The Impact of a Special Needs Dog on a Special Needs Boy

John, Frankie and I were supposed to travel to Grayslake, IL on Sunday, Dec. 21st for a fund raising event for an organization called Dodgers List.  I was donating a portion of book sales to them because they helped me greatly at the beginning of Frankie’s ordeal.

The night before the event the winds howled and the temps dipped to 30 degrees below zero.  The frigid weather was expected to last through Monday.  As I checked my e-mail for the last time that afternoon a message was waiting from the organizer.  Do to an illness she had, and the inclement weather, the event was being postponed. Though I was happy we didn’t have to travel in the treacherous weather, I was also disappointed.  I had been looking forward to this event for weeks.

Late afternoon on Christmas Day, John and I sat at our computers checking our e-mails.  A message appeared that would reaffirm for me that “everything happens for a reason.”  It was a touching note from a mom about her special son Jackson:

“We bought your book a few weeks ago at the spa at the Osthoff, then we ran into you and Frankie at a bookstore in a town near the resort.  We bought the book because my son has Hemiplegia which is a form of Cerebral Palsy.  He needs to wear braces on his legs and recently he got a new brace for one of his legs to wear at night.

We read him your book before he got his new brace to help him accept it.  As you can imagine he very much dislikes having to wear these as they are likely uncomfortable.  He is only 3 so it is hard to explain the reason a value to wearing the brace.  Tonight is the first night he is wearing it to bed and your book and Frankie have helped him accept wearing this tremendously.  He said, “I have to wear my brace like Frankie.”

Jackson’s mom, Dawn asked if we would be in the Chicago area anytime soon as Jackson really wanted to meet Frankie.  As I printed off the letter and handed it to John I knew without a doubt Frankie was meant to meet Jackson.  This was the reason our event was postponed.  As John finished reading and his eyes filled with tears he said, “We will be in the area on Sunday!”  Turns out Jackson lives only 25 minutes from the Central Bard where we would be.

The event was nice and I enjoyed meeting everyone I had been corresponding with via email but had never met in person.  But my heart was eager to meet our new friend, Jackson.  As 2:00p neared, John packed up our things and we headed to the main part of Central Bark where we agreed to meet Jackson and his family.

A few minutes after two o’clock a blond boy with lots of energy and a smile as big as Texas came ramblingthrough the front door.  He may have a challenge with Cerebral Palsy, but you wouldn’t know it.  He was ecstatic to see Frankie as he handed us a special doggie donut her brought just for Frankie.  His smile with dimples so deep brought such joy to my heart.  He was eager to take Frankie’s leash and bonded with her immediately.  Jackson also brought Frankie a little stuffed frog toy and took delight in throwing it for her.

Jackson’s mom showed me the night brace Jackson must wear.  She asked if “Frankie” would sign it.  I had everything to do to not cry.  I was so touched.  With a little help from me, “Frankie” inscribed this on Jackson’s brace, “Keep on rolling!  Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog.”  I also gave Jackson a framed photo of Frankie to remind him he can do anything he sets his mind to…. just like Frankie.

Meeting Jackson was meant to be and I’m so honored, through Frankie’s story, we had the privilege to meet this sweet, young boy with a bright future ahead of him.  Jackson’s joy and enthusiasm is contagious and I have no doubt he will bring a positive message to our world.

Just this morning I received another note from Jackson’s Mom, Dawn:

“I just wanted to Thank You again for giving Jackson the chance to meet you and Frankie.  He is still talking about it!!  I apologize for being a bit late.  Jackson had a hard time deciding on the perfect things to bring Frankie.  The last two nights he has put his brace on easily and he seems to enjoy being “like Frankie” as he says that each time we put it on.  He has asked me to read your book several times since meeting you both.  Frankie’s picture now has a very special place next to Jackson’s bed and he loves to look at it and touch her.  Thank you for giving that to us, it is a very special gift.”

Gifts are all around us and the gift of Jackson meeting Frankie will be one I will treasure always.


Marley & Me, the movie

Christmas Day John and I went to see the movie Marley & Me.  I had read the book so I knew how the story would go.  John did not so he didn't knowwhat to expect and I did'nt tell him.

I had heard from someone that they heard one of the reviews said the movie did not have depth.  They couldn't have been more wrong in my opinion.  This movie and life with a dog is the stuff life is made of.  The glee, frustrations, routine, adjusting, joy, deep sadness, tough lessons, tender moments is what life with a dog is all about.  Dogs make you stronger.  Marley tested Jenny and John to their limits that there is no doubt.  But in the end he was the greatest gift to them… they know that.  I couldn't help but wonder how John Grogan and his wife felt watching their life play out on the big screen.  It must have been so surreal.  And I couldn't help but think how even though they make have felt so stressed out at times from Marley, if it wasn't for Marley they wouldn't be who they are today.  Marley literally changed their lives… in so many ways.

As most of you know who have read the book, the end is wrenching.  Reading the book three years ago I still remember how I was so sad for days after reading the last chapters.  I had grown to love Marley.  My poor hubby, not knowing how it ends was whispering to me that I was in big trouble when we got out of the theater (he was joking cause he was choking back the tears).  I know we were both holding our breath, trying not to bust out crying.  This one dog, our own dogs, have such a powerful grip on our hearts… how do we explain it?  I don't think we can.  As the end played out and it just about broke my heart strings, I was also saying silently to myself how joyous having a dog in my life is.  I would not trade the joy just because of the pain.  

When we were walking out of the theater you could hear many sniffles and there were many moist eyes.  I think it is a good thing to feel this deeply.  It cleanses our souls and makes us better.  John sharing Marley with all of us is a beautiful thing. 

As we got in the car for the drive home John and I were smiling at each other with tears in our eyes.  There were so many moments parallel to our own experience with our first lab, Cassie Jo.  It hit the deep pockets of our souls.  I can imagine how it struck so many others also.  And I have no doubt many dogs are being extra, extra, loved, hugged, kissed and played with after their owners have seen the movie.  Now that is a beautiful thing, don't you think?

John and I "argued" all the way home who was going to hug the dogs first.  Whoever was first did not matter, all that mattered was the good feelings it evoked because of our love for our dogs.  When a movie makes you feel this deeply I would have to say it definitely has depth.