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

 

Sleep training.

I get a lot of questions about how I get the dogs to sleep in. I think Melvin trained me, to sleep train. Melvin’s foster dad was in the army and they both woke at 0500 to walk. I don’t even know what 0800 looks like, so 0500 was never going to fly. The first couple of weeks Melvin was mine, he slept during the day and paced on top of the bed (with me in it) all night. I tried putting him downstairs so that I could get sleep but he barked non-stop. He had run stray, his skin was on fire. It took him a while to learn to relax but once he did, that dog embraced sleep like no dog ever has.

It has been such an honor to give all the boys a life where they could embrace sleep, and without them really knowing I was a sleep pusher, I was also happy to get them addicted to it.

Here are some of my tricks:

  • Never, never, never get up when your alarm goes off. This gives them the go-ahead to rise and shine the moment they hear it. By not getting up when the alarm goes off, they basically stop hearing it. This step will take the longest. Jake wasn’t great at this so I had an alarm clock downstairs and while we were watching TV or I was working, it would go off and I would not change what I was doing. Eventually, he ignored it.
  • Vary the times you hit snooze. Dogs can count, trust me. If you vary the snooze hits, they will learn that each subsequent alarm noise is a non-day-starter also.
  • During training, if they get up and try to get you up, be a lifeless zombie. Melvin would lay on top of me and cut off my breathing and I never moved. I just kept thinking: ‘0500 is what happens if you move’. Doug would lay on my face. DO NOT GIVE IN.
  • Have a verbal get up signal – mine is OK. This is crucial if you have to pee, but plan to come back to bed. I always give a stay command for this. It does not always work but all dogs have learned to follow me back to bed until the office OK.
  • I need 8 hours of sleep and that was always enough for Melvin and Jake. Doug needs 10-12 hours so he has been pretty easy to train once he realized the alarm means nothing.
  • I have a gate at the top of our steps so Melvin could go out into the loft whenever he wanted. Doug sleeps with me about 50% of the time (he has to stay used to his little bed area for when I have migraines) so he can also venture out to the loft. But by keeping them upstairs, we avoid ‘starting the day’ or seeing food bowls. Jake always stayed in his ‘meatball factory’ zone so he was the easiest.
  • Have a water bowl near the bedroom. It’s not prison!

This is how I did it with Max (came to me used to getting up at 7am), Melvin (0500), Jake (I’m not sure anyone ever gave Jake a schedule so he was just happy to have love), and Doug (goes from 0 to 4,576 upon waking so waking rules are key).

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Prisoner and warden, role reversal.

I am having surgery in November, and it’s all Doug’s fault.

She’s a liar, I’ve never done anything wrong in my life. img_2796

Last fall, I was lifting Doug out of my SUV. We had just been to rehab and even though he was cleared for activity, jumping out of the back of the SUV is a little tough on his stubby hippo legs so I always lift him out.

 

It is important to note here that aside from my parents house, Doug will not go #1 or #2 anywhere but in our yard or in our neighborhood. He would drink 5,000 gallons of water at rehab and never pee before I got him in the car to come home.

Why, Doug, why?

I’ll tell you why, my body, my rules. If you get to say it, so do I. img_0777

When I put him down on the ground and took the leash, I didn’t expect for him to lunge-run to the closest grass, which was about 30 feet away. I was pulled down and dragged/slid. The pain was terrible and I honestly felt dizzy from it. All I could do was hold onto his leash and get us both inside.

Ok, if I’m being honest, I may remember doing this now. But in general, I would never try to purposely hurt my sMother. I mean, my Mother. 54342NNhol112204-R4-057-Edit

My shoulder and arm hurt so bad, I thought they were broken. I had road-rash up and down my entire body. As someone who has a blood clotting condition and a takes blood thinners, you can imagine the horror scene. I had to make my way upstairs and into my shower so as not to bleed out on all of the white furniture I see the  need to invest in!

Why, Tracey, why?

The road rash eventually cleared up. My shoulder pain went from excruciating to acceptable. I managed to still love Doug.

Over the past six months or so, my shoulder has become more and more painful and the activities I’m able to do with that arm have become more and more limited. Also, sleeping is impossible. There is no position that works.  I mean, who needs sleep anyway?

I got an MRI and some X-rays and it turns out that I have fully torn Rotator Cuff on my right (dominant) shoulder. Surgery is set for mid-November and apparently recovery is terrible. Thanks again, Doug! I will be off work for one week, working from home the 2nd week and hopefully be in the office a little more from weeks 3-6. I guess the first two weeks I won’t have much use of that arm at all, which seems like it is going to make everything challenging. I’ve been trying to not use that arm at all to get my left arm ready but so far it’s not going well.  I tried to put make-up on with left hand and I legit looked like a crack whore. I also tried to get dressed, brush my teeth, makes Doug’s food and blow dry my hair with just my left hand and I can say with absolute certainty that if it was only up to me, none of those things would happen. Luckily, I will have plenty of help.

The worst part about all of this is that I can’t drive for 6 weeks. Well, the actual worst part of this is that the pain I’m currently feeling is causing problems with my neck and likely contributing to an increase in migraines. But the not being able to drive part is up there.

Way to go Doug!

Um, who’s going to take me to get Pupccinnos?IMG_0388

Um, who’s going to feed me? It’s not my fault my brother is a jerk!IMG_8369

Melvin pulled me down once on a walk when he tried to take off running after another dog. I escaped with only a bruise. Jake poop’d on me but that mostly caused emotional bruising, nothing physical. Doug has caused the need for surgery. I don’t know what award he wins for this but congratulations on whatever it is!

 

 

Instagram.

Many of you have sent notes and messages asking why I don’t post as often here on the blog. The answer is simple: WORK. Work has been crazy busy the past six months and by the time I have a moment to blog, I also have a million other things I want or need to do.

Work is slowing down, which is great, and hopefully I will be able to post on the blog more as that continues. I also have a surgery in November (I’ll post separately about that) so I will have several weeks of downtime. That should also give me time to blog. Writing this blog is my happy place. True story.

However, regardless of my postings here, we are over on Instagram daily. Instastories is something I can do while multitasking and we are pretty good about posting regularly there.

All of that content, is pure Doug. Even the name of our account: dougholupka.for.president . He regularly entertains his fans with his odd behavior, his strange sleeping positions and his new need to occupy the spot that I am in at that exact moment. Every once in a while he will share where he stands on his bid for president.

It’s true. I’m your next POTUS. IMG_9904 (1)

If you are new to Instagram, once you add us you will see that there is a feed that you can scroll through and the Instastories are found at the top of the feed. Just find our circle and click on it to watch all the Doug you could ever want. Each story only lasts 24 hours but have no fear, we post often enough to keep you entertained.  And we will follow your account back!

Here are couple recent Instastories showing casing Doug’s new need to sit on me and him seeing BECKY and JESSIE last week!

Come as you are.

During the early days with Melvin, I was all about making lists of all the things he needed to change. A list of all the things ‘he was doing wrong’. When we finally found a behaviorist that I liked, and after finding a way to secure him in the car so that he didn’t jump in my lap while I was driving and traveling 55 mph, we met with her.

In one 60 min session, she changed the way I think about dogs (and people) forever. That might be selling myself a little short, since I have worked really hard at this area of life, but she was the one that gave me an ‘ah ha’ moment to build on.

I brought my list to her. The Melvin-is-terrible list. The how-can-one-dog-do-so-much-wrong list. She asked me to pick one thing on the list that caused me the most frustration. The one thing I wish I could change about him.

He is missing out on playdates with other dogs because he seems to hate every dog we meet.  

In response to that she asked me three questions:

  1. Do you like and want to spend time with every person you meet? No. 
  2. What exactly do you feel he is ‘missing out on’? Fun?
  3. What if this is Melvin and he just doesn’t like other dogs? Is that ok? Wow. Of course. 

She took my list and asked, what are the things he does that makes you happy? Make a list of that. What are the areas he’s already improved on? Make that a list.

From her I learned to meet Melvin where he was. Not to wait for him to arrive where I was or where I wanted him to be.  I had to do the work to figure out who Melvin was, why he was where he was, and honestly assess what he (and I) should become. I couldn’t hand him a list and say ‘be this/do this’, I had to take each area of him and figure out how the two of us could be a team in him having a happy, successful life.

Obviously, he turned out to be perfect. 2014-03-31_0003

Melvin couldn’t bend for me. We had to learn a shared language. I let go of the demands, and embraced our journey.

In my life with Melvin, he never, not even once as a joke, play-bowed. He preferred me over other dogs, and he preferred me over all people, although he did love just about every human that he met. In Melvin’s first life, he didn’t know love. So once he came to me and felt crazy amounts of love, he became a love and joy junkie. He didn’t need a life with other dogs.

He had me. And then he had Jake. His life was complete.

I met Jake where he was. I’ve done the same for Doug.

She’s lying. I was perfect. IMG_6124

The number one thing I ask almost every day now is: why is Doug doing this? I don’t scream this at him, I don’t get upset about this question, I truly want to know why he’s doing what he’s doing so that he and I can figure out a better plan. What I have come to learn is that, Doug has a lot of fear about life. And the more comfortable he is with me and the more joy we find, the more he is willing to let his fear flag wave. He will run joyfully towards life and he will experience some form of fear in everything that is new. This list includes but is not limited to: bugs that crawl, bugs that fly, leaves, leaves that move with wind, mud, a clicking noise, a new car, a new food bowl, a sweater, a blanket with pom-poms, a new ring tone, shiny flooring, a purple koala bear on a cereal box.

He ran stray before he came to me. They don’t have purple koala bears on the not-shiny, rural streets of South Carolina. Every thing is new to him. It’s my job to make him feel safe but still encourage him to move in the direction of new things. In doing so, I have to step VERY FAR out of my comfort zone with bugs and mud and just this morning a slug, to meet Doug at Fear Avenue and get him on his way to the Joy Highway.

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Our new couch is a unicorn.

When we moved into this house seven years ago, I bought a new couch made specially for the main living area. If I was on that couch, Melvin was on the couch right next to me.

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When Jake came, he sorta owned the chaise part of the couch like a boss (see, one of my dogs did appreciate a good chaise). He would nap there, with his face pressed into the cushion and snoring loudly. He had therapy on the chaise. I changed his diaper there. That chaise saw its fair share of meatballs. We even  said goodbye to the little nugget on his favorite spot. But nothing more spectacular took place on that couch, than Melvin and Jake becoming soul mates. (also, their matching collar game was STRONG).

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My dad helped me get it cleaned up and we donated it to a fantastic organization called Gabriel Homes. They provide independent living for adults with Down Syndrome. It is now bringing joy to a new little family.

Someone asked me if it was hard to give it away since it is the couch where the boys became one.  The answer is, no. That couch doesn’t have to exist for my memories to live on. And the fact that it is making a new set of people happy, means their love lives on.

On the last couch, Doug had zero interest in using it for rest or hanging out with me. He used the chaise part as a cliff to jump off of as many times a day as possible.  Exactly what the leg surgeon suggested. Oh wait, no. Exactly what a dog with double TPLO, shin stabilizing and grade 4 luxated patella fix SHOULD NOT DO.

I legit had to pick a couch that was safer for Doug.

As for the new couch. Well it’s F’ing magical. Every time Doug is on it, he falls right to sleep. I am not sure if it is the couch alone or the couch paired with the new pillows, or that fact that there is no chaise since he so clearly ANTI CHAISE, but it doesn’t matter, because I have a magical unicorn couch and Doug snuggles now!

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#winning