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).
Vera Marie Badertscher says
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 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.
Mary E Haight (@dancingdogblog) says
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?
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!
Lee Charles Kelley says
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:
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!
Thats odd but something I wondered. My mum died in 1991..In 2001 a dog came into my life that was my soulmate, she helped me get through my dads death the year after (2002) we had 15 happy years together and she passed earlier this year. In 2012 a male puppy came into our lives so he’d be here to support me when my female dog had to leave me (he’s now 4) I wonder if he is my dad reincarnated. We’re waiting for ‘our girl’ to come back to come and spend another (of her) lifetime(s) with us before it’s my turn to go to the other side.
Edie Jarolim says
Sorry for the belated posting; my notifications system is not working. I’m sorry for the loss of your beloved pup earlier this year, but glad yo have your male pup — reincarnated father or not! — to keep you company. I hope you find another lifetime of happiness with your next dog, whatever soul she’s carrying.
This was a wonderfil read. My Dad passed away 4years ago. I went through a lot after that on career, family n relationships fronts. At the lowest point I decoded to let go of my inhibitions and worries and got myself a puppy. Later got to know her birth date in same as my Dad’s. She is my baby, my soul mate, my best friend, my eveything. She teaches me how to live n laugh and not give into negative emotions. I feel my Dad’s caring n guidance n love through her. Being raised a hindu, I do believe in reincarnations. Even makes sense on a scientific level as soul is an energy abd energy never dies, gets transformed from one form to another
Soul travels from one body to another
Great read! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us!
Hi I have always been a cat person till one day I seen theses to beautiful blonde chi puppy’s on the internet for sale in California I have never really cared much for male dogs so I wanted to get the female so happens she was already sold so something told me to get the male and I’m so glad I did he is my everything my best friend I have never had a bond with a pet like this it’s different and he watches over me and is very protective of me he is 2 now my daughter ask me one day do I think he could have been a close loved one that passed and came back to me in my dog that got me to really thinking and I realized just how much my dog reminded me of my dad he was blonde in his younger yrs sweet kind and small frame and very protective of me just like my dog I was very close to my dad and I felt my world ended when he passed could it possibly be could my sweet little boy who has a very strong attachment to me actually be my dad my daughter ask my dog are you really my papaw frank frank was my dads name she said if you are let me know and honestly my dog head moved up and down 3 times as a person would shake there head yes we were so stunned and speechless I don’t know what more Proof he could give us.
Edie Jarolim says
Wow — what a story! Thanks for coming by.
Aca Baranton says
This was a very interesting comparison you drew between your Mom and Frankie. You are right about dogs being conditional about their unconditional love especially the big ones, who know that they are strong and can dictate terms sometimes with out stretching their luck too much.
I lost my Mom who was my world. I felt so very lost without her. Not very long after she passed, my husband who was walking our dogs when a small Pomeranian approached him. He was followed home by her. When he opened our front door, the dog jumped on the couch next to me. He took our other 3 dogs on a long walk. By the time he got home I had named her Junie. We needed another dog like a whole in our heads! I tried to find her owner in many many different ways, but she seemed to be ours now. Junie has been MY companion! She only wants me and follows me everywhere. After we had her awhile my husband mentioned that he thought she was my Mom. He had the feeling that first day he saw her. My Mom’s named was Jeanie and she had red hair. My Junie also is a red head! This never even dawned on me! I think my sweet little Junie is my Mom’s spirit or at least a gift from her.
Edie Jarolim says
Lovely story about your Junie — or maybe Jeanie. Thanks for sharing it.
Eva Fern says
Nice article and thanks for sharing here with us.
Hi, I know I’m late to the party, but I just got my dog Oliver. The coincidence is, is that Oliver’s birthday is one month after my dad passed.
Not to mention he has clung to me for the past 2/3 weeks we’ve had him, despite the fact that the woman at the animal shelter from which we got him said that it was going to take a lot of time.
She also said his crate was his safe space and we should absolutely crate him. However, I got him a dog bed, and ever since conquering his greatest fear of the stairs, he has slept only by my side. Opting sometimes to not even sleep on his bed at the foot of my bed, but on the floor at the side of my bed.
I don’t think this is a coincidence..
Edie Jarolim says
Never too late to share your story — thank you for this. I’m sorry for your loss and I’m glad that you and Oliver brought each other some comfort.
My brother died two years ago. I have grieved for the entire two years. On my birthday dec 1st 21 I got a sausage dog. Was never the type of dog I wanted but my brother always wanted one. I named him EJ after my brother and he has his green eyes. Brings me today… I took him for his second vaccines. I had not looked at his paperwork. As I’m filling out the papers I had to look for his date of birth. It is the same as my brothers. I don’t think there is any coincide on this.
Edie Jarolim says
Wow, these stories amaze me — and as you can see from the other comments, there are a lot of them! Thanks for sharing. I’m so sorry for the loss of your beloved brother and I’m glad EJ is bringing you joy.
Laurel Nendza says
Wow! I’m so glad I found this blog. When I was young my mom always wanted a cocker spaniel. Then I got one by chance. We had 3 in total. My mom knew they were my world and how well I took care of them and how much I loved animals.
For the last 20 years I wanted a show cocker, and it was my dream to show her myself. But situations just never allowed it in my life. My mom passed 6 years ago. In May this year I finally got my dream girl. She’s such a sweet, smart, sassy little puppy. When I look at her I see my mom! I feel my mom in that dog. Her face, her mannerisms. I try to explain it to my kids and husband. They think it’s possible. I don’t think all of my mom’s soul is in this dog but enough of her that it shows through. I believe our higher self can split off as many times as they want and experience different ways of living life and be connected to them all. She still very much a dog and does doggy things. I know if my mom were to ever come back as an animal no doubt she would come back as my prized cocker spaniel. She knows I would spoil her and she would have an awesome life.
Her name is Juno because she was born on the Ides of March and Juno is a Roman goddess. The month of June is named from Juno and my mom’s birthday is in June. Just a few days after I got her my father passed away. Immediately I felt my dad was with my mom in spirit. I imagined they were out exploring the cosmos together. So she helped me through the grief of losing my dad.
Juno was the wife of Jupiter so I wanted her AKC show name to be “Drop’s of Jupiter” from the song by Train. The meaning of the song is his mom had passed away and he imagined she was exploring the universe and she came back to Earth to visit and she had “Drops of Jupiter” in her hair. The song is just like what I imagine my parents are doing. Everything clicked and I realized this new puppy had a strong connection with my parents but especially my mom.
I do believe some part of my mom came back to be with me in this dog. I see it and feel it. It makes me want to make sure even more to make sure she has the most spectacular life ever and cherish her in every way.
Edie Jarolim says
What a lovely story! Thanks for coming by and sharing it. I love the name and the story connected with it too. Dogs bring us great comfort in so many ways, don’t they? This is just one more way, and a very deep one.