MemoriesI’ve been feeling a bit gloomy for the last few days, experiencing a sense of dread about this upcoming 4th of July weekend that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. One more assignment to finish, and I’m ready to settle in to work on Getting Naked for Money without interruption.

Also: I found a terrific new vet for Madeleine earlier in the week. I’d been a bit worried. I didn’t much care for the vet I took Madeleine to for her free post-adoption exam and, though I adored Frankie’s former vet, I was afraid he was going to retire soon and I didn’t like the other two vets in the practice: One had called Frankie “weird,” and the other dubbed him “a bad patient.” This new vet, an engaging, thoughtful man, is not only closer to my home, but is younger (no retirement soon) and has x-ray dental equipment. After interviewing several veterinary dentists for an article, I realized that I would never have my own teeth extracted without having x-rays taken first, yet had been willing to do that for a beloved dog.

Cleaning house

So why the gloom?

In preparation for getting serious about writing my book, I decided to do a little house cleaning–emphasis on “little.” Overdoing it until I became too tired to write would defeat the purpose. As I was going through my kitchen drawers, sorting through hundreds of discount coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond, I discovered some of Frankie’s things that I couldn’t bear to throw away: My diary of his blood sugar readings; a bottle of diabetic test strips; a hypodermic needle.

A bottle with a little Vetsulin remained in the refrigerator.

Seeing those items,  I was hit by a sudden wave of sadness, remembering a routine that was at once difficult and precious. And then I suddenly realized the source of my low-key anxiety: The 4th of July was Frankie’s designated  birthday. I never knew the real day and he was my Frankie Doodle Dandy.

Happy Birthday and Happy Fourth of July, Frankie!
Another reason this was not Frankie’s favorite holiday

There’s a certain irony to that. Not only was he terrified of fireworks, as many dogs are. Frankie was pretty much terrified of people, too.

I remember taking him to a Fourth of July political event early on. Even though it took place nearly nine months after I adopted him, I guess I still didn’t get the extent to which he hated crowds. I don’t think I knew the term “socialize” at the time but I probably thought that the more he experienced new situations, the more comfortable with them he would get.

Now, Frankie was an adorable dog. Based on neoteny, or puppy-like features, he was cuter in some ways than Madeleine, who looks more conventionally “doggy.” No surprise, then, that the political candidate wanted to have her picture taken with him. Frankie tolerated it, because I was nearby. But he wasn’t at all happy.

He was a one woman dog, totally devoted to me.

I wrote about my ambivalence about his dependence on me, his fearful personality in a story titled Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Dogs.  It ends this way:

Chastened, I lifted my little dog into my lap…. At least I had one source of solace:  As long as I gave him a loving home, Frankie would never know I was an asshole.

Frankie & me at in In the Raw
Frankie & me at in an early bonding session

A Guilt-Free — But Not a Pain-Free — Zone

I realize now: You can find a new vet so you don’t have to face the pain of going to the old one without your departed dog.

You can go to that vet with the type of dog you used to fantasize your departed dog would become, one that every veterinarian would be likely to love.  No one would even be tempted to call Madeleine weird or a bad patient. She cuddles up to everyone, doesn’t object to shots or even thermometers in her rectum, but she’s also frisky and a bit mischievous, a small dog even macho guys could like.

But that won’t lessen the pain of your loss. In this case, it made it worse. I feel bad that I enjoyed Madeleine’s popularity so much.

Earlier, before I started analyzing why I was feeling gloomy, I’d thought about dressing Madeleine in 4th of July regalia. But not only is she not a dress-up type of dog (see neoteny/lack thereof, above); doing that would be trying to make her into Frankie, just as I’d tried to make Frankie into another type of dog before I knew better.

So this 4th of July post is devoted to Frankie, in honor of his designated birthday, and on “his” blog, the one I created to detail his adventures, not on Edie as I’d originally planned. Madeleine? She may or may not get half a hot dog. The new vet said she wasn’t really fat, but “comfortable,” and then amended that to say, “You know, like Marilyn Monroe.”

Madeleine, the curvy femme fatale of the canine world.

Frankie was more of a surfer dude.

Frankie says "Just get me to the beach, already!"

Laughing and crying at the same time, I know now too: Sometimes the pain of loss is going to blindside you.  Getting another dog, no matter how great, won’t stop that from happening, though time might. Or not. Frankie will always be my first dog. That’s not ever going to change

What do you do with that hurt, then? You acknowledge it, you experience it. You remember, you regret, you grab a box of Kleenex.

And if you’re a writer, you try to put it into words so others will know that it’s okay to love two dogs, one present, one departed, at the same time.

22 thoughts on “Embracing Sadness: Our Irreplaceable Pets”

  1. Beautiful post, Edie. This hit home for me in so many ways. Sometimes, I catch myself defending Bella’s memory. Someone will say “Tavish is so cute when he does X” and I feel compelled to say “Bella used to do X too and she was also adorable.” It’s like I occasionally feel like it’s betraying her memory to wholeheartedly embrace the good things about Tavish without mentioning her too (even though I do think he’s awesome and love him bunches). It happens less frequently as time goes on – I think I’m starting to accept that loving him as much as I do in no way diminishes my love for her. You’ve expressed that feeling so eloquently here.

    Many hugs to you and Madeline today – and I’ll be thinking of your Frankie too.

  2. Very beautifully said. Somehow, I can relate, even though it was my perfectly sociable, easy going dog, that I lost and miss so dearly, and now we have a more difficult dog. Yet Luke and I have developed a strong bond through training together and trying to work through his issues. Somehow I feel like our easy Kobi is watching over me and knows that this might be exactly what I needed to focus on and help ease his loss. I’m not sure we’ll ever have a dog as easy as he was, and I think that is what makes each dog wonderful….their uniqueness.

    1. Thanks, Jan. It’s true, each dog is unique, and I think each dog probably brings out different aspects of our personalities. With Frankie, it was nurturing that I never really knew I had in me. With Madeleine I think it’s patience…

  3. Hey there, Edie. I was so happy to see an email alert about your post. I miss your blog and Frankie. Although I never met the little guy I feel as if I knew him. I completely get the mixed emotions. I still find it difficult to think and talk about my first girl without feeling sad and even crying. Best to you and Madeleine.

    1. Thanks, Deborah. I often wonder about you and Sadie too (hope you’re both doing well)! That’s one of the problems — and also the joys — of living life in public through a pet blog, isn’t it? People get attached to your pets, and share your pain. I sometimes miss blogging here too. When I’m ready for my next dog book, I’ll be back!

  4. Beautiful, Edie!! I’ve been involved in Ducky’s confidence work these last few days and thinking about this very post as well. I thought I’d left a comment on your FB page but now can’t find it. 🙁

    Anyway, I remember very well going through similar emotions with respect to Kissy and Callie. Kissy was shy around other people, especially little people who moved at the speed of sound. Callie loves all people, especially the ones who give her scratches behind the ears and treats and play with her. (My quintessential Golden Retriever. 🙂 ). We love our individual dogs for their unique personalities, and for the qualities they bring out in us. Funny how Frankie and Madeleine brought/bring out the same qualities in you that Kissy and Ducky did/do for me.

    I would have to say that all the emotions, the “funk”, and the acceptance leading to the lifting of the fog is all normal. It’s just part of the process of life and living.

    1. Your comment is up on Facebook, on the Will My Dog Hate Me page, but it’s always nice to see you here too.

      Those parallels are funny. And yes, all these emotions are normal — and airing them is part of the process of letting other people know they’re not crazy for feeling them!

  5. Oh where is that Wayback machine? This weekend I visited a friend who runs an in-home dog sitting business and one of her guests was a ringer for my beloved Mikey. It took a lot of self discipline to not stuff him in my car and floor it. Then, the next day, coincidently, I was hanging out with another dogcrazy friend and we started to reminisce about special dogs in our lives and I realized she had never met Mikey so once again there were stories and some waterworks. As I careen rapidly into my sixties the memories of Mikey and my other greyhound of the era, Jan, become more bittersweet because I also miss me in my mid forties. More reasons to enjoy everyday! Here’s to the Era of Madeleine and to wonderful memories of Frankie! Where’s that damn tissue box…

    1. Sounds like we had a similar weekend of dog — and personal — nostalgia. I’m not sure I miss my younger selves very much, only certain aspects of them, but Frankie — yeah.

  6. Aw, Edie…hugs…Frankie was infinitely more incredible than those darn vets gave him credit for – look at the wonderful legacy he left behind, and all the memories you now find bittersweet. No wonder you miss your Best Bud so. Happy 4th, Frankie!

    1. I am considering myself happily hugged! Yes, underneath that shy exterior Frankie was a superstar and I’m glad I was able to get past my preconceptions to recognize that fact and convey it to so many others.

  7. It is so amazing to me how different every dog is. We only adopt seniors now and our 10 year old Chocolate pom (with congestive heart failure) did something the other day and I said to my husband how much he reminds me of Ziggy (we lost him 3 years ago). Completely different dogs completely the same! Thanks for reminding me that each one holds a special place in my heart and especially Frankie because he is how I met you!

    1. I don’t tend to use the term heaven, but there is a special place in the karmic universe for people who adopt senior dogs. How wonderful for you to give them that second chance. Glad to prod your memory — and yes, Frankie was definitely a social lubricant, if only as a virtual presence.

      1. My vet says we’ll give our boy a great last year but has also asked that we be available for him when the time comes. That’s the great thing about adopting seniors, as long as you love them it’s all good! It really is the reward.

  8. I’m so sorry for your loss. Frankie looked like a super little dude! <3 My dogs are also terrified of the fireworks.

    I'm glad you have Madeleine! I know that she can't replace Frankie but I think it's good to have the companionship. ~hugs~

    1. Frankie was a super little dude, and Madeleine is awesome too. Thanks for coming by! I hope you and your pups are having a great weekend.

  9. Every dog is different with their own personality. I have had to put a few dogs as well as cats down over the years. It is one of the most difficult things you will have to do in your life as a pet owner. The way I look at it is you gave this animal love and a good home. Hopefully that is some comfort.

    Pet’s Parlor Social Network.

  10. I’m laughing, laughing, laughing! Your blog and books are funny. I haven’t laughed this much in a long time. Your featured dog book video makes me think of something I’ve seen by Laurie Anderson. Can’t wait to read Getting Naked. Best – Oh! P.S. Found you on Ron Silliman’s blog.

    1. Thank you so much for coming by and for leaving this great comment. My name and Laurie Anderson’s have never been mentioned in the same sentence before! Getting Naked will be available… next week. I will post on all my blogs because I can!

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