Oh spring.

This is the time of year that both Melvin and Jake were diagnosed with cancer. I don’t think about those actual dates as often as I think of all the memories. Warmer days, lingering outside, both of them slowing down during their respective battles. Melvin would be 14 this year and Jake would be 11.

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As the warmer weather starts to bare it’s pale hiney, Doug is sent into ballistic joy to be outside, with no snow, and the sun shining on his seasonal alopecia spots (which are finally filling in)! He runs out the door as if the sun and warmth are his long lost loves returning from battle. He will stay outside, trying to eat bees, until I have to chase him in.

Bring my food outside, I’m never going back in. IMG_3041

I’m living in the moment with crazy Doug. As we play in the yard and I throw him the ball, I still see Melvin staring blankly at me as I threw him a ball he never once retrieved. I still see Jake ‘running’ the way he only could, in dewy grass, wonky legs dragging behind. I see all three of them, in the same space that is my heart.

Doug continues to make sure I’m coming along on his crusade of zoom. He snuggles like Melvin, he’s as defiant as Jake, and he is 100% like no other dog I have ever had.

Doug has had his fair share of health issues these last few months. We are still working  things out and getting tests done. At one point, liver failure was being thrown around and it would be really easy for me to say ‘it’s likely one of my dogs has this’ but that is not how joy rolls. Joy reminds me to stay in my lane until told to pull over. He didn’t have liver failure. He may or may not have a properly working digestive system. We are figuring that out with a food trial (I’ll do a post on this).

On top of his physical health, Doug struggles with anxiety and fear and hyperactivity (beyond energy).  He is the most outgoing, exuberant dog you have ever met until he encounters a fear and then he is paralyzed and looks to me to get him to safety, or until he runs so hard that he is incapable of shutting off. We are working on those things too. I will share that in a future post also.

A lot of you ask how we choose joy. We do not find joy 24/7/365. But, we do find joy eventually. There will always be grief, and stress, and health challenges and the universe determined to hold us down or kick us.  I don’t see Melvin and Jake as not here anymore,  that they were here, is something I celebrate every day. Doug destroys things that I love and his anxiety is not always easy to maneuver, but that dog is fueled by pure joy so I don’t have a whole lot of time to worry before he is standing on top of me wiggling with delight. Doug (as his brothers were also) is a walking and living reminder that life is unfolding every second of every minute of every hour. I don’t want to miss a single beat of his wild drum.

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Eight years.

I started this blog, eight years ago today. It began as a way to chronicle life with the world’s most allergic dog. But it quickly turned into a blog about US. The definition of ‘us’ has grown, but the focus has pretty much stayed on our journey to joy.

The me that started this blog, has changed more than I ever thought I would or could. Eight years ago me had no idea what was to come. I didn’t know that three dogs (and cat) would drive my evolution.

Eight years ago, Melvin was six and it was just him and me.

I didn’t know back then…

  • that Melvin would teach me how deep love can go
  • that the vet would become a weekly destination
  • that Melvin would lose his tail
  • that I would have one of the most bonded pairs ever
  • that I would have a googly-eyed, cart dog
  • that I wasn’t meant to see Melvin grow old. Or Jake
  • that I would lose Melvin so quickly
  • that grief would break me. Twice in one year
  • that Melvin would become a part of me, his heart guiding mine
  • that my hands would always reach to care for Jake, even years after he was gone
  • that love could live on so beautifully, as if it was always meant to be
  • that joy would be my guiding light
  • that a pit bull named Doug, would save me

I also didn’t know that so many glorious and thoughtful people would love us and lift us up for so long! Thank you for following along with us. I know I don’t post as often. I want to, I promise! Doug has had some health issues and anxiety the past few months but we are turning a corner and I will be back to share that with you. We are over on Instagram stories almost daily if you want to get your Doug fix over there too (@DougHolupka.for.president).

I love this blog. I love its readers. I wholeheartedly love the dogs that have inspired each and every word, laugh, and tear. My heart will always be full because of them and you.

 

Happy Birthday, Melvin.

Tomorrow is Melvin’s 14th birthday. I honestly cannot think of anything more delicious than a 14-year-old Melvin.

I am far more happy that he was born, than sad that he died. I carry him in my heart every beat, every day. He and I remain perfectly and beautifully connected. He continues to make me a better person, and he continues to remind me to choose joy.

As his birthday is approaching, I have been talking to him a little more lately. Just reminding him of all the little things that I love so much about him. And he responds back, in songs on the radio, in beautiful sunsets, and in love.

When Melvin was here, the one constant every day was that he would make the big bed his own while I was at work. Every day I would make the bed, and every day Melvin would ‘make it better’. When he died, seeing the bed untouched by him each day, was really hard.

But last night, Melvin sent a hello, via Doug.

Doug is not allowed upstairs when I’m not home. But yesterday I accidentally left the gate open. I came walking into the bedroom, took one look at the bed, lost my breath for a moment and then felt so much Melvin that I tear’d up realizing how blessed I am to have so much love and beauty in my life. Melvin is always watching over me; he is my original joy.

Last night…

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Pictures from the past…

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Happy Birthday, baby! I love you!

 

When love is hard.

There are a million different ways that love is hard. For me lately, it’s keeping Bob and Doug healthy and safe.

Bob.

Loving a feral cat is complicated. There should be a support group. Hi my name is Tracey and I love my feral cat, but I’m also a control freak so my inability to control Bob’s movements and life’s journey drives me nuts. 

We had a polar vortex. Doug would barely go outside, hell, I barely went outside. But then there is Bob, stuck outside. No matter how much I insulate both condos, or how much food I put out, Bob is on his own out there. I crack the garage door and put food just inside in hopes he is brave enough to come in and realized the garage his heated. The food is always there when I go to check if this worked.

I lay in bed thinking and worrying about Bob. Mostly just due to that lack of control factor. Thankfully, Bob shows up after every thaw, so he must know what he’s doing. Any time I can catch him near the house, I always go put wet food out. He devours it right away. Wet food, is my new form of control. To ensure he always comes back to us.

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Doug. 

Doug has started drifting out of my control area as well. When it came to Melvin’s health, we had a list of things to do. That included a list of medications for me to provide for him. And some of it was trial and error but we knew the issue (allergies and colitis) and we responded accordingly. And Jake, he had a shit-ton of issues, but they were all definable challenges that I was able to match with a joyful solution. Control at it’s finest.

The only time I didn’t have control over their health, was at the end. That’s just how the end goes.

Doug is hard to keep weight on. There is currently one food in the universe (that we know about) that doesn’t give him the poops. Once or twice a month he will throw up at night (for 2-3 nights), and then not again for a 2-3 weeks. What he throws up is not normal. From a scent perspective.

Oh excuse me for not throwing up lilies and sunshine.IMG_2268

We recently re-did blood work on him and his liver and cholesterol levels came back very low. Very, very low. So we did x-rays, and ultrasounds. Both came back fairly normal which was great because ‘liver failure’ was being thrown around a lot and if that’s what it was going to be we’d figure it out but also, universe, please just stop. We’d like to decline liver failure if possible.

I’m with (s)mother on this one, no thank you liver failure, take care nowIMG_2324

So here we are. Blood work metrics too low to suggest it’s nothing. But we’ve ruled out a lot of somethings. Also, the last liver ultrasound I went through was the day that we found out Melvin had cancer so it was nice to hear the words ‘liver looks good’. Always, whenever possible, balance bad juju with joy. It’s life changing.

So I guess next we consider scoping Doug’s digestive track. Believe it or not, NONE OF MY DOGS HAS EVER HAD SCOPE! We have a found a test that has gone untested in this house. Pure cray.

I predict my insides will look very sexyIMG_2339

We will keep you posted! xoxo

An update from Doug.

Yo, ya, yeeeeeee! It’s me, Doug! I’m taking over today cause the (s)mother had shoulder surgery and her arm smells funny so she can’t blog. I don’t know if that is true or not cause I love me some fake news so the truth can suck it!

Whoa, I have been very busy. Swamped. I need an assistant. I traveled to a far away land to visit my grandparents (she said they live an hour away in the same state but I age in dog years and this is my story to tell so shut it…). My grandparents wanted me to visit because they love everything about me and it had nothing to do with her having surgery. They came to pick me up and it just happened to be on the same day she needed a ride home from the hospital.  Good grief she’s needy.

Any who, they picked me (us) up and we went to their enchanted castle and they all just kept saying DOUG! OH DOUG! DOUG, YOU HANDSOME DEVIL! DOUG!!! (She will say they were screaming DOUG – NO! but she was loopy so she does not know).

I snuggled with Grammy, I went on walks through majestic forests with Grandpap, Great Grandma Betz snuck me food. I don’t even know if my (s)mother was there the whole time or not because the entire visit was all about me and my family wanting one-on-one Doug time. To be honest, I really just live for moments with Grandpap. Every night they would lock me in the room with her (and her weird arm) and I would do something that I have never done before: cry. I would cry if I heard my grandfathers voice and she would laugh and say ‘grandpap needs a break’ and I would say SHUT UP YOU’RE DUMB!

On the 4th day we were there, I woke up to the most glorious smells. Turkey. Pie. Gravy! I was in a scent coma and assumed that Grandpap had made some delicious feast to celebrate that he had decided to adopt me so we could spend the rest of our lives together. Oddly, I didn’t get a single bite of that dinner. In fact, I had to spend time in a condo because there was a teeny tiny person there and she said I am not approved for children under the age of one. I don’t know what Thanksgiving Day means to you but for me it was scent torture and exclusion.

We are back home now. Boooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrringggggggg. It’s weird because my dog walker comes everyday but (s)mother is here also. I guess her weird arm doesn’t want to walk me anymore since apparently I was the reason she had to have surgery. Everyone always blames Doug!

What else, what else? I had a birthday! We took some treats and beds and toys to dogs at the county jail. What? That wasn’t a jail? There were cells with concrete floors and the dogs were in the cells no softness. What do you mean that is where they live!??? We need to get them out of there! No, I don’t want them to come here but they need to go to someone’s home to be loved on like I am!

I somehow may have agreed to let her TRY to find a second dog and I somewhat promised to be as nice as possible to those she deems worthy to meet me. I mean, I cannot stand the thought of dogs in that jail situation. Ugh, I’m always having to ‘do the right thing’. It’s exhausting.

Anywho, I’m pretty exhausted from doing all the Christmas decorating so I’m heading to nap. I’m supposed to tell you that my cat brother Bob is doing great but that dude is not my brother and I am not going to give any updates on him during my blog time.

Peas out. Doug

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Happy Birthday, Doug! Three.

I know that the norm in rescue, is to not know your pets actual birthday (or age). Melvin and Jake were both turned into to rescue by their original owners, so I knew both for them.

Doug’s age was guessed and his birthday was chosen by me.  On December 1st he is ‘officially’ three. But there is a chance he’s four. Or five. And there are 364 chances that his birthday is not December 1st.

The only thing we know for sure, is that Doug is living his best life.

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The time he has lived in this home, exceeds the time he lived as a stray in South Carolina. If I’m doing my job right, he doesn’t even recall his first life.  He only knows stability and routine; his belly is always full and his legs are now built to ferociously chase joy.

He is unlike any dog I have had before and at the same time, he reminds me of his brothers daily. Love lives on fiercely in this one.

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We are opposites, in so many ways. He has so much energy and a party animal mentality. I’m laid back and calm. He likes mobs of people, I like intimate crowds. He seeks to destroy, I like mending things.

There are a few areas we agree on. We both like the same spot on the couch. We both are food motivated. We both like a good nights sleep and we both give all we have, to spreading joy.

Doug – your entire existence in my life was unexpected. The only thing I know for certain is that you have my heart. I can’t wait to watch your glorious life continue to unfold.

 

 

The dogs have never gotten birthday gifts – they live lives of leisure and safety and they want for nothing. Instead, to celebrate, we donate items to a shelter so that a dog in need will know about comfort and love.

Happy Birthday, baby! Three (or four or five) looks great on you!

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Grateful hearts.

I had surgery last week and spent an extra few days at my parents so they could help with Doug and my recovery. I’m so thankful to have family close by and that they are so generous with their time.

This week, someone from the blog reached out to ask me about the grief Jake experienced after Melvin died and to find out if we tried any medication to help. They needed some guidance on their grief journey. I have written before that Jake had a very hard time the hours and days and weeks after Melvin died. He was not Jake, he was hollow, and unsure and broken-hearted. He howled at the door Melvin had gone out of. I couldn’t use words to tell him what had happened. I couldn’t use any language to explain to him that I understood. I could only be as strong as my grief would allow and somehow try to cushion the hardest moment of our lives for both of us.

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Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography

We did try medication. Prozac. And it helped tremendously.

After Melvin died, Jake and I had an appointment with a well-known behaviorist in our area. So much was going on with Jake in the Melvinless world. His sadness. His confusion. His physical decline; all he did was lay at the door. Waiting for his soul mate to return.

I told her stories of them, from their first days together, to their last.

She took everything in.

She said: Jake needs Prozac.

We had a two-hour session with her, it was VERY expensive and when she delivered that line, I stared at her waiting for more. This couldn’t be all she had to say and why did she say it so matter-of-factly? I could have suggested Prozac and I’m only a fake vet.

I said: Ok, why?

And then she delivered words that gutted me the way that “Melvin has cancer” and “Jake has Cancer” gutted me.

She said: He needs Prozac because from the day he arrived at your house, having lived a life of little interaction with humans and having felt no real love, he suddenly received natural Prozac in the form of Melvin. Melvin cured life for Jake. And now Melvin is gone and Jake feels alone.

My whole body went hot, she was still talking but I felt more emotion than I had been ready to feel at that moment.

So many images flashed in front of me. What I had seen between Melvin and Jake had been Jake idolizing Melvin, Jake obsessed with Melvin’s butt, Jake following Melvin around and sometimes trying to antagonize him. But all of a sudden, I saw it. Something I had never noticed. Melvin always the one to move closer to Jake, standing near Jake, waiting for Jake. Melvin allowing the invasion of his butt. MELVIN LEADING JAKE. Melvin giving Jake understanding unlike any creature I had ever seen.

Melvin saw who Jake was from day one and he accepted the all of him without pause. When Jake leapt of the couch onto Melvin’s head, Melvin met him with stability and forgiveness. Melvin made Jake feel safe, and cherished, and loved. When Jake’s legs gave out, or he’d fall, Melvin was by his side before I could get to him. Melvin was in the house, all day long, everyday, even when I was not. Jake was never alone.

Until Melvin died.

I may have signed the papers, but Melvin rescued Jake.

That moment with the behaviorist felt sad at first. Mostly because I got a glimpse into Jake’s grief and it was way too heavy for his sweet little soul. I felt Melvin after he died. He never left me. But Jake needed the visual of Melvin. The smell of Melvin. The feel of Melvin.

I would rather Jake have found and lost his soul mate, then to have never known what true love felt like. In all sadness, there is still joy.  No one hopes their dog will need medication to exist joyfully in the world, but I am always open to the dogs getting what they need to have full lives. That might be special diets, that might be appointments with trainers or a behaviorist and it might be Prozac. I’m glad we live in a world with options.

Jake’s gotcha day is Thanksgiving weekend. It is so poetic that he came to us at that time. I gave a lot of thought this Thanksgiving to when Jake showed up in our lives and how he and Melvin were destined to be. I live a grateful life, and there are very few things I am more grateful for than my boys.

Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with much to be grateful for!

xoxo