Was My Mother Reincarnated As My Dog?

I HATE the 4th of July, Frankie says

I HATE the 4th of July, Frankie says

I have e-met many new relatives this past week, which is very exciting. And so far they have known me as the (more-or-less) rational researcher of my mother’s family.

Today they meet Frankie and realize I am a crazy dog lady.

Frankie’s Birthday

Frankie is a rescue so I have no firm idea of when he entered the world, but I designated the 4th of July as his birthday because he is my Frankie Doodle Dandy. And I started doing this nine years ago, when I adopted him and my vet figured he was five. That makes him 14 today (forget about translating into dog years). Not surprisingly, he is a bit dotty and a bit deaf — but at least that might help mute the noise of the dread firecrackers.

Last year at this time I was writing a blog about dogs and had readers who would not have thought twice about my devotion to the canine species, or questioned the idea of a dog being considered a member of the family.

This year I’ve been focusing on humans. I have only made Frankie the subject of these pages once, when I discussed Sex and the Single Genealogist.

But my mother, who died more than 20 years ago (on July 2, 1991), was buried on July 4, so today my interspecies interests converge.

My Mother and Frankie

To backtrack for a moment: I wasn’t always a crazy dog lady.  Frankie was my first dog and a bit of an impulse adoption, especially given that I was  a travel writer (dog rescuers can be relentless).  Soon after I adopted him, I realized that I was completely completely clueless about what to do with this alien creature who had taken up residence in my home. So I did what writers do: I researched, researched, researched, and then wrote a book about the results, Am I Boring My Dog  (Alpha Penguin)

Which brings me back to today. One of the topics I wrote about in the book was the Rainbow Bridge, the place where many people believe pets go after they pass:

According to the story, every cherished pet that dies goes to live in a verdant meadow below the bridge, restored to youth and health, eating delicious food, and cavorting happily with other pets. The only thing missing from the picture is the beloved human companion: you. When you arrive, there is great celebration and then you cross over together to the other side.

I confess that I cry like a baby whenever I read this story. It’s only after I blow my nose that I start nitpicking the details–as I do with all strict delineations of the hereafter.

Meadows are all well and good, I think, but shouldn’t spilled garbage, a dog favorite through the ages, be involved, too? And pigs’ ears? If so, would pet pigs get a separate area to wait for their ascent to hog heaven, one where dogs won’t covet their hearing organs? And, as I mentioned in this book’s introduction, my mother feared all creatures great and small. Did she shed her animal anxieties when she left her body–or will I be forced to choose between hanging out with her or Frankie? (Don’t ask.)

As this might suggest, I’m not a big fan of the woo woo. And my mother wouldn’t have been a big fan of Frankie.

But I’ve met several people who have told me stories about family members returning as pets, and I like to think of myself as open minded. Besides, I now have a reputation as a crazy dog lady to uphold with my newfound family.

Reincarnation Speculation

What my mother and Frankie have in common

  • Skittishness. My mother was rather nervous and somewhat antisocial.
  • Lack of forthrightness about the past. Frankie never talked about his past. Neither did my mother. I know my mother’s involved trauma; there’s a good bet Frankie’s did too.
  • Shortness. Relative to the rest of their species, of course, not relative to each other.
  • Dislike of the medical profession. My mother liked going to the doctor about as much as Frankie likes going to the vet.
  • Conditional unconditional love for me. The whole notion of a dog’s unconditional love has always driven me crazy. Dogs love their people — but on their own terms and time frame (not when, for example, they are eating and you want their attention). My mother’s love was like that. She was critical of me and disapproving of many things that I did, but I never doubted her devotion.
  • July 4 as a significant date. Sure, there’s that Frankie Doodle Dandy thing, but maybe I really chose this date for Frankie’s birthday because, subliminally, I knew about my mother.

 

Convinced yet?

Me neither. But it’s fun to speculate. And think about the karmic possibilities. I never had to take care of my mother in her old age, but I’m at the beck and call of my geriatric, diabetic dog.

One more thing…

In case you’re wondering what I am doing about Frankie’s birthday: I am giving him the gift of not dressing him up in annoying red-white-and-blue streamers and a cocktail napkin neckerchief, as I did in the past so I could take the (admittedly worth it — at least to me) picture that you see here. And of course I am staying home with him so he won’t be alone and freaked out by the firecrackers and fireworks. Just in case his hearing loss is selective (see “Conditional unconditional love for me,” above).

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6 Responses to Was My Mother Reincarnated As My Dog?

  1. This dog birthday thing is strange. We discovered after adopting Bogie (who, by the way is way jealous of Frankie’s sartorial Independence Day splendor), when we looked at his paperwork, was that his birthday was on October 17. I gasped! That is Ken’s birthday.Surely there is some deep meaning there. I’d ask Bogie, but he’s taking a nap.

    • Edie Jarolim Edie Jarolim says:

      Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do… that’s Twilight Zone music, though I realized it looks a bit odd in the context of discussing dogs!

      Frankie was decidedly grumpy about his sartorial splendor; I believe the costume stayed on for three minutes — or as long as it took to take the picture. It is a replica of the get up I dressed him in the first year I got him, when I took him to a political picnic, not realizing how anti-social he was. The politician loved him; she wanted her picture taken with him and only remembered at the last minute that I was the one more likely to vote. I didn’t mind. Love my dog, you’ll get my vote.

  2. Ha, Edie – what a thought – reincarnated by your Mom! (Is that Frankie I hear muttering?)You might have something, however, in the karmic sense. My mind traveled in that direction when I was caretaking my Mom…I had had no children to look after, and so had a little of that experience during that time.

    I see the restraint you practiced when dressing Frankie this year, yet it does not look as though he is grateful for that, LOL! Hope your little guy wasn’t too high in the anxiety zone this year – I think Tashi did well without his Thundershirt for half the celebratory programming, with M80s going off very near the house.
    Mary E Haight (@dancingdogblog) recently posted..4th of July Dog Safety – Where’s *Your* Dog?My Profile

    • Edie Jarolim Edie Jarolim says:

      Mary! Sorry it took so long for me to approve your comment — it somehow ended up with the Christian Leboutin knockoffs in my spam bin.Lucky I actually looked through it this time.

      I cheated an used an old picture of Frankie — I have trouble getting him to allow me to brush him these days, so I wasn’t even going to attempt the costuming. Glad to hear Tashi did well. We did fine on the 4th, too, a combination of Frankie’s semi-deafness and fireworks restraint caused by the potential for fires, I suspect. The tragedy in Northern Arizona might have shook enough people up this year…

      Thanks for coming by and sorry again that it took me so long to find this!

  3. Interesting post, Edie.

    There may be another explanation besides reincarnation, which is that dogs often reflect our unresolved emotions, most of which relate back to unresolved feelings about our relationships with our parents.

    The first time I saw this in action was in the late 1980s. I had an English setter named Charley and we used to go to Central Park for at least 2 hours a day, twice a day, every day. And one of Charley’s doggie pals was a Weimeraner named Flash.

    Flash was owned by a very nice young woman, an actress, who had a famous father (a director) and mother (a Broadway actress and dancer). Her father was much more famous, and had never married her mother. In fact, he was well-known to be quite cavalier in his obedience (or lack thereof) to social norms.

    Sometimes, when Flash would wander off and do doggie things, her owner would get furious at him. FURIOUS! She would grab his collar roughly and shout in his face. “Do you know how irresonspible you are? Do you even KNOW? You are the most irresponsible dog I have ever met!”

    I was astounded. One might expect people to act responsibly, but dogs?

    Then one day, while having a casual conversation with her, while Flash was happily playing with some other dogs, I asked where his name came from.

    “Oh,” she said. “It’s one my father’s nicknames…”

    I was stunned. And I suddenly realized that she’d been projecting her anger at her father, and his lack of responsibility, etc., on to her dog.

    That was the first inkling I had that Freudian psychology and canine behavior are somehow inextricably linked.

    Here’s a link to an article I wrote 3 years ago about this topic for PsychologyToday.com:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20120202202926/http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-puppy-my-self/201004/emotional-gps-how-dogs-find-and-retrieve-our-unconscious-desires

    LCK

    • Edie Jarolim Edie Jarolim says:

      Thanks for this very interesting take on the topic, Lee, and for bringing things back to Freud; I’ve been neglecting him a bit lately. I’m glad I made my peace with my mother before she died; otherwise Frankie might have found me a very impatient companion. Who knows: He might be benefiting from my wish that I could have a do over with my mother!

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