We are thankful for so many things.  For our family, for moments together, for friends, laughter and the ability to feel joy.  We are thankful to be able to pursue happiness.  We are thankful for animal rescue, all parts of it.  We are thankful for those who speak up for those whose voices are silenced.  We are thankful for vets and medical options for pets and the freedom to balance traditional approaches with natural solutions.  Thank you to all Nature’s Miracle products, and to poop bags. We are thankful for babies and children and puppies and snacks.  Our thanks also to sunshine and umbrellas and moonlight.  Thank you to snow and beaches and Nordstrom, Sephora and the World Wide Web.  Thank you to wine, and Kongs and warm fires on cold days.  Thank you to blogs and HGTV.


We are thankful for each other.

We are thankful for you.

Be safe.  Be happy.  Be gracious.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Jake – part two

This is Jake’s gotcha week. Below is my letter and Melvin’s can be found here. 

Dear Little Man,

You were not what I was expecting.  When I envisioned the dog I would rescue next, she was big and well, she was a she. The story of how you came to live here is one of you finding me.  When your foster-fairy-godmother texted me a photo of her newest foster (you) I thought, how cute is he… I’m sure he’ll make someone very happy.  I didn’t think that person would be me.  But then I met you and, well one year later, here we are.

This past year has been most certainly been shaken, not stirred!  You are my little firecracker (noisy and wild).  Each of the past 365 days has been new and different and I am not absolutely sure where we’ve come to land but I know that 1. it’s been fun and 2. I like it here.

You were a tough nut to crack, pea-nugget.  You would run away when I reached out to pet you, you had me believing that perhaps you were in fact not house trained and you seemed to prefer alone time, which I can relate to but which is the opposite of your brother.  You would just sit, for hours, in the same spot.  I didn’t know if I should move closer to you or let you come to me. You were indifferent to me.  You generally seemed to not give a crap about anything (not in a good way).  I think someone forgot to love on you during your first life.

Really quick, in regards to those eyes, did you know that at first, I didn’t even notice that they were…askew?  In fact I had to go back and look at pictures of you from foster-fairy-godmom to be sure that I had not caused your eyes to do that! Like maybe you were so overwhelmed by my beauty that your eyes spun around and almost popped out!

Jake, you are the biggest little dog I have ever met.  Since your arrival, I have never had one doubt about you being part of this family.  I knew that more than anything, you needed a promise of forever.  Something about you needed anchored. It’s like you expected to not bond with us or us with you (side-note: if the peeing on Melvin’s bed or random turds you leave lying around are to test our love, we are obviously keeping you so please stop). Love seemed foreign to you. But now, you are no longer that stoic gargoyle.  You have learned to leap into the day.  You wear emotion on your face, you show joy and your whole body wiggles when you’re excited. You have faith in your family. That is all I could have wanted for you and from you.  Most importantly, you have come to realize that you are loved. You are part of our forever.

Where Melvin is my Dali Lama, you are my Zach Galifianakis.  My little comedian. I welcome your oddness (yes I’m talking about your relationship with Rug) unconditionally.  I love you, always and forever, no matter what.



The very first photo I saw of Jake…

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And some of my personal faves since…9 18 13a 8 9 13b photo[4] photo[3] photo[12] 20130724-083017.jpg 6 24 13a 5 13 13d 5 13 13f

Dear Jake – part one

This is Jake’s gotcha week. Since the actual day is over the holiday weekend, we are sharing our letters early.  Here is Melvin’s…

Dear Jake,

You are noisy and small and you give off a strange sour smell.  You pee in my bed, a lot.  I know I mentioned noisy already but it’s worth repeating.  I would donate to the fund to get your face un-smoohsed so you could be less loud.

When we walk and you see a cat or another dog, your first reaction is to turn to me and try to bite at my face.  Geezus man, what the heck?  That makes no sense.  Do you not see that our leashes are tethered?  I could drag you kicking and screaming through these mean streets if I wanted to.  Get a grip, dummy.

I’m just going to put it out there,  I didn’t want you to come live with us.  Once you did, I knew there was no turning back. There was another dog once and he left Her and She cried, a lot.  She cried so much that people had to come see me bring dinner over and hug Her.  I don’t want Her upset, so that means you can never leave. Do you understand the words I’m saying? I’d say look at me when I’m talking to you but we all know you can’t do that.

But now, now that you have been here for a year, it sort of just seems like you have always been one of us.  Sure, you still drive me bonkers and yes, sometimes I step on you on purpose (why are you always under me?).  I guess, if I’m supposed to be honest in this letter,  I think it’s pretty cool that when I bark or you bark we together bark and run back and forth to protect our land house.  I also kind of like that when I am arms up on a window sill, you can fit under me and it looks like I have two heads.  Speaking of running, it makes me laugh that your hind legs are always straight when you run and you move them in a circular motion, how do you do that? She says you will probably have wheels one day, maybe I can pull you behind me, we’ll see!   I also think it’s hysterical that you get afraid when your tags hit your food bowl and you run off and flip your bowl upside down in the process, what a dork you can be.

We all know I have some insecurities about my nubbin, I mean most labs have a tail and I don’t but you seem to love my nubbin/butt area and that really means a lot to me. It’s like we are nubbin brothers.  I guess I also like waking up in the middle of the night and seeing you there.  Actually, I don’t even have to look cause I CAN HEAR YOU FROM TEN MILES AWAY.

We are always together.  She leaves and comes back be we are always together.  I like that.  I like that you are here. There is some saying ‘he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother’ and I don’t understand that cause I’m pretty heavy and I’m your brother so technically it makes no sense but I think it means something along the lines of always being there for each other or carrying the other when the other is struggling.  Sure, I’ll probably laugh at first if you fall, but I’ll carry you my brother (or pull you gently if you get wheels). Next to Her, you are my best friend.  (Well, next to Her and Grandpap, and Jason, and Shane, and a few other dudes but you’re in there little buddy!).

Happy one year with us!  I love you and if anyone tried to hurt you or eat you I would rain down hard on that parade.  No one messes with my bro.

Your hero boss brother,


Some highlights from the past year…holiday card 1 4 12b IMG_3421 1 28 13b 2 6 13 d 2 11 13c 2 27 13a IMG_2745 IMG_2154[1] 4 1 13e 5 2 13 6 13 13g 6 24 13 7 25 13a 2 2 13a 11 4 13g

Jake’s dream came true.

The story as told by Jake.

“What the…he knows that is my spot, why is he there?!”11 21 13

“Wait, could this be, dare I even think it, an invite to snuggle?!!!”11 21 13h

“Everyone be cool.  Seriously, no quick movements or noise. If you ruin this for me I’ll pee in your beds.” 11 21 13a

“OK, good, good.  I’ll just sit really still for a minute so he gets used to my awesomeness being so close to him.  He is probably feeling the warmth of my joy by now.” 11 21 13b

“My gawd he smells good.” 11 21 13c

“No, seriously, you gotta smell him.  It’s amazing.”11 21 13d

“Focus, man, focus.  The prize is right there, that gorgeous butt.  Move closer to da butt.”  11 21 13f

11 21 13g

“He loves me and I love his butt.”  11 21 13i

The story as told by Melvin.

“What the BLEEP is he doing?”11 21 13k


The very first week I had Melvin he gave me indication of past mistreatment by two objects.  The broom and hangers.  I brought the broom in on his second or third day with us and he dropped to the floor and nervous pee’d. I knew instantly it was the broom.  The hanger was even worse.  When you take your clothes off a hanger there is a swinging motion, the very first time I did this in front of Melvin he ran to the corner, cowered and moaned. Again, there was pee. On both occasions I quickly put the object away, with minimal gesture and sat on the floor near Melvin and allowed him to come to me on his own.  What was going through my head at that point was of course anger (at humans) but what was going through my heart was that I needed to put his past behind him and introduce him to the here and now.

After that, I set out on a mission to desensitize him.  I started with the broom. He’d get a treat, then I’d say ‘broom’ so he’d learn what was coming and then I’d treat him while the broom was around.  I’d put the broom on the floor and put treats around it and when I’d do the sweeping motion (a gentle sweeping motion of course) I’d drop treats and let the broom sweep them toward Melvin, almost like the broom was dispensing the treats.  I did similar efforts with hangers, although the hanger training took much longer.  With the hanger, I moved from just showing it to him, then to laying the hanger on the floor and treating him around it and finally graduation came when I was able to massage him with a hanger. The whole process took months and months and more months.  Now, he dens in my closet and hangers fall on him and he does not even flinch. Sweet, sweet success!

Because of those issues with Melvin I have always tried to desensitize the dogs to just about everything.  When I’m carrying clothes to the hamper, I always let something fall near them or drag across them so they learn that sometimes that could happen and to not be afraid.  When I’m carrying a box to the trash, I always put it low so it grazes them, just in the case a box ever falls near them or they brush up against one. They are exposed to the remote, the phone (and all it’s noises), towels and falling pillows.  To this day I still proactively expose Melvin to hangers, and have added Jake to the mix.  Googly eyes is pretty skittish over noises and fast movements but I’ve seen a huge improvement with him by just doing these things regularly.  If anyone were to ever look in my window  I’m pretty sure they would think they had arrived in Crazyville.  So be it!

I think a lot of success with de-sensitizing has to do with the human’s energy.  While the boys know I would never hurt them, they don’t always have the same faith in inanimate objects.  So pairing me with the object and over exposing them to items has really helped them both find a calm.  Which in return gives me a calm.

So if you ever come over and accidentally drop your coat on Jake, or flip your shoe off near Melvin’s head, no worries, they’re used to it!  And as for Melvin’s past mistreatment, well that was a long time ago. A whole lifetime ago in fact.  I believe truly and deeply that he has moved on, that those moments no longer haunt him.  In fact, I bet if we ran into anyone that might have caused him fear at one point in time, that he’d now greet them with wags and happiness.  Sure, at the beginning when I saw his terror, I wanted to hurt someone back, but rescue requires you to walk with your dog, from one life to the next.  They bring baggage and you unpack the baggage and then you figure out where to put the stuff.  Me being mad would not have helped Melvin.  He needed me to be calm and kind and thoughtful.

Here. And. Now.

Happy weekend!

A few Words Wednesday: Jake Undercover. Literally.

There is zero way this blog can ever convey just how hysterical living with Jake can be. We try, but unless you live it, you just don’t fully know.  But this might help.  He put himself to bed again, and I thought I’d take some video to show you 1. how serious this dog is about sleep and private time and 2. how much he loves food.

I give you, Jake undercover…(when the camera shakes, its me laughing). 

This is how I found him:


Then I tried to wake him, you can hear snoring:


Then I tried to wake him again, more snoring:

Then I took a picture:11 13 13c


Then I got a treat, and he got up real fast:

The dance.

Jake’s first gotcha day is approaching. I was looking back on blog posts from a year ago and we had just met the little man but nothing was official at this point.  Melvin’s post about NOT wanting a dog added to our family was exactly a year ago (that post is here).

I’ve been watching Jake lately, it’s like he’s always been with us.  One thing I strive for, as much as I can, is the boy’s schedule.  It’s not as much about time of day but more about order of events. I really do believe that giving them a certain level of consistency in their day gives me so many more moments to applaud them for doing good.

Melvin knows the dance, he and I choreographed it together.  From the moment we wake up in the morning to setting the alarm at night, Melvin can anticipate the moves that I make.  He counts on it.  For example, when the alarm announces “doors and windows armed, exit now”, he goes into the bedroom.

With Jake, it took a little while.  There were some mishaps, he got confused a few times and there were plenty of times he just refused to partake. In fact, he couldn’t accommodate every thing we were doing so we had to bend a little for him.  That is what families do.

Now, when Melvin comes running around the corner, on cue, little man comes rounding the corner right after him.  He knows the important words and how to act on them: ‘potty’ (he heads to back door), ‘walk’ (he heads to the garage door), ‘dinner’ (he runs laps around the island, not technically what I was going for but close enough), ‘treat’, ‘sit’, ‘time out’ (he sits for all of these), up and ‘ok’ (a release that he can do whatever, usually to come up on the couch or bed).  Of course he is still working on figuring out what ‘no’ means!

I know what ‘no’ means, I just choose not to listen when you say it. 11 12 13a

We all know I’m the most well-behaved dog in our house.  11 12 13

Jake and Princess Tutu.

I had my family over to the house last night.  We get together a lot (yay!) but the boys are not always around all of them at once, except holidays or when everyone comes here.  In situations where it is all adults, no issue, the boys do great.  But when the entire family gathers, there is a Princess. This particular love of mine comes dressed to party, a la tutu’s (her sense of style is one of the 10 billion things I adore about her).

Jake is not around little people very often.  I mean kids in the hood, sure, but he is usually on leash around them.  Previous encounters with Princess Tutu have included him jumping at the tutu as it bounces around with it’s wearer.  The type of jumping up and mouth grabbing that he’d do with a toy.  But when a child is attached to the tutu, that is not OK behavior.  So previously he has had to be removed from the situation so that everyone was safe.

There are several issue at play.  Jake is mesmerized by Princess Tutu. Her energy is his perfect match, the way she zips back and forth, up and down, well hello she’s human Jake!  Add to that, her clothes are so fun and Jake tends to takes himself up a few notches around her.

But last night, although he tried a few times to catch the tutu, he was respectful of the Princess.  We let him hang out in a different room for a while to acclimate to the noise and then we let him join the group.  At first we put Princess Tutu up on a royal pedestal but when we put her lower, he was, dare I say enamored. He. Did. Great!

Melvin man, he is good at staying when he wants to stay and moving when little people are tugging or squealing too much.  Jake will probably never be that dog, who removes himself, so I’m happy to see him able to adjust to to a change in the level of chaos.  And should a moment come when I see he needs a break, I will always remove him and give him moments away from the royal madness.

After everyone left, I was cleaning up and realized Jake was not downstairs (WHICH NEVER HAPPENS, he is always near me).  I finally found him upstairs, in his own bed, covered with his blanket, zonked out!  He literally put himself to bed!  You can’t even see him in the photos below, that is how tucked in he got himself, but if you could make him out, he’s to the right of the heap.

11 8 13a

11 8 13b

Recent photos.

I just looked through my camera and whoa, I take a lot of photos of the boys!  Here are some recent photos I am pretty sure you have not seen… (except maybe on Instagram:  find us @tholupka_ohmelvin).

Jake fell asleep sitting up.  On me.  11 7 13p

He may be drunk. 11 7 13o

Hind legs through front legs, check! 11 7 13n

I really do not know what he is doing here.  Seriously, what is he doing????11 7 13m

Front legs tucked completely under him in order to make honk snoring louder. 11 7 13l

Stuffie love-exhaustion. 11 7 13j

Melvin often leaps out of reach when Jake starts ‘loving’ things.  11 7 13i

Being adorable is hard work.  11 7 13h

He managed to cover himself.  11 7 13f

I love his wrinkles so much!  I have to keep from squeezing him too hard. 11 7 13e

And this guy — love, love, love. 11 7 13d

More love. 11 7 13c

Puppy E!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled updates on Melvin and Jake to bring you news of a new puppy in our family!  This puppy only has two legs, which means it will be SOME TIME before M&J meet her, but that won’t stop them from shopping for her.

Congratulations to my brother and sister-in-love!  The world opened up wider yesterday and love rushed in.  She’s perfect in every way and our family is so blessed!  

I give you puppy E! We all handed over a piece of our heart to her.

11 6 13a 11 6 13

Halloween recap.

When I posted the photos last Wednesday of the boys in costume, Melvin’s ‘preferred’ costume had not arrived yet. Additionally I was worried about Jake’s Snookie costume being too PG-13 for the kids.  So the boys did a brief fashion show, complete with Melvin in his awesome-yet-very-hot costume that did in fact arrive on 10/31!  (He actually had the Fire Dog costume on when the real one arrived).

He was not feeling this costume. 11 4 13b

At this point in getting Jake dressed I realized he was in fact in drag. 11 4 13A

Snookie or Keith Richards?  Who really knows!11 4 13e

And then his REAL costume arrived and he felt much more pride in wearing it!!! He is the King of my heart.  11 4 13f

A front door sight you do not see too often.11 4 13c

And one more time before this one is retired. 10 30 13a

The boys did great on Halloween.  They sat by the front door (I didn’t make them wear their costumes), while I sat on the front porch and handed out candy.  Me being outside meant the doorbell was avoided so it was a pretty calm night for everyone — even Snookie and the King.

11 4 13g