”MAD” About Dachshunds are pleased to feature a guest blog post by Barbara Techel…
The year 1999 will forever be etched in my mind. It was the year I decided I just had to have a Dachshund!
When I began my search I recall my husband, John saying, “Why do you want a Dachshund?” He was not too happy as we already had one dog, a chocolate Labrador named Cassie.
“Well, I don’t really know why. They are just so cute.”
John knew well enough not to ask further questions as he knew when I get something set in my mind that I want; I find a way to make it happen. He was not totally on board with the idea, but I pursued anyways.
It was not easy for me to find a smooth short haired red female Dachshund in my state of Wisconsin. I ended up finally finding the little one that would become my Frankie making a four hour round trip to bring her home from a breeder I had finally found via the Internet.
I knew Dachshunds could have back issues, but the extent of it, and the fact there was an actual disease for it, was not something I knew. But I didn’t let that deter me. After all, who thinks it will happen to their dog, right?
Things were great with Frankie for six and half years. She was a happy pup and loved going for walks and playing with her Lab dog sister.
The year 2006, and specifically Easter Sunday is a day that is also forever etched in my mind. It is the day I got the call that every Dachshund owner fears. Frankie had fallen while staying at a kennel (we were on vacation) and had ruptured a disc in her back.
My sister-in-law, Lori had rushed her to my local vet who diagnosed her with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). Surgery was highly recommended. I gave my permission and Lori whisked Frankie off to a specialized clinic one hour away.
Three weeks after Frankie’s surgery I took her to a vet that specializes in IVDD. It was suggested that if Frankie didn’t gain back the use of her legs within about five more weeks that a dog wheelchair would be a viable option. At the time, I just couldn’t imagine Frankie having to live her life in a wheelchair. It seemed so unfair. I had a hard time accepting if this would be the case.
The next three months were a blur, exhausting and quite overwhelming at times. I was doing everything I could to help Frankie regain the use of her now paralyzed back legs, doing physical therapy the vet taught me, as well as acupuncture. The surgeon said she had a 10-30% chance of recovering and walking again.
Frankie was ultimately fitted for a wheelchair through Eddie’s Wheels. Once I accepted the idea, I could hardly wait for her custom wheelchair to arrive. Three weeks later it came in a big box, all assembled.
I chuckled and said to my husband as I opened the box, “Wow, open box, take out wheelchair, insert dog, and watch her run!”
Well, it wasn’t quite that easy! But within a half hour Frankie did have the hang of it. Watching her roll and walk for the first time twelve weeks after her surgery was like watching a newborn walk for the first time. I was over the moon with joy!
Little did I know at the time, but this was a huge blessing about to unfold. It would lead me to what I believe is my calling–to educate others about IVDD, as well as dogs in wheelchairs—that they can lead a quality life with the right information and care. I also came to realize that through my love for writing I could write a children’s book about Frankie.
From my children’s book series, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog, Frankie and I would, over a five year period, visit 400 schools and libraries in our state of Wisconsin including many via Skype. We were also a therapy dog team logging over 250 visits to local facilities.
Ultimately, one of the greatest gifts Frankie gave me was a healing that would take place within me—healing around what seem ordinary issues, but also things I carried some shame and guilt about. I was able to overcome and move through these things and come out on the other end liking the person I am today. To think a dog who is 10 inches tall, shaped like a sausage dog, and rolled through life in a doggie wheelchair, truly warms my heart and makes me smile.
The journey and lessons Frankie would teach me as well as thousands of others, I share in my first adult nonfiction inspirational book, Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way.
To think all of these blessings would come because of Frankie becoming wheelchair-bound is still quite astonishing to me to this day.
For as long as I live I’ll continue to do what I can to bring positive awareness to IVDD, educating others that it is not a death sentence. There are many viable options to help our Dachshund friends who may be diagnosed with this disease. For those who end up with dog wheelchairs, well, that is something I will also be passionate about also. They truly can (and do!) lead quality lives if given a chance.
Barbara Techel is a passionate advocate for dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and dogs in wheelchairs. She is also passionate about helping others see their challenges in a positive way. After her dachshund, Frankie suffered a spinal injury she was custom-fitted for a wheelchair and Barbara realized the beautiful opportunity she had to spread a positive message that animals with disabilities can and do live quality lives if given a chance.
In her newest book, part memoir and inspirational, Through Frankie’s Eyes she takes you on a journey that led her to live her own truth and live with more joy, all because of what Frankie was teaching her along the way.
In August 2012 she founded National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day in memory of Frankie and in honor of all dogs in wheelchairs. She also started the Frankie Wheelchair Fund which helps dogs who need wheelchairs whose families may not be able to afford them, or for dogs in rescue.
She is the award-winning author of the children’s book series Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog which are true, inspirational stories about her paralyzed dachshund. Frankie teaches us that no matter our challenges, we can persevere with a positive attitude. And despite our challenges we can each give back in our own, unique way. Frankie is Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame Companion Dog.
Barbara’s books have received National Best Book for children’s picturebook, Merial Human-Animal Bond award, Editor’s Choice from Allbooks Review, Indie Excellence finalist and Indie Excellence winner.
Frankie’s story also appears in “Every Dog Has a Gift” by Rachel McPhearson, published by Penguin/Tarcher March 2010 and “Dogs and the Women Who Love Them: Extraordinary True Stories of Love, Healing and Inspiration” by Linda and Allen Anderson published Fall 2010 by New World Library (recommended by Oprah’s O Magazine).
Also featured in Woman’s World magazine, The American Dog, Dog Living magazine, USAToday.com and AOL PawNation.
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