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A Tribute to Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog

By Linda Cole

When you gaze into the eyes of a dog, there's a goodness and honesty no human can match. Dogs are just so unpretentious, and walk beside us for as long as they can. Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog lived the last six years of her life in a wheelchair. She crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on June, 21, 2012 from Chronic Heart Disease, but this isn't about the end – it's about the amazing life of a little dog who never gave up. I spoke recently with Frankie's mom, Barbara Techel, to learn more about the little Dachshund who stole the hearts of thousands of people she met. You see, Francesca was a therapy dog who used her disability and spirit to teach others, including Barb, about life and why it's important to savor every moment we have on earth, and never give up.

Barb's life was changed in 2006 on Easter Sunday while she and her husband, John, vacationed in Florida. Frankie had been left in a local kennel back home in Wisconsin. She had jumped up on her food container and fell. She had hurt her back and couldn't walk. Frankie was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

Frankie was given only a 10 to 30 percent chance of walking again after surgery. “When I got the call, I was pretty devastated. I had lost my chocolate lab nine months before to bone cancer, and when I got the call, I really thought I was going to lose Frankie. I thought she was going to die and I wasn't going to see her again.”

After surgery, Frankie was paralyzed. “I couldn't picture taking care of a handicapped dog. She had incontinence issues also because of the paralysis and that was something I had to learn how to take care of. But I would have done this for a lifetime. We had the most intense, incredible bond I've ever had with a dog. My mom helped me see I had to give Frankie a chance, I had to at least try.”

We learn lessons when we're ready to understand them. Sometimes, it's our dogs who teach us about ourselves and life. “We live in a town of about 900 people. For my whole life, I worried about what people thought about me and the choices I made, and I was painfully shy for a good part of my life. I remember being so scared to take Frankie out in public in her wheelchair. I was afraid people were going to judge me, that they were going to say it was cruel or mean. I remember watching Frankie, just so happy and rolling around in her little wheels, and it was like her telling me I didn't need to worry about what others thought of me, and to stand tall and be who I am. From that day forward, my confidence grew by leaps and bounds and I don't worry anymore about what people think of me.”

Sometimes I think pets have a better understanding of life than we do. They simply aren't capable of holding grudges or judging others. Barb said, “I was a compassionate person before, but you know, I feel I'm more compassionate towards people than I was before because of Frankie. I'm very compassionate towards animals. You know sometimes people can't make that step from animals to people and I think it's so important, because I think that's what animals are teaching us. She taught me just to be open to people.”

For Frankie, being in a wheelchair was no big deal. It's amazing how pets take life in stride. “She didn't know she had a wheelchair. Sometimes we would come across people who would pity her and I said, please don't pity her, she doesn't even realize her back legs don't work. All she knows is she's rolling along and having a great life.”

I asked Barb what kind of advice she had for other dog owners who have IVDD. “Do not give up hope. It's not a death sentence and these dogs can live an amazing life with the right care and the right education.”

IVDD is a common disease, believed to be genetic, in Dachshunds and a few other breeds but any dog, regardless of breed, can be diagnosed with IVDD. For Dachshund owners, it's important to limit jumping, walking up and down stairs, and keep dogs at a healthy weight. Sometimes a disc can rupture if a dog is just sitting or lying down.

Dodgerslist is an online support and educational organization for IVDD. Know what your options are before your dog is diagnosed with IVDD.

As a tribute to Frankie, Barb has set up “The Frankie Wheelchair Fund” through Eddie's Wheels to help buy wheelchairs for dog owners who can't afford to buy one. There's also a Chipin fund here. No dog should be put down just because someone can't afford to buy a wheelchair. If you would like to make a donation directly to Eddie's Wheels, you can find the address on their website. Please include a note stating it's for the Frankie Wheelchair Fund.

Barb said, “If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed a dog in a wheelchair could live a quality life.” To honor Frankie and bring awareness to all dogs in wheelchairs, Barb is working on setting up a special Walk 'N Roll Dog Day.

Barb is an advocate for special needs pets and author of the “Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog” series. Her new book, “Through Frankie's Eyes: One Woman's Journey to Her Authentic Self and the Dog on Wheels Who Led the Way” is due out early next year.

“You are all around me and in me... embedded forever in my heart. I read something today that said, ‘Footprints of love.’ That is you, dear Frankie... that is you. Oh, the footprints of love you have left behind.” Barbara Techel

RIP, Frankie. 8/20/99 to 6/21/2012

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