The Frankie Jo-Leigh Story

The inspiration behind the art...

We were sitting in the living room, talking and laughing as sisters do, discussing the anticipated delivery of a litter of kittens.   The four of us together can cause quite a ruckus!  Laughing out loud, I turned to my youngest sister, Frances, and said, "I'll name her Frankie Jo-Leigh."

Frances was deeply moved, and very happy.  The name meant a lot to her; 'Frankie' had been her high school nickname, and 'Jo-Leigh' was the pet name she used for her daughter Amy Leigh when she was misbehaving.  Yes... a name dear to her heart.

We hoped one of the new kittens would be a girl so I could give her the name Frankie Jo-Leigh.  The mother cat was a stray in Amy's neighborhood.  Knowing that Frances and I each wanted a kitten, Amy had fed and taken care of her.

On March 31st the mother gave birth to three boys and one tiny girl.  Little Frankie Jo-Leigh was the smallest of the litter and unusually colored, with a face only a mother could appreciate... and I did.

Young Frankie Jo-Leigh It was love at first sight.

You could see by their color and bodies the kittens were of exotic breeding.  Frankie's brothers were handsomely marked like Siamese cats, but Frankie was a puff of dark smoke with black patterns.  She was a funny little sight.  Her unusual coloring made her playful antics even funnier.  Frankie certainly entertained us all, and seemed to enjoy the attention she received from everyone in return.

While still very young, Frankie became entangled in a plastic bag on a high table.  She lost her balance and fell hard to the floor.  I knew right away that she had been severely injured.  I took her to the veterinarian immediately.  Frankie had broken and fractured bones in her hip.  The injury was so severe that it threatened her life.

After several painful examinations and X-rays, the surgeon had a plan for the repair and reconstruction of Frankie's hip.  The surgery lasted more than five hours.  I held my breath and prayed that the repair would work.  If it failed, her chance for recovery was very slim.

Frankie spent days in the animal hospital under constant care from the veterinary staff.  When it was time to bring her home she was in so much pain.  The surgery had left her practically immobile, with a huge S-shaped incision on her shaven hind leg.

I cried for my Frankie.  Frankie after surgery

I carefully administered the medication and performed the therapy duties to the letter as instructed.  Frankie's life depended on it.  She was frustrated and depressed.  I became worried that the trauma had been too much for her.

I prayed for my Frankie.

A few days later on a freezing December night, my husband called to say that a stray kitten was at our door.  He asked what he should do, and I told him to bring the helpless creature in from the cold.  When I arrived and saw Frankie's reaction to the kitten, I knew that my prayer had been answered.  She perked up immediately, and became interested in eating again.  We called the kitten 'John Russell' and he became Frankie's best friend.

Frankie and the art she inspiredWith John Russell at her side, Frankie's recovery progressed rapidly.  She is growing happier and stronger every day.

In the weeks during her recovery, Frankie touched my artist's soul and I began to draw little caricatures of her.  Then I began to make them into paintings.  Everyone began to notice the colorful and whimsical... fun art!

During the time that she was so badly injured and in such pain, the intense colors I painted around her made me feel better.  The result is a number of very colorful and happy paintings that I would like everyone to be able to enjoy.  Each one was painted with such love and passion for little Frankie Jo-Leigh.

This is Frankie's gift to us all.

Shirley Ann Lamb