Eulogy for Frankie | Dani Bryant

I have known the most amazing dog that has ever lived.

I understand that you might be offended by this controversial statement, because you believe you have known the most amazing dog that has ever lived, but this is not a conversation. I’m just stating a fact. The truth.

Frankie The Dog (her formal name) was a ten-year-old- neurotic and strange black Labrador retriever and on one winter’s day I arrived home from work to find no Frankie – at least not at first glance.

Frankie never barked and enjoyed sleeping underneath tables. She loved to roll in the sand and snow and to celebrate after a good poop. Frankie The Dog could give a fuck about your stupid commoner toys, but had a thing for Jewell-Osco receipts and Real Simple magazine inserts which she would tear into tiny microscopic pieces and leave in pathetic piles all over the apartment expressing her rage and loneliness.

Frankie’s two absolute favorite things in the world were belly rubs and eating. Hobbies I also enjoy. Like myself, Frankie’s relationship with food was what we call … disordered. We did not snack like a ladies, but binged like beasts. Inhaling our dinner (her kibble, me carbs) at alarming speed – both making this “huuuRRRuuuuRRR” noise. We licked peanut butter off metal spoons with crazed and desperate looks in our eyes.  And the banana (our all-time favorite fruit) we would swallow whole without tasting a single bite. Frankie’s banana eating was ‘visually’ unnerving as she would attack a banana with all her might, vicious canine teeth showing, looking much unlike the lazy old lady dog she truly was.

Frankie was not my dog – to be clear – she was the pooch of a past boyfriend. However, when I moved in to his place, she became part my responsibility – the bananas, the poop celebrations, the belly rubs. One day I was administering one of my excellent belly rubs when I noticed a lump, a bump, a … something unusual. I scoured the internet for answers and did what poor uninformed non-veterinarians do, put Neosporin on it and hoped the unusual bump would go away.

It did not go away, in fact, it kept growing – at an alarming rate. When the boyfriend and I finally took Frankie to the vet, he told us what we already knew. It was cancer and not the kind that would ever go away. Even if we removed this cancerous tumor, it would simply grow back. The best thing to do was wait. And wait we did.

At first, Frankie barely noticed her tumor, but as it began to grow … and grow … and grow, she became very aware. Her energy dropped and she became unable to keep down her kibble or beloved bananas. All the while the tumor kept growing. Then it began to leak and ooze. We put her in t-shirts to keep the tumor dry and clean. T-shirts that said hilarious things like ‘Dream Big’ or ‘Hang in There’ with a kitten hanging upside down on a branch.

Frankie had a great sense of humor.

I arrived home, early from work finding no Frankie – at least not at first glance. Frankie was usually at the bottom of the stairs waiting for her poop celebrations, but on this day Frankie was not at the bottom of the stairs. What was at the bottom of the stairs was a t-shirt. Beside the t-shirt were bits of something I could not quite identify. And near the bits were tiny drops of blood which made a trail up the hair-covered, blue carpeted stairs. At the top of the stairs was Frankie – naked as the day she was born, happy as could be, wagging her tail like a maniac.

She seemed very proud of herself. Unnaturally proud of herself.

Where that coconut sized tumor once hung was now … nothing. It was gone. Eaten clean off.

Frankie had snacked upon her tumor and licked the plate clean.

She sensed my panic and retreated underneath her kitchen table. I phoned all parties involved. First call was to the boyfriend, whom I feigned composure and calm.

Lies.

On the break between phone calls I shared a banana with Frankie – to settle our nerves and comfort the soul. Next we called the Vet. Surely he would be full of medical wisdom, sage advice and specific instruction. I explained the whole gory scene: Tumor! T-shirt!  Bits and blood! She ate it?

I was met with silence.

HE HAD NEVER HEARD OF ANYTHING LIKE THIS EVER HAPPENING BEFORE.

The closest thing (he said) was sometimes dogs will eat the dead toes off their diabetic owners while they are sleeping. They can sense the death and they want it gone. They are not supposed to be there, those dead toes. Taunting them. So they get rid of them.

That is what Frankie did. She sensed the death. She sensed death and wanted it gone. She wanted to live – wanted to roll in sand and snow, celebrate poops and chew on receipts. Frankie The Dog wanted to eat her kibble, her peanut butter off spoons, and as many bananas as she wanted.

And she did, for three more months.

When her last night finally arrived we had noticed a swelling in her belly. Fluid was beginning to accumulate. She was in pain. Before we took her in to say good-bye the veterinarian encouraged us to take her out to dinner. We took her to the Wendy’s drive-through and gave her hamburgers and chicken nuggets. Which we also ate. It would have been a shame let her eat her last meal all alone. I ate quiet and slow – savoring each bite – silently honoring Frankie for the great gifts she had given me during our short time together. Her grit. Her fight. Her pink belly. The appreciative noise she grunted as you scratched her ears in just the right way. The way Frankie continued to bring her two humans together when they knew deep down they were meant to be apart.

After our meal, we let her walk around Wells Park and eat anything off the ground she could find. That night it was steak fries and a fine apple core. In those final hours she was energetic and loving. Adrenaline is an amazing thing.

Waiting in the small room for the doctor, we gave her belly rubs and told her she was a very good girl. As they put the needle in, the doctor opened a tiny jar of pureed baby food to distract her.

Even in her final moments Frankie was eating.

I don’t think this is true, but I like to remember that the baby food was the banana kind.


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Dani Bryant is a Chicago-based devised method playwright, director, performer and proud founder of Knife & Fork . In addition to creating theater, she is passionate about facilitating social practice events and discussions on the topic of body politics and the role food plays in our lives. http://www.danibryant.com

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