One love.

Grief was wrong. Grief made me feel there would be a break in the timeline of my little family.  That Doug would never be connected to Jake and Melvin because he never knew either of them.  I cried about this a lot.

Turns out I forgot about the one link in the family chain that remained. My love.  They are connected, forever and beautifully, I feel it with all that am.

A little example of how love lives on.

 

 

 

Happy weekend!

He’s mine.

Doug gained two pounds!  The dog who runs zoomies for a living burns double the calories that he eats is finally gaining weight! How did it happen? I have no flippen clue.

When last we checked in on skinny-Doug, he was down to 43 lbs (had lost weight) but was eating a diet for a 60lb dog. He was also pooping fourteen six times a day. Losing weight and pooping a ton, not the usual happy ending to a digestive love story. I am still feeding him a part cooked diet (Grandma Lucy’s) but have added in a part raw diet (Primal Raw). Before anyone gasps or says ‘you are not supposed to feed raw and cooked together’, this is our middle ground right now. He is gaining weight back and he is only pooping 2-3 times a day.  We like it here in the land of thriving and NOT SPENDING ALL DAY EVERY DAY PICKING UP POOP! The long-term plan will be for him to move to all raw. But what I have learned from my super active monkey is that he does not transition well.  Not physically, not behaviorally, not digestively, not even emotionally. Doug needs time and space to be, Doug.

There are areas that he is proving to be my dog. Like the need for regular vet visits. This week we went in because his peeing has picked up and he had a few ‘accidents’ in the house.  He was fine in that area so that is why ‘accidents’ have air quotes. (Funny story here, we did blood work and the only metric out of range was the one that would suggest the dog is VERY ACTIVE).

The other thing that is going on with him, that does seem to be something, is that 3-4 times a week, he does this thing were his cheeks puff in and out.  It took forever for me to get it on video and once I was able to get close to him when it’s happening, I could see that during these episodes, his tongue flutters super fast and he is unable to stop it.  He is otherwise normal during it, he can walk, is alert, but for 45 seconds to a minute, he does this:

There is no trend on when it happens. In the morning, afternoon, evening. At home, on a walk, in the car. The vet suggested it could be seizure related. Then she said the words that I have heard before.  You should see a neurologist and get an MRI and Spinal Tap.  If/when Doug goes and has these test done, IT WILL BE THE FOURTH TIME IN FIVE YEARS THAT MY DOGS HAVE HAD AN MRI AND SPINAL TAP. Melvin had one where the findings were inconclusive but they suspected a primary cancer (two years later that turned out to be true). Jake had one when his legs stopped working the first time (and we found out he’d be paralyzed) and one last February when his legs stopped working again (as much as wonky legs could stop working) and we found out he had cancer. The words ‘MRI and Spinal Tap’ ignite my grief.

For now, we are going to start him on anti-seizure meds and see if that helps. Not because I’m not willing to have the MRI/ST done, of course he will have whatever tests he needs.  And not because it hasn’t even been a year since our last MRI/ST where I heard that Jake had cancer. It’s more that I don’t think we need to go from point A to point MRI without hitting point B and C. Doug is young, I have to remind myself not to live a life of ‘cancer finds us’ and instead live a life of ‘it will be ok’.

Oh Doug!

 

Doug has been here for four months.

It’s funny, I’ve written before how sometimes a dog comes and they just fit and sometimes a dog comes and it’s stressful and worrisome and you are not sure you made the right decision.

When Melvin came, I was dealing with Max who was at the end of his life and Melvin was, a wild, untamed creature full of energy and exuberance. I had moments where I wondered what the hell I had done, not just to Max, but to myself. Max died and Melvin and I eventually found a groove. Clearly, ours was a love story written in the stars.  He taught me that love takes work. My post about that struggle is HERE.

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When Jake came, it was not so crazy. We did the two-week shut-down approach and then did Jake on tie-down for a few weeks. Also, by that point in life, I had complete faith in Melvin. There were challenges for sure (Jake, I’m talking about you buddy), but I never doubted that the two of them would work out.

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Doug is a lot like Melvin.  So much so that sometimes I think Melvin is inside him (A Dog’s Purpose is my favorite book).  Doug has now been here for four months. It seems more like four years (even though his is only one, math bores me).  He came along during a blurry time in my life and sometimes memory and timelines play tricks on me and I think that maybe he’s been here for longer, maybe he was here with Jakey. It’s a good kind of strange.

Doug has come farther in four months than I think any dog I have had has. The whole dogs age seven years for every one of our years, is never so apparent than during the first year and the last years.  I’ve come far in four months too. Doug is my first young dog and I was his who-the-hell-are-you-forever. When he first came, his feet biting had me very worried. I could tell he was sweet and exuberant but that impulse control was never needed when he ran stray. The mouthing was really scary to me and I worried a lot about it.  Not just that it hurt me physically but I was worried that he would mouth someone and they would claim biting or have reason to perpetuate myths about Pit Bulls based solely on Doug. Would he be a breed ambassador someday? I hoped so. Was that day in the foreseeable future? No.

Hour one with Doug. The tag hanging from his neck says Melvin on it because I had to have a tag with my phone number on it to take him home.  Little did I know how much he’d be like his brother. img_0118

To be clear, he never bit. He has very good bite inhibition.  But his canine teeth are SUPER sharp and you don’t need to draw blood for mouthing to hurt. I read up a lot on mouthing. Ways to train against it, how long it could last.  I tried everything. The first month, it seemed as if the more comfortable he got, the more he mouthed. I’m a positive person, but I was not seeing the light on this one.

Please put your foot in my mouth. img_0384

I was already crying over Jake at that point but I spent many a night crying about Doug and his need to put all things into his mouth. There were days I looked forward to putting him in his crate at night because I needed a break (you will always get honesty here). I don’t know when it started getting better, I only know that it took A LOT of work. It took more patience than I thought I had. It started with praising him and treating him if he went one-second without mouthing. We then made it to one minute. Impulse control is hard, we had plenty of setbacks.  Somehow we went from him mouthing most of the time to him mouthing a few times a day.  He almost never mouths me anymore and if he does I know it’s because he is over-tired so he goes in for a nap and exits much more well-behaved. Because he gets SO excited over every visitor or person we meet on walks, well that is still a work in progress but he’s doing much, much, much better.

He still has a lot of energy but I’m more used to it now. I know when he needs to burn some off with an extra long walk and I know days when he is calmer that we can cut back on a walk here and there. He usually offers me every bit of compromise that I offer to him. I think that the recent start of snuggling has a lot do with him trusting me more and more. I was broken when Doug came to live here. As I mend, he finds more calm in me.

Max will always be the dog that made me a dog person. Melvin will always be my heart. Jake is my heartbeat (because he and Melvin are an eternal team). Doug is, hopefully, going to be the dog that I own the longest. He is the dog that I will go through every phase of his life with. He is the dog that I will bring more dogs home to. He is the dog that will see me through the next decade or more of my life.

Doug is my future.

My boy, having a moment with his brothers. #lovelivesonimg_1979

 

A Christmas Miracle.

We had a relatively quiet New Years.  I had a migraine (fun!).  Oh, and miracle or two occurred.

Things like, DOUG SNUGGLES NOW!

I’m not sure how it happened.  I was talking to Melvin and Jake one night, saying how it’s ok that I don’t see them in my dreams, that maybe it would be too hard to see them and then wake up.  It’s ok, because I feel them and that matters more to me than dreams.  I did throw out there to them that they should, COULD, WOULD need to help guide Doug. I specifically asked that they help him learn to snuggle (or at least let me sit on the couch without being playfully mauled).

The next day, this started.  I assumed it was a fluke. That’s my head, he’s not sitting on it!img_1723

And that is my leg, he’s not standing on it. img_1873img_1886

When he let me put the blanket over him, I assumed he was dying.

Snugglefest has continued for a week now!  img_1955img_1966img_1990img_2025img_2033

I forgot what it is like to watch TV and not have every muscle in my body tensed-up because Doug is hanging off my back or climbing my hair or standing in my lap trying to lick my face.

I reward snuggle-Doug with belly rubs and calm face massages to encourage him to always want to be calm on the couch.  The miracles continued as he slept in the bed ONE NIGHT!  He was pretty good from 10pm to about 4am and then he decided it was time to rave so we are taking that one slower. Mama needs her sleep!

Snuggle on!

 

And so it is.

There has been so much talk this week about how horrible 2016 was and how folks want to bring on 2017. I get it.

For me, I have been wanting to linger in 2016 just a little longer. Sure, it had some really terrible moments. But for me, it’s a year that Jake was here. He was here for over half the year and even though we battled cancer and infection for most of those six plus months, he was here, and that makes it the best, worst year. There was Jakey joy.

Grief and the passage of time are brutal. I have been fighting moving out of 2016 because I don’t want Jake to be ‘last year’. I don’t want the six month anniversary of his death to come. I don’t want any of the other milestones to come. On the flip side, when they say ‘it takes time’ to get through grief, it’s so true. I am far better off today than I was on July 18th. Time will continue to heal.

Today into tomorrow is pretty much the same as yesterday into today. I don’t want to miss too much in the here and now. When tomorrow comes, I will carry all the moments of the past year with me, just as I do all the other years.

Thank you 2016, for all the glorious memories I had with my family and friends. Thank you for the beautiful time with Jake. For all the love, the moments I could fully focus on him, knowing his end was near. Thank you for giving me six months with him and not five or four. Thank you for giving us options to make him comfortable. Thank you for seeing me through the darkest days of grief. For my family and friends and this blog community who nudged me forward with love and support. Thank you for bringing me Doug.  He has given me a new purpose, it’s a different purpose for sure but I know he has helped me move forward. I love him, this year gave me that. This year was lovely and brutal and amazing and soul crushing. This year is what I got, and since I can’t change anything about it, I can only celebrate that I was here to feel all that it threw my way. I celebrate that we did our best!

I’m going to enjoy today. Then, I will enjoy tomorrow.

Happy New Year! We hope you find your joy!

The first and last photos of 2016. The perfect bookends for this glorious chapter. 

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I had a dream.

I use the term dream lightly.  It was a nightmare.

I came home and the house was empty and I was calling for Melvin and Jake.  I searched the entire house and panic overtook me.  I started making calls, running around the neighborhood.  Screaming their names. It was one of the worst dream moments I’ve ever had.

People came but they wouldn’t help me look for them. Not in a mean way, they would just stand there and watch me and listen to me.  But they wouldn’t help me look.  I frantically begged them to help me but they just kept saying you won’t find them. I was crying so hard, my heart was pounding.

A man came over to me and said, go through that door, maybe you can find them in there. I tore the hinges off of that door opening it and I ran in desperate to see my boys.

I found myself in a giant maze inside a building that was the size of a city. There were hallways and staircases and ramps but no rooms. I started running and screaming Melvin and Jake’s names. At every dead-end, someone I knew was standing there and they would say, you won’t ever find them again.

I continued to run and scream their names and I hit a dead-end each time. The same words were repeated to me, that they would never be found. The dream went on for what felt like eternity. I was exhausted but I refused to give up. I would have stayed there forever, looking for them.

I woke up screaming and sweating.  Unable to breathe. I sat on the edge of the bed and then walked around to shake it off. I eventually fell back asleep.

The next morning I laid in bed thinking about the dream.  I thought about how horrible it was. How tormented and helpless I felt.

Then all of a sudden, I got it. That nightmare, is me.

That nightmare is all the feelings I carry with me. It’s who I am now that Melvin and Jake are both gone. It’s not the whole of me, but there is a part of me that feels a painful hole from having lost my little family.  My perfect little family. That city sized maze with stairways and ramps and hallways that I was running through blindly, is my grief.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that above all else, I’m grateful they were mine to love. That we found such a lovely balance is one of life’s greatest gifts of joy. The dream was not the story. The story is love.

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Losing both boys required me to start over in a lot of ways.  I am not the same person I was after I lost Melvin. I am most definitely not the same person since losing Jake. I wouldn’t say I’m better or worse, I’m just a more current version of me. I’m still figuring me, without them, out.  That Doug wasn’t part of the Melvin and Jake era doesn’t make him any less perfect. That he wasn’t in the dream doesn’t mean that he doesn’t fit. It actually is more along the lines of me not fitting. Like life continues and I have to reinsert my new self back into it and that new self is not technically new. I have memories and I often want to go backwards to how it was as much as I want to go forward and see how it will be. I think the dream is a reminder that I still have to work to do. As I continue to build on life moving forward, a new family structure will grow that can’t be and shouldn’t be painted from a memory. It should, however, be influenced by the same love.

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I have started looking for a new dog.  I spend a lot of time thinking about who that dog should be (to me and to Doug). Who that new dog is can’t be fully determined until he or she is here, which is part of the problem about even trying to envision it or wanting to be one way or another. It will be how it will be. I do happen to have faith in my ability to pick awesome dogs. I’m excited to see how the next dynamic duo plays out.

To all of you reinserting yourself back into life. I get it.  It’s a maze sometimes, but new chapters must be written if we want our story to continue.

As 2016 nears its end, it would be easy for me to say this was a terrible year and to want 2017 to arrive already.  The truth is, I’m OK if this year lingers a little longer. This year is the last year I had Jakey here with me. So despite his cancer, his death, the grief and even the blood clots, I want to stay here as long as possible. I’m familiar with this wind down to the end of the year. I felt the same exact way last year about Melvin.

This year is also the year of Doug! And that makes it all kinds of beautiful too. I’m very excited about the adventures Doug and I will have next year and curious as to who might join us on our journey of love and exuberance.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah! Happy everything! We hope with all of our hearts that you find your joy!

xoxo – T&D

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Migraines and Doug.

When it comes to having a migraine with Doug in the house, I’m sorry to say it, but he’s the worst.  I love him. But I can love him even when he is THE WORST.

Let me explain to you why this is so.

When I have a migraine coming on, you can sense it.  People will tell me they can see it in my eyes and coloring (I turn gray).  Strangers will ask if I’m OK. Melvin and Jake always knew. Helen Keller could have probably sensed it based on the fact that every living creature I encounter KNOWS.  Except Doug.

There comes a point in the migraine when I can no longer remain upright. This is followed shortly by a time when I cannot stop getting sick.  So I get up, get sick, try to lay down. Repeat, repeat, repeat for 36 hours.

Doug views this as an invite to torture me. When I lay down, he jumps up and tries to balance his whole body on my head.  This is not a joke. He will try and put all four paws on my head to stand and balance there. Obviously this impossible so he will then sit on my head. With his butthole touching my hair (why?) and his other parts touching my face (gag) so this a definite NO, THANK YOU. But if I move, he will start all over.

So I stay still. It’s brutal. I can hear my soul crying at this point.

He will then try lay on me.  But not like a normal dog would.  I will be laying on my side in the fetal position and he tries to lay on top of my body ON HIS BACK.  He literally tries to balance on his back on the side of my body, which is also IMPOSSIBLE so he falls off and tries 100 times more.

Migraine day is Doug’s version of Disney.

At this point, I get sick again. When I come back, it starts all over.

I do not want to put him in his crate just because I don’t feel well because that feels all sorts of wrong for him (it would really be great for me personally but moms sacrifice all the time so…).

I will then go to my bed and put up a gate to keep him from me and my bed.

Well you would think from his reaction that I was a delicious steak dinner and he hadn’t eaten in months.  He sits at the gate and cries and barks then runs to the steps and runs back to see if reality has changed. This behavior gets stuck on a viscous loop.

The only thing more painful than all of this is when he comes into the bathroom while I’m getting sick.  In Doug’s mind, the only reason someone gets on the floor is for his enjoyment. The fact that I’m crying and pleading for him to stop only revs up his exuberance more.

I had a migraine this week.  I have bruises all over my body from Doug trying to bond with me during it.

Unconditional love hurts sometimes. What can you do.  (this is not an actual question).

Here is Doug looking adorable so that you all will think I’m the crazy one and embellishing this to work in my favor.

How abouts you lay back down here and let me walk all over your face again?img_1453

Looking handsome on a walk with our dog walker (life saver), Denise. img_2847-1img_2841-1