A visit with author and special needs pet advocate, Barbara Techel

Posted on by Mary Shafer


Some of you are familiar with Barbara Techel through her work with IVDD dogs, begun during her journey with the original Walk ‘n Roll Dog, Frankie. But were you aware that she’s recently published an inspiring memoir about her life since then?

I’ve been privileged to know Barb since she and I were both relative newbies to indie publishing. I had just published Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Themand Barb was in the process of publishing her first children’s book, Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog through her publishing house, Joyful Paw Prints Press. Also a self-published author, she reached out to ask me some questions about promoting books about disabled pets, and in the ensuing years, she has become one of my favorite people on the planet.

Since completing her Frankie series of children’s books, Barb has gone on to write and publish a couple nonfiction titles. The first was Class Act: Sell More Books Through School and Library Author Appearances, which I had the honor of editing. It’s the only book solely on this subject, and is absolutely stuffed with useful information for any author trying to promote their book.

Barb’s latest nonfiction effort is Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way. It’s a courageous sharing of Barb’s personal story, about how her entire life was transformed by the love of a small red dachshund who lost the use of her back legs. Barb was inspired by her miniature dachshund, Frankie, who ruptured a disk in her lower back when she was 6 years old and was given only a 30% chance of walking again. This led Barb to have Frankie custom-fit for a dog cart to help her walk again. Through Frankie’s Eyes is a moving read she sent me at a time when I was going through some personal struggles of my own, and I found it inspiring and uplifting, at a time when I really needed that. So I’m sharing with you here a recent visit with Barb about this marvelous book, in hopes that perhaps it can do the same for you.

Through Frankie's Eyes book cover

Q. What was your initial reaction when your dog was given only a 30% chance of walking again?

I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine what Frankie’s life would be like if she didn’t walk on her own again. And just as I talk about my book and being honest, I share that I questioned if I even wanted to take care of a handicapped pet. How would my own life change? How would I do this? I was scared.

But I loved Frankie so much and I wanted to give her a chance. It changed me in a way I never saw coming, and I’m so grateful.

Q. Was Frankie’s injury the impetus to help other dogs with disabilities?

Very much so. I never had even heard about dog wheelchairs (also called dog carts) before this happened to Frankie. When I had Frankie custom-fitted for her wheelchair, I was amazed at how she could do pretty much all the same things she did before her paralysis. Her wheelchair was just a tool to help her live a quality life.

When Frankie became paralyzed in 2006, I didn’t really hear of any other dogs such as her who were in wheelchairs. It was part of the reason I wrote a children’s book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog about her, to help spread a positive message and educate not only small children, but parents and grandparents who would read the story to their kids/grandkids and they could learn that dogs with disabilities can lead a great life if given a chance.

Q.  Your story, Cassie & Frankie Inspire a Writer, won an honorable mention award in 2007, in a contest sponsored by Linda and Allen Anderson of Angel Animals Network. Who is Cassie, and were you  inspired to help just Frankie when you wrote the book or article, or did it move you to help other disabled dogs, as well?

Cassie was my chocolate Lab, who passed away in 2005 from terminal bone cancer. She inspired me to become a writer. I was in awe of how she continued to be happy even though a tumor in her body was growing and would eventually take her life. It awakened me to go after what it was that would bring me more joy, and to live my own life to the fullest. Though cliché, it hit me over the head how short life really is.

Little did I know that nine months after Cassie’s death, Frankie would then become paralyzed. Though it was painful and tough at the beginning of Frankie’s ordeal, I knew I was being presented with an opportunity to spread a positive message.

FrankieLegacyQ. Has being the owner of a disabled dog made you more sensitive to disabled people?

You know, I’ve always been sensitive to disabled people. But I’d say my empathy and compassion deepened. Even more than that, my respect for them grew, as I realized even more what they are up against in their day-to-day lives.

Q. You are an advocate of the human-animal bond. What can you tell us about animal communication?

I’m very fascinated by the human-animal bond. I honestly believe if not for my dogs, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. I’ve learned so much from them and feel I’m a better human being because of having them in my life.

One thing that concerns me is that I don’t know that we take the time to really see and tune into our pets. I know it’s not always easy in our very busy, day-to-day lives, and believe me — I’m not perfect at this, either. But I truly believe they are trying to help us mortal human beings to live more consciously, and to awaken to living more fully in the present moment.

Q. What can dogs teach us?

The list is endless! For me, I’ve learned to appreciate nature. I’ve learned to live more in the here and now. I’ve learned to worry less. I’ve learned to be still more often. I’ve learned not to take life too seriously. I’ve learned to be positive and look for blessings in challenges. I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a nap in the middle of the day.

NWRDDlogoQ. I understand you created National Walk ‘n Roll Dog Day, which is observed annually on September 22. How are paralyzed dogs helped because of this day?

Yes, I am the founder of National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day, which I launched in 2012. This special day is in memory of Frankie, created in honor of all dogs in wheelchairs around the world. Frankie touched the lives of thousands during her six years in a wheelchair, visiting schools in my state of Wisconsin. She even became a dog who visited schools via Skype! Frankie also touched many lives as a therapy dog visiting hospice, hospitals and nursing homes.

I was so inspired by Frankie and all the dogs in wheelchairs that I wanted to have this special day in their honor. It’s my hope to continue to shine a positive light on these dogs, who overcome adversity so beautifully. We can learn so much from their amazing spirits.

Along with this special day, I created The Frankie Wheelchair Fund. This fund grants wheelchairs to paralyzed dogs who may otherwise not have been able to have one, such as when their families are in financial stress, or the dog is in a rescue situation. To date, we have granted 32 wheelchairs to dogs in need.

Author Interview: Kelly Preston – “Real Dogs Don’t Whisper”

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Kelly Preston and Dogs

Today, we’re talking with Kelly Preston, author of Real Dogs Don’t Whisper: Life Lessons From A Larger Than Life Dog and His Owner. Kelly is Mom to four special needs dogs, whom she writes about in the book, featuring Mr. MaGoo, the most outgoing of the group.

What made you want to write your book?

Having four special need dogs that were rescued, there were times in my life that people just didn’t understand why I needed to leave a party early, or why I wasn’t able to travel. I wanted to share my rewarding experience; wanted to raise awareness for rescue pets, especially those with special needs. I felt the need to share my experiences to help, inspire and motivate others.

Kelly Preston - Real Dogs Don't Whisper Cover

How did you get the idea to write parts of it from your dog’s point of view?

Great question! After writing a few chapters, I went back to assess the work and I noticed that the chapters were very deep, heavy and downright depressing. I looked down at Mr. MaGoo, my co-author. He was looking back at me with his tongue sticking out and his head tilted to one side, as if to say, “Mom, I am the clown and entertainment in this household, let me help you out! Plus, I am very animated and have a lot to bark about.” That is when I knew what was missing in this book: humor, light-heartedness, comic relief, if you will. Since I already knew Mr. MaGoo’s personality, adding him as my co-author was seamless and effortless.

As a result, he has over 6,700 fans that adore his daily antics and weekly blogs. Mr. MaGoo provides hope, laughs and bountiful energy on a daily level for his adoring fans, While I often hear that I provide inspiration to them during challenging times. Together, Mr. MaGoo and I are a team that embraces life with one mantra; simply, live in the moment and be fearless, for life is too short not to enjoy.

Specifically, what message did you hope to send about rescuing and living with special needs pets?

The message, or goal, I hope that transpires from Real Dogs Don’t Whisper is to raise awareness about second chances for those with special needs and try to inspire readers to live in the moment, open your heart, and to show what unconditional love truly means. It is often that, when a special needs pet comes into one’s life, the person thinks that they are doing the saving. While this may be and often is true, more times than not, it is that pet that saves that person. It is the pet that teaches us about life, qualities in oneself, and so much more. 

Based on the feedback you’ve gotten so far, do you feel your book has achieved what you set out to do?

Not only achieved, over and beyond! I have to say this has been an incredible journey and I know in my heart that this is just the beginning. I never dreamt that this book would touch so many lives on so many different levels. I receive messages from women that are going through a divorce, thanking me for giving them strength. I receive messages from young adults that are experiencing bullying or abuse and after reading my book, they receive the lesson that they must stand up for themselves. This book has inspired those with a special needs pet (or family member) to reach out. I truly have been blessed and I am thankful to God for this amazing opportunity, and hope that I can continue to assist others in times of need.

Any other book projects in your future?

Yes! Since the response has been overwhelming from our fans, we went into writing this past January. The second book will continue Real Dogs, with Mr. MaGoo and me as the authors again. However, the next book will contain stories from his fans. I think it is important to hear from others, too. Our fans have supported us and at the very least, I want to make them part of the next book.

Kelly Preston of San Jose, CA is a special-needs animal rescuer with a life like no other. She and Mr. MaGoo are both authors of Real Dogs Don’t Whisper and their freelance work has also appeared in numerous publications. Partial proceeds from book sales go to FACE Foundation, where Kelly volunteers. Visit Kelly and her dogs at their website

From Inspiration To Action: Evolution of A Pet Author

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Back in February, I announced here the publication of our friend Barbara Techel’s newest book, Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self and the dog on wheels who led the way. Today, I’m sharing an interview I recently did with Barb about how that book came to be. As people interested in disabled pets, I know you’ll find so much about her journey interesting and maybe even revelatory. Most of all, I hope it makes you want to read the book. And if you stay with it till the end of this post, we reveal a terrific bit of news that will affect our effort to make disabled pets more visible and acceptable forever! Without further ado, let’s go to the interview:

Author and animal activist Barbara Techel

Barb, Idgie and I have watched you evolve as an author/entrepreneur for years now, cheering you on, and we’re so thrilled to be helping you get the word out about your new book, Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way. 

So now, we’d like to interview you about the connection between your new book and the cause of advocating for disabled pets, an issue so near and dear to our hearts and those of our followers. Can you give us a brief overview of your new book’s theme, and how it relates to special needs pets, especially for any of our readers who aren’t familiar with Frankie and her story?

First and foremost, thank you Mary and Idgie, for all your amazing support over the last few years. It continues to mean so much to me. My new book’s theme is about trying to live our lives with more meaning and joy, and doing that in our own authentic way. My red dachshund, Frankie, really drove this lesson home for me when she was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and became paralyzed. Ultimately, she was custom-fitted for a dog wheelchair.

Frankie, the Walk ‘n Roll Dog

For a good part of my life, I often worried what others thought of me and the choices I made for myself. Because this was such a constant thought for me, I often was not living my best life. I made choices that I thought others would approve of, but often times, this would leave me feeling mad or sad.

Living in a small town of 900 people, going for a walk with a dog in a wheelchair was not a common sight. I was scared to take her out in public, for fear I would be judged as mean or cruel for putting her in a wheelchair. But one day it occurred to me, watching her play and get around in her wheels, that she didn’t care that she was in a wheelchair. She was happy!

That was a pivotal moment for me. It literally felt like in that moment, my whole outlook on life changed. I realized I had a choice. I could worry about what others thought, or I could trust my belief and what I knew to be true, which is that she was very happy. That was the beginning for me in building more confidence in who I am, and living the life I want to live, not worrying how others may think I should live my life. It still amazes me to this day that I learned all this from a little 10-inch-high, sausage-shaped dog in a wheelchair!

This book really puts your personal story out there. I imagine that really made you feel kind of vulnerable. How did you work past that fear in speaking your truth? You hit that right on the head!

It did feel very vulnerable, and still does now and then. But the more my story makes its way out into the world, the more I’ve been receiving positive feedback. People are relating to the same feelings and issues I had, and thanking me for sharing my story. That has certainly made it easier. But honestly, I really just came to a point where I know, deep in my heart, that I am a good person. I can go to sleep at night knowing I do my best each and every day. It’s a choice and I like the choices I make for myself. It is enough, and I don’t feel the need to explain or prove anything anymore.

I also have to say that for me, my dogs are my grounding. Just watching and observing them brings me to a place in my heart where fear of feeling vulnerable melts away. I have also come to truly believe that vulnerability is a gift. It is not a bad thing. It makes me uniquely me.

In one way, “coming out” about your past struggles with needing everyone’s acceptance and approval is akin to how some folks think about facing the world with a disability. How did Frankie’s influence give you the courage to tell that story?

We all have challenges, and we all have a choice (about how we’ll respond) when faced with a challenge. One thing I realized, as Frankie moved through her days after becoming paralyzed, is that she didn’t let it get in her way. Nor did she use it as an excuse not to get on with her life.

Now, I realize dogs can’t talk and may not feel things in the same way we do, but it was a powerful lesson for me. We can use our challenges or disabilities as an excuse to not be our best selves, or we can find a way to live our lives that work for us and are right for us, despite challenges or disabilities.

Truly, that’s one powerful lesson we’d all do well to remember. How else did your experience and relationship with Frankie and her fans help you make the big step of writing and publishing this book?

Writing my first children’s book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog, was a big leap for me. I remember being scared to write the book because I had never written a children’s book. I had no idea how to go about doing so. But there was something bigger at work for me. I am passionate about educating others about this disc disease. Too often, people still are not aware of their options so their pet is put to sleep, when — with the right information and tools — they likely could have lived a long, quality life.

It was important for me to start with the younger generation, and a book that parents and grandparents would read to their kids, thus educating many generations at once.

See? Even your lack of experience itself helped make that the most effective project it could have been! That you had the presence of mind to make that an intentional decision surely made your first book more effective.

I also realized the positive impact Frankie was having on children as I took her out in my little town. Remembering the insecure little girl I was, I wanted to help children see their challenges in a positive way, through Frankie’s example. Put that combination together — which was my driving force, along with my faith — and I realized I could do this. From there, as word got out about my books and my work, my confidence in myself continued to grow. And that’s what led me to release my inspirational memoir, Through Frankie’s Eyes.

Through Frankie's Eyes book cover

The most gratifying part of my work and mission the past six years has been the following of fans Frankie helped build. Her fans and their love and support truly mean so much to me. They have helped me in more ways than they may ever know. Not a day goes by that I am not truly grateful.

How do you think your new book might be helpful to other pet parents struggling with a disability in their own animals?

I’ve heard from so many people who say they know now, should this happen to their pet, that they can deal with it — that all will be okay. I’ve also heard from others, who already have dogs with the same disease, that it has helped them not feel sad or bad about what happened to their dog; again, that it is okay. Life can go on, and there are many blessings if we are open to receiving them.

After Frankie became paralyzed and I started to understand IVDD more, I made it a lifelong mission that I will do what I can to educate others—and to support them—and most of all give them hope, should they find themselves in this situation. I know my children’s books, as well as my memoir, are doing just that, because I hear from at least one person every day who shares this with me.

Over the years I’ve talked to many, many people via phone or email, who were facing their pet’s diagnosis of IVDD or having to get them a wheelchair, so my book is just an extension of giving more people hope that their pet with a disability can live a wonderful life. The bonus is that this experience may also help them see their own life in a more positive way, which will only benefit the pets in their lives, as well as family and friends.

What one piece of advice would you give to anyone considering adopting a walk ‘n roll dog?

Do it! Well, seriously: Please do consider taking in these wonderful dogs. I’m not going to say you won’t need to adjust your life, because it does take some adjusting depending on the individual dog’s situation. But the blessings and love you will receive from this pet truly can’t be adequately put into words. If this is something you are considering, but hesitant as what to expect, reach out to others who have a “walk ‘n roll dog.” This will help you to understand things you may need to give thought to, so you are prepared to make it work not only for you and your family, but for the dog, as well.

And I understand you have some exciting news to share about a special day for ALL walk ‘n roll dogs?

I do! I’m so thrilled and honored that a special observance I created last year has now officially been designated. Starting this year, each September 22 will be called National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day (NWNRDD).

The official logo of National Walk ‘n Roll Dog Day – September 22 of every year, starting this year!

NWNRDD is a celebration in memory of Frankie, and a day to honor and recognize all dogs in wheelchairs, around the world. I created this observance to continue to encourage others to see these dogs as able to live quality lives, because they certainly can with the help of their humans. Their resilience is simply amazing! I love sharing photos of them, as well as their stories, which I do on the Facebook page I created.

Having the day officially designated means that others will discover this wonderful observance, but most importantly, more people will see dogs in wheelchairs in a positive way — ultimately saving more lives with more dogs being adopted, no matter their challenge.

And that idea is exactly what we’re all about here at Almost Perfect Pets Blog. Thanks, Barb, for all you do to help special needs pets and their parents!

You can find Barbara Techel’s books on her website, JoyfulPaws.com, or at Amazon.com:

Through Frankie's Eyes book cover Through Frankie’s Eyes 








Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog








Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House







Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog Coloring and Paper Doll Activity Book








Find Barbara online:

Joyful Paws website and blog



National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day

Facebook – National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day

Twitter – National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day


A New Treat From An Old Friend!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Through Frankie's Eyes book cover

So happy to reporting here that our longtime friend and great supporter, author Barbara Techel (mom of the late Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog), today released a special edition of her latest book, Through Frankie’s Eyes: One Woman’s Journey to Her Authentic Self, and the Dog On Wheels Who Led The Way! She offered 100 special copies for sale and sold every last one of them before the day was out! And we’re not surprised. Barb’s story is as amazing as it is uplifting, and is something everyone should read who’s feeling like they’re not quite living the life they believe they were meant to live.

I don’t want to say too much more and spoil the fun for when Barb comes to visit us here at Almost Perfect Pets in April. But if you wanna check out this fantastic new book, run — don’t walk — over to Barb’s website and learn all about it!

Starting 2013 on a “thrilling” note

Posted on by Mary Shafer

January was a month of recuperating and getting caught up from being pretty sick with pneumonia, so I didn’t get any blogging done. We’ll just think of February as starting our 2013 here at Almost Perfect Pets. And with it being the start of the year, I’d like to start on a pawsitive note — a pawsitively “thrilling” one!

lost and found book

Though it doesn’t have directly to do with disabled pets, it does have a lot to do with pets helping disabled or challenged humans. The “it” I’m talking about is a new novel I just finished reading: Lost and Found — the fiction debut of multiple award-winning author Amy Shojai. You gotta read this book!

Now, you may be familiar with Amy from earlier posts here at Almost Perfect Pets. She gave us a fantastic blurb for Almost Perfect when it came out, and we’re ever so grateful. But honestly, we always feel the need to keep our integrity and tell the truth…and happily, we can do just that when we heartily recommend Amy’s first foray into fiction!

Author Amy Shojai


I interviewed Amy late last year in a multi-segment post on my author website about this new direction for her writing career, and I hope you enjoy those posts. But I really want to recommend this book from a personal perspective. As someone who shares her life with four special needs cats and will likely do so for the rest of her life (eventually I really want to add at least one dog to the mix — I miss the puppers!), I am always interested in how therapy and service animals can “rescue” humans just as  happens when almost perfect pets do the same.

Amy’s new thriller revolves around a service dog named Shadow, his complex relationship with Steven — the autistic boy he helps — and the story’s protagonist, September Day. I hate spoilers myself so I’m not going to divulge any here, but suffice to say that Amy writes a believable narrative that gives us Shadow’s point of view as the story’s plot unfolds. This is done in a judicious way, not over-the-top as some fiction does with animal narrators. Shadow doesn’t narrate, he just thinks and we get to hear what those thoughts are. It’s just this side of the plot device of the “unreliable narrator,” only Shadow isn’t unreliable — he’s just guileless, which is what we so love about dogs. And yet the power of the foreshadowing it creates is truly amazing, and quite refreshing.

One of the best things for me about this book was that not only was I entertained for hours on end, I was also educated! That’s such a big bonus for me when reading fiction, and Lost and Found was just full of new facts for me. Amy’s Texas background brought the landscape, the atmosphere and its singularly changeable weather alive on the page. And her clear expertise in all things dog and cat had me both fascinated (clicker training; dogs’ thought processes and strong, unshakable motivations; cats’ memory of training through play) and amused (antics of both I fondly recognize).

She reveals in the aforementioned interview some of the research she did to get it right when writing accurately about autism, the syndrome that affects the young boy in the story. I think you’ll find what she has to say about how she reveals the boy’s inner life through her descriptions of Shadow’s thoughts and behavior. But nothing’s as good as reading the story, honest. Just take one bit of advice from me: If you value your sleep, don’t start reading this book at 9:00 PM on a week night!

Still not convinced? I think you will be after you check out the book trailer on Amy’s blog, “Bling, Bitches and Blood.

A Potpourri of Almost Perfect Pet News

Posted on by Mary Shafer

This is our Happy Birthday, America! edition, and we hope you enjoyed your July Fourth holiday. Here at Almost Perfect Pets, we’re always celebrating freedom — from old ways of thinking about pet injuries and disabilities, from prejudice against almost perfect critters. For this special edition, we’ve got a roundup of news to share about a bevy of special  needs pet-related topics, so here goes:

Husky in doggie wheelchair

On a subject near and dear to our hearts, Trupanion, the second-largest and fastest growing pet insurance provider, has announced the addition of mobility devices, including pet wheelchairs and prosthetics, to its core coverage. Given that lack of financial means to purchase a wheel cart is all too often the deciding factor to either give up for adoption or — even worse — to euthanize a beloved pet instead of equipping them for continued happy life, this is a real boon to our own efforts to educate people about their options with special needs pets. After all, we can lead a horse to water, but if he can’t afford to drink, the previously merely sad becomes tragic. So this is definitely great news that will lead to more happy tails!

Beagle in a wheelie cart

On  a related note, PawNation offers a great page of Tools and Tips For Life With A Disabled Pet, sure to be informative reading for anyone considering adopting or rescuing an almost perfect pet.

Surf Dog Ricochet

Last month at the Fiesta Del Paws 2012 celebration, San Diego’s Surf Dog Ricochet and her owner Judy Fridono were presented with the PAWS Companion for Life Award. Surf Dog Ricochet has been raising awareness and funds for human/animal causes since she surfed with her first beneficiary, quadriplegic surfer Patrick Ivison, on August 20, 2009. 21 months later, on July 25, 2011, she raised her $100,000th dollar for the New Jersey SPCA — pretty special pupper! Ricochet has held more than 40 fundraisers, and raised funds/awareness for more than 150 human/animal causes including people with disabilities, adaptive surfing, autism, military veterans and their dogs, K9 cancer, disabled pets, shelters, rescues, animal welfare organizations, and more. We’re really proud of Surf Dog Ricochet and Judy for the important work they do. Surf on!

 Hope, a three-legged dog, inspires

Pet lovers in South Florida have opened their hearts and homes to animals with disabilities. Check out the video about this new Alaskan Husky foster group, and a woman who found inspiration through Hope.

Guardians Paws, a non-profit group based in Clarington — a suburb of Toronto, Ontario, Canada — donates professional services to help specially-abled pets in their community. The organization offers services such as hydro, behavioral and laser light therapies to help rehabilitate pets at local rescues and shelters. Currently in its second year, the charity staged its first Guardians Paws Walk ‘N Roll event in May, to raise awareness and funds for specially-abled animals. Read more about this pawesome group!

Corky the cat

Here’s a GREAT page, filled with hopeful, inspiring stories of Corky the Cat, who was born with her legs on backwards but is now recovering from surgery that will allow her to walk; 12 tips for living with a blind dog; a heartening tale of friendship between Tanner the blind Golden Retriever and Blair the Black Labrador mix; and introducing Naki’o, the world’s first four-pawed bionic dog!

Tripod Winston

And we wind up today with a great post at PetSafe about living with disabled pets, All Pets Are Special — starring Winston, a happy little guy who’s now living large as a tripod. We couldn’t agree more that all pets are special — some are just more special than others, and those are Almost Perfect. As always, enjoy the great news and please, share it with your friends. It’s all about winning hearts and minds to the cause of embracing and celebrating full lives for almost perfect pets. Thanks.

We Interrupt This Blog For A Sad Announcement…

Posted on by Mary Shafer

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.

Memorial photo of 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.

Frankie Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

Elderly Does Not Equal Disabled

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Author Valerie Lee VeltreAuthor Valerie Lee Veltre

Today’s post is by guest blogger Valerie Lee Veltre, author of the wonderful book Moo Kitty Finds A Home. We’re pleased to welcome Val as our first-ever guest blogger, and hope she’s just the beginning of us being allowed to share our platform here with a long line of critter people who love the almost perfect furkids as much as we do. I think you’ll find her post thought-provoking, as I did. I encourage you to comment and let Val know what you think!

Moo Kitty Finds A Home book cover

In most countries, society reveres and cherishes its elders. Here in America, elderly means you are no longer relevant.

Popular culture loves youth and all things shiny and new. Being young, or at least the illusion of youth is associated with being attractive, healthy, fun…somehow superior. Old equals undesirable, weak, broken…even disabled.

As a whole, we are still a throwaway society. Your knick-knack lose its luster? Throw it out. There is something better out there—unless, of course, it’s worth a mint on the Antiques Roadshow. You can sell it to buy more stuff. This attitude permeates how we value our environment, our families, and even our pets.

What happens when an elderly animal no longer has a home? More than likely she will end up in a shelter.  Why? She might be greying, arthritic, blind or toothless. She might be a little threadbare. She probably needs some TLC. She won’t be as pretty as the kitten two cubbies over.

She’s old, so why would you want her? You should want her because she is old. She has spent her life being the companion of someone who loved her. She gave happiness, comfort, joy and love. She had an important job. She was better at it than a lot of humans. She was loyal and noble and honest. And because of that, she is relevant.

The elderly animal has some years left, and still wants that job. She will teach you that with the passing of time, age does indeed come, but so do enrichment and value and usefulness. She deserves that recognition from you. All of our elders do, regardless how many legs they may have.

Next time you find yourself looking into the eyes of a real live “velveteen rabbit” in need of a home, consider bringing her home with you.


Some heartwarming stories and a teaser for next week!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Sometimes I just want to share some good news about our favorite subject here at Almost Perfect Pets. Today, here’s a great piece about special needs dogs celebrating a new dog park that welcomes them.

And here’s a whole collection of wonderful news about almost perfect pets who are beating the odds and living happy lives.

And I want to give you the heads-up on a very special post you’ll see in this space next week Tuesday, May 29:

Almost Perfect Pets will be hosting its very first Guest Blogger! We’re excited to welcome author Valerie Lee Veltre, who penned the adorable Moo Kitty Finds A Home, as she gives us a bit of insight on the subject of her book: the need to adopt older pets, and how these senior animals can bring a special kind of love into our lives. Be here!

A Great New Resource For All Cat Parents

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Every once in a while, I come across a book I’d like to share with you here at Almost Perfect Pets. It may not necessarily involve disabled pets, but usually it has something to do with that topic peripherally, or is just a good read for pet parents in general. The one I’m sharing with you today falls into the latter category. And I do mean, CAT-egory!

The Complete Cat's Meow book cover

Last week, I noticed our blind cat, Idgie (star of my essay in Almost Perfect), seemed a bit “off.” Couldn’t place it, really, she just seemed out of sorts. And then I’d been noticing that I could feel her vertebrae more pronouncedly than I recalled in the past. And her hair, though always matte anyway, seemed less springy and kind of limp. I might have just told myself I was imagining things, but I’d begun reading The Complete Cat’s Meow: Everything You Need To Know About Caring For Your Cat. The author, my friend Darlene Arden, had sent me a free review copy (full disclosure), and I’d started reading it. And on page 120 is list, “Subtle Signs of Illness.”

Well, thanks to what I read there, I realized that indeed Idgie might be in some distress, so I immediately got her in to see the vet. It turned out to be just a mild intestinal blockage caused by a massive hairball, so no worries — Idgie’s just fine, thanks! In fact, here she is, watching me type this:

Idgie's fine!

But the important part is that this book helped validate my innate knowledge about my little girl, and made me take the action needed to make sure she’d be okay. I am so grateful for that! And there are little tidbits like this throughout this useful “cat owner’s manual” that I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll find really informative and enlightening! For instance, on page 88 is a “Litter Box Hygiene” sidebar that explained to me why, after a recent litter box cleaning, our four critters developed a sudden aversion to using one of their litter pans. Why? I had used an industrial cleaner on it — a definite no-no!

In fact, that whole chapter — “Understanding Cat Behavior” — is just fascinating and really lends great insight into the minds of our feline companions. And that’s just the beginning of the treasure chest of knowledge this book is, for everyone from the cat newbie to longtime feline family members (I still have much to learn from it after having cats my whole life!).

In chronological order, Cat’s Meow covers the newborn kitten, choosing a cat, creating a safe and happy home environment for kitty, proper feeding and health care and special concerns specific to feline health. You’ll also learn enough about emergencies and cat surgery to at least keep you from losing your mind out of fear and ignorance, should you ever have to face such a situation, along with a general overview of popular cat breeds, and activities you can do with your cat. Two thorough appendices provide resources for everything from useful books and websites to cat products, and a comprehensive index makes this book eminently usable.

Inside the health areas, Darlene does cover illnesses and injuries that could cause cats to become disabled or long-term special needs pets, and the ways to do everything you can to keep that from happening. Here at Almost Perfect Pets, we’re always thankful for anything that gets such information out to the public, and are especially glad for the experience and expertise Darlene brings to this important subject.

The best part of this handy book is the fact that it’s so well-written — with Darlene’s signature wry wit and the confidence that comes with her animal behaviorist certification — that you can sit down and actually read it like any other book, or just pick it up when needed for a specific situation. I recommend the former, though — you’d miss a really good read if you only skim it like a guidebook. Either way, you’re sure to get a lot of use and enjoyment out of this comprehensive “owner’s manual” I think should be required reading for every new cat family.