Frankie’s Venture

Get ready for a long story . . . Frankie is a 10 1/2 year old, 52 lb., shepherd/husky mix. He came to us at 8 months with his mom. They were strays eating out of the dumpster next door. Frank’s mom was not kind to him and after about 4 months she disappeared despite our attempts to contain her – she scaled a 7ft chain-link fence. About that time Frank became a ‘fear biter’ of people, not other dogs. He has bitten two utility workers and a neighbor which ended in the cancellation of our home insurance (we got more at a higher cost.)

I should tell you that we have always had 4-5 dogs: 2 Goldens who just passed within the last 9 months & took my heart with them, several black lab mixes, 2 border collies mixes and a variety of foster dogs, some through Golden Treasures Rescue and many that we rescued and adopted out ourselves. We have fostered and placed over 175 dogs in their forever homes over 9 years. We stopped fostering in our home about 3 years ago, partially due to Frankie and our fatigue/burnout. (More about us later, but we started a nonprofit that provides short-term foster care for pets of women in domestic violence shelters. We sometimes foster a dog in a kennel in our garage for 1-3 days until it placed in a foster home.)

Our last male rescue – Simon – is a 70lb mixed hound dog (we rescued him at age 2 from a pound; we have had him 4 years.) He and Frankie fought for maybe 2 years and Frank has lost every time. The fights got progressively worse and Frank has had 2-3 major surgeries across his shoulders – one 18 inches wide – as a result of these fights. I have been in every one – if not, Simon would have killed him the last 3 times. Twice I have laid on Frankie holding his head from Simon shaking him to death while someone else got Simon to relax his jaw and get Frankie pulled away. By now you might think we are horrible, crazy dog owners and the only reason I tell you all this is for you to understand our environment. Our vet thought we should put down Simon as he is always the aggressor but he is always provoked by Frank’s growl.

Our dogs are our children – we have no human ones. We will not caste them aside or euthanize them unless there is no hope for improvement. We got a trainer to work with us and our goal was to protect Frankie as well as gain ‘top dog’ control of our pack of 5. This helped immensely. Frankie is never alone with Simon without Simon being muzzled, outside or in. We have a 3 story home and a hobby farm with a large (7 ft.!) enclosed fence attached to the home on either side. If I go to another floor, I either put Simon outside, muzzle him, or put him in ‘his room.’ Our goal is to keep Frankie safe. Believe it or not, Frank and Simon sleep together at night in the bed with one of us. Another dog sleep with them (on the floor) and the 4th dog sleeps in the other spouse’s bed. We have had one vacation since the turmoil with rank – we got married in 2010. We have one close friend who also fosters dogs and comes in to feed or put our dogs out if we are gone more than 8 hours. I work from home part-time as I am partially retired. My spouse, an attorney, works 50 hours + a week to support us with my SSA and pension. I a m the primary caregiver for all our pets which include 5 cats, 3 horse, 2 barn cats and the dogs. Five of our small pets are seniors; all the horses are 20 + (average life span is 30).

Again, I tell you all this so you can better understand the setting we are in. Frankie has panus but lost one eye in November 2012 to a rare benign eye tumor – the vet eye doc thought it was most likely cancer. After the first of the year, Franks began slowly losing vision in the other eye. Two months ago he was diagnosed with glaucoma and was totally blind at that point. Despite the drops to keep the pressure down, the vet says there is no return to vision. We are struggling to say the least.

We thought that a blind Frank would be a nightmare as he would bite everything and everyone. The opposite has occurred and he has mellowed, partly due to age. He is now scared much of the time, and sleeps like a baby when he is relaxed. Frank stays on our main floor with the other dogs until bedtime, but if I run up and down during the day, he wants to follow me so we have to close the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs. In the beginning of blindness, Frank fell down the stairs twice in a 12 hour period, so he is now only upstairs to sleep and if we are in the bath or another bedroom, his bedroom door must be closed as he will wander.

The other dogs pretty much ignore him, including Simon, but we have not relaxed our safety rules. They are never alone, yada, yada. Our 1st floor is an open floor plan with the steps in the middle, but Frankie seems to run into everything and gets lost between a plant stand and the window or behind my desk and the wall or around the kitchen table. His medical care includes Prozac, 3 eye drops, vitamin D and Reiki when we can afford it, about every 6-8 weeks. The Reiki seems to be less effective since the total blindness as the car trip is stressful for him. At the last eye vet appointment, I have never seen him shake so much in the building. On the way home he was fine.

Our only sharp corners are doorways. The objects are what he runs into. There are 2 upholstered chairs and a couch where he sleeps when we are home. Going outside involves two deck steps and a turn before he gets to concrete and grass. He usually finds his way back to the door and barks to come in if I am not watching him. However, one day recently we ‘hid’ under the back steps which used to be his cool (in the summer) private ‘getaway.’ I had to wait for him to come out. My spouse and I had been discussing divorce and the environment was stressful.

So there you are. Please help in anyway you can suggest. Lately it has been very difficult to get Frankie ‘settled,’ even if I am on the same floor but moving around. With spring, the other 3 dogs are out a couple hours in the day and it is often just me and Frank and he has become quite restless. I don’t know where to go next.

I am now using soothing music specifically to de-stress pets (from our holistic vet friend) and rainbow spray seems to help. I cannot tell much improvement with Rescue Remedy. His food is grain-free kibble with warm water. He eats fine and loves his biscuits for any positive activity – eye drops and when each dogs come in.

12 thoughts on “Frankie’s Venture

  1. Have you thought about getting him a Thunder Shirt? My sighted dog is fearful of a lot of things and when I put this thunder coat on her it calms her immediately. It’s not a miracle cure for all dogs but it is worth a try.

    Also you might want to look at dog massage or Tellington Touch. Just Google ‘Tellington Touch’ or take a look at some of the videos on YouTube. It really does help to calm a fearful dog.

    The poor thing has been through a lot in its life and I think it has all gotten to a point where it doesn’t know which way to turn. Plus he is picking up on your vibes too so if things are a little stressful in the household then that will affect him. So spend some time on yourself as well. You deserve a bit of care and attention and some rest and relaxation. So spoil yourself a bit as well.

  2. Great idea on the Thunder Shirt, Paula. I’ve had several friends comment that they work wonders. I hope it’s not something Judith has already tried and that didn’t work. I’d love to hear about Frankie having relief!

      1. Marie and Paula (and everyone else) –

        the Thunder Shirt DOES help him. I put it on him about every other day for 24-36 hours. When it is off and he starts “squeaking” – his anxious wimper of sorts, I put it on him and he relaxes immediately.

        I am so thrilled. Thanks for the idea guys!


  3. Prayers for success or at least some relief. Thank God there are people who want to work with troubled dogs and see the positive in their lives!

    1. Thanks Barb. Our pets are our children.

      We adopted a blind mare 9 years ago. I rode her for about 5 years. She was the best ride I ever had. I talked with her continuously and she did fine. She has had some serious accidents the last few years – running into a fence post and breaking it off. Sometimes she comes in with a scrape and I don’t know how she got it.

      That is what worries me about Frank. I can’t watch him all the time. We have 3 other dogs and they run in and out past him. I know how to train so I guess I need to work with them one at a time to not rush the door when coming in.

      Sorry I am so long winded. Most people coming into our home feel sorry for him or think we should euth him. No one really understands the challenges except you guys. I am so glad I found this group. Thanks for listening.

      1. I tell people my furbabies are our children- my home is not that perfect looking one that people think it should be but we live with our animals so if anyone visits, get used to it!
        Tina still gets excited and runs into things- yesterday she came to the door to greet me as I was bringing groceries in- and I heard her yelp as she ran into it. She has bad teeth that give her pain if she bumps her mouth. But she followed my commands to back up and she was all better. I only let myself feel bad for a second or two… she can’t have dental done because won’t tolerate anesthesia. My vet taught me how to “pull” out a rotten tooth safely (I’m an RN). It makes me cry as I cause her pain but then Tina feels better and gives me kisses after. No matter how much work and grief they cause, they are so worth it. I hope Frankie does better each day!

  4. First, I am impressed with your devotion and determination. I hope that the suggestions/ideas I have may help you. I am the proud human to three blind dogs, all of whom are blind from birth. Yes, that is different than a dog losing sight later in life, however, I have learned a lot over the years and have also fostered a 10 year old blind lab who had been blind for about a year.

    You mentioned that Frank has difficulty navigating and bumps into furniture. How do you react to that? Are you all concerned and “poor baby” or do you brush it off “oops, try again!” Being positive and giving off that vibe of it’s no big deal is what we do. Also, Frank may benefit from small area rugs at the top and bottom of the stairs. We use them and purchased them from the dollar store. It gives a texture difference to alert the blind dog to something different. I have also experimented with essential oils – just a drop – to indicate stairs or an area to be aware of.

    As for navigating through the house, I have heard of using carpet runners, again for the texture and to define a clear path. (we don’t do this) Also, so that Frank can find you and hear you and the other dogs, you could use some bells. With our first blind dog, the other dogs had a bell attached to their collars and I wore one attached with a safety pin to my lower pant leg. This wasn’t as effective with the second blind dog since she has limited hearing!

    You also mentioned that Frank has difficulty settling. Have you tried teaching him to stay and having him lay on a (nice and special) bed (or crate if he likes a crate) in the downstairs? He would associate that place as being his and being a safe place. Get him settled and give him a nice chewy treat or a stuffed Kong maybe.

    Hope I helped.

  5. Hi, wow you have a houseful 🙂

    Blackie gets very unsettled when I leave for work especially if he gets “stuck” in his 180 degrees circle bumping circle as I call it.

    I have been recommended by one vet, some spray on pheromones “adaptil” is the brand name, which I spray on his bed to calm him down and it does seem to work although only for a few hrs at a time, then it needs reapplication which unfortunately I can’t do. There is a canine and feline version which come in around $70 from memory although 1 spray bottle does last a while.

    Our own anxieties are also a big trigger and I know Blackie is worse in the evenings if I come home sad/ angry etc.

    1. Tania, I had forgotten all about pheromone. You can buy a collar that lasts about a month and it seemed to help Frankie and another anxious pet though I haven’t used it in a couple years. I think I will try that again. If I recall, the collars are only $10 – 12. It is worth a shot.

      Your comment about upseted-ness when the humans are mad or sad or yelling at each other, is right on. My spouse is going through a very difficult time at work and brings the stress home. I am actually thinking of divorce after 13 years and that will be a major issue for Frankie as we both may move. It will take time to sell this hobby farm and it might not happen – just floating through my mind with more frequency.

      Thanks for everyone’s support and friendliness.

  6. First, I apologize for not replying to your thoughts earlier. We have had a full plate with spring ‘stuff ‘ as we have 15 acres and lots of outside work post-winter. Plus, we took in a bunny on an emergency basis – a divorce of 2 friends and neither wanted him. He is moving to a bunny rescue next weekend. And, we took a stray cat hanging out at the barn to be neutered and found that he is not only positive for FIV (feline AIDs) but also positive for FEL (feline leukemia). We are nursing him to better health and a friend is taking him – what an angel. So, our plate over-flow-eth.

    Your ideas for Frankie are great, especially the carpet / rugs as a change in texture. So far we don’t seem to need that, but you never know, especially if his hearing goes, God forbid.

    Surprisingly, since I joined this group about a month ago, Freddie’s navigation skills have developed immensely. And no, I don’t baby him unless I do something to him, like try to close the door on his head as he was standing under/in a coat rack with coats covering him and he stuck his head out as I was leaving. I felt so bad.

    Instead of babying him which we have never done, I guide him if he is coming my way, like to the back door going into the yard. If he is slightly off path and headed into a kitchen cabinet or a door frame, I say, ‘No Frank – over here or this way’ and he is very responsive. He still gets lost at times but he seems to work him way out of it or I will try to direct him with commands if I am aware of it.

    He seems to be ‘squeaking’ more – noise like a whimper when he is anxious, eve though we use the Thunder shirt. I think I am going to take him back to Reiki as that really calms him. I cancelled his appointment 2 weeks ago because of cash flow and he needed it then. I really recommend it if you can find an holistic vet that offers these types of services, like Reiki or massage, etc.

    Thanks for listening to my long winded update!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Content