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.

IMG_0446IMG_4294IMG_3201img_0911

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.

IMG_E8756

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.

IMG_8535

The Bobs.

Update on Doug’s arch enemies cat siblings.

I have not seen Bob #1 in a long time. I am not sure what happened. She is microchipped to me and no one has called to say that she has been injured or killed. My guess is that she has either died (perhaps in a remote area or in the sewer) or she’s relocated. I obviously hope it’s the latter. Bob #1 and I never really bonded. Not just because of the allergies but also because she’s sort of a raging bitch and she really does not seem to like humans. Especially me. Which is totally fine, but it’s defiantly hard to bond with someone who you fear might chew or claw your face off.

Bob #2 on the other hand, is doing great. He comes to eat daily. He meows in the driveway to let Doug know he’s here. This fires Doug up so he rams the widow and viciously barks at Bob #2. Bob #2 just sits and torments him and laughs in a funny cat-sibling sort of way. Bob #2 also seems to like me. He will come pretty close to me and he watches me pour his food so I’m pretty much the best person ever to Bob #2. I even bought a water filtration bowl that holds a gallon of fresh water so he doesn’t have to drink sewer juice. If that doesn’t scream love from a deathly cat allergic person, I don’t know what does.

IMG_8369

Funny thing about Bob #2, I love him. I mean if he hasn’t come to eat on any given day, I worry and I go outside and start meowing like a crazy person.  Then it gets stranger because I start calling out Bob, Bob, BOB!.

IMG_8367IMG_8376

As for naming, we were going to go with Carl. But since there may only be one Bob now, he may just stay Bob. We are going to give it a few more months and if Bob #1 is really gone, we’ll make it official that Bob #2 is Bob. Just Bob. No number. Regardless, his middle name is most definitely Poop, because six-year olds choose the best cat names.

 

 

Melvin man.

Thirteen years ago today, at some point, my life was set on a path. I didn’t know it that day. It would be three years until I understood the magnitude of this date, one so great, as to change my life and my purpose, forever.

Today is Melvin’s birthday. He would have been 13.

There are parts of me so full of joy that he was born, that we found each other, that I got to love him. Oh man, that I got to be the one to love him is so much of everything that it is in fact, everything. Me. I was chosen. I’m infinitely grateful for everything about him.

I have never wanted to be by a dogs side as they grew older, more than I did with Melvin. Every year, he was more soulful, our connection more spiritual. I cannot imagine anything more delicious than Melvin being 13. I would have been honored to care for him, to linger longer on walks, to stare into his always loving eyes.

Melvin and I were not meant to grow older together. He is forever ten. Same goes for Jake, he is forever eight.

On Melvin’s birthday today, I will celebrate love. I will celebrate all the moments I had with him, and all the moments I’ve had becasue of him.

Today, I choose joy.

Maybe, just maybe, Melvin and Jake, were preperation for me guiding Doug as he grows older. Maybe Doug will be, my old dog.

Time will tell. Melvin will guide us. Love lives on.

This was my last birthday letter to Melvin, on his tenth birthday. The day after that birthday, he was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma.

We still won.

9 4 13

 

Rogaine Joe.

I have been looking at Doug and trying to figure out what is different about him. It took me a few days but I realized that the spots on his back, his dark skin spots (not his brown cow patches), have been getting darker.  Then I realized that the spots were not actually getting darker, but instead, his hair was falling out, thus I could see the spots better.

Here is Doug from one year ago.  IMG_2126

Here is Doug from this past December.IMG_7802 (1)

Here is Doug now. Please note the very fancy line I added to show exactly where the hair loss starts.  I’m so scientific. IMG_8408

I posted the situation on our FB page and there were so many AWESOME ideas of what it could be – seriously, you guys are the best! We went to the vet, got some tests done and:

  • It’s not fleas (I would have moved). Once we were settled in a new, non-flea home, I would have sued since he is on preventative.
  • It’s not mites. I itch every time someone says mites. Jake had mites 3 years ago. Still makes me itch.
  • It’s not his thyroid.

The experts in our life all agree, it is (maybe seasonal) Alopecia. Doug is going bald at 2! Of course he is, he’s mine, would you expect anything less?

We will see if it is actually, seasonal. It does make sense. He was in jail during last spring and summer so anytime he was outside, I either had his sunscreen shirt on or I had him under a tarp. He was on movement restriction and he would get too hot if the sun was beating down on him. So he did not get a ton of sunshine last year. Add that to him hating the cold (so he does not spend a lot of time outside without a fleece and coat and snood) and poor guy needs some vitamin D-oug!

It is bright and sunny today – we have gone from 30 to 70 to snow and back to 70 in four days and although climate change is apparently not real, our options for sun exposure are limited for a month or two more. He is sunning up as I type this. In the meantime, he is has also been put on 6mg of Melatonin, twice a day.

He has no comb over options so either the hair grows back or he is gonna need a t-shirt wardrobe. Also, and this is just to reiterate that Doug is ALWAYS in motion, he has lost 6 lbs since the start of winter (which was precisely when he got back to his zoomie-rific self). He had gained a few pounds during lock down, so this puts him at his ideal weight but I had sorta forgot his ability to burn through all calories.

Also, just to give a good Jakey laugh – Doug only weighs 10 lbs more than Jake did.

  • Melvin,  82 lbs, 18 inch neck.
  • Jake, 35 lbs, 18 inch neck.
  • Doug, 45 lbs, 18 inch neck.

Maybe this blog should be called 18-inch neck.

 

 

My little deviant.

Is Doug a weirdo? Yes. Absolutely. Maybe. Do I love him no matter what? Of course.

  • Doug is most attracted to, himself. He will go outside and pee. Then he will turn around and deeply (more deeply than what is considered normal behavior) breathe in the smell of his own pee. He will then walk a few steps, and go back and smell his pee, again. He has actually come in, then barked to go right back out, only to re-re-smell his pee.
  • There are some things dogs do when they are sexually aroused.  The common one for boys is of course the red rocket. But when they smell or taste something that arouses them, they do this really fast tongue flicking (like rolling r’s). Doug does this when he smells or tastes his own pee. I honestly think he is dating himself. I also think the relationship is going great.
  • He whops off, in front of people. You may have other terms for this, like jerking-off. Whatever you call it, he does it. You might be sitting there, minding your own business, only too look over  to him and he’s whopping off. Middle of the day. Middle of the floor. Zero shame or F’s given. (I have video of this but it is NSFW. Wait, that def makes me sound like a dog porn director but I am just an innocent bystander to all things Doug). I once caught him whopping off via the mudroom camera when I wasn’t home (this one is more suitable for work – I mean I guess, I don’t know).  You may be wondering if Doug cares if I share this. He absolutely does not care. I live with him.  I know.

 

Here is a photo of Doug and a separate photo of his, saucy, valentine. True love.