Special needs.

There are a lot of rescuers who think of me when they get a special needs dog into their rescue. They reach out to let me know they have one and we chat about it.  Then, I explain to them that Jake prefers to be an only dog.

I have friends who tag me whenever they see an adoptable with severe allergies.  Or one who wears diapers.

When I took Melvin in, I knew (or so I thought) what I was in for. The rescue group told me that his allergies were severe and they would be an issue his entire life. They told me I was committing to a shared, lifelong struggle. Of course Melvin had countless health issues, but almost all them stemmed in some way from his allergies.  The net, net is that I took him on knowing there were going to be a lot of hurdles. I’d do him all over again. I fell in love with him at first sight.

I did not know with Jake (that he would be such a health challenge nor was it love at first sight. It was definitely like at first sight, but I never thought I wanted a small dog and he didn’t even seem to like me when I first met him…), I think that is probably how it is most of the time. There are no health guarantees when you get a rescue or a puppy (or a human for that matter). Jake’s issues all came unexpectedly.  Eye ulcers and blindness. His legs failing, his need for a wheelchair and a stroller. The need to change his diapers 10-15 times a day, the need to adjust his diapers 100 times a day (not the diapers fault, if you dragged your hind legs around, your underwear would slide off too), his inability to hold his meatballs. The constant struggle with diaper rash, allergies, infections and MRSP.  It’s a lot. Some days it’s overwhelming. But that’s what love is.  We were a year into life with Jake when the first issue came up.  A year in equates to me loving him an immeasurable amount.

Love drives me to care for Jake. It wakes me up at 3am when he has poop’d and it keeps me calm when he starts leaking the moment he comes back inside and dirtys a perfectly clean diaper. Love controls my voice, so that it never sounds annoyed, always gentle. Love gets me through the gagging I go through every day when I smell A&D ointment. For every time I hear ‘I don’t know how you do it’, there is a ‘love gives me the ability to do anything’ response.

To be honest, I have no idea if I would have taken Jake had our paths not crossed until a year later. If I was to meet him as a leaky, wonky legged rescue at an event.  I really don’t know one way or the other. Sometimes I think I would not have. The struggle with Melvin’s health was lessening everyday at that point-in-time and I was glad to be getting a bit of a break.  I might have said no. Sometimes I think, of course I would have adopted him, that I would have known he and Melvin and I were meant to be.  I had a year to fall in love with Jake before our struggle became real. Our rescue played out as it was supposed to.

When I get calls or emails about special needs dogs, the very first thing I think is ‘their owner is out there somewhere, but I don’t know that it’s me’, because if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that I don’t know what I am willing to go through until I meet a dog. In theory, I want to help all the dogs, but I don’t want to adopt all the dogs. There is a connection that occurs, it’s why most of us say that the dog rescues us. Something happens, and you just know from that point on, come hell, cancer or paralysis, you are their forever.

What I do know for certain is that Jake’s struggles, and my needing to adjust to them, have forever changed me. From dealing with his challenges, I learned that being frustrated (or not), is a choice. True story, the next time you are in the heat of frustration, you can choose not to be. It takes practice but it’s a good code.  I learned that no matter what I feel my struggle is, his is always greater. Thus, I rarely complain, if Jake can’t, I shouldn’t either. I learned from Jake, that moving forward doesn’t always have to be physical, sometimes it is more of a spiritual movement.  I found out that my ability to love has infinite depth both emotionally and physically.  Where I think Melvin sensed my love, Jake feels my love more through actions. Some through nurturing and care and patience. When I change his diaper and apply four different medications to his diaper area, and it gives him relief, he feels loved. When I carry him, he feels my love. In the middle of the night, when I meet him with a gentle voice and clean him up, he knows it’s love. Sometimes love is spiritual and sometimes love is found in actions or shared moments. Sometimes love is just who we are. (Sometimes love tries to snuggle and dogs named Jake say ‘if you love me, you will back up’). Love listens. Melvin made me a better person by showing me what perseverance looked like and that happiness can be found in the smallest moments and in the greatest challenges. He made me a joy seeker.  In a thousand different ways, Jake has made me more resilient, more understanding, more calm. He taught me that as challenges stack up, laughter can still reign supreme.


I think this post came from a couple different places. Some of it is the very popular question of if/when I will get another dog. A question that I answer ‘if/when I do’. My heart says it has felt enough ache, but Melvin whispers to me that more dog joy will come. I have to assume that the universe will give me the level of challenge I need when the time for that decision comes. That time, is of course, not now.

I think most of this post comes after the direction that Jake can no longer use his wheelchair as it puts too much pressure on his cancer leg. This one broke me a little, just typing it brings with it a swell of emotion. Not because his wheelchair is something we can’t live without. We can. And not because his wheelchair is really needed all that much any more.  It’s not. But because the wheelchair was the very first thing I ordered when we found out about his spine. It was our very first solution. It visually stands for what we believe, and what we can achieve. And when he’s in it, for just a little while, he’s Jake before the paralysis. He’s free. I had to ask myself, should I keep it.  Will you be rescuing another Frenchie (I’m convinced they will all need wheelchairs!)? Since I do not know the answer to that question right now, I will not hold onto his wheelchair. That wouldn’t be fair to a dog who needs it right now. We will let it go. We will lessen someone else’s immediate load.


Lastly…Sunday, as I was taking my place on the couch next to Jake (after a long, lovely Mother’s Day), I looked over and saw this.  I laughed so hard! Sometimes love can be found in quiet clean-up so as not to awaken the sleeping baby!

#lifewithJake IMG_8445





16 thoughts on “Special needs.

  1. Oh, Tracey! My love for you and Jake grows each and every blog post! Your patience, love, and joy continually amaze and inspire me – but, of course, I know how easy all those things are in the presence of dog-love.

    I’m guessing Jake knew his time with you was limited when you were bringing those “other” dogs around and he wanted you all to himself for what he has left. Thank you so much for listening to him!

    “I learned from Jake, that moving forward doesn’t always have to be physical, sometimes it is more of a spiritual movement.” Love this. <3

  2. I’m really glad to see this post. I can easily understand why people think that you are “Savior of All the Broken Animals” and am glad to see you deal with both the good and the bad of the situation. Although you have handled your challenges with Melvin and Jake more graciously than anyone I could imagine (and certainly better than I would have!) I also know that this has to be heartbreaking to deal with. And frustrating. Like my struggles with Molly’s grief, I am trying to stay focused on all the ways in which she made me a better person, but I don’t want to whitewash absolutely everything. There is light and dark everywhere, Sometimes things DON’T happen for a reason and it just ‘effin sucks. So if you ever need someone to vent your frustration and anger to, you can have my ear…in fact, both of them. Hugs to you both. -Kristen

  3. I can relate to this post on so many levels. When we first rescued Lainey as an 8 week old pittie, I did it more for my husband. He really wanted a “big” dog since we had a jack russell already. I was glad she was ours, but I wouldn’t say it was love at first site. It wasn’t until she was 9 months old and began having leg issues that her and I bonded. She went through 5 leg surgeries and nearly 2 years of needing assistance to walk and I was her person. I laid on the cold hospital floor with her after all of her surgeries. I did all of the meds, the exercises, the assisted potty trips with the sling, the ordering of wheelchairs, braces, etc. It was her and I. We have now done 3+ years of physical rehab trips, massage, laser therapy, chiro and even though it’s been stressful at times, I know there was a reason she became ours and we became hers. But, I agree that knowing up front what laid ahead of us, may have changed our decision to rescue her in the beginning. I know now, the doggie God knew she needed me these past 5 years and to be honest, I think I needed her more.

  4. You are an inspiration!

    Thank you for the part about frustration being a choice. I have a couple of dogs with issues, and I really needed a reminder to remember their struggle.

    Hugs to you and Jake!

    • Thank YOU! Multiple dogs and multiple issues can feel like they are teaming up on you. I bet you are doing great! Love fuels that fire.

  5. Thanks for that little laugh at the end. 🙂 But thank you even more for sharing your thoughts and feelings and inspiration and–mostly–love. I cannot begin to tell you how much I get out of your posts, and how much you remind me to work a little bit each day on becoming a better person/dog mom. I feel like Harper Lee is turning into a bit of a stubborn little old lady. It frustrates me, but it also makes me sad because she’s only seven years old. Meanwhile, Tallulah is in heat and along with that (I have now learned) comes occasionally forgetting that she is housebroken. So much fun. But you remind me to have patience, just deal with it, enjoy every moment I have with both of them, and shower them with unending love. Thanks for that reminder. I cannot begin to tell you how many times a day I think of you and Jake and send good vibes your way.

    • Everyone needs a good meatball photo to make them laugh! Thank you for your words, I’m honored. I laughed a little at HL turning seven, seven is that funny age for labs and Goldens when you are about to find out who they are going to be (as they start to shed the never ending puppy years.). Stubborn sounds about right! They pack so much into their short lives, we are blessed to be along for the ride!

  6. Yes to everything that Hannah wrote! She said everything I wanted to say, just light years better. You are an amazing person and such an inspiration to us all. I have found that the more you care for a creature that can’t do for him/herself the more love there is. Love to you and Jake.

  7. A beautifully written post. You’re a real inspiration

    I’m often tagged in rescue guinea pigs posts on Facebook. As much as I would love to take in more I just don’t have the money to support them, especially the special needs piggies.

    I have the utmost respect for anyone who does take on the responsibility of caring for a special needs animal

    Love to you and Jake

  8. You are a wonderful Mum and I love the way you write honestly about his struggles. Your posts are beautiful and sometimes funny to read, thank you for sharing Jake’s story and his meatballs ;-). Love and hugs to you both.

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