Formal wear.

I pride myself on finding solutions for Jake. There have certainly been times when those efforts have failed to produce options, but usually just for the minor stuff.

Jake drags his hind legs around now, which means his diaper gives me a big F-you every time I put it on him.  I readjust his diaper, true story, 100 times a day. Ask all the carpets we have waved goodbye too, the system was not working great. I had tried suspenders but Jake is pretty small and since he is on his stomach a lot, having the underside suspender part was not ideal because it would cut into him.  I also tried wrapping a scarf around the diaper (tighter), the scarf also gave me the big F-you. I even tried that mesh wrap the vet uses but I’d have to get a 2nd and 3rd job to afford that for every friggen diaper change.

So  I did what Elsa suggested and I let it go, and I just became the re-adjuster. Then Amazon, who serves up ideas based on my previous searches (guys, my searches would make you full on pee your pants — and we would have a diaper for you!), put the solution in front of me. Sheet binders. The straps you put on your fitted sheet to keep it in place.  They were 8 inches, the EXACT length Jake is from collar to diaper. Same day delivery? Yes, please!

We are only on day two, but my back is already hollering hallelujah! And Jake looks like he just came from a wedding reception. Pretty much the ONLY time you’d see white suspenders.

I mean, try not to laugh!IMG_9448IMG_9441

It took a while to get the sizing right so he was not choking.  Choking is bad. IMG_9425

For the record, dude had just pee’d in this bed and I was taking it up to wash.  He has no shame. He is more like a wedding crasher. IMG_9437

 

Opposite.

Melvin and Jake’s cancers are completely different and my handling of them are also, almost opposite.

Melvin was, except for the cancer, very healthy at his end.  We’d beat and cured all his issues.  The one thing we struggled with was weight loss.  He lost 10 pounds his last month despite him eating a ton. His cancer type must have been hungry.  Jake on the other hand has a ton of problems to go along with his cancer. A cancer leg that refuses to move (and is changing color) and a TERRIBLE diaper rash, to name a few. He however, is one of the very few cancer dogs that gains weight — he gained one pound last week.  Woohooo!

Then there is me.

With Melvin’s cancer, writing about it kept me grounded. It gave me strength. With Jake’s cancer, I don’t always feel compelled to put the words to web. That might just be a round two issue.

When Melvin got diagnosed I was devastated (that is no different for Jake), but after seeing two radiologists, the oncologist, our regular vet and our holistic vet (all within one week), I knew he was terminal and I knew our time was going to be very short. I went from living mode to survival mode and everyday I focused on getting Melvin to his end with all his joy intact. I have zero doubt or guilt that letting him go when we did, was absolutely the right thing to do.  It was the worst day of my life, but it was one of the most right things I ever did for him.

With Jake, sometimes in my head I operate like his decline is just the normal progression of his spine. It is a plight we’d already begrudgingly accepted so my brain thinks it’s normal. And sure, you can argue that some denial is good, but I need to start being truer to Jake’s end. His decline, is due to cancer. My inability to cure this round of diaper rash, is due to his cancer.  When strangers see him and say ‘poor little guy’ my response can’t be ‘oh, he’s fine’ all the time. He is not fine. I can say he’s happy, he’s loved, and he has the best care imaginable but truth is, Jake is struggling. I need to become less ‘ok’ with what is happening to him in the sense that this is not our original diagnosis of spinal issues and become more ‘ok’ about the fact that he has spinal cancer.  I’m still so desperate to fix him. I still think that this is our normal progression and I still google solutions for everything. Which is the opposite of how I was with Melvin.  And that is not to say I give up or I gave up. It’s just a matter of learning where to put your energy. I wanted to save Melvin every minute that he was on this earth but when he got cancer, I understood (not accepted) the end was near.  He and I cured his life and although getting a terminal cancer with no options went against everything we were and had been through, it was what it was. With Jake, he has struggled so much these past few years that we now are used to it. We have really, solved nothing with him. We ‘saved’ his eye. We have products that help. But everything he has faced, we just sorta had to seek solutions to make it ok to live with. So when he got cancer, I probably thought the opposites would continue, that with him, we’d have options and maybe for once a cure for him. I have to accept some hard truths. It’s complicated to have a special needs dog and then have them get cancer and have that cancer affect the areas they were already special in. For Jake, It’s almost like I don’t comprehend.

So our vet(s) have suggested switching to a ‘hospice’ mentality.  It’s not Jake’s time yet, but the term hospice can sometimes help the human move into the necessary mindset. It helps me process things like ‘the radiation didn’t work as well as we hoped’.  My normal response to that is ‘what do we try next’ and I am fairly unable to process the words ‘nothing’.

Thankfully there are still some things we can try to ease the diaper rash. We may not cure it (but watch me try!).

I’ve been laughing about the differences between the boys situations (ahhhh, the ability to find humor in strange places),  and I know that most of the reasons there are differences is that they are not the same and neither are/were their cancers.  I’m grateful for the most remarkable ‘Team Jake’ vets and I’m grateful for all of you who read these posts and who understand why there might be fewer posts right now.

To conclude, there is always joy to be found.  The recipient of Jake’s wheelchair (Oliver) is going on tons of adventures in his new ride and he has gone from uncertain of how to get around to owning that cart like a boss!  Heart happy.  Heart full. Love lives on, even in wheelchairs!

Whatcha doing woman? When you gonna unroll that new carpet? IMG_9353

Oncology check-up.

Jake got diagnosed with spinal cancer and a nerve sheath tumor four months ago. I cannot decide if it feels like four-months, if it feels longer or if time is flying by.  I guess mostly, it feels like four months.

We had an oncology appointment this week. For the most part, Jake is doing great! He has maintained his weight (thank you home cooked diet and peanut butter!).  His mobility has declined (terminal spinal cancer will do that) but his decline has been slow and steady so he has been able to acclimate. He’s comfortable, our pain management approach is working. That last one, is everything.

Jake was always going to be paralyzed in the back, so that part was already (for lack of any control on our part) accepted. Of course it got accelerated by the cancer, but we had already made peace with his mobility plight. And he’s still perplexing the medical community, which I love doing, as his cancer leg is changing color and no one knows why!

I asked the Oncologist point-blank (as I do each month)…”You said he’d have three to six months, do you still feel that is the case?”. She said…”I think so”.

It’s odd, but I left that appointment happy.  Sure, Jake has a cancer we can’t treat (the reality) but his slow, steady decline has given him a chance to keep his chin up (the blessing). We are controlling the parts that we can. We are doing it all as right as possible.

Focus on the joy.

A lot of loveliness can occur in a few months. Sure it will feel short when the end comes, but that is the case with all ends, there is just never enough time.

A few human months is about one to two dog years — Jake is going to have an AWESOME dog year or two!!

More peanut butter, please! IMG_9184

Rugs, they come and go.

Dogs have accidents.  You clean up and move on. Jake is a master of escaping his diaper or the diaper fails or meatballs pop out of his butt.  All of these things happen several times a day. I clean up and move on.

Despite having a 14-point clean-up process for every accident, sometimes it comes time to let rugs go. In three years, I’ve lost count of the number of rugs that Jake has killed ruined sent packing. Recently, it was one of our favorites. A high pile, thick shag carpet that was really never supposed to be ‘for Jake’ but in a pinch, I had to relocate Shaggy to an area so that Jake could move from kitchen to couch. As it turns out, Shaggy was ‘let go’ not due to accidents (although there were a few), but because Jake realized Shaggy was REALLY good at holding his peanut butter Kongs steady while he licked the good stuff out and she went from being white to being sticky and orange.

Note to all: peanut butter in a high-pile shag rug does not come out, regardless of how many cleaning products you use.

So we said goodbye.  Jake was pretty upset.  He spent two days sitting by her side before she finally made it to the curb.

Farewell, Shaggy.  And like all the others that came before you…I’m sorry.

Why are you doing this to us?IMG_9039

Try to unfold yourself, Shaggy. I need your softness on my body. IMG_9033

I don’t know why she keeps saying ‘this is a first world problem Jake’. Just ignore her.IMG_9037

UPS.

When the decision was made that Jake could no longer use his wheelchair, I had the normal reaction, put it in the corner and suppress the disappointment.

But that wheelchair kept calling out ‘someone needs me, do the right thing’.  So I reached out to Jake’s rescue and I asked if there were any alumni they knew of that REALLY needed a cart.  They had someone in mind and I reached to that little-big cow dog’s mom.  When she asked me how much I wanted for the cart, I explained that we really wanted to her guy to have it. The only thing we asked in return is that they pay it forward one day.

So last week I loaded it up with instruction (when that cart came I had zero idea how to get Jake in it so that instruction step was crucial) and I carried it out the door and put it in my car.  I stopped at UPS, grabbed the cart and walked in.

That is the exact moment that all the oxygen left the world. I was standing in UPS, there was no oxygen and I started hyperventilating, bawling and then out of nowhere came a honking sound from my body. I panicked (or perhaps terrified myself), turned to run out, ran into the man standing behind me (the wheelchair rammed into him) and somehow made it out the door with a bunch of voices yelling behind me ‘ma’am, are you ok?’

Oh sure, I always honk like a donkey, things are great.  Instead I yelled back, ‘I have nothing to mail’.  (HAHAHAHAH, I have nothing to mail, classic response. That totally makes the situation more normal.)

I got into my car, drove to a side street and parked. What the hell had just happened? I made a few calls to people who could talk me back into some realm of sanity.

I looked over at the wheelchair.

Sending the cart made Jake’s cancer too real for a moment. 

It’s OK to be human. Just breathe.

I did a few other errands. At one point I realized that UPS probably had security cameras so I just prayed that I was not currently trending on You Tube. I eventually went back and mailed the wheelchair. The people at UPS could not have been nicer, they took one look at the notes and said ‘seems like this cart is being sent with a lot of love’. It most certainly is. Love will live on in that cart.

The wheelchair is on its way to Oliver and he is going to rock the hell out of that cart and his mom will hopefully breathe some relief when she sees him take off in it. There is something really special that happens when your mobility challenged dog gets his wheels and is suddenly no longer hindered at all.  Jake and Oliver have similar spinal issues and they just happen to be the two biggest Frenchies in the world so the size should be perfect.

We had a great weekend, Jake is snoring in the next room and luckily for him he has a great replacement wheelchair, her name is Tracey. All is good here.

IMG_9026

Why did you honk like a donkey at UPS? I’m embarrassed. IMG_9050

Everything.

When it comes to Jake, most days  I don’t know what I’m doing.  I’ve pretty much felt this way for three and half years.

It started off because he does not react to anything I do. He has no tail to wag, he has wiggled his body maybe ten times since I’ve met him and all of those times were for Melvin. When I dance or sing for him, he sits like a statue, almost pretending like it’s not happening.  When I come home, Jake does not even get up, he looks to see what the noise is about then puts his head back down. I have no gauge of if he likes something or not. Except food, he will 100% eat anything and everything.

I know what to do for Jake, if something happens I take care of it, and there is nothing I won’t do to make his life be the best that it can be. But when it comes to most things about him, and his spine and his paralysis and now the cancer, there are a lot of grey areas and most days I just wing it.  I guess it was the same with Melvin’s allergies but I think it’s different when you are solving problems versus dealing with issues there are no solutions for. (I guess even then, love is a pretty good solution).

I have to carry Jake a lot now. I am never sure I am picking him up correctly.  I’ve read articles, watched videos and asked the vet(s) but there is no set way for every single thing that Jake goes through in a day that would suggest one way is the best way. Wing it.

I cook for him now, a cancer diet.  There are so many theories about what they should eat when they have cancer. Then there is balancing that food brings Jake joy. The nutritionist said ‘no dog treats’, only give him fruit or veggies.  I heard, give him peanut butter.  But to compromise I have his peanut butter freshly ground so that he doesn’t get added sugar.  Winging it.

I am a confident person. When someone compliments me, I almost always agree. If you ask me if I’m confident in my ability to care for Jake I would tell you without pause or thought, I am the best person for this job.  I can know this is my purpose, and still not know what the hell I am doing.

It’s called, hoping for the best.

Although I have complete faith I can and will make Jake’s life decisions, I have no clue what spinal cancer looks like at the end. Every day is different and while I do worry and I am sad, most days we just coast. Sometimes you have to provide the light for the dark corners, even when you have no idea where the flashlight is and you are pretty sure the batteries are dead.

Even when I am hoping for the best, it is impossible to avoid thoughts about all the loss that losing Jake will bring. I’ll lose him and that heartache alone is too much to consider. I’ll lose a connection to Melvin. There will be no dogs in the house, in fact I don’t recall the last time I didn’t have a dog.  I will go from taking care of a special needs dog, which takes up quite a bit of the day, to the dreaded void.  I worry about how I will get through. Not that I don’t have support and love and family and friends. But more about where I will derive strength if I don’t have Melvin or Jake to care for. But those moments are short lived, becasue the moneky is still here wtih me, and our life is beautiful.

“You can’t choose the length of your life, but you can do something about the width and the depth.” (saw this on FB this week).

Melvin reminds me to seek out the joy. Find the joy in the little moments. Be a joy seeker.

In being open to joy, one day, I’m at a party and I spot my dad (who I knew would be at the party) and I go up to say hi and he says ‘wait here, I have something for you’. He returns with an article cut out of the Washington Post about a woman who makes dog diapers for her paralyzed dog.  He is a not a dog person but he is a dog person for me and my boys and this non-dog person regularly cuts articles out about dogs and saves them for me. Upon delivering it to me, he tells the people around us that I am ‘a great dog mom’. He says it so proudly, so truly. And I of course think I am, I know I am, but in that moment with him and hearing him say it, it feels like everything.  Everything. Like someone just served up the whole world to me. I didn’t know that I needed to hear HIM say that at that exact point-in-time but in that joy moment, Jake and I won at this life. I realized that Jake I and have already won at what’s to come.  Little moments, are sometimes, the everything.

In life, it doesn’t matter if you know what you are doing.  It only matters that you keep showing up to try.

#findyourjoy #loveliveson