Thursday, January 15, 2009


January is the one-year anniversary of our beloved Australian Shepherd, "Frisco" 's death.
I have reprinted the posts about her(there are three, with the original dates shown, below. Read in REVERSE order--her death, then about her life, then her cremation.
I hope you have a hopeful, peace-filled, peaceful day. Treasure the animal companions in your life. As actor Mickey Rourke noted on the Golden Globes telecast(when accepting his award for Best Actor, for "The Wrestler").
"Sometimes, when a man's alone, his dog is his best friend."
We were honored to have "Frisco" for nearly 11 years, and she was a delightful best friend..
Peace, kids.
Here's the entries, reprinted below. If you wish to see PICTURES of "Frisco", please scroll down to "Archives" and click on "January, 2008", and you'll see see a photo of her, and one of both her, and "Louie":

Monday, January 21, 2008
A post-script to the life and death of our beloved "Frisco" means letting you all know how HEALING it was us, to go to Christine Hunsaker's "Paws, Whiskers and Wags" Pet Crematory, located in Decatur.
The lavendar candles lit for calm, the large sitting area where we got to visit with our beloved--one last time-- before cremation, and the fact that we were able to stay during the process, was very reassuring.As is the patented device offered by this facility--an "id" bracelet which is numbered for your companion animal--the stainless steel is impervious to the cremation process, and so you are guaranteed that the remains are YOUR pet's, ALONE-- and no one else's.
We sat inside for a while, and I thought about the tiny bits of fur I'd secretly snipped from her, on Tuesday night, after she'd passed. I hadn't mentioned it to my honey, Hansoo, fearing I would look crazy.To my amazement, just before we released her to the technician, a pair of scissors with a small baggie was handed to me.Tearfully, I asked,"You mean?"
"Some people like to cut some fur, sometimes, from where they would pet them, on their head right behind there..."
the attendant gestured, as her voice trailed off...
"I did cut a bit of fur from there, last night; I thought I was crazy, but I would like a bit more..."
So I gently cut a few bits of Frisco's gorgeous white fur. I always thought it looked like rabbit-fur.Like those jackets many of us, back in the 1980's-- used to wear.I thought how fortunate she never lived in China(where dogs' fur is prized, but dogs' lives, unfortunately, are not.).
I snipped, and then looking at her markings of brown, the technician said"Would you like more brown?" And I said "Yes." And I snipped until I had a little bag of fur.
Hansoo and I spent the next hour and a half discussing our love of dogs with Amy, a lovely, kind young woman, an employee whose job it is apparently to offer comfort. She hugged me numerous times as I broke down discussing our love for our girl, "Frisco".
Hansoo and I read a few newspaper articles posted at the facility, which described Christine Hunsaker, the owner, as a true animal-lover and a person who wanted to make a difference in the business of helping other bereaved "parents" of companion animals.
We met that owner, moments later, and we watched as she oversaw the entire process.
Hansoo and I looked at the choice of urns--all were gorgeous, but I wanted a simple container, something we could place a picture of her, in.
She was returned to us, her remains now sealed in a clear bag, looking like crushed shells, pearly, jewel-like.Dry, cold, white.
A bit scary, but pure. And true.
We decided on a medium sized mahogany box, a "Howard Miller". (our Grandfather clock is his design).
It turned out to be a gorgeous choice of color, given "Frisco's" own reddish-brown coloring...
Hansoo placed a picture of her in the space for just that, once we returned home. Big amber eyes are looking out at us, from the cover of the box.Inside, on top--a poem written for our sweet girl, (provided by "Paws, Whiskers, and Wags"), and underneath the inside cover, her ashes--still sealed in the bag--along with her red collar and heart-i.d.-tag, which Hansoo lovingly placed there.
"Louie" misses "Frisco".He still sniffs her sofa every day. He wags his tail. Looks around. And he jumps on her sofa often, to lie there.
I think he's keeping it warm for her.
Maybe he thinks she's coming home.
I feel like she already has.
Posted by Lisa Allender at 11:21 PM 2 comments
Labels: MLK Day;Atlanta;Paws, Whiskers and Wags; Ms. Christine Hunsaker
Thursday, January 17, 2008


April, 1997 (ours, as of May, 1997) - Jan. 15th, 2008

I wanted to detail a bit about "Frisco" and her LIFE, since you all have learned about her death, in my previous post.
We received her into our lives in Lithia Springs, from a working farm where several puppies were for sale, and we were delighted to see several healthy, gorgeous little loves to choose from.
The farm featured a huge male, who was Frisco's Daddy, who safely and lovingly herded chickens(!!) in a large cooped-area.
Hansoo selected the largest one, a reddish 5-and-a-half-week-old female Aussie with clear blue eyes(they later turned amber).Although under 8 weeks is not considered a great time to obtain a dog(their social-skills with other animals are developed between the ages of 6-8 weeks), we did not know that, at that time, and so, we scooped up the most "alpha" one of the pack--she had freely walked away from her siblings and mother-- and jumped with joy when she saw us!
She rode in our laundry basket 'til we arrived at our then-home, a small apartment in Dunwoody.

We set up a small crate with an alarm-clock(simulates a beating heart, like their mother's) and stuffed animals, and she whimpered a tiny bit the first night. Then she started chewing the table legs, the blinds on the windows, etc.
This ended quickly:
See Quick safety note: keep ALL hanging cords OUT of a toddler(or pet's) reach.It's a real hazard.
And freeze a few clean, wet socks for when a pet is "teething"-once they are out of the freezer, it SOOTHES their gums, and is an easy "toy" for them to enjoy, safely!

Training her with newspapers lasted only a day.I put papers down, and grabbed her when she appeared ready to do her "business".I placed her on the ground, and after she finished, praised her with pettting, and my high-register, "good girl, good girl, Frisco" voice.
The very next time she had to go, she simply strolled up to the door,looked at me, and barked(I never taught her to let me know).She was only 8 weeks old.
I trained her to use her crate for sleeping.

I had more than a few cuts from her nips, and severe scratches from her jumps on me-- her "herding" instinct, acted out on own tender calves and heels!

After a few more months, Frisco was becoming a bit heavy for me to easily carry her up and down the stairs outside. Hansoo asked "Why are you carrying her?"
"Well, she can't walk down, honey, she'd fall."
"You mean you're STILL carrying her up and down the stairs?"
It turns out, Hansoo was letting her walk up and down herself, and she was fine with it.
The instant I walked out onto the landing, with her in front of me, she looked up at me, made no move to continue down the stairs, and whined for me to pick her up.
She loved being "babied" by me, but from then on, I tried to walk side-by-side.
Frisco continued to be a bit of a challenge. She would pull on the leash when I was walking her, or simply sit and stare at me, until I gave in and went in the direction SHE chose.
I got no respect.
So, we called a "dominance expert".
Mark S. worked with me on how to reduce Frisco's dominance with me.
He had strong suggestions, but guaranteed they would work, and they did:
I had to stop feeding her FIRST. Instead,I was to eat MY meal, do dishes, etc. let her watch, then prepare her food, and after she quieted down, feed her.
Next, I could not play with her when SHE brought the ball to me. Instead, I had to "initiate" all play, so I would be viewed as being 'in control' of the toys, and hence--all play.
And I had to place all toys OUT OF REACH, where she could see them, but not get them.
I was appalled.
And I balked. "I can't do that, it's cruel--she's my baby, and I want her to play with me."
"Right now, she's training YOU, Lisa.".
was Mark S.'s stern reply.
Oh--and I was advised to--whenever she got too "assertive" with me(trying to jump up on me, or nip my heels)-- to straddle the dog and move back-and-forth in a "humping" motion.
Of course, this was fine in the privacy of the apartment when I had to correct her, but of course, the inevitable occured-- outside one day-- as we prepared to go for a walk...
We were at the bottom of the stairs that led to my apartment, in broad daylight, around noon, I'd say. Suddenly, she began jumping into the air, resisting both the leash, and me. So....I sprung into action. Carefully placing one leg over either side of her, I began a slow and rythmic "humping" motion, in an effort to be perceived as "dominant", and "alpha" in her eyes. Unfortunately, at this exact moment, one of the many other apartment-dwellers came out, looked at me strangely, and said nothing. I quickly explained to this young(in his 30's, conservatively dressed)man:
"Oh--I have to do this; I'm showing her who's boss."
"I beg your pardon?" was his polite reply.
"You know, the Domination-expert told me to do this."
"Sure, okay." He said, looking rather frightened of me.
"I'm training her."
"Where's your boyfriend?" he began."Is he away on business again?"
"Oh, yes--that's why I have to do this."
He stared at me.
"I mean, because he's the Alpha, but when he's not here, I have to be Alpha."
"Look, I don't judge anyone," he said, clearly deciding I was some sort of raging pervert.
"You don't understand. We paid the Domination expert--it's $100.00 for an hour of his time. He's an expert. With dogs."
" Okay, you have a great day, Miss."
Although I saw him several times after that, he never said another word to me....

Shortly after this, I had gone to the dentist for a sore mouth/hurt tooth. I was given pain meds. I was careful to tuck them away, high on a shelf in a closet, so Frisco could not possibly get them, if she were to suddenly become interested. The next morning, I readied myself for work(at the time, I worked at the fab Border's Books in Dunwoody)and when I stepped out of the shower, I heard a "crunching" sound--Frisco had jumped on a shoe-box, and sniffed her way around, tipping over the box at the top of the closet, and knocked the pain pills onto the floor.
The BOTTLE is what she was crunching on, and when she looked up at me, she looked like some kind of cocaine-freak. Wild-eyed, with white powder all over her nose. I screamed, called the vet's and explained. I read them the description of the pain medicine. "Please bring her in immediately." they said.
I was shaking, crying, screaming for Frisco to "Get in your crate."
It's the ONLY time she appeared frightened of me, and she definitely did what I said.
My Mom happened to live just minutes from me.She offered to drive Frisco for me.
I called work, hysterical.
"What's wrong, Lisa?...Calm down..."Were you raped, or attacked?I can't understand you.."
"It's my dog--she ate pain medicine. It may kill her."
I was wailing now.
"Take the day off, no problem. Good Luck, Lisa."

I met up with a dear friend, Dave S., who took me over to the vets' and I waited 'til they told me most of what came up(after being examined) was raw-hide bits. I'd been lucky. Her curiousity had not killed her.
After that, all doors shut & locked. No exceptions.
The tennis ball obsession began at this time, too. There were the obligatory suburban-Atlanta tennis courts everywhere, and lots of players would cheerfully toss a ball to Frisco, and she would fetch immediately.
Later, when we moved to Suwanne-- and a house with a huge backyard-- she found a mound where she could literally "pitch" the ball to me, by holding it with her paw on the ground, and then while watching me, decide WHEN to let it roll down to where I stood.
Anyone who watched her do this, was amazed, as it truly appeared that she was "considering" when to best let the ball roll, often letting it loose, then grabbing it suddenly to stop it, mid-roll, with her paw, hence "feigning" a throw to me!!!
Alas, she was ALWAYS the pitcher, I always the receiver.
Frisco, despite my best efforts, would always be an "alpha" dog. At least over me.
When we adopted "Louie" from the Golden Retreiver Rescue Association,(previously named "Chewy", but we felt that a bad omen), she welcomed him--but only as a subject to 'herd' .
Because she had few skills with other animals, she was MOST comfortable with humans only.
Although Louie loved "the Frisk" very much, he was baffled every time he performed the ritual known as the "play-bow"
(meaning every move after that is "play", not serious)
and tried to nudge her with a sock or toy into active play. She would turn around quite annoyed, and snarl a bit, or simply bark 'til he left her alone.
It would be akin to someone I know approaching me in a pub, patting me on the back, or hugging me, and my returning the affection by suddenly biting them.
But they grew closer. Louie would whine when Frisco left the room. He'd cry when she was away for a day at the vet's for an occasional itch on her cute paws.
When we moved here to Alpharetta, a little over two years ago, Frisco was thrilled with the new location--a Greenway to run/walk on, and a pond nearby, too! She cheerfully went on walks with Louie and me.

Neighbors have been amused with her "bouncing" the tennis ball on her nose, a la a seal(which we never taught her to do).
Often, I saw her nudging the ball from the ground, into the air, and then catching it for her own private amusement.

Her last "big" performance was her appearance, with "the Lou" at our wedding, last February. Her fur was shaved-down(she seemed to like it that way), and everyone thought she looked like a puppy.
Both entered the ceremony courtesy of Danny M., family friend, as the rings were about to be exchanged.

We just wanted her to be a part of it. A part of our love, our life. And so she has.

Posted by Lisa Allender at 1:56 PM 4 comments
Labels: Frisco;Wedding Ceremony;Dominance Expert; Dog Behavior;Alpha-Dogs;Dog-Training;Safety with Pets and Children;
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

We knew something was wrong when the greeting from one of our dogs was a mere stare.No butt-wag(our Australian Shepherd, "Frisco", had a docked tail when got her), no excitement, just a stare and a slow walk towards us. And she looked "swollen", was drinking LOTS of water... It was Sunday afternoon, and we called our veterinarian's office, and went in the very next morning(Monday).

Tests were run, but there were still lots of questions. We let our wonderful vets, Dr. Karolyn and Dr. Mike take her home, to keep an eye on her.

They thought there could be "blood in her abdomen", but had no explanation(yet).

The tests(including a needle-biopsy which revealed BLOOD in her abdomen on Monday night) on Tuesday revealed a need for "exploratory" surgery, which Dr. Mike explained could mean a tumor in the spleen(the area swollen), or a ruptured spleen.

We gave permission for surgery, and even went back over-- just to see her-- to see how she was doing, and we were delighted to see she looked much improved(less swollen, due to iv's flushing her system) from Monday, and felt confident she could withstand any surgery, and would thrive after having her spleen removed.We gave permission for surgery, and hoped.

Unfortunately, her spleen had "a tumor the size of a honeydew melon" as Dr. Mike(he is such a talented surgeon, that he has done a successful hip-replacement for a client's gerbil.Really.)put it.

"Frisco" also had numerous nodules spread throughout her body--liver, kidneys, intestines--apparently, a cancer of the spleen, which had spread quietly, with NO symptoms at all.The prognosis:

she MIGHT live up to six days, but the next three would be i-v's, intensive-care, with the possibilty of death by seizure, or blood-loss(she had lost almost 3/4 of all her blood, due to damage to her organs from the cancer--we saw her nearly WHITE gums).

There is virtually NO chance it was NOT cancer(and even if the numerous nodules were NOT cancer, they would still kill her--painfully-- by cutting off her organs, possibly causing more internal bleeding, and seizures, within days!).

I chose to see the surgery photos, and the removed tumor itself(I could not believe it could live inside a medium-sized dog! It was not sickening to see, but certainly, it was scary--and necessary-- for me, as I was still in denial about this, having had only a few hours to absorb all this information.)

We had to make a choice of euthanasia--ending her life, by use of a tube inserted, or letting her suffer, and see if she would get lucky and die quickly.

We had a "paw-print" made(her right paw), which this vet's office does as a kindness when a pet is near death.It is on a piece of ceramic, and needs to dry for a month, and then the "print" can be painted, if you wish...

We chose to euthanize her.But I did NOT want it done at the vet's.

It's not her favorite place, and it is not home...

I wanted her home, and said so.This meant taking our chances that she'd live until Dr. Mike could bring her to us(we went in-person to fetch her home, but he could not release her to us, as the possibility of a seizure or other cause of death was so great, it would've been dangerous/painful for her, and hurtful for us, as we would be unable to help her in any way).

So, he agreed to put her in his vehicle, and drive her over to our house before going to his own home(and imagine how tired he must have been, several surgeries all day, and now this. It would have been completely understandable if he'd said "no" to my request, but he said "yes.")
We would do this final act of care, together. He finished working at the animal hospital with his other furry patients, and arrived at our house at around 8:45 P.M....

I'd been petting "Louie"--
the Golden Retreiver we adopted from the Golden Retreiver Rescue, just about a year-and-a-half after we got "Frisco"(we wanted her to have a playmate--I think she wanted someone to "herd")--
telling him what a good boy he was, and preparing "Frisco" 's bed for her:
extra towels(practical, as there is "release" of all kinds(yuck-y kinds)in death, and extra towels would be comfy and cozy for her, too), laying out my silky-robe that I usually wear when I put her to bed every night, and sprinkling a bit of peppermint oil around, so the scent she loved would be there for her.

I brought the hand-puppet "santa-doggie" downstairs(it barks when you press it)and put it near her sofa(if you've been to our house, you know each dog has their "own" sofa, in the basement, to sleep on).

Hansoo and Dr. Mike carried "the Frisk" as we called her, downstairs.She was groggy from pain-medicine, but perked up a tiny bit when she saw us.

"Louie" greeted her, but seemed to sense something was wrong."Frisco" was adamant, as she usually is, that "Louie" not pester her.He kissed her face submissively, and left.

I put my silky-robe on, over my jeans and t-shirt.

She was in a large laundry-basket, which felt very circular to me, as when we bought her from a working farm in Lithia Springs, in May, 1997, she was 5 and a half-weeks old, and curled up in a laundry basket we'd brought with us.

I think Dr. Mike thought he & Hansoo would simply place the basket on the sofa, but I told them I wanted her to feel " she's just going to bed, to sleep, like always.This is her home."

And as if on cue, she tried to stand up, and looked over the edge of the basket, at her sofa, trying to step out of the basket, and into the bed she's slept in for the past several years. They scooped her up, placed her on her sofa, and I sqeaked the santa-doggie-puppet whereupon she perked her ears up, and then began to close her eyes. I tried once more. This time, no reaction. She tried to doze off. Hansoo placed her favorite tennis ball next to her mouth, and she did that "Frisco" smile, lips curled up, sheepish grin....

"Louie" went outside to do his "business", as I asked Dr. Mike if I could lower the lights("Of course--do what you need to do.I went to one client's house, and they had candles burning everywhere;it felt like a seance."

That was a nice moment of levity, which I dearly needed)

I said:

"Please don't laugh, but I sing to her at night--lullabies--

He replied he wouldn't, and I began:"Rock-a-bye, Frisco, in the treetops, when the wind blows, the Frisco will rock..."." and I stroked her warm, very wavy brown and white fur, told her what a good dog she is, how grateful I am to have her, how she taught me how to love, how to give more."

I saw Dr. Mike insert something "Oh? Are you starting?" "No, it's just a saline flush.."


I asked Hansoo to come pet her, touch her "..last chance.."

He sobbed, but sighed, and said "We love you Frisk, you're a good girl."

Her eyes were half-closed. She was falling asleep as I sang to her. Her eyes closed. Dr. Mike inserted the sodium pentathol(I think that's the correct concoction) and she passed very quickly(less than 20 seconds, or so it seemed.)

Dr. Mike stayed near me. It struck me that we were both kneeling at Frisco's feet. She was a kind of dog-altar, I think.

Dr. Mike wandered off for a moment, for Hansoo & I to hold her.

We had thoughtfully decided to put "Louie" outside. He was walking around, occasionally watching through the glass doors.

I thanked her for being a big part of my life, for nearly 11 years.

I asked Dr. Mike how I could have her eyes shut "all the way".He told me "After rigor, in about one hour.Just hold her lids closed for about one minute.That should do it."

I thanked him for "giving us a gift."

"I think you gave a gift.", he said.

I started to cry, but didn't. I didn't cry.

"Frisco" passed at 9:11 P.M. tonight, and we wrapped her in towels, and she's still warm. I dislike the "antiseptic-ness" of modern-day-death-dealing, and so I had already explained to Dr. Mike that I'd spend a bit of time with her after her death.(my Mom, when I told her on the phone what I had planned for tonight, warned "...that's kind of creepy.." but I responded, confidentally, "Well, everyone grieves in different ways. I want to hold her, after she's gone, too. I want to know she's gone."

Rather defensively, I added, "I'm not crazy."

I visited her three times, and I'm glad I could.

Compare it to a "viewing" for humans--which is often necessary for what we weakly term 'closure', and you'll get the idea.

She's still warm, and she is becoming rigid, stiff, no longer my dog.A shell of her former self.

"Louie", who sniffed her, kissed her face with his pink tongue, and then scampered outside with me, was next to me, in the dark, as I gazed up at the moon. A half-moon, like half-closed eyes, somewhere between this world, and the next.

I love you "Frisco". Good girl. And goodbye. Thanks for loving us.

Posted by Lisa Allender at 1:41 AM 6 comments
Labels: "Frisco, our dog";Euthanasia for Companion Animals;Cancer of the Spleen in Dogs;Grief;


Anonymous said...

Your tribute to your beloved Frisco is so moving. I am in tears. I know what it means to truly love a dog. The grief when they are gone cuts like a knife. What a wonderful dog she was!!!

Lisa Allender said...

Selma--Hi there!Thank you so much for your kind, supportive words. Shortly after her passing, a man wrote to me from California(he and his family apparently live in D.C., but he travels), and said he'd been so moved by the story of "Frisco". He wrote that prior to reading about our "Frisco", he'd been afraid to get a dog for his children, "because the dog might die...". He said reading about the love of a devoted dog like "Frisco" had caused him to consider fostering two dogs that a friend could no longer care for. I'm thrilled to tell you he decided to do just that. It was extremely redemptive to hear that just a week after her death, he and his family were enjoying the love of two sweet dogs, and it was in "honor" of "Frisco". He updated me, many months later:
His friend was later able to reclaim and care for those dogs, but his own family was going to adopt more doggies!Sweet endings!