Please join us in welcoming award-winning author and advocate for dogs with IVDD (disc disease) and dogs in wheelchairs, Barbara Techel. Here Barbara shares her poignant journey that lead to what she calls her, “authentic self,” with the help of a little dog named Frankie. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Barbara’s new book, Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way.

Although companion animals are at the core of this story, you don’t necessarily have to be an animal lover to appreciate the book’s message. However, you will most likely come to love and value them after reading Barbara’s story. Barbara is currently enjoying a walk in the “blog park,” to promote Through Frankie’s Eyes and answered some questions for the National Dog Week Blog. Please scroll down to find a list of Barbara’s books and Links.

This year’s theme for National Dog Week is K-9s and Kids: Celebrating the Bond between Youth and Dogs. As you have written on this topic, can you share any experiences you have had that exemplify this theme? Kids and dogs are just such a beautiful combination! And yes, I can speak to this having had done 400 school and library appearances with Frankie, my little dachshund who was in a dog wheelchair. While all dogs have wonderful lessons to offer kids in so many ways, the fact Frankie was in a wheelchair added a special facet to it.

One story that I’ve told oodles of times and which is also in my new adult nonfiction book Through Frankie’s Eyes is about a little boy named Jackson who has a form of Cerebral Palsy. His mom had happened upon my children’s book Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog and bought it hoping it would help her then three-year-old son.

He wore braces on his legs during the day, but had recently gotten a night brace and was having a hard time accepting wearing it. She wrote me to tell me that after reading Frankie’s book to him, he took to understanding that his brace would help him, like Frankie’s wheelchair helped her. From that moment on he began calling his brace, his “Frankie brace.”

We were able to meet Jackson a few weeks later as I happened to be traveling with Frankie to the state of Illinois where he and his family live. To this day he still talks about Frankie. They have a very special bond.

Visiting schools with Frankie was always so special too. Kids loved seeing that a dog can be happy in a wheelchair. They accepted her as she was. Frankie taught many kids to be positive, be brave, and to be happy no matter what their obstacles. I have a huge box of notes and pictures that children have sent me over the years telling me how much they love Frankie and what they learned from her.

I’m hoping my new little love dog on wheels, Joie, will follow in Frankie’s paw prints and tire tracks and enjoy doing some school visits to carry on Frankie’s legacy of helping kids be positive despite challenges they face. We are scheduled to present at a school on May 10th so this will be the big test!

Tell us a little about National Walk and Roll Dog Day, which occurs the first day of National Dog Week this Year! I love that National Dog Week begins on the day of National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day (NWNRDD)! It does not get any better than that, now does it?

NWNRDD honors and celebrates dogs in wheelchairs who teach us to embrace each day with love, hope, and joy. I founded it in August 2012. I came up with the idea in April 2012, as I knew Frankie and I were in transition. She was getting older and beginning to slow down. I set a date to fully retire her from her work in June 2012. For six months prior she was semi-retired and doing limited appearances. But I wanted to be able to carry on her mission that dogs in wheelchairs can live a long, happy, quality life when the day came she would no longer be here.

At the time I was taking a course on building my author platform. I loved the class because it was all about being authentic and leaving a legacy. I was struggling through the course because I knew my work with Frankie, as I knew it, was ending. It was a hard place for me to be because I truly enjoyed everything we were able to accomplish and do together. During one of the sessions the idea of this day came to me. It helped ease my mind.

Though I had planned to begin the day while she was still living, that was not meant to be, as she passed away one week after I retired her. When her fans heard of her passing I had an outpouring of love and support–so many wanted to honor her and her work. So I first established the Frankie Wheelchair Fund. This fund helps dogs who need wheelchairs that are either from a family that is in financial stress or dogs in rescue. To date the fund has helped fourteen small dogs get a wheelchair.

The Frankie Wheelchair Fund and NWNRDD were a natural fit, so I officially announced NWNRDD in August of 2012. The day is celebrated every September 22. Our first celebration last year had LoveyLoaves Special Needs Animal Sanctuary in Florida and a Veterinary clinic in Puerto Rico embracing the day and celebrating in their own locations with special events.

Can you share some of the events that have celebrated this day or plans for this September? Our first year in bringing awareness to NWNRDD and the Frankie Wheelchair Fund, I had special t-shirts created that I sold through our website so people could wear them in honor and help spread the word on September 22… as well as all year long when they wear their special NWNRDD t-shirts! I also ran a photo contest and had people enter their dogs who were either in a dog wheelchair, or supported NWNRDD. Each dog had to pose with a special sign I had made and they could print from their computer. A winner was chosen at random, as it was too hard to pick just one cute photo! A prize was given to the winner donated by LoveyLoaves and myself. You can see everyone who entered on our special Pinterest board.

This year I’m still in the thinking stage and giving thought to ideas in which we can celebrate the day. But I do welcome any veterinarian clinic, rescue, dog organization, etc. to jump on board and help spread the word in their own unique way on September 22, which was my hope when I established this special day. Anyone interested can follow along on our Facebook page for updates, as well as some adorable and fun dogs in wheelchair photos that I love to share. And if you have a dog in a wheelchair, by all means, please post on our wall as we would love to see them!

Barbara Techel
My New Book Is Here! Through Frankie’s Eyes: Sign up for my newsletter and receive my ebook for free: For the Love of Animals, A Collection of Short Stories

Become a fan on Facebook of National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day & help us honor and celebrate all dogs in wheelchairs and the lessons of love, hope and joy they teach us.

Adult nonfiction
Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way

A portion of all my book sales goes to the Frankie Wheelchair Fund.

Children’s nonfiction
Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog
Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House
Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog Coloring and Paper Doll Activity Book