So long, Frankie.

Posted: December 14, 2011 in Dogs

Yesterday, December 12, we lost our friend Frankie.  She left us deeply saddened, but also deeply grateful for the short time she was with us.  I know I’m a better person having had the honor of having her in my life.  After a brief, but rapidly progressing illness, we had to have her put down.  She was alert and seemed painfree untill the end, which made the decision more difficult for us, but better for her.

She adopted Kim and I on Kim’s birthday, April 29th, 1999.  Our next door neighbors at the time, a young couple who’d bought the house from my parents, had taken her in after  the girls sister had found her, lost, skinny, hair matted and packed with burrs, wandering on the road near their parents  home.  They had her there for a month or two, but largely ignored her, and she was frequently in our yard, seeking attention and making Kim fall in love with her.  She (Kim) went so far as to let Frankie (the kids next door had given her that name) in the house.   I liked her too, but didn’t feel comfortable letting the neighbors dog in our house.

On that beautiful, sunny, unseasonably warm April day, my mom called to tell me she had run into another neighbor lady, Maggie,  down the street at the grocery store, who asked her if Kim and I had a black Cocker.  Someone had almost hit one in the road in front of their house, half a mile away from us.  Since she didn’t have a collar or tags, the lady  had taken her  home, 10 miles away, and said she’d try to find her owner.  Maggie had the ladies phone number who took the dog, to help find her owner.

I knew Frankie liked to roam, and immediately called Maggie to tell her that Frankie belonged next door to us.  As I was dialing, I heard something in the kitchen, and turned around to see Frankie, setting happily in the kitchen waiting to be noticed.  I’d left the back door open and she’d run away from the woman who’d nearly hit her, taken her almost 10 miles away, ran home to hour house, and simply let herself in. 

Of course, I immediately took her “home” next door, where they told me that since she wouldn’t stay home, they were going to get rid of her. 

“If you wouldn’t mind”, I said, “She seems to like it at our house.  Kim loves her, and we’d like her if it’s OK.”

“Naw,”, the young man said, “my wife can’t teach a puppy dog to stay home, I don’t know what she’ll do with a baby (they were pregnant at the time), you can have her.”  Obviously, some seeds of discord were sprouting in their patch of marital bliss, but that’s another story…

When Kim got home, I presented her with the only really beautiful birthday present I think I’ve ever gotten her, Frankie.  We went to Meijers that evening and bought her some dog food, toys, her first collar, and a wicker bed.  Kim said Frankie wouldn’t sleep in it, but as soon as I put it down she hopped in and curled up, tail thumping.  She slept in it almost every night the next 12 years.  Always her own dog, she’d sometimes start out in our bed, but would end up in her own bed by morning.  I like independence in a dog.

So, that’s how Frankie came to our house and into our lives.  For the past 12 years, she’s been our constant companion, traveling buddy, and comfort when things weren’t going well.  Through cancer, job losses, health problems, arguments, and the usual human trials, she was happy, energetic and loving.  She was ALWAYS cheerful, loved whatever we did and being wherever we were.   It was hard to be in a bad mood or unhappy in her company, even when she would remind us she was, just when we’d think of her as human, first and always,  a dog.

She rode on the seat between us happily all day long in the convertible, her long black hair blowing in the wind, on dozens of trips,  and surprised us once by escaping her seat belt harness, leaping out over side of the ’48 Pontiac convertible, and finding us in a wine tasting room!  She loved camping with us, and NEVER ran away from us, although she did manage to learn to open the screen door of the Spartan and found us once in a crowd of hundreds of people at a Tin Can Tourist rally tent.  Somebody down the row of tables said, “Hey, there’s a DOG in here!”, and it was Frankie, sniffing everybody’s feet down the line untill she found us.

Never a big fan of boating, she HATED the water, although she tolerated rides in the Chris Craft.   We tried to acclimate her to the water, but she never was comfortable if her feet didn’t touch.  All the more frightening then the time she fell of a pier in at the harbor in Petoskey in March, and I had to lift her 10 feet up out of the icy water by her retractable leash and pinch collar.

She was a beautiful, gentle soul who touched the lives of hundreds of people, and made everyone she met fall in love with her.  Laying her to rest, two weeks after my birthday,  on a beautiful, sunny, unseasonably warm December day,  in a pretty spot under the trees in our back yard was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.   Digging her grave through the tears in the warm sun,  seemed somehow like good work, a  final thing and show of respect  for her.  I turned up a horseshoe in the dirt, an odd but somehow comforting object that I used as a grave marker on a marble tile. 

I don’t know if we’ll get another dog.  Certainly not right away.   I grew up with dogs, labs and German short hairs.  Hunting dogs, dogs who worked for living.  I had  always thought little dogs were something less than ideal as dogs go.  Frankie taught me I was wrong about that, along with lots of other lessons.  She had high expectations of me, I hope I can live up to them.

So long Frankie.

  1. Brian K. Rowley says:

    I know how you feel. 14 years ago we put down our first Dog, Chevy. He was nearly the exact age of our son, Rob. Raised together to that point I couldn’t listen to his last breath and left out the side door of the vets. Two years ago our second dog, Toby who is still my companion in the cars and around the house had a close call. Knee surgery in October. Then Neck Surgery in December right before Christmas. Many people would have thought we were crazy but my dog loving friends knew why we invested the money in a ten year old Llasa Apso. Toby’s 12 now, with arthritis slowing him but there is meds for that. He can’t hear worth a flip but still has a quality life and enhances ours daily.

  2. Karin McCool says:

    I, too, know how it feels to lose a beloved family member. You gave her a wonderful life and she knew it, and I’m sure that gives you some comfort, but right now I imagine your home feels pretty empty and sad. I love that you buried her in the yard so that she will always be with you. Having her near WILL comfort you, I believe. I still talk to my dogs from time to time; it’s a bittersweet feeling, but I like knowing they are here with us. I hope you will get another dog when the time is right; I’m pretty sure Frankie would want you to help another one the way you helped her. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

  3. Becky says:

    There are a lot of good memories of Frankie—walking around Yankee Springs campground and having EVERY little kid come up and ask “Can I pet your dog?”, watching her get so excited when Grandma arrived and having to get a treat before Grandma could even step out of the car (heaven forbid, if the treats were forgotten!), having the nieces and nephews torment her with that stuffed kitty rag doll… and on and on. We will all miss her!

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