Happy hump day!!!
The Melvin and Jake days went like this, I’d give a verbal command (dinner, sit, potty, upstairs, inside) and Melvin and Jake would come/go running. It was always Melvin, then Jake. I just figured they both took off running at the same time but Melvin’s legs were longer (and his legs worked) so he showed up first.
I was wrong. As far as I can tell, the day we lost Melvin was the very first day Jake ever heard my voice. I guess it had always been Melvin hearing me, he’d move in the appropriate direction and then Jake would be like ‘oh yay, I love this game, he always leads me to such wonderful things’. Melvin was Jake’s hearing-ear-dog. (For the record, Jake is not deaf, we checked).
In the current day, when
words noises come out of my mouth, Jake just tilts his head and looks around for Melvin. He. Doesn’t. Know. One. Command.
For example, in this video (and this is not a training session, I just wanted you to see how I got to this realization), I say the word ‘potty’ or ‘go potty’ about 7,690 times in the span of forty seconds. (Had this been Melvin and I said ‘go potty’ this many times, he would have spun around and ran back and forth to door and pee’d right there our of excitement explosion. Jake would have mimicked his every move). When saying it in this video, I’m pointing, gesturing, motioning to the door. Jake has (supposedly) heard me say ‘potty’ 4 times a day for two-and-a-half-years. Melvin was running for the door if I even said ‘pa’.
So this week he is learning three things. The first is POTTY. The next is ‘sit’. It’s actually not easy for Jake to sit because of his legs but sit is crucial to many other things he will need to learn so he is learning a modified sit. He is also learning ‘stop’, because 85% of the things he does, he should not do.
It’s interesting training Jake, he’s smart but he’s also indifferent about it. While he loves food (LOVES), and he likes that you are holding food for him, he does not always understand the food needs to be worked for. Like sometimes in our training, he’ll just go lay down and give me the look of ‘please bring that food to me’. He’s not really food motivated, he just wants to eat it. I have never had a dog like this, so training my little karate kid (reference to the tittle of the post) is a lesson for both of us.
Many of you have emailed and messaged, asking how things are going (thank you!). While I have always shared an honest view of our life, and even though the last month of sadness was unforeseeable, I don’t want to spend much time writing about grief. We all grieve deeply and differently and there is a part of it that is so sacred. But I DO want to update you on where my head is (this post) and then I want to move on to what’s going on with Jake (Monday’s post) and his new life learning words. I don’t want to make people cry, most of all myself!! I am ready to get back to the (still honest) look at how wacky our dog days are! Our posts will still include memories of Melvin, there is a ton I’ve never even told you about him, but it will also take a focus on Jake. And one day…on the next rescue.
The day the oncologist told me that Melvin was terminal, I asked how I was supposed to manage a cancer that could take him at any time. Her answer: If you want to control it, you’d have to let him go now. I asked, how do you put a a dog that is (seemingly) healthy and happy down? She said: it’s one of the things that makes this cancer so hard. But then she said… There is a window, and it opened with his diagnosis. That window is going to close, but there is a chance that it won’t slam shut, that you will sense the closing. That may come with his physical behavior, with minor internal bleeds and him not feeling well. Or it might be something else. But if there is no rupture (and she wholeheartedly felt there would be), you will feel the window closing.
I felt the window closing.
I knew with absolute certainty that this part of our journey was coming to an end. I knew it in my heart, I saw it in his eyes, I felt it in every part of who we were. If there is one thing in life that I know, it’s Melvin. After all the years of getting him healthy, I couldn’t let a sudden, quick decline take his mind or body back to those early days of his life. So for Melvin, there was no rupture, no suffering, just love. His window is forever left open, to let the beautiful breeze blow through. Melvin was happy and full of joy up to his very last moment. He ate food he never knew existed, he went for a delightful car ride with his body hanging out the window, he was wrapped in love by his favorite people and his brother. We felt his love for us, in every moment.
I miss Melvin as much as I love him; infinitely. The nights are hard. I allowed Jake to sleep in the bed one night to see if it would help. He poop’d. It’s OK, you can laugh. I did.
During the day, I’m less heavy-hearted. During the day, Melvin’s love wraps around me. It gives me so much strength. I can’t explain it. I wake up and his love fills me up. Even though throughout the day he would be at my feet (as all good velcro dogs are), I don’t look for him there because I feel him so deeply in my heart. I stare at his photo in my office and I feel tremendous joy that he was mine. I have so much gratitude for all things him.
I had Melvin for seven years. Seven magnificent years. When tears show up, I just breathe. I try to keep my eye on the joy. He was meant to be mine. I was meant to be his. He could have been put down at three, but we found each other. The force that brought us together…powerful and true. We had the best life together.
Here is the reality, Melvin had cancer. He was always going to have this cancer, he was always going to die at ten. His cancer was genetic, it was a part of his code.
It’s heartbreaking but that is how life goes sometimes. So I have stopped saying ‘he was supposed to live to 14’ (and I have no clue why I always thought he’d live to be 14) and have started accepting, he was only supposed to live to ten. And I was supposed to get him to ten and even though he died at his most healthy (minus the cancer), I’m so proud that we healed all of his crazy ailments. He left this life knowing what healing felt like, his skin was healthy, his fur was soft and thick, his seizures were minimal, his colitis didn’t rule our every day and his joy was at an all time high (as proudly shown by his wagging nubbin). We went to the vet fewer times in his last six months than at any time before. We’d won! We didn’t need more time to do it right. While extra years would have been my every hope and dream, more time wouldn’t have changed our story. When I’m sad that I didn’t get his golden years (PEOPLE, OLD DOGS ARE LITERALLY THE BEST DOGS), I realize that his golden years WERE spent with me, we just didn’t know it at the time. I was there when his forever life began and I was there at his end, and in between…well in between was beyond anything I could have ever wished for. If someone had asked me seven years ago if I wanted to know how long he’d live, I’d give a resounding ‘no’. I was his forever, no matter how long that was. This path is ours and lovely and this grief is part of that beautiful journey. When they say love lives on, they don’t always point out that learning to carry it in a new way can take some time, some tears, some perspective.
He left this earth having known the truest love imaginable. He changed me forever. He left knowing his work here was beautifully complete. He made me a better person. Melvin expanded my capacity for love and it’s a wild love that needs to keep growing and giving. He loved me genuinely and delightfully and unconditionally. He gave Jake a brother to love and the patience Jake needed to learn to become a most awesome sidekick. He taught people how deep love can grow, how joy always wins, how perseverance reigns supreme and how choosing peace heals the soul. And together, our love made a difference. There is no greater feeling than saying that out loud.
Our love made a difference.
Melvin is a part of me. He didn’t take my heart with him when he left, instead, he left his with mine. Our hearts are bound together, forever. This past week, I’ve truly felt what one of my favorite poems means. In our new journey, Jake and I carry Melvin in our hearts. Forward, as he would have wanted.
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
(poem by E.E. Cummings)
(love by Tracey, Melvin and Jake)
(Monday’s post is funny, trust me)
One of my most treasured pieces in the house is the Yellow Brick Home painting of the boys. It is my true view of the two knuckleheads and everyone who sees it, swoons hard. I mean it’s pretty much perfection.
So as Melvin’s big-10 birthday was approaching, I thought, what does he want most in life.? The answer:
food to make me happy. So I ordered a painting of Melvin man. In talking to Kim, goddess of artistry at YBH (guys, working with her is so fun and she really gets what you are saying)… I said that I wanted to capture Melvin’s Eeyore face. He’s the happiest sad-face dog ever and I wanted that face on a white background.
Kim got working on it. Then we found out about the cancer. The painting went from something I wanted, to something I needed.
When the package came, I was squealing with excitement and overwhelmed as all hell to open it. With Melvin laying at my feet (he was still here when it arrived), I ripped open the package. It was a billion times beyond what I’d hoped for! The expression, was perfection. HIs jowls, his ears, his freckles. STOP! AHHHHHHHHHHHH! It is so amazing that I can almost feel his velvety fur when I touch it. It instantly became priceless to me. I hugged it. I may sleep with it. Ok fine, I did sleep with it.
This week, it has been a place I can go to pause and stare at that sad-faced-happy-dog that I love so much.
And because Yellow Brick Home is beyond your wildest dreams of what awesome is, they are giving Oh Melvin readers a 15% discount! FIFTEEN PERCENT!!!! The code is good for the next two days (today and tomorrow) so act fast, your only regret will be if you miss out! (PS. you can do cats, dogs, horses, goats, chickens, iguanas, pet rocks) (OK, I’m not sure about all of those but you can ask!)
The site is HERE and the code is XOMELVIN15. The code is good for anything in the shop, including the custom stuff and gift certs!. It’s only good Monday, 4/20 and Tuesday, 4/21. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! GO!
Someone once told me that deep grief is the price you pay for great love. To that I say, this grief I feel, is worth it. Every ounce of it. I don’t want to write about Melvin right now, I don’t even think I could. What I will tell you is that even though there is sadness and tears, there are also many more moments when I feel Melvin wrap his love around me and I smile and I feel strong and I’m reminded to try to live life the way Melvin did. He always leapt forward, keeping one eye on the joy and the other eye on me, making sure I was coming along for the ride. Love leaps on.
Jake is mourning the loss of his brother. Even though Jake has barked a total of 20 times in two-and-a-half-years, he now barks all throughout the day. (And just so you know, Jake has a bit of a Barry White bark, it’s not he bark you’d expect to come from his body). He has been looking for Melvin in every room, corner and closet. When he does this, I try to redirect his energy, like I decided it would be a good idea to try a bath. I know a lot of you bathe your dogs at home and I’m in awe of your confidence. We all have our strengths, bathing others is not one of mine! I decided to bathe Jake in the kitchen sink with no thought of how to reel him in when he started flailing, mostly because I didn’t expect him to flip-flop around like that. He managed to get water 20 feet away from the sink. Somehow we survived and he ended up clean in the process. But to Jake it probably seemed a lot like this: Monday, someone took my life partner away and Tuesday, my mother tried to waterboard me.
In other news, it turns out that Jake does not know a single command. Not one! He was 100% following Melvin’s lead. If I said ‘dinner’ and Melvin came running, Jake was the monkey of ‘monkey see, monkey do’. In fact, whenever I say anything to Jake now, even the word ‘sit’, he looks around for Melvin to decipher my words. So now my little cheater is learning his own smarts.
Have a great weekend! We wish you much joy! Check back early next week for an AWESOME treat from Yellow Brick Home to Oh Melvin readers!
Lastly, thank you, for so many things. Each and every one of you, thank you.
March 2, 2005 – April 13, 2015
“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true. No there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do. Go to the ends of the earth for you, to make you feel my love.”
I love you deeply and eternally and I am so grateful you were mine. You were the perfect dog, my best friend and a most awesome brother.
Until we meet again my love…
Melvin sleeps on my bed (always has) but lately I have been putting puppy pads down and then his blanket on top of them. In the morning, I have ‘must-make-the-bed-or-it-will-haunt-me-all-day syndrome’ so I pull the pads and blanket off and put them in his unused dog bed until the next night.
Came out of the shower and Jake was no where to be found. Then I located him.
Hemangiosarcoma gave us something that it does not give to everyone. Fair warning.
In the past month, I have laid on the floor with Melvin, several times a day. He glances at me and I stop what I’m doing and whisper ‘I love you’ into his ear. I have snuck surprises into each meal, I have allowed him to bark at whatever he’d like. He no longer has to sit for treats. When he won’t go outside at night without me, I gladly accompany him, even in the rain. I cheer on his every moment, I even applaud his sleeping, I mean could anyone be resting better than him? Doubtful! I have told him in a million different ways, how much he means to me. I’ll be honest, Heaven better be pretty spectacular because his last month has been pretty flippen incredible.
It’s easy to pretend that the vets are wrong, but that is not going to help Jake or I in the long run. So, I have taken time to say some things out loud to myself, so that the reality stays grounded. When I say them, there is no gratitude but there is also no anger. I just thought (hope) the more I realize while he’s here, the less I’ll have to come to terms with once he’s gone. Little things like…
And some bigger realizations, that are harder to come to terms with since they have become a part of who we are.
These are the little things that can overwhelm you when you lose someone. The flood of missing everything all at once. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. But I’m a hopeful realist (yes that is possible)!
Cancer gave me time to do things right. And while it has been awesome for him, and harder on me, I’d carry a million of these moments just to know that he went weeks feeling he could do no wrong. Enjoying extra treats for no reason at all. Realizing that his glance is so powerful, it can beckon me to the floor. Each night, I tell him over and over how wonderful he is. I sing songs, I kiss his sweet face, I breathe him in. I watch his nubbin wag the whole time. And every morning, I’m grateful for one more day.
Cancer gave me one thing that it cannot ever take away, the opportunity for time well spent.
A few more from our recent photo shoot..
The day I found out about Melvin, I reached out to the wonderful and oh so talented Kate of Kate Juliet Photography (Kate With a Camera) and asked if she had time to come snap some shots of Melvin and me (and Jake). I have a million photos of Melvin, but with time running out, it didn’t feel like near enough.
She was at my house four days later. Best, of all the best of all the people. My Grandmother was here and my sister-in-law came over with my niece. There was no sadness, just so much love.
Here is a sneak peek. I am holding most photos back for now, keeping them only for myself for a little bit. Ones that I have already had made into canvases and hung. What a wonderful thing photographs are, I can look at these and remember that sunny day, with a bouncy toddler and two wiggly dogs. An afternoon where loved reigned supreme. Well, love and giggles and wags.
If you are in the Northern VA/DC metro area and need a photographer for your any-legged kids, call Kate. She may very well the calmest person you will ever meet, toddlers and dogs running all about, she somehow captures the beautiful dance.
The quick update is, there is a lot of almost nothing going on with Melvin. The a lot part is that I’m consumed with worry and the uncertainty weighs heavy but we are making the most of every nanosecond. The almost nothing part is that, he is for the most part, the same. Much skinnier, and some discomfort, but pretty much the same. For that, I’m grateful. I will carry that load. Jake’s legs are super wonky lately and even trying to get his diaper on (with legs that drop during the process) could drive someone to need call the Betty Ford Clinic. I wonder if they deliver (ABC not Betty Ford).
I’d sum up the daily feeling as: gratefully exhausted.
Since sleep eludes me, I have had plenty of time to
know what it is like to be a vampire come up with new decorating ideas. Like I decided we don’t need a dining room. We have a large table in the main kitchen/dining/living room so the other, more sectioned off dining room usually goes unused. OK fine, it has never been used, not even once. So I turned it into a lounge. In doing that, the china had to be moved from the sideboard (that I was selling) to the kitchen. I decided to put the pieces on the top shelf of the cabinets. I went to stand up on the stool and cracked my head on the wooden range hood and then hit my head on the granite island as I was falling off the stool. Just thinking of the pain, even a week later, makes me cringe. There was nothing adorable about the fall. I think the dogs were even embarrassed for me.
When you are on blood thinners for a strange blood clotting condition, you are told OVER and OVER and OVER, head injuries can be very serious. I called the hematologist who promptly told me to call 911. I’m not one for drama (and logical thinking has gone out the window) so I just drove myself. I said my new normal good-bye to Melvin (with tears) and headed over to the ER (which luckily is only one mile from our house).
Important to note here that I have installed cameras in the house so I can keep an eye on Melvin when I am not home. Despite there being cameras everywhere, he is rarely on any of them. I swear he may be in witness protection. So at the ER, as I was trying to find him on camera, and they were making me go get the CT without my phone, or trying to do head injury tests, I was pretty focused (dizzily) on WHY MELVIN WAS NOT ON CAMERA. I mean common universe, work with me.
They said I had a concussion and due to the blood thinners they wanted to keep an eye on me for a little while. To that I said: “no can do. My dog is dying and is currently not on camera and I need to get home and check on him immediately’ (note, I have about 40 billion people who could and would have gone over to check on Melvin but for some reason the head injury was turning me into a CRAZY PERSON (yeah right, the head injury)). The doctors and nurses just looked at me, trying to decipher what I was babbling about, and I high tailed it out of there before they could put a mental safety hold on me. I may or may not have still been wearing the hospital gown.
Love can drive you mad.
Here is the lounge, the only things that are new are the chairs. The other stuff I had elsewhere or was already in the room. It turns out Melvin loves to lounge on these chairs so that makes it all worth it, and Jake really likes chewing the rug, so…
Today marks the 4th year of blogging on Oh Melvin (the yo Jake part came later!). I am fairly certain that no one read my first post and I was totally fine with that. Writing is my happy place, it’s how I decompress. It makes me a better person, a calmer being, it brings me happiness.
Melvin was (and still is) my inspiration for this blog. As the years have passed, Jake has provided his fair share of drama and humor (and meatballs). As we move forward, it will still be a blog about Melvin & Jake, even if Jake stories start to take center stage. Melvin will always be an inspiration for us and I have no doubt that writing this blog will get us through the tougher days ahead.
But for today, four years is pretty fricken cool! Yay us! And both boys are laying at my feet as I type this so hot damn if we don’t have it all!!!!