An Interview with Barbara Techel, Author of Frankie the Walk ‘N’ Roll Dog
It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Barbara Techel, the author of Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog. This
is a true, inspirational story about a dachshund whose life changed forever when she ruptured a disk in her lower back and became paralyzed in her hind legs. After three months of physical therapy and acupuncture, it was determined that she would not walk again, and she was custom fitted for a dog cart, which is the canine version of a wheelchair. It doesn’t take long for Frankie to adjust to her new wheels and she continues to joyfully roll through life.
This heartwarming and moving story is told from Frankie’s point of view. While written for children, it’s a story that will appeal to animal lovers of all ages. Along with beautiful illustrations, the book show us, through the example of this high-spirited little dog, that it is possible to overcome any challenge and reclaim a joy for life despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Please join me in welcoming Barbara Techel to The Conscious Cat!
Barbara, Frankie is your first book. How did you become a writer?
Yes, this is my first book. After my chocolate lab, Cassie Jo, was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 I began a spiritual journey yearning to do something that would matter deeply to me and would make a difference. That led me to writing about animals, especially dogs. For two years I had a monthly column, “For the Love of Animals” through our local paper before I ventured into writing a book.
What was the process of writing about Frankie like for you?
It was an amazing experience for me! Though I had never written a book before, the urge to tell Frankie’s story was very strong. Frankie inspired me because of all she went through and how she remained the same, happy dog. Writing her story in part, was therapy for me, while at the same time I wanted to share what I learned through Frankie’s experience so others could see that a disabled animal can live a quality life.
What made you decide to write Frankie’s story as a childrens’ book?
The reason I decided to write Frankie’s story as a children’s book was because of exactly that. Children. :-) When I started taking Frankie out in public in her dog cart (wheelchair) kids were so fascinated by her and wanted to know what happened. They thought it was so cool she could get around in her wheelchair. I realized I could have a positive impact on children, through Frankie, by helping them see their own challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow, just like Frankie taught me. I also thought if I could show kids that animals with disabilities deserve a chance, it would help them become better human beings, as well as help animals in need.
What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?
I really want people to see that just because an animal has a disability does not mean putting them to sleep is the only option. When Frankie suffered her spinal injury, I was so uneducated in disk disease in the breed, and at the time I thought putting Frankie to sleep was the only option. By having Frankie’s book as a children’s book, with parents reading the story to their kids, I felt I could reach two audiences with my message. The book is also great for dachshund lovers and Frankie is making a difference in helping other dachshunds in her same situation, and their owners. Frankie’s book helps people see that their dachshund can live a quality life also if diagnosed with disk disease and that there are viable options.
What was it like for you to deal with the many challenges a diagnosis such as Frankie’s brings? Do you have any tips for others who are faced with this situation for their pet?
It was tough at the beginning, especially since I didn’t know much about the disease. Financially and emotionally it was hard, and trying to make the best decisions for Frankie, while also having to be concerned with what I could afford. It was an adjustment adding in physical therapy twice a day to my routine, helping Frankie go to the bathroom by expressing her bladder several times a day (which I continue to this day), giving her meds throughout the day, etc. as she healed.
Looking back, my best advice would be to talk to others who have been through this. I didn’t know anyone at first, and I feel if I could have just talked with someone who had been through this it would give me more peace of mind. Luckily I did find an organization, DodgersList (http://dodgerslist.com/) which provides information and help for those going through this. They are wonderful! I also offer to help anyone by talking with them via phone or email who find themselves in this situation. Helping ease some of their worry is my way of giving back and hopefully giving others peace of mind to get them through the first crucial days.
Who or what inspires you?
Without a doubt, animals, especially dogs, inspire me!
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?
You know, I was simply blown away at my book launch. I really had no idea what to expect or even if people would come. There were over 200 people in attendance and I felt this incredible energy of support and love. It was so amazing. I remember driving home with my husband later that afternoon feeling incredibly blessed and as if I was in a dream. It is a day I will remember the rest of my life.
As far as other experiences, this journey has been wonderful. Meeting children and seeing how they come to love Frankie makes my heart sing! Also meeting physically challenged children and watching them connect with Frankie without even saying a word at times, is simply heart warming and very rewarding.
Are you planning on writing another book?
I have a second book about Frankie that is due to be released in January 2010. It is called, Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House. In September 2009 Frankie became a registered therapy dog with Therapy Dogs, Inc (http://therapydogs.com/). Once a month we visit a senior assisted facility where many of the residents have dementia or Alzheimer’s. The book is about how Frankie became a therapy dog and the residents she now visits with. My hope is to help children understand the elderly and not have such a fear of them.
I also have an activity book, Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Activity Book , which is good for grade levels 3rd and up. It has crossword puzzles, word search, mazes, etc. to help reinforce Frankie’s message of dealing with your challenges in a positive way.
What are you reading at the moment?
Everything! Ha! Seriously, I am always trying to keep up on the writing world, marketing, etc. by reading articles and newsletters, as well as reading for pleasure. So right now I am reading, Excuses Begone by Dr. Wayne Dyer, My Buddy Butch by Jeff Marginean and eagerly awaiting the arrival of Soul of a Dog by Jon Katz (my favorite author who writes about dogs and animals).
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Barbara!