This is Frankie.
He’s — how shall I put this? — exuberant.
If you’ve ever come to my house, you may have a slightly different description, such as wild, hyper, manic or insane. In the first 10 minutes, Frankie likely jumped all over you, put your forearm in his mouth, ran wild circles around the house and made off with at least one of your shoes — possibly from inside your suitcase.
Despite (I cringe to admit this) four rounds of obedience training, Frankie doesn’t make a very good first impression.
But to my husband and me, Frankie is the heart and soul of our family. And, strangely enough, he’s my role model. His enthusiasm and zest for life is greater than that of anyone I know. He’s passionate in a way I wish I could be. He’s curious, crazy-smart and loves intensely. Sometimes I think he understands me better than anyone in the world.
So when he started limping around and whimpering last night, it sent shockwaves through our family.
I was out taking an infant safety and CPR class (yes, I just now got around to the “infancy PR” class I was supposed to take before Hudson arrived) and came home to find the house in a state of panic. I had missed my husband’s voicemail asking me to call before entering the house, so when I put my key in the door, Frankie — even in a state of acute pain — jumped up to give me his usual exuberant greeting.
My husband — filled with emotion and anxiety — said, “Something’s wrong with Frankie.”
Those are words I never want to hear about either of our dogs.
When you have a dog like Frankie, you have to be accustomed to a few bumps and bruises. When he was a puppy and I was desperate to tire him out (three vigorous walks a day just weren’t doing the trick), I took him to a tennis court so he could run freely. Insanely excited, he took off in his usual high-spirited style. After a few throws of the tennis ball, I looked down to see blood flowing from all four of his paws.
Panic-stricken and guilt-ridden, I carried him nearly a mile back to my apartment, tears streaming down my face. The vet bandaged his injured paws and declared him fine, and I avoided tennis courts from then on. But when we got home from the vet’s office, Frankie looked at me, and — I swear — his eyes said, “Let’s go!”
No matter how many times he gets knocked down, he always gets back up. He accepted first the introduction of a new puppy (who grew up to be bigger and stronger than him) and then the arrival of a new baby. He’s the kind of dog who excitedly bursts into the vet’s office with his tail wagging, forgetting how many times he’s encountered pain inside those doors. He’s the kind of dog who will always jump up to greet me, regardless of how much he’s hurting.
And today, he’s lying here next to me, in pain.
We’re scheduled to take him to the vet’s office today at 4:00. I’m hopeful he only has a mild sprain, from yesterday when we took him to a field for a game of Frisbee. Still, I can’t help but think about what’s to come.
Frankie is 5 ½ years old now. He and I have lived together in four apartments and one house in three different cities. I’ve watched him jump as high as my reaching fingertips; I’ve cried into his soft fur. Every day, I kiss his nose and notice that it’s grown a little pinker.
As I look at Frankie, I think of my favorite memory with him. In Boston, we lived in a small apartment, but had a massive park the size of six soccer fields just a short walk away. Inside a locked, chain-link fence lay acres of nothing but lush green grass — Frankie’s paradise. Once again desperate for a way to release Frankie’s boundless energy, I’d hoist my agile dog over the chest-high fence and then hop over it myself.
One day, I brought a chair and my journal with us, planning to let Frankie explore the field while I sat in the sun. After a few minutes of roaming, Frankie came and lay next to my chair, no more than three feet away. I looked out over the expanse of green and thought to myself, he could be anywhere in this entire field, and instead he’s chosen to lie here next to me.
I don’t know what the vet will say today. But I know that whatever Frankie needs, we’ll give it to him, no matter how much it costs or how difficult it may be. To my husband and me, Frankie is a symbol of all that’s good about us, and he reminds us of how far we’ve come.
He is our first baby, our chosen son. He is patient with his canine brother and amazingly gentle with his human one. His intuition astounds me.
I only wish I could find some way to tell him how much I love him. In a moment, I’ll bring him another bowl of water and feed him some more banana, which he loves (although not as much as butter). I hope that lets him know just how much I care.