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!