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 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.
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.
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).