Tuesday, September 18, 2007


This is Franklin.
As I write, leg propped on chair, heating pads engulfing it, Franklin is quiet. Sometimes he rises to rest his head in my lap, big brown eyes from beneath giant schnauzer brows ask, “Mommy not feeling too good?”
He settles in to snooze the day away, knowing he’s in charge of the household. Franklin and I are home alone.

Over the years, he’s grown into a welcome companion in our somewhat isolated old, country house. No one would dare approach me past his hefty growl and large, commanding size. At 107 pounds, he’s all watchdog—on his turf. But gentle and submissive with our small-statured vet, who pries open his jaws to inspect Franklin’s teeth--as if he’ll soon put his head into the lion’s mouth.

Five years ago, after several weeks of trying to get this 8-month-old puppy settled into his third new home, ours, I would’ve gladly given him away. He was a disaster.

He had started life in a breeder’s home, probably not placed as a young puppy in hopes he’d become good breeding stock, but soon growing too large to be that. By that time and having been kept in the yard only, he had had no housebreaking or obedience training. His first placement…and second…were too stressful to the new owners—they ran an ad in the paper, and, almost full-grown, Franklin came home with me.
Unfortunately, moving through three homes was also too much stress for this young dog.

The first night, we kept him in a large cage in the kitchen, not having any other way to confine the unruly newcomer within our house. We thought we’d given him a wonderfully cozy place to sleep—a large, (expensive) cushy mat covering the base. What more could he need?
The next morning, we discovered why the initial whimpers of the previous night had abruptly stopped. The lovely mat—torn into shreds the size of golf balls.
Oh, Franklin.

The next few weeks began the process of undoing his “separation anxiety”.
Sleeping in my sleeping bag on the kitchen floor, Franklin eagerly curled right up on top of me. Persuaded that beside me was as good as on me, we gradually gained more separation each night.
Soon, he was on one side of the kitchen gate; I, visible but untouchable, on the other.
I moved upstairs, to the second floor landing. Now unseen, but still, my voice his comfort until morning.
Then, after weeks of calculated inching, I casually disappeared behind the bedroom door.
No sight, no sound—and it was alright.

You’d never know now that this dapper dog had a rough start. He’s become confident, caring and trustworthy. His glossy coat defies a year-long treatment for demodectic mange. He’s an animal that is admired. His proud head and pointed ears give him the appearance of being in control—and, usually he is.

We’ve failed in obedience training. This very intelligent animal knows all the rules—he just chooses when to obey them.
And, as frustrating as it can be to have him show his high-spiritedness, he’s affectionately called, “the son I never had." His puddle-splashing, snow-diving, Dennis the Menace personality makes us laugh, so full of life he is.
Yet minutes later, his head resting on your chest as if he understands how exhausting a long day of work can be, says faithfully, “It’s okay if we don’t play today, as long as we’re together.”
Oh, Franklin.

These photos had to be taken outdoors in his run.
Franklin is afraid of cameras and I was unable to get him to pose for this photo shoot inside because of the flash!

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Lynne said...

Oh Nina, what a handsome boy that Franklin! Our dog Gidget is a stray from the Animal Humane Society. Every vet that ha seen her thinks she is a schnauser/lab mix. If her ears stood up she'd look just like a smaller version of your Franklin. You are a kind-hearted soul to have loved him through his difficulties and made him feel safe. I hope Franklin is taking good care of you and that you are healing well!

I showed the last picture to my family and they think he's Gidget's dog brother. I always wanted a dog with eyebrows!

nina said...

Eyebrows add personality!

RuthieJ said...

Oh Nina, Franklin is a beautiful dog and what a wonderful companion he's turned out to be for you. Our neighbor used to have a giant schnauzer, but they never took care of her and her coat was all matted. I hated them for that because she was a really nice dog and didn't deserve to be treated so poorly.
P.S. I have a dog who's scared of the camera also--even without the flash!

burning silo said...

Franklin certainly is a handsome dog -- and also very lucky to have found such a wonderful home.

KatDoc said...


I love this tale of Franklin (and you!) Re-homed dogs can be very difficult; overcoming a rough start in life takes a lot of patience and effort on the owner's part, as well as the dog's. But, as you know, it is worth the effort to see the love and trust that develops.

You did a terrific job of helping this boy through his separation problems - "small steps" are the way to go when teaching a dog to learn a new behavior or adjust to a new situation.

I'm not sure how I would ever go about teaching a dog not to be afraid of a camera flash - that's a toughie. Of course, maybe these dogs who are afraid of cameras believe that you are stealing a piece of their soul along with capturing their image.

Lovely story!


cestoady said...

Touching account of how you literally rescued the life of Franklin through an understanding of how HE felt. Your devotion to him is now being repaid many time over by his devotion back to you, his real friend.

Is it camera shy, or is it flash shy ?? If it is both, I wonder if using a camera with an articulated screen( as in the Canon PowerShot series) would help to get pictures. With the screen out at a rt angle, one could avoid eye contact with the dog, look away at the screen and maybe the dog would then look where you are looking -- and then take the picture. Just a thought.

nina said...

Yes, I'm sure I could get candid shots of him when he's not "posing" face-to-face for a picture.
I think he's just sensitive about being examined closely. Nothing good ever comes of someone looking at you at close range--usually you get your ears checked, temperature taken, teeth examined.
When foreign objects (cameras) are involved, you can't be too careful.

SALLY said...

Franklin should meet his cousin Otis. They would surely get along.
His life has not been quite as difficult at Franklin's but they do seem to share a certain joy and quiet awesome love for their families. Wish I could upload a foto of Pope Otis!

Mary said...

Nina, this story made my heart swell. I love him. Any dog that sleeps with his head on your chest is in complete submission and has the utmost trust in you. He has overcome a lot - thanks to your compassionate nature. Dogs know when you are "under the weather" and he has your signal. What a nice dog...stately and handsome. Grrreat post!!!

LauraHinNJ said...

Oh he's sweet! Never knew that schnauzer's grew so large.

I think a dog that makes you work a bit for them is the best type. The love is worth all the work, isn't it?

nina said...

Yes, our bond is very strong, maybe because he needed us so much, maybe because this breed is known for its loyalty.
Giants are frequently used as guard dogs and, if a situation demanded, would give its life for yours...hard not to feel equally in love with this big boy!
Just have to teach him not to eat the UPS man.

red tin heart said...

What a beautiful dog. ~nita~