I've been asked several times lately about Frankie and Allen in one way or another. A common one recently is how has Frankie changed or helped our family. I started to respond to the last email that asked me this question, but then decided I should blog about it instead so I don't have to keep rewriting this topic! So, thanks Brianna for sending me the message asking about Frankie and Allen!
Frankie came into our lives in January 2009. The last week of January and the first week of February of that year Allen and I flew to Denver, Colorado to do an intense training session with Frankie and some of the best dog trainers around! For Allen and Frankie, it was an immediate connection, almost love at first sight! Before going to Colorado, Puppies Behind Bars had told Allen a little about both dogs that would be there. Samba is a black lab who is very laid back and loving! Frankie, a yellow lab, is always ready to go and eager to please. These two dogs couldn't be more different! Even before seeing her, Allen kept saying that Frankie was meant for him! I kept telling him not to get his hopes up for a certain one because I didn't want him to get disappointed! Well, he was right, Frankie was meant to be his!
The bond the two of them have is unexplainable. I have so many pictures I have snapped of the two of them and more often than not, she is glaring up at him waiting to work for him. They are extremely devoted to one another and I am convinced that they complete each other. The things Frankie does for Allen are unending. The list and this post could go on and on but I will try to explain some of what they do for each other.
One of Allen's biggest issues besides his PTSD is depression. He would go days in bed before getting Frankie and nothing could drag him out. Our kids would try, I would try, other family and friends would try but sometimes nothing was going to get him out of that bed or his recliner, whichever the case may be. Once Frankie came into our lives, she was that key to getting him up and out. He has the sole responsibility of her entire care so he has no choice but to get up to take care of her. The only time I will do it for him is if he is physically unable to do it. This is a critical part of keeping their bond so close and also the key to her being able to get him up. He knows that she has to be fed, watered, exercised, pottied, brushed, and so on to be well cared for. He also knows how hard she works for him that these things are the least he can do for her.
Another thing I notice is his confidence. He knows that if he hears something and Frankie is still relaxed, it probably wasn't anything to get too concerned over. She also gives him the courage and confidence to go out into public. While sometimes this can cause other attention from curious people, he knows with her by his side he can do it and get through tough situations. I also think that she makes me have more confidence in him. I trust her to get him through and to take care of him.
Recently, Allen has been working with a dog trainer at The Pathway Home. She is teaching him how to better use Frankie to get him through high anxiety moments. When he starts feeling his anxiety levels rise, he gets as close to Frankie as possible, and begins focusing all of his attention on her. He pets her, talks to her, and focuses on her breathing and tries to match his breathing with hers. This steadies his breathing and makes him forget whatever it was that had his anxiety rising. It is really quite amazing to watch these intimate moments take place between a wounded man and his dog.
Frankie has truly become a member of our family like I never imagined would happen. She goes everywhere with us and is constantly working for all of us by keeping my husband in the present where it is safe. She is the first to notice when he starts to slip away to that place that causes so much anxiety and immediately starts pawing or licking him. She grounds him like no person has been able to.
Allen had really become very dependent on me and had lost most of his confidence in himself. Frankie is playing a huge part in helping him gain these things back. Recently he has started going to the movies weekly and actually making it through a movie. He goes bowling every Monday which is a very noisy place full of lots of triggers. The first few times he went he just watched with Frankie on his lap!! Last week he started participating! He is walking to the gym nearly every morning, when it's still DARK, and working out, with Frankie! Honestly, I am completely amazed and thrilled that he is gaining so much of his independence and life back. He is beginning to participate in his own life again, not just be a spectator!
One other thing I want to mention about Frankie is what she is doing for him at The Pathway Home. Allen is currently in California at The Pathway Home. This is half the country away from home for him. He is gaining so much there I can't even describe! It's a miracle really. He had slipped so far before going there I wasn't sure he would ever gain his life back. I am so thankful he had Frankie to go with him. I really do not think he would have agreed to go without her. She is a huge part of our family and I think that helps him feel less alone there. He made it through Thanksgiving with her, and now we are working on the rest of the holidays and being separated. The boys and I miss them both terribly but also know that they will be back home when Allen is better!!