Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Frodo





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Frodo 626 Goodyear died on 20 July 2019, leaving an unfillable, gargantuan hole in our life.

Here's a collection of memories and photos about our little guy. He was truly special. He was fearless, invariably happy, and he always wanted to be with us. Frenchies aren't supposed to have much of a tail, but he did, and he wiggled it when he was excited, which was pretty much any time he wasn't sleeping. Sarah loves music, so when the music played, Frodo would wiggle his tail, and often his entire body, to the beat of the music. He made every day better for us, just by being in it. We miss him every day. It's the price of so much joy. 

Frodo was born on Halloween, 2008, and he came home with us on New Year's day, 2009.   Sarah had always wanted a Frenchie. We had intended to get a fawn pied girl puppy when we went to look at a litter of puppies. After spending several hours with the puppies the day before, Sarah said to me: “I think we should get the boy.” Frodo had been truly adorable during his “interview”, hopping around, playing, and eventually putting himself to bed. So, on New Year’s day, when the banks were closed, we raided the ATM machines at two different banks, withdrawing the maximum amount at each, and it was the best money we have ever spent.

Ophelia was so happy when we brought Frodo home. In return, she did a lot of the work of training the little guy.
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They played together so much. It never occurred to Frodo that he was a little dog, and that he should be careful. As far as he was concerned, he wanted to play with every dog.  He was so high-energy that he'd often scare dogs who vastly outweighed him. Ophelia was never scared, though. (And she was scared of everything!) She just adored him.
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Little dogs would often be truly terrified of Frodo. Not Frenchies, though, even when he looked maniacal.
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I didn't know anything about French bulldogs. I had no idea he would become such an enormous part of our life. It's the littlest things that sometimes make the biggest changes. Because he was a smushed-face dog, we needed to break up the two (2!) cups of food he ate each day into two servings, so unlike any other dog we'd ever had, Frodo got breakfast. Serving breakfast as well as dinner meant that we would start and end each day with Frodo. 

He didn't sleep in the bed with us at night; he had a kennel in the kitchen. (Here's his kennel. For Christmas, Sarah would decorate it like Snoopy's dog house.)
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Most mornings, I'd wake up, go outside with him (he couldn't be outside on his own because we have a pool, and Frenchies are more likely to drown than swim), feed him (and River, once we had her), take him back outside, and then let him run to the bedroom, jump on the bed, and snuggle with Sarah. At the end of the day, we'd let him snuggle on the bed for a little bit, before I'd throw him on my shoulder, he'd wave goodnight to Sarah, and I'd deposit him back in his kennel for the night.
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It was pretty clear that Frodo thought our bed was actually his bed, even if he did have his own kennel.
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He particularly enjoyed wriggling under the covers. If we were already in bed, he'd paw at a shoulder until one of us would lift the edge of the blanket or sheet so he could dive underneath. Wearing an E-collar didn't discourage him, although it did look particularly silly.
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One of the best things about our little guy was how he'd switch from being bouncy and excited to sound asleep. He wasn't afraid of anything, so if you were petting him when he was asleep, he wouldn't jump awake. He just assumed that the you were supposed to be there, so he'd snuggle in, and continue sleeping.

We had never really been a family that bought a lot of clothes for their pets. Frodo, however, genuinely like wearing clothes.  We discovered this fact after he was neutered.  He had to wear an E-collar, and he tolerated it really well. In fact, when we took off the E-collar, he seemed quite put out, until we put it back on, and he was happy again.  So, he got clothes:
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and cool harnesses:
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and Halloween costumes:
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and sometimes laundry (Frodo loved "helping" with the laundry, jumping on the piles, rolling on his back, and occasionally wearing something he'd found—laundry is much less fun now)
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and, most importantly, his Morton-salt-girl yellow raincoat (obtained from Old Navy, so many years ago):
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As long as he had his raincoat on, he'd happily go outside, even in the pouring rain.

Frodo did not love getting baths, although he got one almost every week, sometimes twice per week, to try to keep his allergies under control. He tolerated it well, but he always looked like his day had been ruined.
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Bath Sundays were the best, though. Several hours after we got home, if I could fit it in, we'd take a nap, and when Frodo snuggled in he'd be so soft, and he'd smell good, and the white hairs on his back would sparkle in the sunlight. It was an awesome way to nap.

Frodo would get a little too excited when the doorbell rang, so we worked on training him using a relaxation protocol, where he'd remain on a mat (actually a horse pad) while I went away and came back, or jumped up and down, or, eventually, rang the doorbell. If he didn't move, he got a treat. He was great!
Frodo practicing his relaxation
We really needed to channel that excess energy, though. So, Fro became an agility dog.

As a breed, French Bulldogs don't often excel at agility, although there have been exceptions (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VXXKC33). Frodo loved agility, and he was quite good at it.  He had tons of energy, so he was very fast; people at class referred to him as "the bullet".  He also had the best sit-stay of any dog in his classes.  (Sarah trained his sit stay. She'd work on it in the pharmacy of her hospital, and he'd have to stay while people were working around him, in order to get a treat.) He'd sit still before his round, watch me lead out a ridiculous amount, and then, upon my signal, launch himself towards the first obstacle.
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It gets so hot in Houston during the summer that Fro needed a "cool coat" to keep him cool.  It's a chamois coat that we'd wet down, and it would help keep him cool in between agility runs. I always thought it made him look like a boxer (the pugilist, not the breed).
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Fortunately, he also had a "pool" command, upon which he would eagerly run to the kiddie pool, jump in, and splash around to cool off.
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Frodo went everywhere with us. He loved to travel.
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He'd go to horse shows, clinics, pretty much anywhere we'd drive. He'd just curl up in his mobile kennel, and sleep during the trip.
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Horse shows were the best. He got to see lots of friends, both human and canine. When we got the new trailer, he fell in love with the bench. Nothing was better than being up on the bench with us. He'd play with his toys, and then snuggle in for a nap.
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We really did let Frodo's feet touch the ground, from time to time. He loved being held, though. He'd often ask to be picked up. Could hold that little boy all day....
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He was a part of every holiday. He was an expert at finding eggs at Easter.
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He also found his own presents at Christmas:
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(He'd happily unwrap his presents, too.)

He loved his toys, especially his Orbee mint:
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He'd play with it, even if he had to scoop it up while wearing an E-collar:
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When a box containing Planet Dog toys, such as the orbee mint, or an orbee ball, showed up to the house, he could tell. (His nose worked really, really well, smushed though it was.) He may have pushed an unopened Amazon box around our foyer once or twice trying to get at his toys....

He also loved softer toys:
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Unfortunately, he loved his soft toys too much. He wasn't really violent with them, and he didn't have strong jaws, but he'd gum them to death. Sarah's mother repaired a lot of his dog toys. We'd occasionally open an entire bag of repaired toys over the floor, and he'd rush in, find a favorite, run around with it with extreme joy, and then lay down and proceed to destroy it again.

On 21 November 2017, two days before Thanksgiving, Frodo became very, very ill.  He was happy when he went to work with Sarah that morning, but by the afternoon he was in shock, his temperature was super low, we didn't know why, and we thought he was going to die. Sarah put him on IV fluids, and, somehow, managed to keep him alive for a few terrifying days, long enough for him to start healing and feeling lots, lots better. Sarah, after talking to scores of specialists, worked out that he'd essentially had an anaphylactic response that was related to chronic, seemingly-but-not-really-mild GI issues, and that the shock had injured his kidneys quite badly, to the point where his kidney function was less than 30 percent. We switched his food to a hydrolyzed food (and limited his eating to just that food).  His veins were terrible, so peripheral IV catheters would blow in a week or less; eventually Sarah had a central line installed in his jugular vein so that we could keep him on IV fluids more reliably. He was on IV fluids for about six months. It was a long enough period of time that the self-dissolving sutures that were holding the central line in place would start to pull out, and Sarah would have to do "minor" surgery on him, usually in our kitchen, to reattach the central line, which was going into his jugular vein. It was harrowing, and for months we didn't sleep for more than four hours at a time. For all of that time, once he started to recover, he acted pretty normally. Frodo said he felt fine, and he was happy, and he wanted to play, regardless of the central line coming out of his neck. We told him that was awesome, but he still needed to spend most of his time in his kennel, on fluids. Every day we tracked the medicine he received, how he felt, how much he ate, or drank. We have a treatment sheet such as the one below for every day since that day he got sick—over 600 pages.  For the vast majority of those days, Frodo was happy, playful, snuggly, and as much his normal self as one could imagine.
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This treatment sheet is from the day we pulled his central line. His kidneys had improved some, although they'd never work as well as they used to, but he didn't seem to mind. 

Frodo did really well without his central line for over a year. He said he felt great, and he acted that way, too. The only evidence that he wasn't completely healthy was the fact that he didn't really want to eat, so we hand fed him 400 pieces of kibble each day. He got morning meds, and evening meds. Occasional sub-cutaneous fluids. He went to work with Sarah every day, unless I could be home with him. If we went out of town, he generally went with us. We had a mobile M*A*S*H unit that we had assembled when he was on fluids:
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He thought it was awesome! We still went to horse events, and even to St. Louis to visit my parents, where Frodo finally got to play in the snow.


He was doing so well that in late April, Frodo got to stay home with Sarah's mother while Sarah and I went to Sweden for a job interview for me. He took his medicine, ate his food, played (and played) with Sarah's mother's frenchie, Baby Groot, and snuggled.

In May, though, we were starting to have some difficulty getting Fro to eat. He'd been doing so well with his veggie hydrolyzed food, but now he wasn't that interested in it.  He'd occasionally have a snotty nose, too, and then he definitely wouldn't want to eat.  On 24 May, his temperature spiked, and he had another reaction, like the one he'd had over a year before. Sarah's staff got a catheter in him, he went back on IV fluids, and he started feeling lots better. It sucked, but we'd been through this before, and we figured we could help him get through it again. We went to the specialists to have a central line put in put in his jugular vein, and they couldn't get it in. That was new, and awful.  His peripheral veins had been terrible for years, so it was always hard to get one in, but he really needed fluids. We tried to have a PICC line put in, and that also failed. Sarah's technician Jackie put in a nasal gastric tube, which we could use both to feed him and to make sure that he was getting enough water. That actually worked quite well. One wouldn't expect a dog to be comfortable with a feeding tube in his nose, but Frodo just took it in stride. He'd happily play with his ball, or a toy, and didn't understand why we were terrified that he might catch his tube on something. He played, and wiggled, and danced, and snuggled.

Frodo had a great 4th of July this year. He was super excited that his people came to visit. He showed off his toys, and wiggled, and was mad that we put him in his kennel while we were lighting off fireworks. As everybody was getting ready to leave, he put himself to bed on one of the floor pillows. I decided to keep him company....
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We did our best to manage his illness. For the most part, he felt good and acted pretty normally, so taking care of him was more a joy than a hardship. It just meant we got more quality time with Frodo!  He did really well, until one day when he didn't. As Sarah put it: "other things kept going wrong, other body systems failing. I couldn't save him, there was absolutely nothing that would, nothing left to try, so we had to let him go." It still breaks our hearts, every day.

Love you, little boy. We miss you so very, very much.

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