Challenges.

This post is two-fold.  It’s about life with Jake, and it’s about a post I read on Facebook.

Jake came to me able-bodied and ornery as all hell.  While his gait always seemed a little off, I’d never had a Frenchie or any short-legged dog for that matter so it was really hard to tell.  Dude ran, and leapt and when walking him, he could almost pull you over with all 33 lbs.  Unlike with Melvin and his severe allergies, I had no idea what I was getting into with Jake.  I mean more often than not, you really never know.

One year after getting Jake, we woke up one morning and he got out of bed and his hind legs did not work.  He was terrified and I was terrified. Melvin even freaked out a little, why was his little buddy swimming on the floor? Fine one day, unable to walk the next day.  After emergency vet visits, neurologist visits and many tests (MRI, Spinal Tap and CT scans) I found out that Jake had the most messed up spine imaginable and that one day (not at that point but one day), his hind legs would fully stop working.  He regained use of his hind legs a few days later (thank you steroids) but his legs were never the same and his gait has continued to decline over the past year and a half. I did what I do best, I went into plan mode.

Along with his legs issues, he started losing control of his bladder and meatball making schedule.  One of the reasons I like older dogs (oh let me count the ways) is that the housebreaking days are long over.  And while Jake’s issues were not about housebreaking, they suddenly became about all the things you hate most about housebreaking.  Pee and crap.

Fast forward to today.  I change Jake’s diaper about 4-5 times a day.  We go through 12 maxi pads during an average day. They are not magic diapers or pads, they often leak.  “Little Jake’ wiggles out about 4-5 times a week and I have to get on my hands and knees and clean up the floor. i have a flashlight that shows pee (doesn’t everyone?).  He sleeps diaper-free at night (in a contained area) and I get up (on average) about 4 times a night to change out his mattress cover or pick up some meatballs. I do my own laundry, once a week.  I do Jake’s laundry, twice a day. The duties contained in this paragraph, I did not plan for them.  I’d love for these issue to go away (for me and for him) but I also never let it weigh me down.  If he pees or poops, I clean it up with the same thought process as if someone spilled some water.  It’s just something I do now.  When you love someone, and they start down a road of declining mobility, you don’t wave good-bye.  You say, wait for me, we are going this together.

This week I read a post about a woman whose dog had started marking in the house, and she had ‘tried everything’ and ‘just couldn’t take it anymore’.  The last straw had been the dog marking near/on her child’s toys.  People made suggestions about belly bands, training tips, etc, but the woman said with complete certainty, she wanted the dog gone. I could write a book for this woman, but I could tell she’d never open it.

I mean we all read posts about people who have given up on their pets.  If people are not going to be there for their dogs (and yes it’s easy to say they never should have gotten the dog, but they did, so…), I do believe they should give them up.  Sure, I wish the person would MIRACULOUSLY change, but that is not the reality.  And this person’s frustration rang true to me, I got it.  I mean she does not even have a clue at how much I GOT IT.  Jake leaks pee 24/7. She had not even scratched the surface on the amount of pee a dog can unload.

But she and I only had that in common.  The fact that into our lives, some pee did fall.

There are people who don’t have to say I’m in this with you forever because quite frankly, it goes without saying. And there are people who are only in it for as long as it works out.  Maybe one can’t be, without the other. I mean, my little family was formed because of those differences. And it could be pee, or behavioral issues or illness and the cost of vet care.  So, even when reading her post and thinking, I WISH JAKE ONLY MARKED!!!… I realized, that dog of hers, deserves better. He deserves true love.  He deserves guidance and maxi pads. And I looked at Jake and thanked God that I was capable of that love. I have quit plenty of things (diets, jobs, gym memberships, people who suck), but I will never quit Jake.

The whole thing reminded me of post I did about Melvin’s first family.  A letter I wrote (never sent) to them (HERE).  To thank them for letting him go.

Jake’s new ride

Some of you will recall that Jake got a buggy about a year-and-a-half ago.  It was his mean-green-hood-machine.

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There were a few things wrong with that version of the stroller.  One, despite it saying it fit a dog 50lbs or less – Jake was pretty tight in there.  He could not lay down in it which was tough on long walks. Also, those wheels were not engineered for a dog built like a boulder Jake.

The biggest issue was that after 18 months of Jake, It was just a giant-green-pee-stink-machine.  It gets much funkier during the summer heat. No thank you.

So I upgraded us all.

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Of course I never fully think through anything when it comes to online shopping. I just see the ‘buy’ button and click away! But Big-Red does not fit in my SUV (well I guess it would fit but then Jake wouldn’t fit…). So now I am getting Green-Machine de-peed so it can be our travel buggy.

Life with Jake, a series of problems, solutions and pee.

Just a sidenote:  There are very few things as funny as seeing people on the path, they think it’s a kid buggy and then all of a sudden I click and treat.  The look on their faces is pure: WHY IS SHE CLICKER TRAINING HER CHILD?  IS THAT A THING NOW?

My collection (and heart) is complete.

I make no secret about the fact that I love Yellow Brick Home pet portraits.  I love them more than wine and shoes combined.  True story.

It all started with our first painting. The one of the boys, from my viewpoint (me looking down and them looking up).  My dynamic duo, forever together on hot pink.

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Then came Melvin’s portrait, earlier this year.  Commissioned prior to the cancer diagnosis but arriving before we lost him. I had one request: capture his Eeyore face. Kim nailed it (doy).  I hold this painting, clutched to my chest, daily. The happiest sad-face I’ve ever loved.

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After Melvin died, I knew I needed to complete the collection.  When you lose something so great, you create balance wherever possible.  So I ordered a YBH painting of Jake. When talking to Kim, I tried to explain to her that since losing Melvin, there was a vulnerability in Jake’s eyes. I said maybe she’d see, maybe she’d think I’m cray.

Well, I can confirm that she saw it.  This painting, those eyes, it’s there. She captured my little monkey; a guy who lost his life partner, but is learning to find his own way.holupka-jake-scan

And where to put these treasures?  That was easy. Although Melvin can no longer greet me at the door, the moment I walk into the house, I’m reminded of my little family in other ways.

IMG_5091If you have one (or more) of these paintings, you know.  If you HAVE YET TO ORDER ONE,  what are you waiting for???  Go!

A funny thing happened on my way to change the name.

Here is the truth.  Seeing Oh Melvin regularly has made me sad.  The cause for all the ‘ohs’, I miss them.  I was not expecting Oh Melvin to remind me of what I can no longer hold. But when I went to change the name of the blog last weekend, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t will my hands to delete the title or add a new one!  It’s still a string that still connects me and Jake to him.  And us three to you all. And, since launching Melvin’s Project Joy this week, Oh Melvin has felt more right than it has in a few months. It’s funny how spreading some joy can heal you.

I had every intention of changing it to ‘…into my life you came’.

I do think it will eventually change. If a new dog miraculously wins Jake over in the short-term, I’ll figure out a way to jam his (or her) name into this sandwich.

I did update a few things!  The tagline and the menus, and content within the menus. So there was forward movement!  We need to claim any and all baby steps that we can!

I’ll leave you with this photo of Jake from this weekend.  Melvin used to take breaks from Jake, in the closet with the door slightly closed. Jake would eventually find him. For the record, this photo does not make sad. I’m pretty sure Jake can still see Melvin in there. He sat there for over ten minutes, it was less about looking and more about finding. In fact the more progress Jake makes, I think Melvin is guiding him. And that makes me happy.

#loveliveson #sodoesOhMelvin

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Melvin’s Project Joy: Giveaway One!

I am squealing with delight to launch this!!!  It feels like a big hug with Melvin.

Each month, we will do a giveaway that celebrates the unique nature of our furry friends.  There will be monthly categories, so if you have a dog that falls into that one, you can nominate them to win. If your dog does not fit into this month’s category, do not fret, we have a pretty all-encompassing list for the entire year – like if your dog is a cat – we eventually got you covered!

When Jen (at Sirius Republic) and I started talking about how these monthly giveaways would work, we immediately agreed on the what the first month category would be.

Anxiety dogs.

Both of our lives have been forever changed by our anxiety dogs (Melvin & Jake for me, Chilly for her).  We have compared stories of desensitization, DAP diffuser and anxiety supplements and drugs.  We have shared updates on how we have missed out on events, in order to help our dogs get through. Countless successes and many failures, some frustration and many adult beverages later, that is how being a (pet) parent goes! So in honor of our anxious-love-monkeys, we kick off month one of Melvin’s Project Joy!

Here is how it works…

  1. This goes beyond just a giveaway (but yes, there is of course some loot!).  Our goal is to remind each other that we are all in this crazy life together.  That through these giveaways, we can all bring empathy into play.  As you share stories of your anxiety dogs, read the stories of others.  You may nod, or have ideas of how to help.  You can message others and share ideas and stories.  Friendships will form. Support can be shared.  Joy will be spread!
  2. Share you anxiety dog (your dog’s name, a photo. and the story of anxiety issues you and your dog face) on either our Facebook page containing this post, on Sirius Republic’s Facebook page when they share this post. If you are not of the Facebook world, you can email your info to ohmelvinyojake@gmail.com.  You can also post the info below in the comments, although you probably can’t share a photo on here (and that’s ok). No matter how you submit your info, you will be entered to win.
  3. READ ALONG AS OTHERS POST. DON’T FORGET TO REACH OUT.
  4. We will pick one female and one male winner at the end of July!

Next month, it will be a new category!

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The name of the blog.

When I started the blog, I named it Oh Melvin because I said those two words SEVERAL times a day. In the beginning it was a frustrated Oh Melvin what have you done and at the end, it was a Oh Melvin, I love you bud. I gave no thought to how long I would blog or if the blog would outlive Melvin. Neither of those things felt like a concern to me at the time.

I no longer say “Oh Melvin” out loud anymore. In fact, I have not said those words since the moment we said goodbye.  When I pull up the blog each day, I wonder about two things…

  1. Does oh Melvin, yo Jake feel right?
  2. How in the world will I ever add other dog names to that moniker?

To start, the URL will always be ohmelvin.com.  I bought ohmelvin.com and I’m keeping it. Forever. That is always how you will get here. That URL is the soul of this blog. It is what brought us all together. Hopefully that relieves some concern.

The title of the blog probably needs to evolve though. Life has changed for us and the blog should reflect some of that shift.

I’ve been toying with two options.

  1. The first is from a line in a song that I sang to Melvin every night, a song that started long before there was ever a blog: Oh Melvin, into my life you came.  In this option I would go with: “…into my life you came. The story of Melvin & Jake“.  This would then allow for dogs who follow, to be represented (I’d just keep adding names).
  2. The other option I am considering is: “Love lives on. The story of Melvin & Jake.“.  If you follow us on Instagram, you know that #loveliveson is a hashtag I have been using for the last three months.  And it’s easy to add names on.

For both options, the menu heading that says “About Melvin (and Jake)’ would change to a different heading for each dog.  Oh Melvin would include the background of Melvin.  Yo Jake would be about the wonky-legged-googly-eyed-dude.  I could then add a menu button for any other dogs that find their way to us. So there would still be Oh Melvin and Yo Jake visually.

So what is your opinion?  Do you like 1 or 2?  Do you dislike either? Do you have other ideas?  Do you want it to stay Oh Melvin, Yo Jake (and if so, how do I add names to that?). Could I ask anymore questions in this paragraph?

And just a FYI, when asked, Jake suggested the blog be called: Just Jake. 

Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography

Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography

Three months.

Melvin died three months ago.  I still can’t type it without feeling some heaviness creep into my chest.

I’ve been going to therapy/grief counseling because I still have a hard time at night.  I feel a lot of anxiety and I don’t sleep all that great anymore.  We think a lot of that has to do with how terrified I was every night that he was here, after I learned of the cancer.  In the same moment I was so grateful that we’d had one more day I was also so utterly terrified that he would die during the night or the next day.  I was constantly haunted by our prognosis:  he could die at anytime. Nighttime was when I’d fall apart.  It was the worst fear and panic I’ve ever known. So it makes sense, I have to make some peace with the night hours now.  The good news is, it’s getting better.  For sure.

Everyone keeps saying, it’s ok to be mad. I know about the stages of grief, I’m not sure that everyone goes through each one.  But I can’t (or maybe it’s that I won’t?) let myself be angry.  Here’s why. In the seven years I had Melvin, he never displayed an ounce of anger. He got a lot of crappy health issues thrown at him yet that dog even wagged his nubbin one hour after having to have his tail amputated.  For me, being angry that he’s gone or that cancer found us, feels untrue to who he was to me.  He was my bright light and in grieving him, I am trying to honor that. I’m trying live by his example. Trust me, it’s not always easy. Cancer has taken too much, of that we are all certain.  But for us, his cancer was brief and he suffered very little.  I’m grateful for that.

The grief has softened, a lot. I keep it together when I talk about him now. I have been able to watch a few videos of him and remain upright (HUGE)!  And when tears come, I’m thankful for the love that brought them. Jake is doing much better also.  He did well being left alone with the dog sitter for a week. He’s doing great with his training. His separation anxiety has significantly improved. I can see his overall anxiety lessening, sometimes his new calm reminds me of Melvin.  Jake’s Jedi master taught him well.

In losing Melvin I have realized that the best way to honor someone’s memory, is to take on some of the goodness they brought to the world. It’s how love lives on. If they brought kindness, keep kindness going.  If they brought laughter, carry the funny forward. If they made you feel strong, lift someone else up.  I promise you, it helps. For us, Melvin brought joy and peace.  And I will give both back, every day I’m alive.

And since we are a forward moving bunch, in my next post I’ll share with you my thoughts on changing the name of the blog.

Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography

Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography