Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One inspirational dog

I recently found out about Frankie the dachsund, his human, Barbara Teichel, and their incredible story. It involves a freak accident, a disabled dog, an amazing invention and a wonderful woman who wrote an award-winning book, Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog.

Here's my q&a with Barbara, who's currently doing a virtual blog tour; I found it so easy to relate to what she's been through and what she's learned.

Please tell us a little bit about Frankie—where did you originally get her?
I brought Frankie home from a breeder about two hours from my home. She was three months old, and the last one of the litter. It was love at first sight when I saw her toddle down the gravel driveway. Frankie is the sweetest dog. She does have a bit of “German” attitude in her, being a dachshund, and at times can be stubborn if she does not want to do something. But overall she has a great temperament.

Why'd you name her Frankie?
I had Frankie’s name picked out before I got her. I love the movie Frankie and Johnny. For those who may not know, Frankie and Johnny are lovers in the movie. Frankie happens to be the girl character. I remember thinking what a fun and sporty name for a girl. So I knew that would be my dachshund’s name. Though when I first brought her home and introduced her to the neighborhood kids, one little boy told all his friends I named her Frankie after frankfurter. Ha!

Can you share what happened at the kennel and how you found out?
My husband and I were on vacation in Florida when we received the call Frankie was seriously hurt at the kennel where she was staying. I was told, from what the kennel owner could figure out, that Frankie had jumped up onto a container within the kennel she was housed in. When she jumped up, the container tipped over and Frankie fell onto the cement. The kennel owner had just checked on her an hour before. When she came back out to check on the dogs again, Frankie was sitting on her butt, but not really moving. If you know dachshunds, they are always up and wagging their tails when they see someone. The kennel owner realized something was very wrong. She called my sister-in-law who took her to my local vet, and that is when I received the call Frankie had likely ruptured a disk in her back and needed to get into surgery as soon as possible.

Frankie and a friend before the accident

When you were told that Frankie would not walk again, what was your first response?
I was absolutely devastated. I also felt so helpless, so many miles away from her. I had just lost my chocolate lab, Cassie Jo, to cancer nine months before, so the thought of losing another dog, my little Frankie, really had me scared. When the examining vet called, I was told at first Frankie had a 10% chance of walking again. At that point I thought I had no choice but to put her to sleep. Then the surgeon called and thought Frankie had about a 30% chance of walking again. Even though I was worried about how I would take care of a handicapped dog, I knew I had to give Frankie a chance. I love her so much and knew I had to try, so Frankie went into surgery at midnight on Easter Sunday.

At about three months, it looked like Frankie would not walk again on her own. I had done physical therapy and massage for her, and had her on strict cage rest as the vet recommended, hoping she would walk again. I was told statistically if she were to walk again, it would happen in the first three months. I started to feel sorry for myself and for Frankie. The thought of having to express Frankie’s bladder and bowels for the rest of her life had me feeling very overwhelmed (because of her paralysis). I also wondered how people would react to her in a wheelchair, and would they think I was being cruel?

What rallied your spirits and your determination to help her?
One day, as I was doing physical therapy for Frankie while listening to the Oprah show, my whole attitude shifted. I heard Oprah announce that a dog had been born with only two legs, and she explained how her owner helped her to walk again. As I looked up at the TV, a dog named Faith came walking across the stage. It was such a release for me. I cried so hard. I knew in that moment I had no right to feel sorry for myself, and I had to look for the blessing in my situation.

What keeps me going is sharing Frankie’s message of hope and inspiration. When I first started to take her out in public in her wheelchair, I was most met with compassion. What was really inspiring was when children would run up to us and eagerly want to know why my dog was in a wheelchair. I realized I had a wonderful opportunity to give back to the world in a positive way by sharing Frankie’s story. I also realized I could help children overcome their own challenges through Frankie.

How did you first hear about a wheelchair/mobility cart for dogs?
When the surgeon was telling me Frankie’s prognosis I said, “What if she does not walk again?" That is when she told me about doggie wheelchairs. She said dogs do very well in wheelchairs and can lead a quality life. I was surprised it existed, and couldn’t picture what one would look like. But knowing this gave me a spark of hope that even if Frankie did not walk again, she could still live a wonderful life.

Way to go, Frankie!

What sort of response do you get to the cart when you are out with Frankie?
Taking Frankie out in public in her cart has been the greatest experience of my life. Most people are so compassionate and want to know why she is in the wheelchair, and how it happened. I often have people saying, “Bless your heart for taking care of her.” But to me, I am the one blessed, because of Frankie and all she has taught me. Most people think it is so awesome that dogs can live a pretty normal life in a wheelchair.

Do you ever have to deal with negative responses?
No. I do follow stories about disabled animals, and have only run across negative responses a few times when people have commented they think it is cruel to put an animal in a wheelchair. Some have even said it is selfish to keep a dog alive that can’t walk. I don’t agree. I know how happy Frankie is. She is still the same dog. She just walks with the help of a dog cart. That’s all. She is still Frankie. The way I look at it is you wouldn’t put a human being to sleep because they can’t use a limb. Knowing what I know now, I would have never forgiven myself if I had put Frankie down.

What are the most important lessons you've learned that might apply to parents?
The biggest lesson I have learned from Frankie is to look at my challenges as a way to learn and grow. I don’t believe we are given challenges to be punished. I believe if we look deep enough we can find the blessing to all things that happen in our lives. Frankie also taught me that I always have a choice. I can be mad or sad about a situation, or I can choose to be happy, no matter what. It is amazing when you decide to go through life with a positive attitude how much easier it is. I’m not saying I’m perfect at it, because I’m not. But Frankie reminds me every day that I can choose happiness. When I see her sweet little face each morning, I know what I was brought here to do.

To find out more about Barbara's book about Frankie or buy it, visit Joyful Paws. Oh, and if you check out the virtual tour blog and leave a comment, you'll be entered to win some cool gifts.


  1. What a wonderful story. I'm going to have to pick up Frankie's book for Daniel's Grammy, who is both a PT and a Dachshund lover.
    As for the comment from negative people about how it's cruel to keep an animal alive if he can't walk, I wonder if they'd say the same about people. Just because someone can't walk, does it mean that he's unable to enjoy life? How silly! I'm glad to hear that Frankie's owner knows otherwise.

  2. What a great post -- and I always enjoy "visiting" your beautiful family.

  3. this is a wonderful story I hope i can read the book.

  4. Thank you so much, Ellen for having me on your wonderful blog today! What an honor.
    And yes, Jo, I agree with you that just because someone can't walk does not mean they can't enjoy a wonderful life. Why should that be any different with animals?
    Thank you to everyone that has stopped by to comment so far. Your name for a Frankie prize will go in the hat!
    Keep on rolling everyone!

    Barbara Techel
    Proud Mom of Frankie
    2009 Wisconsin Hall of Fame Inductee

  5. If you like Frankie you should also check out the stories of Marvelous Mercer : written by 12yo Shea... It's a nice book for kids.

  6. Ellen, if your kids enjoy that book, they might enjoy another one on the same lines. There is a book for children called "How Willy Got His Wheels" that is also a true story and covers much of the same ground, only Willy (a chihuahua) was an unwanted dog. They found him paralyzed in a cardboard box with his vocal chords cut, left for dead.

    It's a great book as well, not sappy. The dog is cute as a button too--my kids just love this story, and they especially love Willy.

    Here's Willy's website:

    I'll have to see if I can't find the Frankie book in the library for the boys--Willy might have a little competition!

  7. What a great interview. Thank you so much for sharing it & putting so much thought into your review of this book.
    I appreciate your site & hope to visit if often in the near future.

  8. Hi, Ellen and Barbara!

    I have enjoyed reading about the adventures of Frankie (and his school appearances plus photos!).

    Allyn Evans

  9. Great post Ellen. I also love "Finklehopper Frog" by Irene Livingston. Not a true story but about embracing everyone's differences no matter what, how, or why they are different.

  10. Heartwarming, and insightful interview, thank you for sharing it with us.

    fondly, Magdalena


Thanks for sharing!

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