The other day I was looking at pictures and I saw a photo of one of Jake’s MRSP spots and I thought about how I hadn’t checked on his spots in a while. I realized he wasn’t here before I stood up to check on him.
I still get up throughout the day to change his diaper though.
There has been a lot of change. It’s hard to face it all at once and it’s a lot to face piece by piece. Sometimes I get anxious and overwhelmed. It’s usually in these moments that I feel Melvin the most, reminding me to wiggle my way through.
Just wiggle woman!
The ‘on this day’ reminders in Facebook screw with my perception of time. I will see a memory pop up and I feel like that memory happened more recently than losing Jake. Grief isn’t always logical. To be honest, I don’t really have that many memories of Jake right now, I just have a vision of my little bug, not a specific moment in time. I don’t really struggle or worry about this part too much. I know that the memories will slowly return and fall into a beautiful timeline of our life together.
I remember the love, nothing could erase that.
In the struggle between sadness and no dogs here, well… I want Jake to be here. It’s the phase of grief where I still want my old life back. I have tried to meet other dogs. Oh how I’ve tried! Each time I have a messy, painful breakdown. Sometimes this happens on the way home, sometimes it happens a few hours later, sometimes it happens in Home Goods. Usually I laugh after these moments pass, it’s like I’m channeling Jake through my reaction. I know there will come a dog that will be the dog. I know this with all that I am. The boys will guide me and that next dog and I will begin again, writing the next beautiful chapter of this amazing life. A chapter that allows my memories to fall into a safe place. Memories that bring more smiles than tears as I make new memories moving forward on the path of life. In grief you have to learn to carry your past in a way that doesn’t obstruct your view moving forward. It’s hard, but it’s the only way.
The sadness, it’s getting better. I’m feeling stronger. I smile more. There is laughter. Jake is slowly sneaking his way into my day. I feel him. He’s a part of me now. There are moments, when it’s just him and me again. At any mention of the word poop or meatballs, I smile.
I’m learning to live without Jake, without Melvin and Jake, as I hold them both tightly in my heart. Carrying on can be hard work. Facing change is overwhelming. I just remind myself who fuels my heart and I keep on carrying on for them, for us, and for me.
There are no words to thank everyone who has reached out, sent messages, sent cards, sent flowers and gifts and held space for us. I can only say, it means everything to me.
Several of you have made donations in Jake’s name. I am so thankful for each and every one. Love lives on through your kind and generous gestures.
I wanted to share some of the gifts I have received…
My friend Virginia had pencil sketchings of Melvin and Jake done. The detail is incredible. I got Melvin’s shortly after he left me and she gave me Jake’s while he was still here but nearing the end. I have them hanging in my kitchen, a reminder of where my heart is.
A few days after Jake died, I received a package from a reader (Michelle) that I have never met, although we have a mutual friend in common. She made this. She made this for us. Our motto, hand-done by her with love. I sat on the floor sobbing when I got it, because I was reminded that we are so blessed to have you all.
I received this from our dear family friend, Mary. It arrived the exact moment I needed a pick-me-up. And it lifted my heart and brought me so much joy.
My sister-in-love got me these. When I wear them, they loop together just like the boys did when there were snuggling. The pendents rest close to my heart, right where the boys are now.
Jen over at Sirius Republic had a print made that has a photo of the boys and across it is printed ‘love lives on’. She also handmade this heart for me, it’s a visual of my heart. I squeezed it so hard, I’m shocked I didn’t damage it or myself.
Emily, over at Our Waldo Bungie, had this drawing done of the boys. The first thing I thought when I saw it was -‘my superheroes’! I am going to have it framed with their Super Melvin and Super Jake collars.
I got these from my friends Tayler and Melissa. The rainbow bracelet represents my life and love with Jake and that fact that he is waiting for me, with a piece of my heart, at the rainbow bridge. The white bracelet represents Jake’s life and the mark our love left on my heart. The 22 white beads represent 22 dogs who were fed a meal in Jake’s memory.
This community and blog, this space heals me. You bring me joy. Thank you. Yes, you, thank all of you for everything.
Saturday: Jake’s eye with the little ulcer had improved. Jake’s eye with the ‘very deep’ (seriously, they repeated the very deep part about 15 times) was not improving. We’d been doing eye drops for about four days and they expected to see improvement with both. So, they took Jake’s blood, and made eye drops out it. I 100% expected the drops to look like blood and that after I put the drops in Jake’s eyes, he would look like one of the vampires in True Blood when they cried. (In case you didn’t see True Blood, the vampires cried blood). Instead, the drops were a milky liquid derived from his blood. And in a test tube. Add this to the list of things I never expected when I became a dog mom.
Sunday: We woke up, I fed him and then got him up on the couch for his eye drops (this is also known as the time he thrashes around like I am performing an exorcism on him). After I put the drops in, I looked into both eyes (knowing full well I had no idea what I was looking at or knowing if I’m qualified to notice a change). The left eye seemed fine. His right eye, the one with the deep ulcer, had A HOLE IN IT. I looked around the room and thought, it must be a reflection of a light or something, THERE CANNOT BE A GAPING HOLE IN HIS EYE. But there it was, a perfectly round hole and I could see into it and it was deep. No one had mentioned a hole but I knew it wasn’t good (I’m that smart). We were at the ER 20 min later.
ER: The ER was packed but they put Jake in a room immediately and the dr came in pretty quick. When Melvin and Jake are your dogs, you know the ER vets by name. He looked at Jake’s eye and said ‘it’s bad’ and left the room to call the ophthalmologist for an emergency consult. When he left, he told me to hold Jake very still, that any sudden movement could rupture his eye. Uh…what? I’m not qualified. I held him and then as any parent would do, I replayed all the sudden movements he’d had since seeing the hole. I then had a silent conversation with my crazy self that I of course didn’t try to rupture his eye and that I didn’t know there shouldn’t be sudden movements and then I continued along the silent conversation route saying there was no way to not jar him a little when putting him in his car seat since his body is not flimsy, it’s more like a cinderblock. And then I had an out loud conversation with Jake about how I needed him to hold his eye together. Crazy person, room three. The doctor came back and said he’d consulted with two ophthalmologists and both agreed that Jake should be admitted, sedated and have emergency surgery the next day. I sorta knew this was coming since they day the ulcer formed. My dogs like to push the limits on how far they can take each health conundrum.
Sidenote: You all know the extent of vet visits I have had with both boys. There are very few things we have not faced and very few tests we have not had. We have been to the ER so many times, I lost count. There have been surgeries, MRIs, Spinal taps and issues that vets had never seen before. Melvin almost had to have a lung lobe removed for cripes sake! But never, ever, never (and I don’t know how this is possible) but never have I had to leave a dog overnight. So I started sobbing. SOBBING. Which turned into an ugly cry and mumbling about things that didn’t even make sense to me. (For example, we were currently in the room that I was with my friend Virginia in when we thought we’d have to put her beagle MollieAnne down and I had gone out to get her (the dog) fast food and the only fast food close by was Roy Rogers and the cheeseburger and fries I brought her that night brought her back to life. And in my crying fit during the present time visit part of my mumbling was that being in the Roy Rogers room would certainly have to work in our favor too and Melvin would be with Jake in his condo and maybe I could bring them both Roy Rogers). The doctor just looked at me and nodded, even when I said ‘ROY ROGERS ROOM’. And the thing is, I have complete faith in this hospital. The Life Center is one of the premiere vet speciality hospitals on the east coast. But mama was overwhelmed and the thought of abandoning leaving Jake seemed impossible. They told me my reaction was normal (sometimes it’s kind to lie) and they let me come back to the ICU with Jake while they got him settled in. He pee’d on the way into his new condo and that made me laugh. So I sat with him for a while and then when they were ready to sedate him, I left. It sucked. I called every 15 minutes regularly to check on him but since he had to remain calm, me visiting him was not a good option.
Tomorrow, I’ll finish the hospital and surgery story. And we have a Melvin’s Project Joy giveaway for August coming too!
Until then, here is a little check-list for sanity. It’s some preparedness tips for ‘a just in case’ ER visit with your pet:
Write out all your pet’s meds and take a picture of that list. When in the ER with your pet, you will not be able to recall the name of the meds they take nor will mg/dosage be within your brain’s reach. Even if the pill your dog takes is called ‘pill’, that word will escape you.
If you think for one minute that the emergency will require your pet to stay, bring their critical meds with you. I had to go back and get Jake’s meds and True blood eye drops and bring them back over.
Have an emergency plan for the car (a blanket in the garage you can throw down, easy access towels, a plan to secure your pet (this is just a good idea in general for regular travel). I learned this one the hard way when Melvin had is first (of several) bout(s) of bloody poop. I know, I know, the glamour.
Keep a leash in your car. You will forget it and unless you can carry your pet, you’ll need the leash.
When your pet has blood work done, have your vet send it to you via email or print it out for you. Bring that most recent blood work report with you. They almost always want to do blood work. In Jake’s case, he had just had a full panel done a few days prior and having that saved us a lot.
Ask the ER vet about payment plans. Regular vet care is expensive. ER vet care is crazy expensive (albeit worth it).
If you’ll recall, Jake had surgery the next day and the term ‘hamburger eye’ was introduced after that. Here are a few photos that came after this conundrum….
I’ve been honest with you. Losing Jake has been heavy and complicated. I thought I was ready to face it and I thought my grief journey with Jake would more closely align with my grief journey with Melvin.
I was wrong. It happens.
At some point last week, after a really sad night, I sat down and thought about all the parts that are harder, all the part that are holding me down, all the parts that make me unable to breathe. And so much of this, and grief in general, is about what I can’t control. In short, I can’t control that Jake is gone. I can’t control that he has been gone for one month and that this past month feels like a hurtful forever. Even before he died, I couldn’t control so much about his health. So I guess I’ve been out of control (but not in a Girls Gone Wild way), for a while. I thought about how I could get back on track. Instead of thinking of all the things I was crying about, all the things that were out of my control, I instead made a list of the things I can affect. A list of all the things I can champion. It is exactly how I lived life with Melvin and Jake, not focusing on the things that we couldn’t fix, but focusing on all the ways we could shine. It is exactly how I need to continue to be, even in their absence.
No one said seeking joy is easy.
I tried to focus on, not on what is different about losing Jake and Melvin, but instead, what is the same. I tried to focus on the successes, on the things that could lift me up and remind me that it was OK and will be OK. And I thought for a long time and I came up with three things that were then and that are still now.
“Love lives on” for me, was born the moment Melvin died. I honestly believe that it was my purpose last year to make sure that Melvin-love lived on and it’s my life’s work now to add Jake-love to that mix.
Love and joy, are who I am. What guides me has not changed. Part of it is perhaps lost in the grief shuffle right now, but it was the whole of me before and I still feel it at my core now. I just have to get out of my own way.
Most importantly, the common denominator between last year and this year, is me. Sure, I could argue that is the hard part, but I survived losing Melvin. I went on to see Jake through last year, the worst health year of his life. I did that. I’ve been selling myself pretty short by focussing on all the things I can’t handle this past month. I got through last year. I’ll get through this year too.
So I added a new mantra to my day. Love lives on. Check. Go find your joy. Check, check. And now, I have to ‘make the not OK, OK‘. Part of that means that not everything will be OK…and that’s just how it is, but I don’t have to let those moments own me. I can acknowledge them and let them be for now. There are things I can make OK. A new OK. A different OK. OK is a town you pass through on the way to New Normal.
My GPS may be working again. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, here are a few things that brought me joy this past week…
My view into the washing machine last night. It was OK to wash them, they needed cleaned.
Jake is ‘Dog of the Month’ at our local and most favorite pet supply store, Happy Hound!
And this. These two are sorta the whole of everything. #loveliveson
I’m going to do Flashback Fridays every now and then as Facebook reminds me of a post from the past that I think is worth re-sharing. This post was from a few years ago, it was a letter to Melvin’s first family, who knew him as Riley.
A thank you note, to Melvin’s first family.
Posted on August 12, 2014
I was torn when I got Melvin, I was happy he was mine but upset that his owners let his health deteriorate It took me a little while to just feel grateful. This letter might have been different if I’d written it when I first got him. With time comes clarity.
Dear previous family of then Riley,
Thank you for deciding to not be dog owners. It’s because of you that my heart is full and my life is happy.
I was told of your frustration with owning Riley, that everyday you’d let him out in a fence-less yard before you left for work and that he’d wander off. You’d probably met some wonderfully well-behaved dogs in your life and you likely assumed Riley would hang out and wait for you while you were gone. Let’s be honest, Riley was not wonderfully well-behaved back then. He was a need-a-fence kinda dog. (To this day his recall is only mediocre). I’m just so thankful he was never hit by a car. They told me how frustrated you were that animal control had picked him up so many times and that on that last time, when they called you said: Keep him. Those two words, changed my life forever. When he left you and came to me he had mange and giardia and massive yeast infections, not to mention his horrible allergies. I want you to know that he’s so much better now, I don’t think you’d even recognize him!
I know that someone, somewhere did something to him with hangers. If that was you, I hope that heavy regret has set in. I pray that whoever it was, if they ever consider getting another dog, that the universe puts a hanger in their path and they’re reminded that they are not dog people. I want to assure you, his current life is free from punishment, what is required from him is only what he has to offer. Some days it’s exuberance, some days it’s sleep. Today it’s regurgitation. It’s all good.
I didn’t like you at first. But I know now that you and I were meant to unite. I’m eternally grateful you didn’t allow the vet to put him down. I’m sure many would have seen ‘the worlds most allergic dog’ as a hopeless case. I’m thankful you said – maybe someone else can help him. I imagine defeat was hard to admit. Or maybe you celebrated his departure. Either way, that’s okay.
Here’s the truth: I understand. I know how much money his medications cost. I know how expensive his food can be. I know, that just when I think we’ve spent all we can on tests, more are needed. He is not the dog for everyone and you didn’t know that when you went and picked him from the litter. I will probably never be able to retire, but I was able to make that choice freely when I took him. I really do understand.
His name is Melvin now. He is healthy. He is happy. He is my heart. He knows true love. He personifies joy. He and I were meant to be togetherwhich means you were meant to have him first. I rescue dogs, that means that they each have previous owners, a past that I have zero control over.
Thank you, for giving him up. You did the right thing. If we were ever to meet you on the street, I know he would greet you with love and understanding and wiggles.
The only thing I know for certain right now, is that losing Jake is not at all like losing Melvin. The difference is not about emotions, those are exactly the same, but my navigation through the loss and the day is completely different.
Sadness and missing them aside, when I lost Melvin, I had a strange sense of hope. I felt a lot of purpose. I felt him guide me. Jake was here when I lost Melvin. We survived it together. With the loss of Jake, I am trying all the things I tried last year, they are not as successful this go around. I am paying things forward (his things) and while it makes me so, so happy to do it, it makes me miss him so much more. Probably because I’m donating his things and wishing they were still needed by us.
You can donate my things, but not to other dogs. You know how I feel about other dogs.
I know that having no dogs in the house is a 25-foot wall roadblock to my grieving process; it gets in my way every time. I’ll have moments, normal grieving moments, when I’ll think about Jake and tears come and then a funny memory will pop into my head and I’ll start to laugh. If only I could have that little moment. Instead, right as I’m having my teary-laugh, this loud, scary, bully of a voice screams – THERE ARE NO DOGS HERE, YOUR LITTLE FAMILY IS GONE. That voice is ruining my life. I know in my heart that it is way too soon to think about getting another dog but I also know that trying could alleviate the empty house issue and that even if it’s hard, it might make grieving easier. I’d be rescuing someone who also lost their family.
So, I went to an adoption event this past weekend. Let me explain me and adoption events to you…it’s not my thing. I don’t make life decisions that quickly. I need to meet a dog then go home and think, and think some more and plan and make some checklists. So I knew it would not be a fit for that very reason. That’s mostly why I went, to just get out there and test the meeting waters.
I cried after leaving the event. For two impossible and opposing reasons. It was way too soon to be looking for a dog and it feels way to long since a dog has been here. I cried because no matter what I try, nothing feels right. Jake not being here breaks me and there being no dogs here takes a lot of the air away. Grieving Jake and dealing with the empty house has been… a bit complicated.
I will find my way.
It’s been three weeks. I miss him. After losing Melvin, Jake made me laugh every day. I miss my little comedian. Melvin traveled through life spreading love and joy; Jake scooted along spreading love and comic relief. If you are having visions of me sitting around crying all day, there is no need for worry. I go about my day, I’m keeping busy, I’m honoring Jake in as many ways as possible. When a sad moment hits, I close my eyes to calm down and I have a vision, pretty much the same vision every time. It’s of a line of dogs that have touched my life. Not just my dogs, but dogs that impacted my life in some way too — my heavenly dog army. They are all sitting in a straight line in a field of grass, facing me. In front of the line of them sits Melvin and Max. And in front of my first two angels sits Jake. And they sit, still as can be. I know they are coming together for me and Jake. Jake is so close in this vision, I can almost touch him. He can almost reach me. And almost, at this point, is everything.
I know that everything will work out. I know that this home will not be empty forever and I know that the grieving process for Jake, while complicated is somehow just as it’s supposed to be. For all the beautiful love, I will carry all the heavy grief. I will continue paying love forward in Jake and Melvin’s memory and I will keep going to meet dogs that in no way could ever be Jake or Melvin. One day, one of them will say to me, I am not them I’m just me. And that will be the one.
A look back to my little bug, using his good eye to conduct neighborhood watch.
Losing Jake is hard in obvious ways and different in unexpected ways. It’s always different for each loss, but as hard as it was to lose Melvin, losing Jake comes with a swell of other losses and disruptions.
There is the expected part where I am incredibly sad, I miss him so much and I still need to be taking care of him. This part…it’s the given. The price we pay for true love. I say ‘I love you, Jakey’ out loud, all day, because it’s everything that I feel.
Then there is this house. When I lost Max and Melvin, while taking up their things was hard, I still had water bowls and beds to leave out. Each time, there was still a dog. Jake has SO MUCH more stuff than just beds and bowls and toys. This home is set up for him. There are yoga mats running the width and length of this house. The mudroom is a makeshift vet treatment room. There are washable pee pads, diapers and diaper inserts, everywhere. And for one dog, there are more beds than I can count on two hands and just as many waterproof mattress covers. I have slowly started gathering things up but with each thing I pick up there are emotions to work through. First, picking up the things that made his life easier feels like saying, ‘these things are in the way’. Jake was never in my way and those solutions brought us both so much joy. No one wants to have to clean-up joy! Secondly, picking up his things is a reminder that there are no dogs here.
There is no ‘our’ or ‘we’. It’s just me.
The moment Melvin died, I immediately felt him in a new way. I felt him become a part of me. I missed him and the ache was palpable but he wrapped himself around me and I carried him forward with me. I never I thought I’d say these words about anyone but…he imprinted on me.
I don’t feel Jake all that much (yet). I worry that his googly eyes got confused at the end and maybe he imprinted on the couch instead of me.
I think I know why Jake feels so far away.
While Jake most definitely knew I loved him and we felt love with no words…so much of Jake’s and my love was also through touch and action. He felt my love, literally by feeling me taking care of him. I channeled so much of my love through nurturing. My hands were on him caring for him. Love felt when lifting him, carrying him, holding him up. He’d look up at me with a single glance (and a single eye), and I’d reach down, knowing exactly what he needed, to help him maneuver. Now, my hands feel idle much of the day. I know that part of not feeling him is that, I literally can no longer reach out to help him. I don’t lean over or kneel down 50 times a day. My apple watch is probably worried I’m dead based on the drop in activity.
I never thought I’d miss meatballs.
The other thing is, and this one might not be one that everyone will understand and I may not do a great job of explaining it but even if you don’t get it, it’s the perfect example of how odd grief can be. When Max died, I could picture his old-dog body healed and him running again. I’d known Max his whole life. When Melvin died (he’d only had cancer for 40 days), he looked exactly the same on earth as I thought of him at the Rainbow Bridge. The only difference was, he was cancer and allergy free, easy to see. Jake is different. I was not Jake’s mom during his healthier years. The majority of time I knew Jake, he had progressive mobility issues. I was wonky-legged-paralyzed-Jake’s mom. I saw those issues as challenges and together, we made a life where Jake lived his own version of normal and I thought we’d have many, many more years together so I had let go of ‘upright Jake’. I always wanted more for Jake, but I never wanted more than Jake. When someone says ‘Jake’s not suffering anymore’ or ‘Jake is running in heaven’…it is everything I always wanted for him, but I also feel…disconnected. I still see, my Jake. When I have visions of Jake now, he’s usually laying with Melvin or sitting next to him. Although he’s happy, I can’t (yet) bridge my mind to zooming Jake. I can easily see him with no diaper rash (yay), I can even see him with no hamburger eye (oh those gorgeous googly eyes). I think this is just another reason why I don’t feel him as much yet (in the way I felt and saw Melvin). Grief has a way of making random shit more difficult than it needs to be and this is just a strange grief barrier I need to break through.
Maybe, maybe I’m just looking for him in the wrong places. I have faith it will work out.
This past week I have felt Melvin more than usual. I know he is letting me know he’s got our boy. It’s funny how roles can flip. Now I’m the one who is somewhat paralyzed at moments. I’m the one with separation anxiety. I’m the one with wide-eyes, looking to be lifted up. The boys moved forward every day, no matter what.
That legacy will live on in me.
As for no dogs being here, well that will feel lame until there are dogs here again. I had to come to terms with Jake not wanting other dogs. I committed to that for him so it’s not easy to turn that switch and say ‘ok Jake’s gone, there can be other dogs now’. I am still the impassioned leader of Team Jake. This week, I’ve slowly started looking at rescue sites again. As always, there are dogs that make my heart thump. I know that rescue is my calling. I hear it.
I just wish Jake was still here. It’s only been two weeks.
There have been so many beautiful people; my family, my friends, you…who have been there, here, wherever you are…sharing stories of how Jake inspired you, that you miss him also, reminders that we made a difference. To say I am blessed, is to say love lives on.
I have been re-reading my post that talks about how ‘the one love’ should move forward (click here to read). Trying to remind myself of who I am. Up until this moment right now, I have never lost a dog and not had a dog and faced how to go about moving forward with a new dog. I have always gotten a dog before losing a dog. There has always been a dog! So that post about ‘the one love’ was written by the old me. It’s still me, but since writing it there has been a lot of loss and there has been a wonky-legged-googly-eyed-I-hate-any-dogs-that-are-not-Melvin dog. So when I read that post now, I tend to laugh because up until Jake, all the dogs I have had wanted me to love again. Melvin and Max loved love. They wanted me to always be paying our love forward. Jake…well Jake loved being loved. But sharing was not his thing. Some with Melvin but definitely after Melvin, he did not share his neighborhood, his yard, his toys, his food, me or hisMelvin’s our home. Something tells me Jake is in heaven being reminded that the F-word is absolutely not permitted…
‘Uh, F no mom. Step away from the rescue sites. We did fine without dogs when I was there and you can totally do this no dog thing without me. If you see someone with a F-ing dog, look away, you do not want what they have. We talked about this, NO DOGS IN MY HOUSE! That one-love crap, that ended with me!‘
Of course that is all said in his Barry White bark voice while he continues to flip and flail long after he’s done saying it and there are probably heavenly meatballs (made of glitter). Jake behaving exactly like he did every time I tried to bring a dog home to him. And in true form, Melvin is just laying next to him, calm as can be, rolling his eyes over the idea that Jake uses up so much energy on such silly things. And Max is thinking…there is no way we are related.
I sorta like the vision of spirited Heavenly Jake. It allows the hashtag #lifewithJake to live on, just like the love does.