Who runs the world? Moms.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! To the hockey moms, the dog moms, the new moms, the grand-moms.  To the male moms, the single moms, the families with more than one mom moms. To the cheer moms, the carpool moms, the dance moms. To the moms that gave birth and to the moms who open their doors to children in need. To the working moms, the stay-at-home moms and the do-whatever-is-necessary moms. To the worry-they-have-no-idea-what-they-are-doing moms. To the moms of one and the moms of many. To the moms setting a better example for their kids, than what was set for them. To the moms preparing to become moms.

To the moms who have lost a child. I won’t pretend to have the words.

To those who have lost their moms. I wish you strength as memories sneak or flood in.

Moms rule this universe. A mom created your beating heart and then (hopefully) filled it with love and confidence and joy and understanding.

To my mom, you taught me the meaning of true, unconditional love. It’s the foundation of my beautiful life.

To Max, Melvin, Jake, Bob(s) and Doug, being your mom, is my everything. You are my joy.

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Good Dog.

I know I share a lot of challenges about Doug.  Some I share so that others know that the struggle is real here too. Some are just funny.  Mostly, it’s just reality, right? Kids are way harder dogs, but raising dogs is something new every day too.  Both journeys are everything that love is about though.

Doug was handful from day one. He was every bit as spastic as Melvin was, but having Melvin didn’t automatically train me for Doug. Doug was energetic, Doug was not down with any helpful commands, but the worst part was, he mouthed my feet, 24/7.

Doug is now none of those things. Yes, he is energetic, and there are spastic moments, but that is also, just Doug. He and I have come a long way and there has been a lot of joint compromise.

There is now, mostly good. I mean, can’t we all claim that?  I’m mostly good too!

  • Doug greets the day with an exuberance that most will never be able to replicate. He springs from bed into a zoomie manuerver that takes him down the steps and out the door in about 3 seconds flat! He reminds me every morning that we are chasing joy.
  • Doug loves to eat. He loves food more than zoomies. But he has never once barked to be fed, and on days when we had to withhold food, he never showed me any punishment.
  • I taught him leave it. It is how I got him to stop destroying my feet. He knows leave it no matter what the situation is.  I have complete confidence in Doug and that command.
  • He never marked in the house. He had a few accidents at the start but who cares about that.
  • He is GREAT in the car. He loves car rides but just in general, he is calm and happy no matter how long the journey.
  • He does not beg.  He will stare at you with the intensity of a fiery hot sun. And he will drool.  But he will not try to take food or invade your eating space.
  • If i put him in the mudroom, or when he had to be crated after surgery, he never fought back on that. He goes in and waits to be let out.
  • He will stop anything and everything he is doing if I raise the volume on my voice and calmly say, absolutely not.
  • He sleeps 10+ hours a night. I’m not even joking about this.
  • He is not all that verbal. He’s more interested visually in what’s outside the window than he is to bark about it. He barks if he hears a noise that startles me and he barks like crazy at Bob #2.
  • He loves people.  Like he wiggles and wags and smiles and froths and very few people are nervous to meet him.  The ones who are mostly just worry his exuberance might result in them falling over.
  • He knows all the drills. When the doorbell rings, he has to go into the office. When I say bed, he goes upstairs and gets into his bed. When I say dinner, he breaks down all barriers to get to his bowl. He then sits and waits until it’s placed in front of him.
  • He knows go upstairs, go downstairs, get on your mat, go into your room (mudroom), go into office.
  • He knows sit, down, touch. He refuses to learn stay. Stay doesn’t translate to nuclear energy.
  • He never learned come but he did learn treat and now I use that to get him to where I need him to be.
  • He has moments when he has crossed over to hyper. When his face gets tight and his eyes get a little crazy. I say nap, and he goes to chill out for a little while.

He’s crazy. I am pretty sure he will always be a certain level of nuts.  That is who he is. But he’s also become a really, really, great dog.

I see so much of Melvin and Jake in him.  I know that what I see in him in those moments, is me. I am the common denominator.

I understand Doug and Doug understands me too.

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Stockholm syndrome.

You will recall that Doug did great with other dogs. All dogs. Even if a dog didn’t like him, Doug was in love with that sucker.

Then he had surgery and was not around other dogs, but when he was (at the surgeon and rehab), he was oddly very lungey. We chalked it up to pain, not being full strength and maybe a little lockdown pent up’ness. He was also attacked twice just before lockdown last year and that may play a factor.

If only he could talk.

Since coming off of restriction, he has been around dogs at Thanksgiving. My sister has two little dogs and I had Doug on a lead cause I was not sure how he would do and I didn’t want him to think they were what smelled so good (it was the Turkey).  He did fine. This was at my parents house.

We have since started meeting dogs again. Mamma wants more dogs. Doug does not seem 100% on board with that idea.  The dogs are ok if they are met on a walk. Walking near each other and even sorta side by side, is OK. What he does not seem to deem ok any longer is a dog heading into our yard or house. The moment Doug realizes this is a home turf visit, he turns and become very vocal and lunges like a damn disco queen.

He also seems to do this intense stare thing that other dogs do not enjoy in the slightest. He does this to me sometimes and I start to feel like food. The thing is, I don’t think he knows he is doing it. His eyes are intense and he has them open like the rest of us but when we look towards something it’s ‘seeing’ and when Doug does the same it is ‘staring with the intensity of a thousand hot suns’.

We met a bulldog and the moment I met her I was already picking out her first five Sirius Republic collars.  The dogs were fine on a walk, They came inside and Doug apparently felt like she was a huge threat to the couch cause he went nuts on her and she was like F you, no you didn’t just lunge at me. 

So fun!

So…a wonderful follower of the blog, Jodi, reached out to a wonderful trainer in our area and we have our first appointment next week. She will (hopefully) help Doug get back to being Doug and then she will help us do meet and greets with other dogs.

Wooohhooooooo!

The foster mom of the lady Bulldog mentioned to me that Doug seemed ‘very fond of’ me. We may have a bit of Stockholm Syndrome and perhaps Doug has bonded too much with the person who held him captive for five months last year. I am trying to be less wonderful so that he feels like he can branch out and like his species again but it is really hard for me to be anything less than lovable.

We are a work in progress. Happy weekend!

Doug: I love my mom. 54342NNhol112204-R4-057-Edit

Doug: But not as much as Becky. IMG_7287

 

Who are the people in your waiting room?

Where oh where have we been?? I was traveling a little, Doug was being Doug, and next thing you know, it’s May!

We were at an internist appointment on Friday afternoon (to figure out why Doug’s poops are hot lava).  Our appt was at 3:30 and at 4:30, we were still alone in our exam room. I like to think of myself as a patient person, but had that been a doctor appointment for me, I would have said something long before the hour mark.

Here is the thing, this internal medicine practice is part of a larger Animal Hospital, including an ER. Melvin, Jake and Doug have all been ER patients there so I know those ER patients sometime require the specialist you are supposed to be seeing. We have been to this hospital so many times; some of those times we were the ones leaving with high fives and sometimes we were the ones leaving in tears and desperation.

But every time we have been there, regardless of issue, I have always left with the boys.

Jake’s eye ulcer ruptured and he was seen by ER and then they eye surgeon did her magic. That ER took care of Jake when he was choking on a bird. Melvin and Jake both had MRIs and Spinal taps done there. Doug had both leg surgeries done there and they fixed him up after that dog attacked him last summer.

Remember hamburger eye?

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And Wolverine nose?IMG_3696

I got both Melvin and Jake’s terminal cancer diagnosis at the oncology department of that hospital. As terrible as those moments were and as much as my world collapsed, I got to leave with my boys. I got to take them home. We had a little more time.

Here is a photo of Melvin, just because.

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On this Friday, there were many emergencies. There were many hallway tears.  There were many signs that some of the pet parents in the rooms with their loves, would not be leaving with those furry soul mates .

Some had to say final goodbyes.

So Doug and I had all the time that those people needed.  Our appointment would come and go and I had faith that Doug would be fine. What I really wanted to do, was to go to those closed doors and knock gently and make sure that no one was facing that heartbreak alone. To see if we could run up and get some cheeseburgers or donuts for a glorious last meal. To learn their dog’s name and let them know how awesome that dog seemed and that they hit the love jackpot with their owner.

There was a (human) couple there that had been on vacation when their dog started having seizures. Their dog sitter brought the dog in and they returned from vacation and went straight to the hospital. With them, were a couple they went on vacation with. When I said how nice it was of them to come to the hospital with them, the woman said: We have dogs, they are our world too, we get it.

Sigh.

I met a couple who had a boxer who had just gotten a terrible cardiology diagnosis. They told me how they had been spending extra time with their older boxer since they felt his time was coming, and then as it turns out, their six-year-old girl is the one that has a heart condition.  We spoke about how we do our best. The man part of this couple had been attacked by dogs (many times) growing up.  He was kind and understanding and as he told the story of those attacks, he gave forgiveness for each dog. The dog was not socialized, it was not that dog’s fault. One dog was older and maybe I startled him.

His empathy, made my day.

That is when I realized, my tribe, is absolutely always, the people in a waiting room at a veterinary hospital. Doug and I were eventually seen and as we were leaving, our friends called out ‘Douggggggggggg!’, or they ran over to give him some love. A  few even told me that Doug was their therapy dog that afternoon. An ambassador of joy if  you will.

And that is when I turned to each of them, said personal space be damned, and hugged everyone still waiting. We said a prayer for each family we met, and for those whose doors were still closed.

#loveliveson

 

 

Joy.

I get asked a lot about choosing joy. How I choose it over grief, or anger, or uncertainty.  The answer to that is, it is not always easy, but it has become who I am.

I have human moments. I start crying in the car for no reason (ok, fine, when the boys send me songs) and I have to pull over for other’s safety. I get sad and even mad that Melvin and Jake are not here anymore. Work stresses me out. People annoy me. Sometimes, it seems like the day/week is against me.

Choosing joy is not always a done deal. Eventually though, Melvin pops into my mind and love and joy rush over me and well… I have no option but to do as he taught me.

  • Jake and Melvin are not here anymore. But they were here. And were here is way more incredible than never here. And I feel them and I see them in all the beautiful things.
    • My heartbeat, is joy.
  • Doug does things that frustrate me. He is absolutely not the yin to my yang. He sometimes manages to push all my buttons, at once. But the moment I feel the frustration creeping in, I start laughing. Because Doug is, quite literally, powered by joy. He was delivered to my life when I prayed to still be a joy seeker after Jake died. I said the words please help me to continue on this joy journey and the universe said: here you go. Joy powers this one, whenever you are running low on joy, just look at him.
    • Joy still lives here.
  • Sometimes the wrong memories get served up. A moment of frustration with Jake, me wondering if Melvin’s cancer could have been cured had we found out earlier. A day after Melvin died when I was broken and not the best mom for Jake. Life sometimes tries to come at me from all the wrong directions. I do not entertain any of those moments. I did my best, I refuse to be torn down, not after all we’ve been through. So when those moments try to sneak in, I say nope. I go towards the joy. I go towards the moments that mattered, the moments that we won.
    • Joy owns my past.
  • Work stresses me out. Some days I feel like I’m drowning. But there is never a moment that joy doesn’t remind me that this job, that I happen to LOVE, this job has allowed me to give the boys everything they have ever needed. When cancer struck, I didn’t have to worry about whether I could give them the best care possible.
    • Joy is always just around the corner.

Let’s be honest folks, joy does not win (right away) every time. That would be odd and impossible. Sometimes, the grief is way stronger than the joy. Sometimes, the transition from angry to joy filled takes a few days.  I choose joy when I can and I accept that some days it’s going to be harder than other days.

I just don’t see myself ever giving up on the chase. Joy for me, translates a lot of the time, to thankfulness.  I have yet to arrive at a day where I am not thankful for something.

This joy journey all started with Melvin. From day one, Melvin dragged me, forward. I kicked and screamed and he just kept dragging me. One day he stopped for a break, and I had a moment of reflection and I looked back and realized, he’d gotten me through. Where I might have been happier to linger in a sad or difficult situation, he had shown me how to persevere. He changed me. From that point on, every time I looked at him, I felt joy wash over me and I knew with all that I was, that he and I were meant to continue chasing that emotion. He was the original joy for me. The joy catalyst. The one creature in this life that absolutely, every time, no matter what – moved forward with joy in his heart.

I’m just another way that his love lives on. Even saying those words, is joy to me.

We are coming up on the third anniversary of his death. I get haunted by flashbacks of our life three  years ago. But our life is not defined by our end, in fact I’d argue, the end is separate. The end will always come, but the middle, the middle is all ours. What we make of the middle, is what defines who we are. We don’t get to choose our beginning or our end, but we can own the shit out of the time in-between.

Our middle, is joy.

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He’s Doug.

I have always tried to help champion pit bull type dogs. From friends who have them, to rescues that save them, to campaigns that fight injustices surrounding them. I sort of assumed I would eventually have a pit bull type dog.  Melvin and Jake had their own BSL in place that no dogs of any type could come into our home. Or cats. Or bunnies. You get it. Jake was determined to keep that BSL going after Melvin died.

When it came time to add a dog to a home where no other dogs were, having a blank slate was so strange. I could bring any dog in. Any breed. Any personality. Any size or gender. There were only a few things on my NO list. I didn’t want a special needs dog at that point.  A dog with needs like Jake would have felt more like a fill in. I wasn’t ready to nurture like that again,  I was still reaching for Jake. I also did not, and still do not, want a yellow lab.

During that time, I met all the dogs, all the breeds. I just wanted the right dog for me.

Every dog I met, I had a breakdown over. If you recall, Jake died and on top of losing him, the house was empty. I wanted a dog to solve one of those issue because both of those issues together was just too much.

Then I saw Doug.

Doug brought life back to this home. He was crazy, and spastic, and did I mention how crazy he was? I was not sure what his breed was, he was definitely a mix. When I got him DNA tested, I hoped he’d come back part pit something. But a part of me also worried about that. Not because of myths or stories not based in fact, but mostly because at the time, he was not well-behaved and if he was a pit, we were going to have to work extra hard, harder than other dogs would have to. That excited me and pissed me off at the same time. I’m Doug’s mom and even I was looking at him with extra expectations. I then realized that I in fact, expected no less or more of him than I did of Melvin or Jake. The issue was likely going to be, that others would expect more from Doug. Others are not the boss of us. My goal for Doug is the same as my goal for all my dogs, to give him the best life he can have.

His DNA came back 65% Am Staff and 25% English Bulldog.

Knowing his DNA changed one thing and one thing only.  I was so proud to be his mom. I would be his voice, always.

Most people who see Doug come toward him and say is he an English Bulldog? I first say, he’s Doug. I usually wait until he is wiggling and wagging around them and making them laugh before I say oh so proudly: actually, he’s mostly Am Staff with a little English Bulldog mixed in. 

Some stop petting him. Their loss. Others dive in even more with a what an awesome mix to have! Those people are our tribe.

When people ask worriedly about his past, I tell him that Doug and I live in the present. Since the day we met, he has only known love. He is quite literally, powered by joy.

He is love and joy and Am Staff and bionic and always hungry and always happy and always zooming. He is Doug.

He is all mine. Haters beware, momma is the one you need to worry about.

The only thing I require of Doug, is to live his best life.  Check, check.

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Doug is crazy.

We are almost six months post recovery on all of Doug’s surgeries. We have a few daily reminders that he is part metal. I can see and feel the hardware in both legs (I do not enjoy either of these), extremely cold temps make him creaky and sore, and he cannot go up steps very quickly.  In fact, he goes up as slowly as Jake did. True story.

But aside from those things, he cray. Like he is fully back to being BAT SHIT CRAZY.

If Doug had a car, it would have a bumper sticker that said zoomies-R-life and that car would sit in the garage because Doug would rather run to wherever he is going. Doug is constantly in motion. I forgot that he is impossible to keep weight on until we went to the vet and found out he lost six pounds. SINCE DECEMBER!

He runs in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. No time of day is left out. He is an equal opportunity zoomist.

Luckily for me, the thing he does 2nd best after zoomies, is sleep all night. He usually puts himself to bed by 9 and if I don’t wake him, he sleeps until 9 the next morning. It’s a simple life, sleep, zoom, zoom, bark at Bob, sleep.  Zoom. He eats in there somewhere, but clearly his metabolism does not notice.

There is a FB page for folks going through leg surgeries like Doug had. I stay on it because they were so helpful when I was going through Doug’s back to back surgeries so I want to provide support to newbies going through the same. So many of the people who are finishing up surgery one are afraid to let their dogs resume activity. I totally get it, it’s very overwhelming. The only reason I was able to do it, rather easily is, I WAS TERRIFIED OF NOT LETTING DOUG RESUME ZOOMIES. He was an inmate for five months. If he did not get to run when he did, the warden was gonna suffer a brutal coup.

Doug does not recall that he was ever incarcerated. I opened the door for that first bionic zoom session and he never looked back. I am actually glad that we got both legs done back to back because a lot of folks have to live in fear of the other leg tearing. That said, Doug’s legs will never be right. They are barbie legs, put on backwards. He is always going to struggle. But he’s good enough. And good enough is really great.

Bionic legs. Bionic butt. Bionic attitude. Powered by joy.

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