a good death — free from fear, in a friendly environment, and in the company of a person who cares, with as many good times as possible under his belt. And yummy food.

There are amazing, selfless people who make this happen, sometimes called Forever Fosters. People who take in dogs near the end of their lives and care for them. They are willing to suffer the heartbreak of saying good-bye to wonderful dogs who may live only for a few months — or who may have several good years left.

I can’t begin to imagine being able to do this. My admiration for these caretakers is boundless. But admiration doesn’t pay the bills.

Frankie’s Fund is devoted to helping relieve these caretakers of their financial burden, of getting dogs in these homes palliative veterinary care — things like pain killers and evaluative exams rather than expensive, extreme life-saving measures — and perhaps in-home euthanasia, if a dog does not pass naturally and a final trip to the vet would be too stressful.

The type of care you would give — perhaps have already given — your own beloved pet. The great sendoff every dog deserves.

Grey Muzzle will dispense the gathered funds to foster caretakers through carefully vetted organizations.

Making a Donation

Please go over to Grey Muzzle’s donation page and keep scrolling down past the Payment Information section until you get to the box with the header “If you have a special purpose for your donation, please let us know” and enter “Frankie’s Fund” in the slot under “I want my donation to be dedicated:”

My email address, to be put in the slot that asks for it, is writestf at me.com

And then be sure to check the box to the right that says “Please send an acknowledgement to the individual or organization to whom I am dedicating my donation.” If you don’t want me to make your name public, I won’t. And I will never post the amount of the donation. But I need to able to tabulate and showcase the donations total.

I’ll keep you updated here with progress. I’m aiming for $5,000 before Christmas  New Year’s, but whatever the final number, a lot of dogs have already been helped. Remember, the size of the gift doesn’t matter. Small donations add up.

Perfect Timing!

‘Tis the season for gift giving.

Perhaps people are asking you what you want for the holidays. You might suggest that they give a donation to Frankie’s Fund in your name.

Alternatively, if you have an animal-loving friend or family member who doesn’t need more stuff, this would be the perfect gift.

And yes, you will get a gift donation acknowledgement from Grey Muzzle — which you can show to the IRS, because all donations are tax deductible.

So do something nice for yourself, your family and friends. Help some deserving dogs.

And keep Frankie’s name in the limelight, even during his retirement. 

Posted in End of pet life | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

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 Menurkey.com

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.

 

Posted in pet mourning | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Frankie Art: A New Trend?

Etsy Frankie7 editedLast week I was thrilled to be able to show you the wonderful gift of Frankie art I got from AJ Emm. Then on Saturday, I was totally blown away to find a box with another artistic rendition of Frankie — this one a small wire sculpture, a surprise gift from my wonderful niece Rebecca.

It was created by WireArtInk, “whimsical animal art sculpture by Antonia,” as the Etsy description puts it.

Etsy Frankie 9c editAlthough it’s somewhat abstract, it really captured Frankie — I think it was the splayed feet stance, as well as the ears and nose.

Frankie was already immortalized on a greeting card, cocktail napkins and refrigerator magnet, he was in a video, and now he appears in digital art and sculpture. I think Frankie Art is definitely a trend.

I’m not surprised that he continues to inspire. He was one stellar pup.

 

Posted in Pet art | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Best. Gift. Ever.

frankie-01-1I got a wonderful surprise in the mail on Saturday: the portrait of Frankie pictured here, created by AJ Emm. I originally e-met the artist when she was AJ McDowell and blogged at PupLove.

Of course I immediately burst into tears.

Because it was a picture of Frankie. Because it captured him so wonderfully. And because it was such an amazingly nice thing for someone I barely know to do.

I never cease to be blown away at the kindness and supportiveness of the pet-lovers’ community.

The backstory

Since I believe in looking a gift pet portrait in the mouth, after thanking AJ, I asked her a bunch of questions.

To wit:

Q: Can you tell me a bit about your process?

When I start on a new illustration, I like to gather as many photos of the pet as possible to work from.  My goal is to really try to portray each pet’s unique characteristics as much as possible, so before I even start drawing, I spend some time just looking through the photos to look for special markings, repeating expressions, or anything that feels important to that animal.

I start sketching directly in Illustrator and add in some basic shapes for shading, then I’ll send the sketch over for feedback and make edits as necessarily.  Once I get approval on the sketch, I add colour layer by layer.  Special requests happen at this stage – certain collars, favourite toys, specific background colours, etc. – and when everything is done, I send the finished drawing off to be printed and prepare a high-resolution digital file for online use.

Q: Was there one image of Frankie that inspired you? I can’t think of any photograph that looks quite like that.

I used a few references. I watched your “Am I Boring My Dog” video so many times that I lost count, and there was a photo of Frankie that I drew *really* heavily from because it was so perfect… He was standing in the sand outside of an RV or a bus, I think… I just remember thinking “he looks so happy, I have to use this.”

[This turned out to be a picture of Frankie with Rod and Amy Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com when they visited Tucson in May 2011, below. By strange coincidence, they just visited again — and were the first to see the image that AJ created of Frankie at my house. Cue: “Twilight Zone” music.]

Rod, Amy and Frankie

Back to AJ:

Jodi, from Kol’s Notes, was really helpful, too. I kept sending her screenshots as I was working, and she’d send back things like: “Hmm… make his mouth a little wider”, or “He looks a little too dark – can you lighten up <insert spot here>, and so forth. Normally I’d get that feedback from the pet owner, but I needed a substitute in this case, and she did a great job.

What’s in it for you?

So now that you are totally awed by the awesomeness of the pet portrait and of AJ, I have some good news. AJ has agreed to offer a 20% discount on her portraits at AJ Emm if you use the promotional code FRANKIE.

There is no expiration date for using the code, but if you want a portrait in time for Christmas, you’ll have to to order by December 1.

Just so you know. AJ did not, I repeat, not, ask me to spread the word about her work. Quite the contrary. When I told her I was doing a post and asked her about using some of the answers she gave to my questions on Facebook, she wrote:

You’re absolutely welcome to use our conversation, and anything else you need – but please, I hope you don’t feel obligated to do a blog post!

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 think you’re fantastic and I just wanted to give you something during a difficult time.

I often talk about karma biting you in the butt when you behave badly, but I forget that it can work in positive ways too.  You never know when something you do and don’t even remember will come back and give you a warm puppy kiss in the face.

Thanks again, AJ.

Posted in Pet art | Tagged , | 19 Comments

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.

Posted in Pet loss | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments