The Passing of a Princess


For almost as long as I’ve been writing about Mackinac Island, you’ve been hearing about Frankie Thill and her beautiful chocolate Labrador Retriever, Hershey.  Yesterday Frankie asked that I post the following for her on Facebook:

My dear friend, Frankie Thill, asked that I let her Facebook friends know she lost her beautiful and loyal best friend, Hershey, today to Spondylosis, a condition that causes a dog’s vertebrae to fuse, creating pain and the loss of mobility. Hershey had been at Frankie’s side for almost 11 years (she was born on Valentine’s Day, 2005, and named after the Hershey “kiss”). She was the unheralded “Princess of Mackinac Island” who made her daily rounds with Frankie and collected treats from businesses all along Main and Market Streets. Frankie was house mother for Ryba Bike Shops for many years, and Hershey became the pet substitute for hundreds of college students who lived on the island and were missing their furry friends from home. She never met a stranger.

There will be many who mourn her loss, but none as much as Frankie. Seeing them together was like watching an image of love walking down the street – two legs and four legs, joined by a leash. If Hershey could have talked, I know she would have been able to finish Frankie’s every sentence.

Reading through dozens and dozens of comments that were posted (and are still posting) after this came up on Facebook only presses home what a great love the island residents and summer visitors had for this special dog and her owner.  As several people stated, “I don’t ever remember seeing you, Frankie, that Hershey wasn’t beside you.”  They were a team, a partnership, a dynamic duo – and they had a bond that only those of us fortunate enough to own a great dog can comprehend.

I spent a little time going through blog posts last night and was delighted to find over 30 photographs of Hershey (and friends) that I’ve posted over the years.  I want to share some of them with you tonight.


Frankie and Hershey – meeting us on our arrival one spring . . .


. . . and – another year – saying goodbye after another season.


Trying to mooch a French fry from taxi driver Jeanine.  Yes, she succeeded.  Hershey ALWAYS succeeded.


Standing by – in case she’s needed – outside the post office during a 4-H Club quilt and pillow sale – with mom Frankie and island friend Jackie Bradley.


A play date at our condo.  Two friends who would do anything for a bite of ANYTHING!


Best buds!


Hershey’s first summer on Mackinac!


Frankie never had to worry about having “walkers” for Hershey.  Here reader Kim Green’s husband Ed takes her out for a stroll one day while Frankie was working.


That Hershey swagger!


“I just know there’s a treat in that bag, and if I stare at it long enough, it will appear!”


Greeting me at the Stuart House . . .


. . . and waiting on Frankie to get back with some potato chips.



Giving Hershey “kisses” to a young fan!


Enjoying a wonderful summer day with Siena, Mike and Jeanine Forrester’s daughter (from Atlanta).


“One of my favorite stops for treats – Jill and the Island Bookstore!”


Chatting on the street with Mary Valentine . . .


. . . then – one street over – watching horses leave for the season.


Just hanging out being beautiful.


“I am a Princess.  This is my domain.”


“Me and my mom in Marquette Park . . .


. . . and leaving the island after another fun season.”

Whether it was in her winter home in Grand Rapids – hanging out with her buddies at the dog park – or on Mackinac Island, touching literally thousands of people’s hearts over the years, Hershey leaves a legacy of total and unconditional love to all who knew her.  I think Molly McGreevy said it best yesterday in a comment: “Hershey was a beautiful, gentle soul.  She was one of those lifetime dogs.  You only get one that is your heart dog.  I think she was Frankie’s.”  No doubt at all on that one, Molly.

Frankie plans to take Hershey’s ashes to Mackinac this summer and scatter them in the woods she so loved . . . surely the perfect resting place for a Princess.


14 thoughts on “The Passing of a Princess

  1. I see that picture of Hershey greeting you at the Stuart House and I believe that is where we met Hershey for the first time ! What a sweet dog, such a friendly, loving spirit. Each year that we were there we always made it a point to see Frankie and Hershey even if that meant going by the house where Frankie lived as house mother. You never saw one without the other. When I saw your post regarding Hershey yesterday, I started crying. I felt like she was partly mine. We will miss you Hershey! Thinking of you Frankie….

  2. Beautifully said Brenda. When you have had a pet that close to your heart it is a loss like no other. You are a special friend to Frankie and Hershey ♡♡

  3. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful fur baby. When I met Hershey I felt like she was the sister of my recently lost yellow lab. It was therapeutic just to pet her. I know the tremendous loss Frankie is going through. I hope she receives some comfort from knowing how much all of us loved Hershey.

  4. Damn! very sad! In fact the one and only time I saw you,…you were with them and I didnt want to interrupt. I am a huge dog lover and our dog Doogan ( pitbull,…been on mackinac island many times is also at his ‘golden age’. Not walking too much but I will always cherish our time together on mackinac island. Farewell Hershey,…I am so sorry. We LOVE labs in the Finger house.

  5. We are not ‘social butterflies’ so we never introduced ourselves to Frankie or Hershey but have seen them both many times…even given Hershey quick pats on the head as we pass on the sidewalk or while he was patiently waiting outside Douds.

    We too have lost a very special lab (cancer) in the past and know how bad it hurts. As our current doggy is now 8 and has already been treated for a cancer, we fret that our days with him are passing too quickly. While I cannot cite an author since it is unknown, I thought I’d share this poem that brought us comfort after the passing of our special boy.

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

    Author unknown…

    • Mark, thanks so much for your comment. I’ve heard about the Rainbow Bridge for many years, and I’m a great believer that we’ll see our fur babies in Heaven. As Billy Graham once said, “I believe if the Lord knows I can’t be happy in Heaven without my pet (at the time he had a golden retriever but I can’t remember what he said his name was) being there with me, then he’ll be there.”

  6. So sorry for your loss Frankie. We were lucky to meet you and Hershey many times – nothing like a chocolate lab to make one smile. She will be missed.

  7. What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful creature of god. I love that her ashes will be scattered on the island. How appropriate. So sorry for your loss Frankie.

  8. Thank you for the wonderful tribute to Hershey. Our fur kids are special and there will be a void in Frankie’s heart, but she will be comforted to know that someday they will be reunited. God bless both of them..

  9. What a wonderful tribute to, the Princess. My heart is breaking for Frankie and all that loved Hershey. Thankfully, I’m a big believer in the Rainbow Bridge, where all the furbabies are healthy again, and their pain is gone. Everytime Frankie feels a thump in her heart, she should think of Hershey. The brightest star in the night sky, will be Hershey’s, so her mom can tell she is doing well and not to worry about her. Let her memory be a blessing.

  10. I have always enjoyed reading about Hershey and seeing her photos, and was so sad to read about her passing. My deepest sympathies to Frankie. It is so hard to lose a beloved companion like Hershey. Thank you for the sweet and poignant tribute of her. One can tell just by looking at the photos what a simply wonderful life Hershey had!

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