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.

Further:

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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30 Comments

  1. Lori
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Just teared up. Seriously cool, my dear. Seriously. :)

  2. Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry to hear about Frankie. I’ve never had to pick a day. We just have always taken it day by day and one day, we just know it is time. Enjoy the time you have left, take lots of photos and spend lots of time cuddling.

    Monty and Harlow
    Sam recently posted..Dear SamMy Profile

  3. Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I think your plan is a good one, especially ice cream the final day. I’ve never chosen a date like that, but I think your logic and intent is sound. I will continue to send you mojo.
    Champion of My Heart recently posted..Chance to Attend a LIVE Web Chat with Roxanne and Lilly from Champion of My HeartMy Profile

  4. Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I’ve never had the luxury (?) of choosing the date…I don’t know if that would make it easier or harder for me…But I do think you’re coping as best you can with a painful reality and whether he will recognize it or not Frankie’s final days will be a tribute and all about love and that’s beautiful
    GizmoGeodog recently posted..Fuel the Love with Zuke’s – Review & GiveawayMy Profile

  5. Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    I have been following your stories but have not commented before now. I picked days with my last two dogs. Dina had a brain tumor and we went on for months with me letting her out hourly. That took it’s toll on me as I had two very young kids at the time. Mommy was a zombie but didn’t realize it. There came a day where I saw pain and had her in the next day. With Charlee, it was more difficult. She had on going pain but was a super trooper. I “could” have extended her life with more testing and more drugs, but that wasn’t her style. She was a die young stay pretty avoid the vet at all costs kind of dog. Both dogs got good sunny days and with both dogs I wanted to flee the parking lot. I think that was the worst part. Taking your dog who wasn’t on death’s door in the door and then forcing myself to stay there. Both dogs were ready, but I still am not. Peace on your journey.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Nancy, thanks for coming by. Your experience tells me why this home veterinary euthanasia is a godsend. Keep that in mind for the future. If I had to take Frankie to the vet, I would never be able to let him go…

  6. Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    This one was a sad one for me Edie. I’m typing through tears.
    I have never chosen a date before. Maybe it’s because I have a hard time with goodbyes, or maybe it’s because there is such finality in choosing one, either way, I have never done so.

    Knowing that there is a date makes Frankie’s goodbye so final and for me that is hard to imagine. He’s been your mascot as much as your best friend. He certainly has waggled his way into our hearts.
    I admire you for choosing such a revered date and making his last days a celebration of all that he loves. Frankie is a lucky dog.

  7. Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    You definitely have a gift as in knowing when the day will be. You can plan it and celebrate Frankie and people have the chance to visit him and feed him. I recently told my brother if I knew I had 6 months or 3 months to live and still had an appetite and still took joy in food — I would whisk him and my sister-in-law away to some of those Diners and Dives I watch on the Food Channel. He said he would be “in” for the ride. Most of us don’t get that chance with our pets so there’s no should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.

    Of course it won’t be easy but saying goodbye never is.
    karyn zoldan recently posted..South Tucson Justice: Reconsiders Shooting Greyhounds with SteroidsMy Profile

  8. Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I dithered with setting a date for our Gillian. And then, one day, it was clear that it was that day. (We had a home euthanasia). If I could do it over again, I would set that day, and give her cheap cat food (or rather, let her sneak it, because that was ever so much more fun).

    Last day, cheap cat food topped with ice cream? Or maybe whipped cream, which isn’t as cold.

    Good on ya, Edie. Sending some energy for some kind of good smelly thing Frankie’s way.
    Jenny recently posted..Walking With Your Dog (or Horse, or Cat, or …)My Profile

  9. Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Just wonderful to celebrate Frankie one final time, in the way you planned. And the “day of the dead” is a great choice, to remember Frankie in the years to come.
    btw. the cat food, Kenzo has a portfolio of strategies how to steal our cat’s food, you might be on to something there.
    kenzohw recently posted..What Every First-time Hovawart Owner Should Know: More SocializationMy Profile

  10. De Cunningham (@skye
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I have been following your journey with Frankie for sometime. Thank you. Having lived in Tucson I have also come to appreciate the beauty of The Day of the Innocents & of The Dead. I wish for you & Frankie peace and strength.

  11. Posted October 8, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I never had to set a date… but I did take a cat that was not mine to a vet and then to get put to sleep humanely. I cried the entire time and it was a very beautiful experience at the Pasadena shelter. They let me be with the cat alone in a room to say goodbye and let me stay afterwards for as long as I needed to do so. Glad Frankie is getting all the goodies and attention he wants. You are an inspiration. Frankie will be missed, he is very loved, even by those of us who have never even met him. Funny how that is.
    CeliaSue Hecht recently posted..The Furriest Halloween ContestMy Profile

  12. Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I’ve never been in control of a pet’s life before but I have always wished I’d had prior knowledge before my father decided it was time to say goodbye to my childhood dog.

    I’d known it was time, had for a while, but I didn’t know he was going to take her to the vet the morning he did. I’ll never forget that day. I was studying for a university exam and he came home, from what I had assumed was work, at an odd time. When I met him in the kitchen he told me that she was gone and the first thing I did was yell at him – as if the poor man wasn’t devastated enough. It was right that it was my father’s choice but I wish I had known. I would have done something special for her. It’s a regret I have, that I didn’t spend more time with her that last year.

    I think it’s lovely, what you are doing for yourself and Frankie. It won’t make saying goodbye any easier but hopefully it will help give you peace in the future. Take care.
    Kristine recently posted..The Purpose of a WalkMy Profile

  13. Emily Decobert
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    God bless Frankie and you. May angels lift Frankie up and God hold both of you in the palm of his hand. I will be with you in spirit Nov. 1st

  14. Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Holding you both in my heart. Give the little sprite a scratch behind the ears for me … but only if he wants one.
    Amy@GoPetFriendly recently posted..Dog Friendly Stroll Around CalgaryMy Profile

  15. Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I must echo Mel and Celia Sue…how is it that I keep crying about this, and I love Frankie, a dog I never met? I was glad to hear of your game-plan…sounds like Frankie is going to have a dog’s dream life for all these lovely Fall days =) I never had this opportunity (?) but would like to think I could make as wise a choice as you are making. Dogs are indeed little angels — such a gift to us all. Paws crossed the plan goes through without a hitch…
    Mary E Haight recently posted..Deadly Dog Virus Strikes MichiganMy Profile

  16. Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Good grief. You and I both have October birthdays as well as Frankies experiencing their last chapters in this life. I can say no more than I feel your pain and your best laid plans are simply beautiful. Whether they go off without a hitch is less important than the thought you put into making them. Hugs.

  17. Posted October 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Typing through tears. I didn’t comment on your last post because I thought I’d wait until i stopped crying, but every time I went back to it the tears started flowing again. This time I have no illusions that the tears will stop.Why should they? Yours and Frankie’s story is achingly bittersweet and I am holding you both gently in my thoughts and heart. I have not had the experience of setting a date, at least not consciously. I’m not sure that would work for me emotionally. But we are all different and this is an incredibly personal choice. I support you 10000000%.
    Deborah Flick recently posted..Interview with Alexandra HorowitzMy Profile

  18. Clare
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    The home euthanasia will be exactly the right thing for Frankie, no lover of cars. I had planned to do that, but when the day arrived, I feared I would burn the house down and throw myself on the pyre. So Archie and I stopped at Whole Foods, got copious magnificent treats like stilton and pate and gelato, nibbled and nuzzled, then went to the vet. We cuddled up on our blanket and….

  19. Sharon
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    In a sense Curly picked his own date… When he lost all interest in food
    … Even his favorite fresh turkey; and then became
    I continent that was his way of saying ” it’s time” funny how
    Life goes … That same day my cousin have birth so I always
    Think of Curly. … Years later on that day

  20. Marilyn Sutin
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Now You’ve got me crying; it’s sad, but also so sweet that you can plan your final days together. I never got to plan a date in advance, but when Whiskey was nearing the end I just knew when the time came to euthanize him. He just quietly went to sleep in my arms. I remember thinking, why can’t humans be treated with the same care. It was peaceful and compassionate…

  21. Posted October 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I had to put my dog to sleep recently, but unlike you didn’t have time to pick a date. It was something that no could no longer be put off. I hope you find solace and peace in letting go and knowing that your dog will be in a better place without pain and without limitations. Thanks for his enjoyable stories along the way.

  22. Posted October 9, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    I’m visiting for the first time from Gizmo’s link. I’m sorry to hear about Frankie and appreciated your very personal post. You are creating very special time for both of you and you will carry those memories. For better or worse I’ve never had to plan for my pets end of life, and your “New Rules” are thought provoking regarding my time with BJ. Walking him is tedious because he has to pee on every pole and sniff every smell. I have to keep reminding myself that it is his walk and I need to left him do his thing. After reading your story, I am going to make sure I let him pee and sniff, etc., wherever. I don’t want my memories to be of my being annoyed with him.

    Thank you.

  23. Posted October 9, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Edie, I had no idea you were back on this blog – and I am so sorry to find out at such a difficult time for you. I am sure Frankie will love his upcoming days with you. There really are no words that are comforting enough but you’ve helped him live his life to the fullest and you’ll never be the same. He’s touched your heart and that’s where his legacy will stay. And this blog, too of course. Because the internet is immortal. :) I know this blog wasn’t meant to be about his diabetes, but I learned so much here that helped me with Buzz. And I know I’ll never forget Frankie and will always appreciate your help.

    I need to go back through and read your recent posts. Buzz has an appointment with the ophthalmologist tomorrow and I’m already dreading the news.

    Y’all are in my thoughts. Enjoy these next few weeks with your little man.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I kind of snuck back into blogging on August 1 and things quickly took a dramatic downturn… I’m very glad that anything I wrote here helped you and Buzz, and much appreciate your telling me that.

      Good luck with the ophthalmologist!

  24. Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never had to make that final decision for a pet. I think that Day Of The Dead is a great idea ! Give Frankileh lots of pets from me.
    XOXO
    Karen Friesecke recently posted..Dog A Day Project – Room For One More?My Profile

  25. Posted October 10, 2013 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Edie,with our many cats over the years, I’ve found it’s just always hard…being “the decider” is the toughest part for me, unless it’s so clear the time’s come, as many here have said is often the case. And then, if I’ve been in denial for awhile, I’ve lost that chance to do what you plan for Frankie, and you: a time of indulgence and super-care, such a loving and comforting choice.
    Peggy Bendel recently posted..Our Current ClientsMy Profile

  26. Posted October 10, 2013 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    I have just stumbled across your brilliant blog, and I am sorry it is at such a sad time. As a fellow pet owner I wanted to give you a massive hug. Brilliant idea for the date, and so nice that you have a few weeks together to properly spoil each other and say goodbye properly.
    lauranne recently posted..On the sickMy Profile

  27. Posted October 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    It’s so beautiful how you are loving Frankie at this difficult time. I will keep you in my prayers. I have heard about far too many dogs who are very ill or have passed lately. And now our Ike is ill with heart disease and maybe leukemia as well. It’s never easy to say goodbye.
    Peggy Frezon recently posted..Chase me if you CanMy Profile

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Peggy. So sorry to hear about Ike in return.

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