I have always said that on Christmas, what is under the tree, is never as remarkable as who is on the couch. The people and dogs on the couch, they are my gifts.
Our Christmas was delightful, although the couch was a lot empty without Melvin. I’ve been trudging through the holiday season trying to think of anything but him. I’m in that odd place that is…grey? safe? Where I can handle the reality but I keep memories at arms reach. I know I can’t keep the two separate forever. I’m working on bridging that gap, but it’s hard to force myself to sit down to look at photos and videos. I can be very stubborn. I got a Christmas gift that is a reminder to keep working on that. My SIL (sister-in-love) got two of my core beliefs made into prints and framed. The moment I opened them, I knew exactly where they would go. Also, I think it goes without saying that my heart filled with joy and I started crying!
The year is ending, a new one will begin. While I don’t want to stay in any year, we are meant to move forward, this year feels harder to move out of. It was the worst of all the years (this from someone who almost died twice in 2007), but it’s also the last year that Melvin was here. And that makes it a spectacular year in so many ways! He was only here for four months of 2015, but his beautiful spirit has filled each and every day with his everlasting presence in my heart. Something I’m so thankful for!
Keep chasing joy. Love lives on.
So, I shall bid farewell to 2015, knowing that moments of it are now a part of the core of who I am. A year of love and grief and joy and heartache. And I will say hello to 2016, a year that has nothing but opportunity for more happy and love. And I thank YOU, for being a part of all our years, no matter what they bring.
Happy New Year!! We hope that you make some beautiful, soul-rocking memories, that you opt to give before you get, and that you find your joy!
In cased you missed how Jake got the new nickname MRSA Joe, that post can be found HERE.
The infection is not worse, so that is great! I think it might even be a tad better. We are using a topical antibiotic to combat the MSRP.
The topical works best if the areas where he has the infection gets shaved (except for his paws, he has the infection there too but we don’t shave his precious feet). The funny part, yes, there is always a funny part in our lives, is that it’s sorta hard to tell the infection parts from his ‘cow spots’. You see, Jake has some cow spots (this is my highly technical term for them, I have no idea what they are called. Maybe giant, mutant freckles?) they are just normal spots on his skin that he swears make him even more sexy. The infection patches are raised just the tiniest bit and dry but with his coarse hair, it’s hard to be 100% sure when shaving. So when we went back in for a re-shave, a few of those got shaved (accidentally) this time too.
He has about six shaved, infected patches at this point, so move over Bieber, Jake has the coolest cut now.
Here is an infection spot on his side
And here is an example of not being sure! The top, big spot is infection, the lower little spots are his cow gang-markings.
In the past week, four things have happened that I would rather had not.
We came in from a morning bathroom break and I went into the loo (for no fewer than about 30 seconds). While I was in there, I could hear Jake ‘swimming’ it’s what happens when he can’t catch his footing and he’s fighting to get his legs upright. This noise is nothing new. I came out of the loo, looked to left where the noise was coming from to find that Jake (in 30 seconds) had poop’d, fallen backwards into it, scooted around for several feet in it in an effort to get upright, stepped in it and did some ‘swimming’ with his poop covered hind legs. He managed to spread poop into a 5 foot by 7 foot area, mostly on rug. HOW? WHY? It took me over an hour to clean up. He gave new meaning to the term ‘shit storm’.
One night, Jake pee’d through two cloth diaper pads, two maxi pads and a waterproof diaper, thus soaking through two bed covers and into the bed. He alerted me to this problem at 2am.
On a night when a migraine was trying to kill me and I was in extreme pain and very stomach sick, Jake decided to spew his full weight in throw-up all over his bed and condo. As I was cleaning it up, mind you, I go blind in one eye during migraines and was VERY stomach sick, I ended up throwing up on Jake (because i could not see him). Low point in our lives folks. I had to crawl with him into the shower at 3am. With a migraine. Each of us blind in one eye. No bueno.
Jake has had a skin rash (it’s not really a rash as much as black patches on his skin) on and off for two years. Usually we take some meds and it clears up but lately the patches have been opting to stick around. So we got him swabbed to see what was going on, and when they test what it is, they also test what antibiotic will work on it.
I got a call and our vet said ‘I have bad news and more bad news’. Typical.
Jake has MRSP (it’s the animal form of MRSA, although as I understand it, animals can also get MRSA but MRSP is mostly just transmitted between animals whereas MRSA is transmittable by animal and human.). Just like some humans carry MRSA and other humans get MRSA infections, so to can animals be carriers and others get infected. So he has it, and that is bad news #1. And bad news #2 is that only one antibiotic showed up on the panel to help and it’s a drug that has been known to cause bone marrow cancer in some humans that handle it.
The vet actually said these words: ‘Only a small % of people who handle it get bone marrow cancer from it, but Tracey, knowing you and your dogs, you would definitely get it.’ So aside from medicine that might help Jake and that could kill me, we have no treatment options. There is a cream that we will try (Jake has to have the spots shaved to help it work better). So he’s going to look extra ‘special’ with his new hair cut, a lame eye, a diaper and a wheelchair. He does nothing halfway!
If anyone else has faced something similar, please reach out and share your experience! Until then, I have started calling Jake, MRSA Joe. Only because MRSP requires explanation.
I found the poop emoticon stuffie and bought if for Jake (since he loves pooping so much) and I’m a little alarmed at how much he loves it. If I say ‘go get your poop’, he does it.
I like to take photos that capture Jake’s giant neck waddle. Again, to remind folks, Jake has the same size neck as Melvin had. Jake is 33 lbs and Melvin was 82 lbs. Same. Size. Neck.
The sun went away for three days and Jake was so emotionally tormented that I started calling him Debbie Downer.
This is Jake with Frog (I know, I know, creative naming just comes so naturally to me). The thing about Frog is… 1. Jake loves Frog more than he loves me. 2. Frog has been with us for 2.5 years, that is proof that Jake has tic-tac teeth. Sometimes Jake shakes and attacks Frog and other times I feel like I should put on Barry White music for them.
Jake joined me in the office the other day. Made my heart happy.
Jake got an early Christmas gift (the pouf he is laying on) and he pulled the furry blanket down from the couch (that just happens to match) on top of him because he is not a big fan of experiencing first world problems.
After Melvin died, I tried to think back if there were warning signs. Not so much to torture myself, but it all happened so fast that I felt signs must have been there. Melvin had a lot go wrong health wise, especially in his last six months, but he always had odd things going on. I sort of knew in my heart when it started and I recalled that I had blogged about it. I didn’t go back and look for the post, knowing it was there was enough and to be honest, I knew I couldn’t handle it at the time.
Melvin had started moaning when he shifted positions laying down. Most ‘older’ creatures do this when they adjust during sleep or when falling asleep and finding a good position. But my gut told me it was more. He had also been sleeping in a new position that struck me as odd because it didn’t seem like his usual ‘get as comfortable as possible when sleeping’ approach. When I told the vet that he had been sleeping in a new position they said ‘but he’s sleeping, right?’. Yes. But this new position means something, I just know it.
Mom alway knows.
They went with an arthritis in his knees diagnosis that day. Which was also, probably true. In hindsight, I know the cancer had by started by then, I know that his moaning was the tumor in his liver. I know the new sleeping position was to accommodate that tumor. And I now know that the ultrasound we did at that point, was not as comprehensive as it would have been at a specialist. I also know, that even if I had known back then, he’d still be gone. His cancer was terminal from the moment it started.
I have been using Facebook’s ‘on this day’ to slowly reconnect with old blog post and for the most part, I love this feature. I get to be reminded of past posts and moments with the boys. Facebook reminded me this weekend of that post from a year ago, when I had a gut feeling Melvin had cancer. I cried a little when I read it. Maybe it was that I had joked some about it in the post but probably because I recall how I felt, and I did feel wholeheartedly that something was wrong. Rereading that post started off as a rip in my heart but then it ended in odd joy. Because if there is one thing in life I knew, it was my Melvin. My connection to him was pure and true. I still stand so proud of that.
I’m thankful we didn’t ‘know’ earlier. It happened as it was supposed to and I have no regrets.
These are the dogs that Jake and I have met in the past few months.
This is Stanley. I loved Stanley. The reason Stanley was ultimately was not for us was because in his first life, he was chained in a basement and his new life, he was learning how much he loved to play! Jake can’t play, his spine can’t take it. Stanley deserved a life of romping, so we (me and the rescue group) decided that he was better off in a different home. A few weeks later, Stanley was adopted!
This is Norman. Norman was awesome in just about every way. Norman also happened to be the dog that alerted me, and our trainer (which prompted a visit with a behaviorist), that something (not so great) was going on with Jake. Norman was in our house for four days. Jake flipped out the entire time Norman was here. They were separated the entire time but just knowing Norman was in the house had Jake ramming doors and gates and walls trying to get to him. Norman was terrified of Jake (hell I was terrified of Jake too). The only way I could get Jake to stop flipping out when Norman was here, was to take Norman into the garage, then take Jake upstairs (making him think Norman had left) and putting him to bed. The moment Jake woke up and sensed Norman was still here, the ramming started all over. Jake rammed and scratched so much in those four days, there was blood. I really loved Norman but Jake being unable to come down at all made me realize that we still had some work to do. Norman got adopted the day after his visit here ended!
This is dog #3. I can’t even recall his name! We met this (type of) dog on the recommendation of our behaviorist. To set Jake up with a Melvin like dog (light-colored and soft looking). Jake actually did ok with this dog on our meet walk but not so much when we neared our house. Either way, I didn’t feel like this dog was right for me and he didn’t have a ton of patience for nice-Jake so he was probably not going to love not-so-nice Jake.
And finally, Gus. To this day, Gus not being here haunts me. Jake bit Gus twice (within the same 4-5 seconds)(and even though Jake has worn down teeth and didn’t leave a mark, poor Gus yelped both times). This was another situation where had Jake calmed down AT ALL while Gus was here, I would have adopted Gus and made it work. But Jake foamed and flipped and rammed doors and walls and furniture the entire time Gus was in our house. Until you have been in a situation where you cannot calm your dog down for hours upon hours, you don’t know how alarming it can feel. (sidenote: Gus was adopted!)
I know many of you are thinking, it takes time. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. Jake and Melvin were separated for two weeks to start and Jake was then on tie down for two additional weeks. And I’m willing to separate for as long as it takes. But when I tell you that Jake can’t calm down, I’m putting it mildly. He is like a wild, rabid, caged animal when these dogs are in our house. I had trainers come over and asses him. I talked to behaviorists that told me even in extreme cases where a dog reacts, they eventually do calm down (even if they re-escalate later). Jake’s reaction is more stuck on loop, of reacting. If Jake had lunged the crate or the gate but then went and laid down, and then rammed the crate, and then went and laid down, I would have ten dogs by now!
I don’t know what happened between Melvin and now, but my guess is that, Melvin was more to Jake than just a brother. I think as Jake’s mobility continued to fail, he still felt safe with Melvin. He does not seem as confident now. I believe Jake can find that again but I’m not sure what the path to that looks like for us. There are others that feel that he may not find it again, that as his mobility fails, Jake changes. At the end of the day, it’s Jake’s safety I worry about, he can barely stand up, so any altercation that might be brought on by him would result in his own injury. I also worry about Jake’s mental state when a dog is here. You know the kid in Target who has a meltdown because they are tired and hungry and can’t have everything in the toy section? They are flailing and screaming and arching their back to get out of the cart and the parent would give anything for it not to be happening or for their child to not feel inconsolable. That is Jake, the entire time a dog is here.
I think you guys know that I am willing to go a pretty far distance for my dogs. And had Melvin and Jake had an issue where living separate lives became a necessity, I would have done that. For them. But I’m not in that mindset (crate and rotate forever) at this point for Jake and a new dog. And all signs so far have suggested that is good possibility with the dogs we have met. To those of you that eternally crate and rotate…I stand in awe of you.
We are still working on this! Mostly because, I’m feeling a bit selfish — I couldn’t need another dog more. But family is about compromise. So we shall see. And I share this with you so that you know what our path looks like. Even though Jake and I are on the same journey, sometimes we take different routes to our destination.