It is with overwhelming sadness that we here at Almost Perfect Pets share with you the loss of our dear friend and colleague in disabled pet advocacy, Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog.
Frankie crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday morning after a brief struggle with congestive heart failure. She left this world only a few short weeks after her last visit to a nearby hospice as a therapy dog, and only a short while following her last school visit to educate children on the importance of overcoming adversity. I guess Frankie was truly a purpose-driven dog, and when she’d achieved all she could in this lifetime, she felt it was time to move on to the next plane.
I had the wonderful experience of meeting Frankie in person — or in dog — exactly two years ago, when I’d returned to Wisconsin to attend my high school reunion. Frankie’s mom, Barbara Techel, invited me to stay with them between visits to other friends, and we all made a radio appearance at WCUB Radio in Manitowoc. Barb did an interview with the morning show personalities there, one of whom we both still stay in touch with on Facebook. Another of the station staff also had a disabled doxie whom Frankie met and they got along famously.
Barb took me to lunch in beautiful downtown Elkhart Lake and showed me around her quaint little village, and we spent some time doing an interview with Frankie in her writing studio in their home’s backyard. Later that evening, we hung out, chatting and petting Frankie. I must say, it felt so good to hold that little snausage girl and play with her velvet ears. She was a cuddler and just the sweetest little dog you can imagine. I know I was lucky to have gotten the chance to meet her in person, while so many others who always wanted to will never get that opportunity. And I do feel blessed to have known this rolling wonder dog.
I met Barb soon after I’d published Almost Perfect. She was working to promote her first Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog book, and had found me on the Internet. She asked if I’d blurb her book, which I was thrilled to do. It may be hard to believe, but back then, hardly anyone else was writing about disabled pets. Those of us who were found ourselves pioneering a new genre of nonfiction books, and there were no rules and not much help available for how to do it. We were pretty much on our own, so it made sense for us to band together to help each other. After all, we understood that it was really all about the message, and the message was all about saving the critters. So we forged a strong working relationship in service of those goals.
Six years and countless phone calls, emails and Skype visits later, we look back and realize we also forged a strong and true friendship. And I’m so thankful for that, because Barb had contacted me earlier this week to tell me what was going on with Frankie. She and I have often discussed what it would be like when she lost Frankie or I lost Idgie, and we realized that for her, that time had come. There was nothing to do but to be present and compassionate and supportive of whatever decision Barb needed to make to best care for her longtime, round-the-clock companion. And I feel blessed to have been a part of that process, too, however difficult. Because among the many things I’ve learned from Frankie and Barb is the value of real friendship.
So it is with such a heavy heart that Idgie and I say goodbye to Frankie, whose marvelous spirit and loving family allowed her to achieve an enormous amount in 13 all-too-brief years. One need only look at Barb’s Facebook page or Frankie’s, or to do a Twitter search on “walk ‘n roll dog” to see the amazing number of lives that were positively touched by one tiny wiener dog on wheels.
It’s going to be strange calling up the Joyful Paws headquarters on Skype and not seeing that peppy little red triangle-headed dog right there next to her author mom. But I also know that as much as it hurts to lose Frankie, Barb’s head and heart are in the right place about this passage. We spoke this morning about how Frankie ushered in a new chapter in Barb’s life, and has now ushered it out as she finds herself ready to embark on another new chapter. Her work with Frankie, teaching people about overcoming obstacles, has made Barb ready for this challenge. She knows that Frankie will always be right there with her in spirit, since she no longer needs the broken body she inhabited as a requirement of her work here on Earth.
And to make sure this important work goes on, Barb has also begun a Frankie Fund to help raise money for people whose dogs have IVDD or other issues and need wheelchairs like the one Frankie used, and for those who would be willing to adopt/rescue such critters but can’t afford the wheelchair. She’s currently working on a whole campaign with its own web page, etc., but for now, you can donate at her ChipIn page. Every little bit helps, and will be donated to Eddie’s Wheels, the maker of Frankie’s cart. They use it to build or customize carts for those who can’t afford them. Just think: Your donation could help create a lovely new life full of hope and promise for another Frankie!
I hope everyone gets the chance to meet a Frankie of their own someday, because once you do, you will never be the same. Knowing Frankie was truly a joy and a privilege, and she’s certainly left her mark on me. I’ll leave you with these words that Frankie lived by: Always be positive, and keep on rolling.
It’s what she would have wanted.