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

As I always say, even paranoids have enemies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frankie’s Default Face

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

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

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

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

The Elvis Sneer

Frankie with his Elvis sneer
Frankie with his Elvis sneer

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

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

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

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

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

Frankie with his Elvis sneer
Or is it an ironic smile?

Frankie’s latest face

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

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

Frankie with his Mona Lisa smile
Frankie with his Mona Lisa smile

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

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

24 thoughts on “The Frankie Diaries, 8/23: The Three Faces of Frankie”

    1. And I hope a laugh along the way, too — I’d hate to return to dog blogging just to make people cry! Thanks for coming by; it’s nice to e-see you.

  1. OMD ~ Exactly <<>> Our main hospital is now owned by a corporation too. The postcards, the emails, the calls? AUGH!!!! The worst though? They automatically make appointments they think you need, then call just 1-2 days before to “remind me.” It took 3-4 times if me essentially saying, “I didn’t schedule that. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Finally, I asked them NOT to automate any of our appointments for either dog. Truly, while I’m in a fight for 1 dog’s life (nearly 20 months now) … don’t keep hounding me that my other dog (now 13) is overdue for something. He’s the healthy one. Shut the @#$#@ up! Once I figured out that these annoying calls were actually coming from a call center, it was easier to ignore them. These people don’t know me. They certainly don’t know my dogs. I’m sure that kind of automated marketing works for some people, but not me.

    1. Happily, I don’t get the automatic appointments. I think I would go ballistic. And it’s the poor young women at the front desk who are tasked with making the calls at our clinic — poor because I’m sure they get lots of abuse — not the call center. I also know that they don’t look at the vet’s notes — and even if they did, I doubt my vet would have written, “that was Frankie’s last dental, do not call.” But still…

  2. I am very glad you returned to blogging and do like the format. Thank you for sharing Frankie with us.

  3. Dogs’ mouths and teeth are so weird. My two Cairns had their first cleaning this last February. Mr. Gatsby had a great cleaning, but it turns out that Hattie Mae has a deformed mouth. I always thought her mouth was a little off; her tongue is ALWAYS sticking out and her top teeth can always be seen. I think it’s really sweet and I love a little imperfection in a dog.
    I’m really glad that you’re back to blogging, and I think Frankie is adorable and can look forward to lots of love for a long time to come 🙂

    1. Lots of small dogs have dental problems; their jaws aren’t large enough for their number of teeth. I hope Hattie Mae got through her dental without too much difficulty. I think if I had adopted Frankie with a little sneer I might have thought it was cute but the change was disturbing…

      Thanks for the nice welcome; much appreciated. And yes, I suspect Frankie, dazed and confused as he is, will be around for quite a while.

  4. I hear you, Edie. Tashi is half blind and is now losing his hearing…well, okay, who am I kidding, he’s lost more than half of it already. He sleeps more than he plays and that makes me cry. We’re going to the vet just in case…I appreciate the idea of going back in time. I’d like to start all over with Tashi again, too.

    1. Good luck at the vet, Mary. Some of these “old age” problems aren’t inevitable and can be treated, and I hope that’s the case with Tashi.

      I hadn’t thought about starting over completely, just going back to a point in Frankie’s life about which I was foolishly dissatisfied but sometimes I wonder what meeting with puppy Frankie — as opposed to the five year old gentleman who came into my life — would have been like….

  5. Two dogs I’ve had, both basically here in hospice, never recovered from their last dental. I”m getting very specific when I take an old dog in for a dental – leave enough teeth so she can eat, no matter how bad her gums/teeth are; she’s old, I want her to live as long as possible, not be done in by losing all his teeth (Dooz at 17) or a spontaneous jaw fracture (Pink Floyd – second cleaning).

    My vet is not a corporate vet (I don’t think) but the emails are weekly and not needed (some are on dogs who have passed!); I shot all my own dogs, personal and rescue. I need the vet to see them once a year unless something comes up and then, gosh, I have enough brain to bring them in as needed.

    I like Frankie’s Mona Lisa smile but not the reasoning behind it. Do so enjoy having you back and I, too, enjoy the format…

    1. It’s a tough calls with those dentals isn’t it? You want to keep their mouths bacteria free, but it’s easy to do too much. Poor Pink Floyd (but I love the name).

      You might be surprised to find your vet was taken over by a larger group; I hadn’t realized that was the case with mine until a friend who takes her dogs there too explained that’s why all the phone calls, etc. had started.

      It’s nice to be back — especially when I get such warm welcomes as yours!

    2. My senior golden mix needs another dental but my vet and I agreed that we didn’t want to risk it. She gave me a round of antibiotics instead. They really cleared up her nasty breath and she didn’t have to undergo another procedure.

      1. That’s excellent. It’s nice to have a vet who recognizes there’s no one size fits all when it comes to dentals for senior dogs.

  6. That corporate vet situation sounds really annoying. One of the things I really like about my girls’ vet is that she has her own practice, so when I make an appointment I know who they will see. I think continuity of care is important for pets and for people, especially for the oldsters. As my senior dog gets older and older I try to enjoy every day with her and not think back about how she was in her younger years. I wonder if she has the same thoughts about me…

    1. Happily, it’s not that bad, Cynthia. I always see my regular vet, who I adore (in spite of certain insensitive comments about Frankie’s “last” dental). The only thing that’s changed is the phone calls and emails.

      Don’t look back is a good motto for both people and dogs. On the other hand, I suspect Frankie would not enjoy the bad old days when I was pretty clueless about him…

  7. It is hard making those decisions with an older dog. Do you really want to put them through another procedure? It is worth the risk of putting them under anesthesia? Will it prolong their life or at least improve their quality of life? I don’t look forward to making those decisions with Zora.

    1. It really is a tough call. I guess one of the big determining factors is whether your dog is in dental pain and has trouble eating. Periodontal disease is also particularly dangerous in dogs with heart problems. Yep, lots of factors to balance… I’m sure you’ll make the right decision with Zora.

  8. I always thought these photo’s were just Frankie showcasing his rich portfolio of facial expressions.

    I catch myself as well in explaining how K&V acted, or looked like, earlier in life. “Viva’s nose was nice and smooth half a year ago”, “Kenzo was really golden-colored before he became five”. I embrace all the changes, but can’t deny a part of me has it difficult to give up, how they once were. A quick look in the mirror is a great cure: the dogs are doing a lot better than I do.

    1. Maybe it’s lucky I didn’t know Frankie as a puppy — I might really have a terrible case of look-back-itis! I agree about the perspective at looking in the mirror gives. And it reminds me that, although I don’t believe in unconditional dog love, I do believe that dogs are far more forgiving and nonjudgmental — especially about superficial things like looks — than humans are.

  9. Have to say, I think the sneer was darling, though the smile is sweet, too. Dental health is more important than most pet owners realize. I know I didn’t truly know it until my senior dog had some done and the vet discovered a “bump.” The biopsy revealed a super fast growing form of mouth cancer. If I hadn’t gone ahead with the dental work, I wouldn’t have known until it was too late for any treatment.

    1. Yes, that’s another variable to put into the equation of whether or not seniors should get dental work done: that it’s a way to check for cancer and other more serious problems. I’m so glad to hear that you caught your dog’s cancer in time.

  10. It’s hard to watch them age. Is it my imagination or have vets become tooth-yanking crazy? I read more stories about dogs and cats with few or no teeth. No matter his age, Frankie is cute.

    1. That’s an excellent question, Jan, and I’m not sure of the answer. I think maybe more and more pet owners are realizing the importance of professional dental care to a dog’s health so we’re hearing about the results. My vet always showed me the teeth afterwards so I would know that they were rotten and that he wasn’t just gratuitously yanking them, but I’d bet some could have been saved by a veterinary dentist — way too expensive for me. So, yeah, yanking is easier.

      And, yes, thank you, Frankie is a cutie!

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