Why is it So Hard When a Pet Dies?

Just last week my sister-in-law laid her dear chocolate lab, Emma Lee to rest.  On Sunday I went and said good bye to her.  I was sad, but at the same time took comfort in the fact Emma will be seeing her sister Rudi again (who died at the age of 4) and will also see my Cassie Jo.  They were the original “three brown dogs” as we called them.

When I got Cassie Jo, my sister-in-law got her two labs and they all became buddies.  Sometimes on weekends we would walk them in my sister-in-law’s large field.  We would sing to them (to the tune of three blind mice), “three brown dogs, three brown dogs, see how they run, see how they run.”  We didn’t know the rest of the words so would repeat over and over that verse as our dogs romped in the field.

I recently came across this great article, Why is it so Hard When a Pet Dies written by a veterinarian and thought this a good time to share.  I thought it was excellent in the fact that as a society I do think we need to really be more open and aware of those who love their animals deeply.  The grief is very real.  I am part of a support group that helps people grieving the loss of an animal.  It is amazing the stigma that is still attached to openly grieving for fear people will laugh or simply not understand.  Even if someone does not understand, I hope and pray they will treat that person with respect and dignity and accept the fact this is difficult for the person grieving.

When Cassie Jo passed away in the summer of 2005 I worried about Frankie and how she was without her big brown sister.  Emma Lee was so kind and came to stay with us for a few days… and Frankie took to her like her new best friend.  Below is the picture I got of them.  Still warms my heart to this day to look at the photo.  Rest in peace, dear sweet Emma…


“Frank’s Friends” Help Him Fight Cancer

I met Frank in 2008 at my book launch for Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog.

We have kept in touch ever since then via email.  Most recently he named Frankie an official “Frank’s Friend” with a special certificate (Download Frankie).  I was quite honored and very touched.  I wanted to share Frank’s story with all of you becasue his story is a great example of how dogs are helping him through some tough times.

This is Frank’s story.

Four years ago the company Frank was a shop supervisor for was bought out, which meant a restructuring of the company and a lay off for Frank.  It just so happened that this coincided with an operation he needed to have.  One week after being laid off, Frank had his surgery and was laid up for a week.

The diagnosis was prostate cancer that had metastasized to his lymph nodes.  He was not given a bright prognosis and decided his life needed a new direction.

Frank’s new journey lead him to becoming a Forestry Technician for the State of Wisconsin and working outdoors on the Emerald Bore Ash Borer Survey in an eight county area in northwest, Wisconsin.

The bonus to this new position was the many dogs he would begin to meet.  These dogs would in turn help him take his focus off his illness and give him a reason to appreciate being alive.

Lucy, Sadie, Trix, Pete, Sam and Abby are just some of the guardian angels he has met along the way.  Frank does not always know all the names of the dogs because at times the owners may not be around for him to find this out, but they are all his friends.

“I realized the dogs were teaching me that a smile or friendly greeting, and friendship is perhaps the most important healing component in one’s life” Frank said. This works both ways in giving and receiving of friendship.  “The dogs also remind me that it is healthy to act like a kid now and then!”

All his life Frank has been a dog lover.  When he was small he would visit his grandfather’s farm where he fell in love with the farm dogs.  Because his parents both worked full time he couldn’t have a dog, so spending time on his grandfather’s farm were some of the greatest times of his life.

Frank’s dad was a fireman and would bring the firehouse dog, Sparky the Dalmatian home on his days off.  “On those special days I was in heaven” Frank said.

“Dad taught Sparky to find a burning cigarette in the grass.”  All of the neighborhood kids would come over and Frank’s Dad would re-enact the trick for them. Life was good.”

The experience of his youth with the dogs in his life to today with the many dogs he meets has taught Frank the importance of dogs in our lives.  He said, “They teach us compassion, how to communicate without words, give us a sense of comfort and belonging, and provide relaxation with a good friend.  They are the best medicine available!”

As Frank has been traveling for his job he has met new friends over the past four years.  That is how he learned of the plight of puppy mills in Wisconsin.  Frank’s “bucket list” now includes doing what he can to promote the adoption of effective legislation to remedy the puppy mill cancer.  He said, “This again has redirected my attention away from my illness and have given me another good reason to be alive.”

Meeting so many wonderful dogs around Wisconsin also lead Frank to starting a collection of what he calls, “Frank’s Friends.”  These are dogs who have greeted him with vigor and happiness that Frank says he finds difficult to describe.  Many of the dogs he has photographed as they placed their front paws on the edge of his open window to say “hello.”  Most recently Frank made an official certificate for the prestigious honor of being a friend of Frank’s.  I am delighted to say Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog now has a “Frank’s Friend” certificate.  It means so much to me and Frankie.

Frank said, “The qualifications a dog must have to receive a certificate are that they must be themselves, give a smile, and exemplify the qualities of a good happy dog.”  Reggie, a 9-year old lab/malamute is Frank’s best buddy & top dog honoree who he adopted when he was four months old. Lucky dog.

The impact of what dogs teach us is evident in Frank’s story.  Life can throw us some pretty tough challenges.  We can give up and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can open our eyes and our hearts to what is in front of us and live each moment with appreciation and joy.  When we do, not only do we impact our own life, but we give back in such a positive way to those around us.  Frank is a wonderful, shining example of just that, and I for one, feel blessed to know him.

This is a video of all Frank’s Friends.  I thought it touching that it is silent, because as Frank said, “Dogs can communicate without words.”  And also below are some photo’s he has taken of his friends…



Interview on Pet Life Radio with Host Bob Tarte

Bob Tarte is the author of "Enslaved By Ducks" as well as radio host of "What Were You Thinking" on Pet Life Radio.  I recently did an interview with him and had a wonderful time!  He ususally does shows about exotic pets but was so intrigued by a dog on wheels that he asked me on his show so I could share Frankie's story.

So, without further ado, here is the interview.  Click on bottom link on right hand side, "What Were You Thinking."  It is episode #40.