We did the math. Frankie and her siblings were born right around the time I got pregnant.
Madelyn was so excited, she was sending us photos even before she was even allowed to pick the dog up, after the requisite eight weeks. And after she brought Frankie home, I'd get cheery texts on Thursdays like, "Happy 15 weeks!"
Gray and white, Frankie is an Italian greyhoud with a tail that has so much wag that my two-and-a-half year old can't stop talking about it. In fact, Ro talks about her a lot when she's not around.
"Who's the most beeeyeeeaaauuuutiful dog in the world? FRANKIE DOG!"
I think the feeling was mutual. Frankie would bounce around from couch to floor to kitchen to couch to Ro, to dining room and back. The dog is taller than my kid when standing on two hind legs. Then she'd come to a rest--right on my growing belly. I swear, that dog knew I was growing a child earlier than almost anyone else. I always felt like she was saying hello to the son the rest of us have to wait until August to lay eyes on.
Having a dog-niece is the perfect situation for us. We are hardly home, either at work or at Nani's house, so it'd be unfair to keep any animal alone for so many hours. But Madelyn's dog could come and play, giving our kid the joys of having a pet without as much responsibility.
Madelyn tried to keep up with the dog's boundless energy with walks and nonstop playing at home. They were together 24/365--a perk of working from home. In fact, at 13 weeks (right after they put in the cerclage to keep my baby inside), Jon built Frankie a "doggie deck" so she could sit next to Madelyn's work desk, watch the happenings outside and nap in the sunlight. You know, re-energize for pushing boundaries. Like any growing child.
They'd come over on the weekend, chasing each other (and Ro) around the yard, catching the ball or Frisbee. But last time, a few weeks ago, Frankie found a way out through a gap in the fence. Madelyn chased and called her for a long time before bringing her back home. Madelyn was visibly weary and worried, just like any parent of a toddler I have ever known. Frankie just jumped around and played as if she hadn't given us a scare.
Tonight, Jon was taking the laundry to the washer when I heard him yell in a strange tone. I hobbled downstairs, not fast at all, but he wouldn't say what had been in that text message. He was dialing. I could hear Madelyn sobbing hysterically on the phone, and I only understood "Frankie. Hit by a car." Ro was prancing around us, sing-songing something about princesses. She heard the name and stopped to ask, "Is Frankie coming over?" Even though Madelyn said not to, Jon got in his car and drove to the city. I sat on the floor and cried. Ro gave me a hug, because "that's what makes people feel better when they are sad."
Ro realized something was wrong. Normally, it's rare that anyone but her father is allowed to do the bedtime routine. But she let me rock her and hold her. I didn't let go until long after she fell asleep. All I could think about was the incident at the mall. Ro and I had met a friend to play at a series of tubes, slides and climbing blocks semi-enclosed in the center of the mall. Everything was going fine until I saw my usually shy toddler smile at at me, turn and bolt away at top speed, right out of the entrance to the enclosure. I don't walk very well right now, let alone run, so I couldn't possibly catch her. Ro got about 15 stores away from her bellowing mother and almost turned the corner before she decided to stop. I cannot describe the pure terror that rocked me to the core.
So I have an idea how Madelyn may have felt when Frankie squirmed away from her efforts to put on the leash at the park, eluding her for 20 minutes before running right into the street. It's something she has never done before, and will never get the chance to do again. My heart breaks for Madelyn. And my heart aches for my child, who will likely not stop asking about Frankie for a very, very long time to come. Rest in peace, Frankie. I wish we had more time.