Frances comes alive

It’s been about two months since we lost Mickey and it’s been hard for us. We still cannot talk about him all that much, but now we can mention his name without choking down tears.

And when I say it’s been hard for us, I include Frances, our 7-year-old lab mix. Initially, she appeared almost ecstatic and acted as if nothing had changed. Her behavior really rubbed us the wrong way. We were grieving. Why wasn’t she? Sure, she probably wasn’t aware at the time that he wasn’t coming come, but she didn’t even look for him in the house, outside, anywhere.

Frances in her snuggleball about in 2006

Frances in her snuggleball in 2006

Then one day, without warning, she slipped back to her pre-Mickey state – she stopped eating. She needed to lose 10 pounds at this point so I kind of welcomed the self-imposed “dieting.” But, Frances has Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and in her case, when she doesn’t eat, she throws up bile. Nice, eh? So, when she’s being picky it becomes a constant battle to get her to eat. Feeding her becomes more than a chore than usual because alas, she will only eat if hand fed. Believe me, we have tried to break her of this habit, but it’s hard to let her starve when she’s throwing up. In fact, we adopted Mickey so she’d have some competition around eating. And that worked. Mickey had her number.

So, in the weeks following his death, Frances lost about 6 (necessary) pounds. Then as quickly as she stopped eating, her personality started to change, and one day, she started eating again … from her own bowl (with some coaxing, of course). She simply blossomed. She pranced around the house. Dug around in her basket full of toys. Twitched and barked at us to play with her. And for the first time in a long time, started sleeping regularly in our room on her dog bed. Mickey would sleep with us, but Frances more often than not, chose to sleep on the “dog couch” in the other room.

One of the biggest changes happened on our daily walks. For the past five seven years, we had pretty much taken the dogs on the same “morning walk” through our Maxwell Park neighborhood. Sure, we’d cross the street and walk on the other side (at Mickey’s urging) and take a special Saturday morning walk in the opposite direction. And evening walks were a glorified walk or two around the block. But all of a sudden, Frances was in charge. We’d walk down our front walkway and instead of veering right and crossing the street, she took a left, and another left, and then wherever. We both felt bad for her and we were still numb, so we let her lead the way.

So, now, every morning, whether Shelly or I walk her, Frances heads left and down a different street. And she pulls us. I sometimes have to jog to keep up with her. Shelly swears she’s looking for her brother. I think she’s just expanding her territory. Whatever. We’re now learning more about our neighborhood, checking out new streets, cleaning up dog poop on different lawns. Who knows if she’ll settle into a groove. For now, it’s okay by me. Though I do miss the old morning walk and force it on her every now and again. There’s something very comforting and almost relaxing about that traditional walk.

Well, gotta go, it’s time for Frances’ evening walk.

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