Slumber Party With Frankie

First and foremost, thank you all so much for the overwhelming response to yesterday’s post about Frankie’s situation.  I know many of you are involved in animal rescue and get bombarded with requests to help pets in need every single day, so the fact that you took the time and energy to share Frankie’s story truly means the world to me.

I also want to make something else clear: I am not asking you to put your efforts into a dog with “issues.” Frankie is not the problem child of the shelter that we’ve all fallen in love with because he’s been here the longest and we can’t help but hope he has a happy ending – this isn’t that at all. Frankie is truly one of the best and easiest dogs I have ever met, he just continues to get dealt the worst hand. His odds are changing now though, thanks to you! So, back to our weekend together. . .

As you could gather from yesterday’s post, Mr. Frankie’s brain is in need of a break from the shelter. While I can’t give him this permanently, I am able to give him short vacations here and there. I retrieved him from the shelter Saturday afternoon and brought him home to spend the night with me and then head to a group training walk on Sunday morning. We spend a pretty decent amount of time together in the office, but I was really excited to get him out into the world and learn more about him and his charming personality.

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Normally when I bring a new foster home from the shelter I give them a couple days to chill out and adjust. Such a big change can be a real shock to a shelter dog. I know Frankie’s history though and I know he is resilient to change and new environments – not to mention he does get a decent amount of fun, novel experiences at the shelter, so I know he handles them well. Frankie did not seem stressed in the slightest when we got to my house, so I felt comfortable setting off on some adventures with him.

First stop was the backyard. This was an enjoyable experience for the both of us. Frankie, of course, loved the extra space to run around. The nice thing, though, was that he did not display any of the over-excited behaviors that he sometimes does in the shelter. He reminds me a lot of Johnnie in that you can tell he thinks hard about his decisions when he is excited. Thanks to the hard work of the trainers at AWLA, it is clear he has learned impulse control, which leads him to be a pleasure to work with in both training and play.

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After bouncing around the yard together, Frankie was hot and tired. I knew just what he needed: a trip to the creek! I was unsure of whether or not he’d been in/near water before, but he actually walked right in! He didn’t swim and he chose not to stay in too long, but he seemed to enjoy cooling off and investigating the bank. I loved watching him soak up the new sites and sniffs. He seemed to love it, too.

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We returned home for dinner where I got the absolute performance of a lifetime with Frankie and his dinner in the Kong Wobbler. Oh my gosh, it was hilarious! He was trying so hard to get those kibbles out – he would alternate between smacking it around the room and staring at it intently like he was trying to wish the food out of the hole. Funny as it was, he sure was using up energy in the process – check out those concentration wrinkles!

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After an hour or so of adventuring at this point, it was time to settle in for the night, which happens to be Frankie’s favorite thing to do. I gave him an antler which he happily gnawed on for a bit until he curled up on his bed and went right to sleep. Getting a dog out of the shelter and letting them run and play is nice, but I almost find the peaceful moments more rewarding. Shelter dogs don’t get to know what it’s like to comfortably snooze at their best friend’s feet during a movie, or how nice it is to share space while the humans work. These are things all dogs deserve in life, including Frankie.

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The relaxation and just ‘being’ continued into the night when we turned in for bed. I don’t normally let my fosters sleep on the bed, but I absolutely could not resist letting Frankie up there for just one night. And I am so happy I did – he is an unbelievable cuddler! He snuggled right up next to me like it was his absolute favorite spot. He didn’t stir all night until we woke up early the next morning for the pit crew walk (which his snuggles almost made us late for!). I think sleeping together was my favorite part of the whole visit.

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phone02 phone05phone04I’ll leave the update and cute pictures from the pit crew walk for another post. For now, I just hope I was able to get across how truly awesome this pup is. It is not every day you find a dog that you can take out of a shelter and fit almost seamlessly into home life, but that is Frankie. Thanks for taking the time to hear his story and learn more about what’s behind those blue and brown eyes. He and I are both so grateful.

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If you’re in the DC area and are interested in fostering or adopting Frankie, please email me at peacelovefoster@gmail.com!


The Tough Truth About Frankie

When I shared Frankie’s handsome face on Friday, I described him as the dog he is at heart: goofy, adorable and loving. Sadly, there is a bit more to the story. Frankie has been in the shelter for six months. That is almost 20% of his entire life. Shelter life is obviously not the ideal situation for any animal, and it takes its toll on each pet in a different way.  For Frankie, it is not going well.

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The staff at his shelter are doing everything they can to keep him happy, including play groups, enrichment activities, extra human time and more exercise. Something is just not clicking with him though. Here is a note written by his biggest fan on the behavior team at the shelter after some friends met him for the first time:

“When you saw Frankie, you probably couldn’t tell too much. Fridays are good for him, he gets a lot of walks and attention. But then the weekend comes and his routine is thrown off. By Monday morning, he is a wreck. It takes a staff member or volunteer at least 30 minutes of snuggle time just to get him to WANT to go on a walk. We take him outside, where he rolls in the grass, and zones out as we give him belly rubs and talk to him softly.

When Frankie is with people, his comfort and joy is palpable. As you saw, he will literally fall asleep in your lap. But without consistent human touch and affection over long periods of time, the stress of the kennels is slowly wearing him down. This is a dog who grew up in a neglect situation. He grew up without any human affection at all. Despite that, he has managed to remain at heart a social dog who enjoys the company of people. However, long periods without human contact cause him great emotional suffering and stress. Instead of shutting down, Frankie is beginning to show other concerning behaviors that show us his emotional breakdown. He will repeatedly jump at the door to his kennel, and has a difficult time settling on his own, even after the longest of walks. This may not seem concerning, but we have learned that these behaviors are the beginnings of stereotypy – repetitive behaviors caused by stress. If this level of stress goes on too long for a kenneled dog, long term effects occur as their brain chemistry will actually change.

Frankie used to relax quite well in his room after walks. Over time though, he is now just as antsy afterward as he is at the start. To help him, we begin and end walking sessions with relaxation time – body massages and belly rubs and snuggles. However, it is clear that Frankie is suffering. You can’t see it on the outside. Every Friday I go home and he is happy and relaxed. Come Monday morning he is transformed into a stressed out and anxious boy. Given some time, he comes around and bit by bit, he comes back to us. But he is in emotional pain here, and soon I fear it will be too late for him to turn back into the fun-loving, happy-go-lucky dog that he is.

I really am worried for him. The best life he has ever had is in the shelter. The people who love him most are here. And that’s okay, some dogs don’t even get that, many dogs really. But he deserves a home.”

Falling in love with Frankie is contagious. I realized that quickly and, just like the rest of the staff, became attached to him almost immediately. It probably has to do with the way he gravitates towards your lap as soon as you get on the floor, or maybe it’s the way his front paws awkwardly face away from each other beneath his big smile, only adding to his goofy demeanor, or maybe it’s his laid-back personality that is a breath of fresh air from the exuberant adolescent dogs you’re used to. Who knows. But Frankie is Frankie and he will make you fall in love with him.

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It breaks my heart that I can’t long term foster him thanks to my upcoming move, because a house with no other dogs, a big yard and someone who wants to take him on hiking adventures is just what he needs (not saying anything about myself, just that my situation was ideal for dogs like him!).

The least I could do was give him a break from the shelter, so that is what I did. Saturday afternoon Frankie came home with me so I could take him to the pit crew group walk on Sunday morning. We jammed as much fun into our 16 hours together as possible, which I will tell you all about tomorrow!

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If you or someone you know is interested in fostering or adopting Frankie, a big dog located in VA who would excel in an active, only-dog household, please email me at peacelovefoster@gmail.com! Spread the word about handsome Frankie!