In the Summer of 2007, in between her 2nd and 3rd year of Veterinary School, my wife, who I have described accurately as one of the best people I have ever met, decided to spend a week of her rare vacation time volunteering. She was part of an organization that would go to incredibly rural areas- we are talking about places in this country that don’t have a Vet within a 2 hour drive- and provide free care to anyone that came to the clinic. She described the lines as “out the door the entire week.” And they stayed, every day, as long as they could to care for these animals, and their people, as well as they could. Free.
On day 7, the day she was supposed to come home, I get a call from my then-fiancee, “Bathrobe. Don’t be mad.”
“Oh god,” my mind emptied, as one’s mind will whenever some says that (or ‘we need to talk’)
“You’re gonna be mad.”
“Well, I don’t know if I’ll be mad until you tell me why you think I’ll be mad.”
“Ok. But you have to promise not to be mad.”
That went on for a few minutes until I got it out of her. A puppy, not more than a couple months old, had been brought into the clinic that morning. She didn’t have an owner. No tags. Nothing. A driver found her on the side of the road. She had been hit by a car and one of her legs had been shattered. She was down to skin and bones. She had been laying there for days, apparently, unable to move or eat. Hit by someone and left for dead. While this Good Samaritan brought the dog to the clinic, he had no desire to keep her. And this wasn’t an adoption clinic. That meant there was only one solution to problem like this, and my wife wouldn’t stand for it.
“I couldn’t let them do that to her,” she told me, nearly in tears. “When they brought her in, even though she was hurt, even though she hadn’t eaten, she just couldn’t stop smiling at me. She was so sweet, even in that pain. Even on her deathbed. I couldn’t let her life end like that.”
“So, wait. What are you saying?”
“Well, I had no choice. I told them I’d take her. So I’m going to bring her home.”
“Sweetie… we only have a small apartment and a dog and two cats already. Plus I work 12 hours a day and you’re gone 16 hours a day for vet school…”
“I know, I know. What I want to do is take her back home, and then get her surgery to fix her leg. I can use some of the stipend I get to pay for the surgery. Then we will foster her until she is better and then adopt her out.”
“Ok, you got it. I can’t believe you thought I’d be mad at you for that.”
So the dog flew halfway across the country, carried by my wife the whole way. She got the surgery. And my wife brought her home. And, as you could probably guess, I fell in love immediately. She was a little tiny German Shepherd mutt, almost fully black with some white on her underbelly and paws. The happiest smile and shiniest eyes you have ever seen in a dog.
“Well,” I told my wife upon meeting the puppy, “I guess we have 2 dogs now.”
The surgeon at the hospital said that the odds were poor that she would ever be able to use that leg. It was really badly damaged, they said, but my wife had gotten her there when she was young enough that they tried to make it as normal a leg as possible. There was a possibility she would be able to walk like normal, but it was slim. We would have to do manual exercises with her multiple times a day. We would have her give us her paw, like she would shake, and we would have to manually move it back-and-forth, up-and-down, to-and-fro to try to get it as strong as possible. We spent hours upon hours of our time taking care of that little fuzzball, moving her little paw every day hoping the hope that she would be a normal, happy dog
You bet your sweet ass it worked. Once she got the bandages and everything off, she ran around our apartment like she was on fire. Over and over and over and over again. For an hour at a time. I did my best to take her outside and let her run to her heart’s content but, in the middle of a big city, room was sparse. So we made due and, honestly, I don’t think she could have been happier.
I’m a bit of a science nerd, truth be told. The two pets my wife and I had gotten together, a dog and a cat, were named Einstein and Newton. I told her I wanted to name all the pets after physicists, but any sort of scientist would do. So what is a good name we could get from a female physicist? My wife, at U Penn Vet School, wanted it to be a name that also reflected Philadelphia, too. That seemed like a pretty tall order. We thought and thought. Looked it up. Asked coworkers and friends. We came up with a list, but nothing seemed to fit her. One day, when brainstorming, I decided to make a joke-
“I have an idea. Why not just call her ‘Benjamin Franklin, the Girl Dog.’ We can just call her Frankie or Frankie Lynn for short.”
The look on my wife’s face told me that, not only did she not think this was a joke at all, but that I had accidentally struck gold.
And so Frankie it was. And our family was complete. For a few years anyway.
My favorite memory of Frankie came during her first winter. As I said earlier, Frankie was a hearty, furry, Minnesota dog. She was born in the snow, the rest of us just learned to live with it. So when that first snow fell, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a living creature as happy in my entire life.
Whenever I need to be happy, I just watch that, see Frankie in her pure bliss, bouncing around like a bunny. And everything in my life gets a litter better.
A few weeks ago, Frankie stopped finishing her meals. My wife took her in, did tests, scans, and everything. She was still happy as can be, still running around like a puppy, even though she will be 12 this summer. Well, would have been. Unsurprisingly, she has a mass inside her and her organs are starting to shut down. The nausea she was getting from it has gone up as the days have gone by. Where she used to devour anything we put in front of her, now her appetite is reserved for when she camps in front of the food closet, psychically asking me for some more jerky treats. She won’t eat dry food, canned food, or even peanut butter.
Her favorite moment of any day was when my wife, her personal savior, came home. I don’t know what dogs understand but, I swear to god, this dog knew that my wife saved her life several times over and she never, ever stopped showing my wife her unlimited love and gratitude. Over the last couple days, the unbridled tail wagging and jumping has turned into a brief fit of happiness followed by her wanting to lay down.
As much as we both want to keep her around forever, it’s starting to get to the point where it’s going to be cruel for us to do so. Her pain is getting worse, her energy keeps going down, and my heart keeps breaking.
Thank you, Frankie. I know you were “just a dog” to some people, but you were the first dog that really loved me. You were the first dog that made my life better. The first dog that I missed when I wasn’t around. The first dog that I know missed me too. When my dad and uncle and grandma died, you were there to nudge your head into my lap, between the tears, with that little smile of yours. You always made everything ok with that. When Newton, the greatest living creature I have ever known, died at the age of 9, you were the pet I went to. You were the one that helped me think it was going to be ok. I don’t know who I’m going to go to now.
I will miss you every day of my life, Frankie. Every single day. You were truly special. Truly a gift. I don’t know why you were brought into the clinic that day. I don’t know what possessed my wife to fly you home and pay for your surgery out of our own pocket. I don’t know much, Frankie, but I know that, though we may have saved your life, every single day you were in mine, you made it better.
I love you Frankie.
I love you. And i’ll miss you.