Melvin never really took to costumes and for me that was fine. I am one of the few people that never really enjoyed Halloween. I’d buy him costumes (to entertain the trick-or-treaters) and if he wore it great, if not, no biggie. He would usually overheat before anyone even made it to our house.
Then came Jake. Jake was always cold so he was almost always wearing a sweatshirt or sweater, so when Halloween rolled around, he’d pretty much wear anything I put on him, as long as it provided warmth. If it had a wig, he was fine with it, meant his head would be warm too. I grew to love planning his costumes (and would try to make Melvin’s as easy as possible to compliment).
Doug does not like wearing anything. He regularly tries to get his collar off. That did not stop me from buying him three costumes. Call them grief purchases. I was sorta hoping he’d let me dress him up since I am missing Jake.
He must have heard, eat your costume and I won’t be sad anymore!
One costume he destroyed during an unwanted tug-of-war when trying to put it on him. The second one I tried was a lumberjack. In some of the photos you may see a beard hanging from his neck. That beard no longer exists.
Costume three is where we ended up. The inmate, guilty of murdering throw pillows and costume parts. My guess is that after tonight, this costume will qualify for Zombie Prison Inmate.
I was thinking about #loveliveson last night. How the day after Melvin died, that idea formed in my mind and got me out of bed. I didn’t know then what I know now, that it would become my purpose, who I was to become. Love living on is a force that drives me. Sometimes it’s a big gesture of effort and sometimes it is much more quiet. 100% of the time, I’m a required participant.
Joy can’t spread on its own.
Grief can tend to make a lot of things grey and dark. Being open to joy takes work. I sometimes have to dig deep to see the colors of a day fill in. I have to be open to seeing Melvin and Jake’s love, growing and blooming in unexpected places. While I may wake up on any given day with a strong ache of loss, the universe will almost always serve me up something beautiful to balance it. It’s not always obvious, but it’s always there. Like a note from a reader saying my grief experience is helping her deal with the loss of her dog. Or unexpectedly seeing a video of Oliver running around in the wheelchair that we donated to him. Sometimes, love living on is as easy as sunshine or a quiet moment that lets a memory of the boys take over. Love lives on in every sunset too. Last night there was a frost warning here, love exploded through that alert because for many, many years the first frost signaled the end of allergy season for Melvin. That alert was joy reminding me from where I came.
Love living on requires me to take action. To donate Jake’s things. To take in a foster, to donate to a cause, to be there for someone in need. Some days, love living on is through patience for Doug.
Love living on requires me to hold onto the fact that they were here, we persevered, love won; in the same moment it requires me to be present. If I had been the one to go, Jake and Melvin would have spread my love like a wildfire.
This is life’s beautiful work.
Of course, the boys live on through my efforts with Melvin and Jake’s Project Joy too. I was more public with how we reached out with Melvin’s Project Joy efforts. Since adding Jake to that cause, I have been a little more quiet about the ways we are helping. Melvin was loud and proud and exuberant. So were our efforts in his memory. Jake was more reserved. Our last year together was he and I leaning on each other, so for the last few months, my giving has been more quiet, like Jake and I were. But every single thing I do in his memory, sends loud joy outward and inward.
Every thought of them both, inspires me to always give more than I take.
When I get up each morning, there is a nanosecond where I keep my eyes closed and pretend Melvin and Jake are still here with me.
I have gotten up 562 times since Melvin died. Since that very first morning, I felt him with me. I will never be able to explain it but he has never really left me.
I have risen 100 times since Jake died. There is still sadness in those moments. Less air. There is still more healing needed, more joy to spread to be sure that mending continues.
I have woken up to Doug, 55 times. That makes me have a smile explosion.
Three different boys, two different losses, one beautiful love. I rise up every day to make sure that love lives on and grows and that I do my part to fuel our joy train.
This song lifts me, inspires me, calms me and brings me joy. This song is my battle cry.
After Melvin died, I feel like I remained me. I was me, just a super sad version of myself. Maybe I remained myself because Jake needed stability. After Jake died, I feel like I changed. Maybe that was to compensate for my little family disappearing. Maybe I was just due to change a little from the prior year me. Part of it was probably how lost and broken I felt.
Things that had caused me stress before, no longer bothered me. Things that I never noticed before, caused me anxiety. For a while, I felt like I didn’t even know myself. I still feel that way a little.
The fact is, I have been learning who I am without Melvin and Jake. I’d rather not have to do this, so there has been some kicking and screaming along the way.
Normally, when I bring something home, I give it a lot of thought. Be it a couch, a rug, a new appliance or a dog(!), a lot of thought and consideration goes into my decisions. Yet, I didn’t give Doug all that much thought. His first few days here, instead of over planning or controlling for everything, I just went with the flow. (I should note here that I still love over planning and controlling for everything, I just didn’t do it all that much at first with Doug. I’m not a total anarchist).
The new me is full of surprises.
Take for instance this post from Doug’s rescue group about this sweet girl, who had been starved and then dumped at a shelter.
They also posted her new photos to show how the shelter was able to get her back up to a healthier weight.
Doug’s rescue group posted they would like to pull her if they could find a foster home for her. I immediately started thinking about how we could help. Then, in a shocking series of two minutes, my fingers opened my email and sent a note saying that we could foster her.
Wait, what? Who sent that?
I thought about it for a minute and thought, OK new me. You win, let’s do this. So we had a phone call about fostering her, they gave me the scoop on her and asked me if I was still in.
I said, yes. That was a little over a week ago We are still awaiting word on when she is coming.
The mudroom is ready for her (actually the whole house is ready for her but the mudroom will be her private escape). I am not sure how long she will be with us but I do know she will feel love every minute she is in this home.
Doug is boundless energy and exuberance. I tell everyone that he is powered by joy. Sure that results in a lot of walks and sessions out back to wear him out, but there are far worse things than being powered by joy.
Additionally, even though he is the most active dog I have ever had, he is equally the most chill upon arrival. Active and chill don’t usually go hand-in-hand and for Doug they certainly do not go together at the same time. When I am home, he be cray, but when I leave, he is totally chill. When I first got Melvin and Jake, they both had separation anxiety. If I was outside, Melvin would follow me from window to window frantically so that his body could be as close to mine as possible. If I came home to grab something quickly, and then left again, Jake would flip and flail and shoot out meatballs. Eventually they would both relax and it got much better over time.
From day one, when I leave Doug, he lays down. If I come home and then leave again. He wiggles with delight that I’m home and the moment I leave, he lays down. Chill, chill, chill. In fact the moment I say gotta go bye-byes, he runs and hops in his crate in the mudroom. That is where I have been putting him when I leave, mostly cause we are still finishing up potty training. And because he chews my pillows.
It’s true, I find pillows to be delicious.
The mudroom is perfect for him. We had no reason to change-up our routine. Until we did have a reason. The mudroom is going to be out of commission for a little while and I needed to (sorta quickly) figure out how to keep Doug doing great when I left. I thought about moving his crate to another room but honestly, I think we are at the point where he can have free roam, at least over the main floor, while I’m gone. As long as he is comfortable with that freedom.
So yesterday, I left him in the house, un-crated and outside of the mudroom, and I watched him on the Dropcam the whole time. HE DID GREAT! He roamed around for a little while, checked the window a few times to be sure I wasn’t hiding and then after about ten minutes, he hopped on Melvin’s chair and went to sleep. I left him again last night and he did the same, only this time he took a snooze on the couch. He also did some redecorating.
I like to joke about how crazy Doug is, AND HE IS CRAZY, but sometimes I forget to share with you how incredibly smart and awesome he is too. He knows that when I turn the security alarm on, its time to go upstairs. He goes right to his bed. He knows that I push snooze every morning and he does not get up until he sees that I am really rising. He knows potty and walk and dinner. He knows sit, touch and down. He continues to do great with other dogs. He knows how our day goes and he’s learning to be more independent. Sometimes I open the back door (there is a screen he can go through in and out of the house) and he goes outside and plays and then naps on the patio and then will come in and check on me. When he’s not Zoomie Doug, he’s Really Laid Back Doug.
I love him. I have met him where he is and I love him for all his crazy and his good. In the same way I trusted him to be left out and about, he trusts that I’m coming back. He meets me where I’m at sometimes too. Jake has been gone for three months (today), and it feels like three months (like three rotten months). Doug has been here for six weeks and it feels like much, much longer. It feels beautiful, like he’s been mine forever. It feels like Doug must have been here when Jake was here. Grief and time and sadness and joy regularly collide.
It can be difficult and great simultaneously.
There can be tears and laughter at the same time.
There can be unexpected reasons why the mudroom is suddenly being re-purposed…
Hey, it’s me, Bob. Or Carl. Or maybe that word she says a lot ‘Doug’ but I never turn my head for cause I have no clue what a Doug is. Any who… life is GREAT! Am I staying here?
I lived somewhere for four months, no one really knows where. Then I lived in a jail with bars for four months. Then I took a reallllllllly long car ride and lived in a house with some people and some dogs for a week. Now I’m here. Since I have put some pee down here, I think I should get to stay.
She is my new roommate and personal assistant. I’m really surprised at how well trained she is already. She opens the door to let me outside, she puts the most delicious food in a bowl for me, she gives me Kongs with treats in the them and sometimes I get these delicious sticks from a bull. Also, she takes me lots of places in the car and I get sooooooooo excited! Who am I kidding, everything excites me! I mean, what more could I ask from her?
Well let me tell you what more I could ask for!
I need a damn (sorry for my language, I’m currently testing all the boundaries. Who am I kidding, I’m not sorry.) playmate. For whatever crazy reason, she does not like to romp. What the…? I play bow then jump on her back and she no likey. I mean I know I’m doing it right so it must be her. When I play with all the others, they don’t mind if I open my mouth and try to fit their head in, but apparently her head, feet and hands are too good for me. How rude.
She keeps saying oh I guess we can’t have nice things anymore and I do as told, I speed up my indoor zoomies! Apparently doing what I’m told does not make her jump for joy. Make up your mind woman!
I don’t know who Jake is but the few times I pee’d in the house, it made her smile and she says Hi Jakey, I miss you too, bug. Is my name Jake? Who is Doug? Who is No? Who is Absolutely Not? I’m so confused.
When she says walk, I say spin. Walk! Spin! Walk! Spin! I guess when I spin she can’t get the blue straps onto my beautiful body and then she says why is the universe punishing me like this and I know a lot of words and I know that means SPIN FASTER! She is so slow to get that blue thing on me, I need her to try harder.
She likes to sit on my racetrack when it gets dark. I like to ZOOOOOOOOOOM during darkness and I say BEEP BEEP to her body being in my way! The look on her face indicates that she does not have a love for speed like I do. She be cray.
So to sum up, I’m awesome and she’s still a work in progress! Have no fear, I will break her!
Doug is Doug. Although my first sight of him screamed Melvin and Jake’s love child, when I met him and decided to adopt him, he was his own dog. During that first half hour, he didn’t do anything that would lead me to believe that A Dog’s Purpose (best book ever) could be true.
Since living with him for a month, he is still…Doug. There are however, so many things about him that are exactly like Melvin. Not just things like, he devours his food as fast as Melvin used to, but specific things like:
Excitement about the Car: When I met Doug and took him out to my SUV to get in and take him home, he was afraid of the car. I had to pick him up and lift him in. I really thought we were going to have to work on the car since he was afraid to get in and out. The next day, as we exited the garage for a walk and were walking past the SUV, he started to spin with excitement and went right to the back door of the SUV – EXACTLY LIKE MELVIN DID 4,000 TIMES BEFORE WHEN PASSING MY CAR. It’s actually a spin/hop move and Doug has the same form that Melvin had.
His exuberance and how he is unable to manage his own joy: EXACTLY LIKE MELVIN. When we are walking to the mudroom to go outside, one door goes the back yard and one goes to the garage (for walks). Doug bounces off of each door, just like Melvin used to, spinning in between bounce (just like Melvin used to) to indicate he does not care which door we use, it’s all going to be great! This exuberance was/is also in their going up and down steps style. Go up a few steps, wiggle with glee, turn to make sure I am coming, repeat, repeat, repeat. Go down the steps by leaning into my legs and only taking steps when I do but I can’t really take steps because you are pushing me up against the banister and the space you are giving me is smaller than my actual foot and you are hopping due to pending joy implosion.
Sitting on my lap: While Melvin never tried to be my backpack, he regularly would crawl onto my lap and put his paws on my shoulders and hug me like a human would. Doug. Does. This. Too! This happens a lot in the purple chair, which I refer to as Melvin’s throne.
Bathroom breaks: Doug goes to the bathroom with me (I know a lot of dogs do this) but like Melvin, he knows when I’m going to the bathroom before I indicate where I’m going and runs in ahead of me and sits down before I ever make it in. Melvin did the very same thing.
Nervousness about fall weather: Both Melvin and Doug were/are spooked by blowing leaves and the need to eat the leaves that scarily blow by them. The same exact reaction when one blows by (to freeze and look from leaf to me) then the same action (to pounce the leaf and eat it).
To fit their large bodies on a small pillow: exactly the same need and approach.
No photo of hug-Doug (yet).
Mostly, I’m reminded of Melvin through Doug because both of them are tied (currently) for most unruly dog I have ever had. Of course Melvin grew out of that phase but not before owning it like a boss. Something tells me Doug will be more challenging, but you never know! I think Doug’s mystery 12% DNA is Melvin, with the perfect sprinkle of Jakey.
P.S. This photo of Jake by the door is one of my favorites because it captures a vulnerability about him that most photos do not.
There are moments that I don’t understand why Jake isn’t here. Sort of like a child learning about death for the first time. I know he’s gone, but I’m still waiting for him to come back.
I cried when Melvin got cancer and died. I cried myself to sleep for months while grieving him. There was a window where I didn’t cry as much. Then I started crying every night after Jake was diagnosed with cancer. I still cry most nights. I don’t cry all night. I don’t hyperventilate-cry anymore, but each night when my head hits the pillow and the house is quiet and I realize I’ve gone one more day without Jake, my heart aches.
I know I won’t cry forever.
This is how grief goes. I know there are some issues, like how young he was and how much he struggled that make his loss harder for me. I know that the year we had, where it was just him and I, anchored us together in ways I had not realized. I was so busy taking care of him, I didn’t realize how much I’d come to rely on him. I also know that Doug reminds me so much of Melvin and makes me feel so much closer to Melvin and that in turn, it makes me miss Jake even more.
For a little dog, the void Jake left is infinite. I miss my bug.
There is of course still joy. I see Jake’s face in photos on my watch all throughout the day and there are smiles to be reminded of all those happy memories with him. I still recall our daily routine and everyday I’m less sad about not having it and more proud that we perfected our beautiful dance.
I am coming to terms with the fact that my work was done with Jake, even though I was planning on us having many more years together. It’s easy to say we didn’t have enough time, but Jake likely didn’t know a lot of love his first five years and then he knew great love. More time or not, we still won.
I’m fine with all of it. I will pay any bill grief sends me to have had every single moment I had with Jake.
In the meantime, Doug keeps me busy, he makes me remember that life is here and now. He grounds me, even though he is constantly in motion. For all of you worried about getting a dog too soon, that you don’t want to ‘replace’ your lost pet, that you want to do due diligence in the grief process – I can tell you with absolute certainty that a new dog can feel new and your lost love stays put in the center of your heart. In some ways it feels like living two lives, but eventually they will start to merge.
Memories are a beautiful thing. Making new memories is lovely too.
Doug has been here for just over a month. Every week, he surprises me in new ways of how he is settling in. I don’t even think he fully knows he is staying just yet. I am guessing he hopes so, but there are still so many things that are new to him and our routine is ever evolving to accommodate new issues so we are still in the ‘settling in phase’. I cannot stress enough, when you rescue a dog, the first few months are not the dance. The first few months are you two finding the rhythm you will dance to, then the dancing begins. Along the way, the tune will change, many, many times. It’s called life.
Every morning when I wake up I say: time to mold me and Doug more. We are both works in progress.
Hey lady, wanna breakdance?
Doug and I currently take two training classes each week. One is a group class outside of the house and one is private training inside the house. The outside of the class training is mostly to keep him social and work on him focusing on me. The private lesson class is the really important one, as it focuses solely on what Doug needs (and what I want).
Doug getting in a suitcase – prior to this was jumping through a hula-hoop, to which he said, no thank you.
Doug’s current challenges are:
Impulse Control. He is almost always in a heightened state of excitement (or he can get there very quickly). This is where mouthing comes in. The moment he escalates, he needs something in his mouth. His first impulse is feet and his second impulse is hands. He does not bite, but it still hurts likes hell and it’s not cool. He does this when people come over or when we meet them out and about. MUST PUT HUMANS IN MY MOUTH. Toys are not as awesome as hands or feet for a redirect, but treats earned, are starting to help.
He considers me the ultimate playmate and the living room is apparently the epicenter of joy. When I sit on the couch, he leaps onto my back and uses his mouth to climb up my hair. If I lay down, he runs up and down my body. If I stand up, he tries to jump up on me. If I take ten steps into the kitchen, he leaves me alone. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY can’t I sit on my own couch Doug, why?!
He knows his harness = a walk. The moment it comes out, he is unable to stay still or to remain within a ten foot radius. Also, he thinks step one is eating the harness. It can take up to five minutes to get his harness on. My neighbors don’t understand how I’m already sweating when we exit the garage when the walk has not even started yet. Also, the first ten minutes of our walk are him trying to eat the leash and me trying to play it cool. Oh hey, yeah it’s totally fine, that he is hanging from the leash as I walk. All the cool kids are doing it.
His other big challenge is that he does not know that any of the above is an issue!
So we train. As we should and as we will, likely for the next several years. And Doug is doing great.
I still have feet AND hands. His mouthing of me has gone from 100% of the time to about 10%. YAY! The problem is, he does not translate that to other feet or hands. He only knows not to mouth me, others are still totally edible. We will get there.
We are also slowly making progress in the couch area. He still escalates the moment I walk in, but that is exactly the time we do some training and try to refocus his need to use me as human rock wall or treadmill. I still don’t watch too much TV sitting down but its great for circulation and my apple watch loves that I’m constantly upright! Try to see the positives, even when your dog wants to be your backpack.
The harness, well the harness is just something that will take time. Melvin was the same way with the leash. I’d rather have a dog overjoyed to go on walks than one I have coerce!
He has done INCREDIBLE with every single dog we have met, even the ones that did not do so great themselves. He is very social and wants to meet all the dogs and all the people.
One month! One month ago I was afraid Doug would eat my limbs. I still have bruises healing from that time with him. Doug and Tracey takes time. Doug will never be more or less perfect than I am. We are a team now. I think he’s starting to trust that.
The idea, let alone the reality, of Breed Specific Legislation should worry and anger every dog owner, regardless of what breed your dogs are.
Melvin as you all know was a lab. Labs are the #1 family dog in all the lands. Melvin was pure, unbridled joy and love. That combination did not equate to ‘good around kids’ or ‘good with other dogs’. In fact, Melvin was known as the dog who would take a child’s whole hand into his mouth to get to the cupcake they were holding. In his early days, he’d knock kids down for lollipops. People would ask me to put Melvin in a different room when they came over, because he couldn’t harness his own energy. He was not immediately #1 family dog material. It was my responsibility to put him into situations where he could shine (with adults) and to help him out in situations where his love of food could result in a child having to unwillingly share their snacks. We trained, a lot. It was my responsibility to control his environment.
Jake was the same way. When I first got Jake he would bite the ankles of anyone within reach. I had never had a dog do this and I had no idea what was going on. So again, it was my responsibility to create a world where he could not bite ankles until we could train him to leave ankles alone on his own.
Both Melvin and Jake only liked each other. Other dogs were not welcomed and Jake especially would lunge and attack if given the opportunity. Thus, outside of our yard, they were ALWAYS on leash and we avoided any and all situations with other dogs. On walks, at the vet, no matter where.
Regardless of their quirks, I would have crawled on bloody stumps to fight for their right to exist.
The idea of BSL, affects us all. The idea that a breed of dog can be targeted or destroyed, based on how it looks, by way of a vote. Today its Pit Bulls, tomorrow it might be Labs, or French Bulldogs, or ‘insert your dogs breed here’. In all its forms, it is wrong, misguided and it has proven itself ineffective.
We cannot sit back and say well it’s Canada, what can I do or I don’t have a Pit Bull, so it doesn’t affect me. If you own a dog or love a dog or generally like freedom of choice over what dog to get or have as part of your family, it affects you.
As for me, I am now the…
Doug’s DNA panel came back the same day Montreal voted to ban Pit Bulls. There was never any doubt in my mind what the test would come back as. He is American Staffordshire Terrier and English Bulldog.
Having Doug does not change my approach as a dog owner. I am dedicated to controlling the situations my dogs find themselves in and I am devoted to giving them the tools they need to succeed. Doug is currently in two training classes a week, not because he is a Pit Bull, but because he is a puppy. Puppies believe in anarchy, they need to be shown that there can be boundaries AND joy.
Please take a minute to realize that BSL could affect you one day. If that worries, saddens or angers you, please take action to help the Pit Bulls and Pitt Bull owners in Montreal (or anywhere else for that matter).
As for the winners of the guesses of what makes up Doug: Doug is 63% American Staffordshire Terrier; 25% English Bulldog (which on this test they refer to as ‘standard’); and he’s 12% something else but they cannot identify that part (I’m not really sure why but it is what it is). Since I can’t tell what the 12% is, I am going to exclude it from the guessing (otherwise everyone could win and your cut of the winnings woudl be $4!). So…we are going to say the winners are those that only guessed Am Staff and English Bulldog – and that is Wendy Shoemaker and Maila Page! IF YOU FEEL YOU GUESSED THOSE TWO (only) AND I MISSED YOU, LET ME KNOW! If you are upset about the 12% and how that affected your vote, know that I feel bad about this. I’m just not sure how else to do the voting!
For the winners, you will split the $100 Sirius Republic gift cert (currently $50 per person but if I missed any winners, this amount could change). Email us (at email@example.com) or private message us your email and we will get your prize out to you!