How I Learned to Follow My Heart – Guest Post by Barbara Techel

Did you ever experience an ache in your heart, but you were unsure why? This happened to me in my early 40’s. I felt this void, an empty hollow space, a longing, and wondering if there was more to life, or was this it? I wondered why I was brought here. Was there something more?

All of these questions were intensified when my nine year old chocolate lab, Cassie Jo was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer three weeks before Christmas in 2004. Looking at her sweet, loving face, it struck me hard how short life truly is. As I observed her each day I noticed how she lived each day in the moment, and it really seemed she was unaware that her days were coming to an end. As I watched her enjoy each moment to the fullest despite her growing tumor, it struck me one day that I was being given a gift.

It was up to me to fill that empty hollow space in my heart and search for what would bring me more meaning. Little did I know that Cassie Jo was the angel sent to me from up above which would spark my passion, and would result in helping me find my joy and my truth.

Cassie Jo gave me the courage to search my soul and not let fear stand in my way. Through working with a life coach, I discovered my love of animals is quite deep, which led me to writing a monthly column entitled, “For the Love of Animals.” Cassie Jo passed away one week before my first publication, and dedicating it as a tribute to her was an honor. And I was on my way to living my joy by following my hearts calling and sharing many stories about animals, as well as bringing home a new little lab puppy and training her to become a therapy dog.

The void was filled and I was so alive with the possibilities for my future in writing, and volunteer therapy dog work. Then came the call that changed everything; my dachshund, Frankie, had fallen while staying at a kennel while my husband and I were on vacation in Florida. She ruptured a disk in her back and was given a 10% chance of walking again if she went into surgery as soon as possible.

Every emotion played out in my mind after getting the call from the veterinarian. Would Frankie survive the surgery? What if she did not walk again, would she have a quality life? How would I take care of a handicapped dog? I also became very angry and could not understand why, just when I had my whole life planned out, this happened.

Statistically I was told if she was to walk again I would notice changes within three months. As the 90 day mark neared, my hopes sank, as Frankie’s back legs gave no indication of walking again. I fell into a state of feeling sorry for myself and Frankie. I thought, wow, this is going to be a long hall with Frankie not walking, as well as because of the paralysis, having to help her go to the bathroom by expressing her bladder. But I realized one day, not long after my few days of sadness, that Frankie never once felt sorry for herself. She adjusted beautifully and was still the same sweet dog I always knew.

We fitted Frankie for a custom dog wheelchair shortly after and it was a whole new beginning for her and me. Though I was at first apprehensive about taking Frankie out in public for the first time, because I worried if others would think I was cruel or mean, I knew in my heart Frankie was happy. And it was then that I realized I had an opportunity to show others that animals with disabilities truly can live quality lives if given a chance.

I also realized through Frankie’s amazing spirit that I had a choice when facing challenges. Frankie has taught me to look for the blessing in all situations and to face challenges with a positive attitude. As I took Frankie out in public I was met with compassion and kindness. And what was truly inspiring was how children were fascinated by Frankie and wanted to know her story. My heart came alive and I knew without a doubt I was meant to share Frankie’s story in the form of a children’s book.

Though I was scared to write a book because I had never done it before, I had such an intense knowing; I knew I would regret it if I didn’t follow through. So putting into place what my dogs taught me, I followed my heart and let my faith guide me and my children’s book, Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog was born 11-months later.

As I pushed the book into the world, and continue to do so, I tell people the book is my heart, because it truly is. My dogs ignited a passion in me and not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the gift of not only my dogs, but all animals. Because if we sit and be still with our hearts and truly listen the answers are always within us. Being around my dogs is a constant reminder of that, and it helps to ground me, and be the best me that I can be.

My passion is animals and especially those with special needs… so I end with Frankie’s video to help you to never give up hope, follow your heart, and to know that all things are possible.


Barbara Techel is a local resident of Elkhart Lake and the author of the multi-award winning Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog. A true, inspirational story about her dachshund that started out walking in life until a spinal injury leaves her paralyzed. Frankie is custom fit for a wheelchair and learns to keep on rolling. Barbara’s book was awarded the 2008 National Best Books in the children’s picture book category by USA Book News, Merial Animal-Human Bond Award by Dog Writer’s of America & Editor’s Choice from AllBooksReview. Frankie herself is Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame Companion 2009 and Official Mascot of National Disabled Pets Day. Feel free to visit Barbara at or Frankie at


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About the Author

Henrietta Newman is a self-loving empty-nester into smudging, nature, yoga, fitness, healthy living, hunting, camping, hiking, tech, video games, gadgets, recipes, reviews and more.
With a love for the outdoors and visiting local attractions in and around NW PA and Lake Erie, you never know what you'll find in my nest! Subscribe to A Hen's Nest so you don't miss the fun!



  1. 1
    Clueless_Mama says

    What a great post! I love it! I too love animals and always have. I owned a grooming shop and took in a dog that had a hurt back. It too required the use of a wheelchair which we provided for its adoptive mama. It is amazing how animals can teach us so much about love and compassion! Thanks for the wonderful post

  2. 2
    Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog says

    Thank you Clueless Mama for your wonderful comments. How aweseome you helped out a little dog with a wheelchair… makes my heart sing! Animals do indeed teach us so much about life.

    Barbara Techel

  3. 3 says

    Thanks for sharing such an amazing story. I totally agree – our animals have so much to teach us about enjoying life to its fullest and never letting adversity stop us from being happy. I am a better person because of my dogs. Thank you also for showing people the difference a dog wheelchair can make. Just because a dog gets older or becomes injured it doesn't mean the end. With the right products they can be as happy as they ever were. By the way, Frankie is really adorable :)

    Thanks again
    Ann-Marie Fleming

  4. 4
    Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog says

    Very well said, Ann-Marie. And thank you for saying I am adorable. Blush

    ~Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog

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