Frankie’s Story

Frankie was a great little dog.  His sickness and ensuing death taught me agonizing lessons in faith, loss, and friendship. This is his story.

One mid-December morning I received a call from Officer Sugg, a friend and great ally of Marley’s Mutts.  She informed me about a couple of dogs that were at the Mojave Animal Shelter whom she thought needed to be brought to Marley’s Mutts.  Officer Sugg often alerts me to certain dogs that needed rescuing-dogs that may not have a future if they were to stay at the shelter.  Out at the shelter we were greeted by the usual cacophony of barking dogs and were introduced to our two new boys, Frankie and Satchel. 

Frankie and Satchel were 3-month-old, adorable, terrier mutts. They had soft, curly fur and a certain stuffed animal quality about them that was undeniable.  We put them into the back seat of the truck and off we went, back to the rescue.

At that time we had quite a few tenants boarding up at Marley’s Mutts, both human and canine.  In addition to the nine doggies, my best friend was staying with us as well.  He had hit a rough patch in his life and needed a place to stay for the holidays.  I was stoked to have Aaron with me and excited to show him what it is I do as the operator of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue.   Frankie and Satchel were warmly accepted by the other doggies and we began running them through the normal protocols.  We walked them, temperament-tested them, and made them feel at home. 

A couple of days in to their stay, Aaron and I took several of the doggies on a 3-4 mile hike.   Snow was still on the ground, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky; it was a great opportunity for my buddy and I to catch up, talk about life, and enjoy the company of our four-legged companions.  We took tons of pictures on that hike, several of which were perfect for Frankie’s and Satchel’s adoption posters and website listing.   The next morning, we headed out for another group walk with about six of the doggies.  About a half a mile out, Frankie, who had already learned to walk off-leash, fell behind and appeared sluggish and disinterested.  There was reason for concern because Frankie hadn’t eaten that morning and I’m all too familiar with how vulnerable shelter rescues are to disease.*

We isolated Frankie and kept a close eye on him for the rest of that day.  Late that night, or early that morning, I went to check on Frankie and found several bloody bowels movements.  He was also making a hiccup/cough noise that rescuers hate to hear.  That noise and the bloody diahrea are unmistakable symptoms of Parvo (canine parvovirus), a terrible disease that is fatal a great majority of the time.   Dogs that do not receive intense treatment for Parvo almost always perish, so we needed to get Frankie to the Vet as soon as possible.  There was one serious problem though-it was now Christmas morning and none of the nearby Veterinary offices were open.  We scrambled for a plan and found an Animal Emergency Hospital in Lancaster that could see Frankie.  We brought him there Christmas morning and they began to hit him with everything they had.  His blood work was not too bad and the doctors thought that he had a great shot at pulling through.  We left Frankie, in serious but stable condition, and drove to the South Bay to have Christmas dinner with my family.

It was impossible to embrace the Christmas spirit that day because we were all thinking about Frankie.  We called the hospital just about every hour, which probably annoyed them a great deal, but they were very accommodating.  We stopped at the Animal ER on our way home that night (they are open 24 hours) and they made it clear that Frankie would have to stay there for a few more days.  We went back to see him and he appeared hydrated, bright-eyed, alert and seemed to be responding well to the meds.  We hated leaving him there on Christmas night but we were very optimistic that he was going to pull through.

Late morning on the 26th we got a call from the doctor when we were driving.   My Dad, and Aaron waited anxiously as I listened to the doctors update on Frankie.  I hung up and jubilantly announced “Doc said he’s gonna make it!”  The inside of my truck reverberated with shouts of “All right, Frankie” and “Atta Boy!”  We went home to go about business as usual and focus on some of the other dogs; as far as we were concerned, Frankie was out of the woods. 

Three hours later, at about 2 pm, I got a call from the receptionist at the Animal ER.  I expected the focus of the conversation to be on when we could expect to pick Frankie up-that was not the case.  She told me that Frankie had crashed, seemingly out of nowhere and that there was nothing they could do to revive him.  I actually thought she had called the wrong patient’s owners and that she was definitely mistaken.  Well, it was true.  Frankie had started to literally leak blood from both ends, and he crashed and died soon thereafter. 

It was devastating.  Devastating to have resigned my brain to the idea that he was already okay and devastating that I didn’t do more to diagnose his condition more quickly.  Frankie was supposed to be our Christmas miracle, not nightmare. 

After we got the news, Aaron and I drove to Lancaster and picked up his body.  We talked a lot about  our own lives and how much we appreciated each other’s friendship.  We made a headstone and buried Frankie that night.   I think we were meant to go through that experience together and I’m grateful for what it taught us both.  Aaron is still my best friend and we continue to trudge this road of happy destiny as brothers.

*Dogs that come from shelters are often exposed to disease while at the shelter but, to due the incubation period, signs and symptoms don’t show up for up to two weeks.

3 Responses to “Frankie’s Story”

  1. Kim Says:

    Sorry to hear about the puppy. My first Pit mix was a rescue from the Lancaster Animal Shelter. He had Parvo and somehow pulled through it with the help of the Lancaster Animal ER clinic. Parvo is a horrible disease.

  2. Veca Daina Says:

    How sad. Just breaks my heart. Life for most dogs and cats is pure hell. I’m glad there are a few people who give a few the love and care they need. Thank you Zach. I’m sure all the dogs you have rescued thank you as well.

  3. Joanne Says:

    what a sweet little dog. so sorry to hear about what happened to him. i hate that there are so many people out there that don’t give a rat’s ass about their dogs. thanks for all the wonderful things you do for them Zach. I’m so thankful our dog is healthy and happy!