Barbara and her current dog Gidget
Frankie the Walk 'Roll Dog 8/20/99 - 6/21/12 - The Dog That Started It All
It’s my love of dogs that started me down a new path in life at the age of 41 over ten years ago. Being a writer or caring for special needs dogs was never a part of my life plan. But oh, how it has helped me become the woman I am today!
The bond between human and animal that can be so deeply intense I yearned to capture all the different facets of it. But little did I know I’d be taken on a journey of personal healing that would help me live more from the true authentic center of who I am.
It began with my favorite flavor in color- chocolate. For many years I yearned for a Labrador retriever. I finally got one as a puppy and named her Cassie Jo. I learned patience, grew deeper in compassion, and began to understand the depths of unconditional love because of her.
Her diagnoses of bone cancer that took her life eight months later, as odd as it might sound, was a gift in disguise for me. As I watched cancer invade her body, it was her spirit that astounded me. It was as if she had no idea that the tumor on the side of her hip would eventually claim her life. Despite what she was going through, she was truly happy. It was that joyful spirit that I wanted, too. She paved the way, and gave me the courage to venture out into the world of writing.
Dogs would continue to reveal the many layers of who I am when my spunky, short, red haired dachshund, named Frankie, became paralyzed in her hind legs due to disc disease. She was custom-fitted for a dog wheelchair and her zest for life was absolutely contagious.
I often sat in awe of this 10-inch tall dog with limp back legs who now enjoyed life to the fullest in a wheelchair that helped her to do all the things she did just like before her paralysis. It was her unabashed attitude of not worrying that others might think it strange she was in a wheelchair, that the next layer of my own insecurity fell away.
This moment etched in my memory forever, watching my petite 14-pound dog roll through the grass, happy to be who she is, despite her wheelchair. All of a sudden, as if a bolt of lightning hit me, I realized all along I had a choice. I could continue to worry what others thought of how I should live my life or I could live from the heart of who I truly wanted to be.
That skin of which for so many years I felt so uncomfortable in was beginning to feel so much more comfortable. Writing about my experience with a dog in a wheelchair, and the many lessons I learned from her, became my passion. The more I wrote, the deeper I healed.
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For the next five years Frankie and I visited over 350 schools and libraries in our state of Wisconsin. Through the children’s series I wrote about her, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog, we taught kids to be positive, make a difference, and keep on rolling no matter what their challenges. Frankie also became a therapy dog and left a loving and joyful affect on the lives of many in need. She logged over 250 visits visiting people in hospice, our local hospital and an assisted living facility. She was also, as far as I know, one of the first dogs to ever Skype sharing her story to over 50 schools right from the comfort of my writing cottage.
When Frankie died at the age of twelve, my world as I knew it fell apart. I thought I had finally found my calling with all the work I did with her. Without Frankie, I questioned what it is I’m supposed to do on the next leg of my journey.
Four months later, Joie (pronounced Joey), a black and tan dachshund, found her way into my heart when I was searching for another disabled dog to love.
But it would only be ten short months later when my heart would shatter into a million pieces yet again. Complications and serious health challenges unbeknownst to me when I adopted her, made themselves known in a sudden and unexpected way. The greatest gift I could give her was to let her go.
At my side during the painful grieving process of Frankie and Joie has been my eight year old English Labrador, Kylie. She has been my rock of solace and comfort during very sad days.
It would only be after Joie left this earth that I would realize the gift of what she taught me. Her lesson to me was that it was time for me to be still. She left so that I could sit in reflection and refill the well of which I knew was empty, but was too frightened to accept. After years of writing for my blog, writing children’s books and nearing the completion of my memoir, I stepped back. I completely stopped everything I had been doing and took a two month sabbatical. I felt this was essential to my soul. I knew had to find my way back to my center again.
Through daily journaling just for me, I was able to peel away even more layers and heal on yet another level. It is where I came to grasp the gift of being a woman who is a work in progress. In this I’ve realized there are more opportunities to grow and evolve. I’ve learned that a big part of my calling is caring for special needs dachshunds and I knew I would do that again someday soon.
November 2013 found me holding a newly adopted dachshund in my arms that I found through a rescue organization on the west coast. Inflicted with the same disc disease, Gidget is what I call my “walk ‘n wobble” dog. Unlike Frankie and Joie, she does not need a wheelchair. Though she may webble and wobble, and fall down at times, it’s a new adventure for me to watch a new kind of perseverance in her determination. I also lovingly refer to her as my Buddha dog.
There is just something about her that reminds me to practice daily stillness, pay attention to the whispers of my heart, and encourages me to not be afraid of what the next step on my path is. She does this all just by the way in which she seems to be so planted firmly in the spirit of who she is.
It continues to be my love of dogs and especially those like Frankie, Joie and Gidget with special needs, that I continue my writing through my blog at joyfulpaws.com. It is there that I not only write about my love of them, but also write about how I define a meaningful and authentic life— all these lessons of which, I continue to learn through my beloved pets.It’s also my honor to carry on the legacy and mission that Frankie and I began with a day I founded in her memory, called National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day. Along with this special day I also founded The Frankie Wheelchair Fund which helps disabled dogs in need. To date, the fund has granted 27 wheelchairs to paralyzed dogs.
Joyful Paws Web
National Walk 'N Roll Dog Day Web
About Barbara Techel:
Barbara Techel is the award-winning author of Through Frankie’s Eyes, an inspirational memoir about her journey to her authentic self. It’s the story of how her paralyzed Dachshund, Frankie, in a wheelchair, helped her overcome many of her fears to live with more joy, integrity and intent. Frankie taught Barbara to let go of what didn’t matter and embrace the whispers of her heart, and stand tall in who she is.
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Other Books by Barbara Techel