Frankie in his pre-unconditional love incarnation

Six years ago, if someone had told me I was going to spend a future birthday at a dog trainer’s conference, I would laughed.

Mirthlessly. I would have assumed it was a cruel joke.

Six years ago, I spent my birthday crying because I had decided to give myself the gift of a rescue dog.

I’d never had a dog before and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t what I was experiencing. No one had told me that the unconditional love thing I’d heard so much about wasn’t automatic. I’d assumed any dog I adopted would bring me instant joy, and that a rescue would be filled with gratitude that I had taken it in.

Frankie apparently hadn’t gotten the memo.

He lay on my couch, looking deeply depressed, refusing to eat. When I approached him so he would lick my face — isn’t that what cute small dogs are supposed to do? — he shrank back with a “Please don’t hurt me” expression.

I guess I should be grateful he wasn’t a submissive pee-er.

I seriously contemplated giving him back. What had I been thinking, adopting my first dog as an adult?

As it turned out, my instincts were right. It was just my notion that there was such a thing as an instant relationship, with dogs as well as with people, that was wrong.

So thank you, Frankie, for one of the many life lessons you taught me, and for the new and wonderful community of dog people you introduced me to. I’m sorry I wasn’t with you yesterday; I was learning more about your kind.

I know you’ll be happy to see me when I return, and not because loving their owners is what all dogs automatically do, but because I earned it.

P.S. A public thank you to my nieces, Rebecca and Shari, who sent a donation in my name to The Grey Muzzle Association, which helps rescue senior dogs. How cool a birthday present is that? Here’s a picture of the certificate, which I received when I got home.

22 thoughts on “Frankie: The Gift that Kept on Giving… Eventually”

  1. Love your post. Every new dog person oughta read this! And, Love your sense of humor. How many times have dogs not gotten our memos and we think it is all about them? Appreciate you turning this on its side, with humor!

  2. dear ms jarolim,

    first of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! i hope you had a lovely day even if you were at a conference. i love presents like the one your nieces gave you. how clever and thoughtful of them.

    i am also very surprised to learn that you are a new dog owner and that frankie is your first dog. you know LOTS about dogs, certainly more than my humans who tell me they’ve had dogs since they were little which was a long time ago. you must be a very fast learner :p

    that’s all then. have a lovely week πŸ™‚ xox

    1. Thank you, Georgia, for your birthday wishes. It’s taken me a long time to learn about dogs — I did a lot of research — and there’s still so much more to learn, but it’s been a blast having Frankie as a teacher.

  3. So you thought attending a dog trainer’s conference for your birthday would be a cruel joke – and look at you now! I bet you had a fabulous time, especially with the opportunity to ask questions!

    1. Thank you, Shauna! I just posted a picture of the certificate, received today, to show just how cool I think it is.

  4. Happy be-lated birthday! I can’t wait to talk to you about the conference. What a great birthday gift- I’d say your neices know you pretty well! As for Frankie, he’s so lucky to have found you.

  5. Hi Edie – we met on another blog – thought I’d click on your link and check this out.

    I will be putting you website on my recommended viewing list to my clients – the humour you write your experiences is perfect – it is important for people to hear from a “lay person” who has been through the same issues.
    As a veterinary nurse in Australia, your problem is one I come across on a regular basis. Convincing people there isn’t anything wrong with their new pet, patience, love, understanding and perserverance is all that is needed. Seeing things from the point of view of the animal, not knowing the previous history (we never assume, just because they are from a shelter, they have been abused, or if the have been found, they have been abandoned – we never assume this, as this may not be correct, some/most temperament concerns are born, not made) but accepting that animals have their own personalities, fears, phobias, likes and dislikes. As a whole, we do expect so much from our animal friends, believeing they should be grateful they are receiving good food etc, without a thought for their feelings. I watched a programme once regarding the same thoughts on a different species that is adopted – humans – it was very thought provoking and the same issues applied.

    recently a client adopted an older dog from a breeder, the little thing in the owners eyes was taking quite some time to adjust – it didn’t help that well meaning people were suggesting there had to be something wrong with the dog and or the breeder must have abused it. The main problem was it hated going for walks on a lead, often cowering at the farthest corner of the back yard.
    I managed to convince the owner to recognise things from the dogs point of view. I doubted the breeder abused it (in the literal term – arguements could no doubt be made otherwise) but reminded the new owner that kennel dogs are not kept in the same manner as pet dogs, often not going for walks on a lead (if they are show dogs the lead experience is different from general purpose walking). At 7 years old this poor dog has been taken away from her kennel mates and tossed into a foreign environment with just one person and no one else – this was a major traumatic event in this little dogs life. Once the new owner saw it from this point of view, she ignored the advice of all those well meaning people, let the dog take her time, never forcing any issue and now things are going well. She still don’t like long walks on a lead, but they are taking small steps towards small walks.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Gillian. You touch upon a point that was made in the conference I’m just back from: The misguided notion that all dogs that are adopted from shelters were abused or abandoned. It does neither dog nor owner any good to make that assumption. Quite the opposite, because it gives an excuse not to do the work that is needed to create a relationship with the dog.

      I’m very pleased that you’re sending readers over here to this blog but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Am I Boring My Dog?, the book I wrote after I started learning what to do with the small creature I found myself with, is a more efficient compilation of information for new pet owners.

      1. Hi Again

        it is always a battle to convince owners otherwise. Just yesterday, clients brought in the 8mth old OES that has issues. They have had the dog since a young pup – but they are convinced the pup must have been abused by men as one of the issues is it appears to be frightened of men – we cannot convince them other wise, even after pointing out they have had it since a 12 week old puppy! They are constantly making excuses instead of trying to help the young dog with it’s confidence problems.
        It is one of the many “old wives tales” we have to deal with in the veterinary industry.

  6. You were always my foodie friend and it’s a been a joy to have you has my dog friend. My dogs (greyhounds) have changed my life in directions I never even imagined. I saw you blossom with Frankie and take it several steps further into realms I’ve never even gone like publishing a book.

    Our 4-legged friends have and will continue to bring us utter and pure joy.

    I can picture myself in many different scenarios but being without a dog is not one of them.

  7. Every good human needs a good dog teacher! It also took one little special dog to open up my heart and learn – that was 20 years ago and boy did he open it! Hope you had a beautiful birthday!

  8. Frankie and Edie cowering side-by-side on her couch, both in tears. Ah yes, I remember it well. Happy 6th Birthday in Life Together!
    I was delighted to see so many reminders that shy dogs have not necessarily been abused. I have lived with my Brussels Griffon, Charles (he of the famous Frankie humping pics), since he was 12 weeks old. He turned 12 years old yesterday. And he still cringes if I make the mistake of reaching for him head on! Instead, I have taught him to “park” — when he wants to say hello to someone, he backs into place, so the obliging human can scratch his butt! I guess he figures that anyone who isn’t interested in a good scratch probably isn’t worth knowing anyway! Apart from the cringe he is actually turning into a bossy little dog in his golden years — he demands that I provide him an escort in and out of the house, as well as up the little dog steps onto the bed. I am feeling very well trained. Chortle.

  9. Happy (belated) birthday, Edie! I hope you had a fantastic day, and that you and Frankie celebrated with a puppy kiss facial when you arrived back home. You’ve definitely earned it. =)

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