From Pack of Two to Marley & Me, the best part of reading a dog book is seeing the changes and impact the dog had on the humans in its life. Barbara Techel’s memoir, Through Frankie’s Eyes, is no exception. While some books deal with the happy chaos an animal can bring to an ordinary life, others focus on the comfort they provide to humans facing a life change or a tragedy. In Techel’s book, it is her dogs, who face tragedy – from Cassie, her lab, who is diagnosed with cancer to Frankie, the dachshund, whose Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) leads to a doggie cart or wheelchair and inspiring work with Techel as a therapy dog. Dog lovers will find themselves riding a rollercoaster of emotions as these two face their challenges, but it is what they teach Techel that is the heart and soul of the book.
At first glance Techel’s story may seem to lack drama – she is an ordinary person, a middle-age wife and dog owner in search of a satisfying career, a sense of purpose, an authentic life. Yet, this is exactly the book’s appeal. Techel’s search is shared by all of us regardless of our circumstance and thus, her story becomes our own. Techel subtitles her book “one woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way” and this description couldn’t be more apt. We experience her growing confidence as she and Frankie tackle the daily trials of caring for and being a disabled dog. From the first page, it is easy to see Techel is an empathetic and sensitive soul and her care and work with Frankie soon puts these talents to use in helping others.
Techel’s writing style is open, honest, straightforward and clear. She does not shy away from sharing the simple challenges, fears and worries of everyday life and does not try to present her story as anything, but the simple journey of one woman and her dog. It is an endearing approach and an inspiring one. I found myself loving Techel’s story for its sincerity, her willingness to admit that what can seem like minor concerns to an outsider – shyness, lack of confidence, money woes, the search for the perfect career – are in fact the major issues of life. How wonderful for any of us who are as lucky as Techel to find someone to guide us toward the person we were meant to be, how much more wonderful for the dog lovers among us when that guide turns out to be canine. Through Frankie’s Eyes is a sweet tale and a gentle read, a familiar journey for anyone whose life has been changed by a special-needs pet, and a reminder for all of us that sometimes the biggest triumph come in finding our own path.