Oh little chicken – four years flew by.

Jakey, four years ago, you came into my life. Four months ago you died. This is not the gotcha letter I thought I’d be writing.

I still pretend that you’re here. I can’t seem to let go yet. I don’t know, I just figured since the universe was so hard on you, almost all at once, that it would at least give us time together after we made it through.

I was wrong.

I’m still haunted by your last year, how many times I said over and over that next year will be better bud. We didn’t get a next year. Spinal cancer had other plans.

It’s not fair.

However, I would choose love and loss every time over never loving at all. Loving you was worth every heartache that came after losing you.

Four years ago we became a little family. To say I never expected you is to say the sun provides light. You snuck in and my life and Melvin’s life was proven to be incomplete because you, in fact, completed us. That one little puzzle piece that we didn’t know was missing, was you. You became the humor in my life. No one has brought me as much laughter as you have.

Where Melvin taught me what unconditional love was, you taught me how to live it. You made me see challenges as things we were meant to overcome. Before you, I would have seen a paralyzed dog or a blind dog and thought poor thing. But through your lens, life became more about what we could achieve, not about what we couldn’t do. You gave me a purpose that changed me at my core. I already knew I was put on this earth to love you and Melvin, but I was also to make sure you knew your opportunities in life were endless.

We won.

We won and yet, you’re not here, so I have to hold onto that win even in loss. I’m sitting in my office and I’m still telling myself you are on the couch. Of course if you were actually on the couch I’d hear you barking and snarling because Doug would be driving you bonkers!

You and I are so much alike. I didn’t realize how much until after Melvin died and you and I grieved in the same exact way. Needing space, then needing each other, then needing space. In our last year, that year without him, you are the only living creature that understood exactly how I felt. You and I spoke through silent glances.  Our very own special language. When I lost you, I lost that beautiful connection. I had to bear losing you on my own.

I will likely never care for anyone to the extent I cared for you. I still miss nurturing you. My hands still reach for you. I still wake up in the middle of the night to check on you. Even though you’re gone, I still need to be your mom. Our beautiful relationship continues, I just have to be patient as it evolves.

Something tells me you sent Doug. Not because he has crazy energy and you’d get a good laugh out of it (although I know this to be true), not because he tries to eat my feet (still not funny bud), and not because the house was so lonely (good God I’d never felt so alone). I think you sent Doug because he is so much like young-Melvin was. Not nearly as loving as Melvin (we’ll give him time on that) but he was the closest thing you could send me that would remind me of Melvin being here to get me through the loss of you.  I know you love all things Melvin. It makes sense you’d want me to have a reminder of him as my emotions flood over you.

Jake, you will always make my heart swell. I love you in a billion different ways. I loved your sour smell, your googly eyes, your love of Melvin’s butt. I loved that in the early days, you’d stomp your rear leg to crank out meatballs and as your life progressed, you began to leave them more covertly. I loved all 31 billion of your noises. I loved your grumpy expression.  I loved buying rugs for you. And diapers. I miss your pee. I loved your glance that said I love you and feed me all at once. I love Jake love. There is nothing else like it in the whole world. I know that Melvin and I were your puzzle piece too. My life took a turn with you, I would never go back. Four years ago, we said hello forever.  We were meant to be.

I feel you next to me, watching me. I can almost hear you scooting along side of me. That makes me smile.

Happy Gotcha Day, Jake. I love you, bug.



Where have we been?

I am not sure where to begin with this one.  It’s been quite a week.

I was having back pain and it hurt to breathe so I assumed that I pulled something.  I went to our local ER and that turned into an ambulance ride to a different hospital and that turned into being in the hospital for three days.  I had a pulmonary embolism. Before you gasp and hurt yourself, this was not my first PE. In fact, I have had many, many blood clots find their way into my lungs. I’m not sure how I’m still here but I’m grateful that is the case.

The thing that is different about this time is that I was on medication to prevent blood clots.  Yet here I was in the hospital with another PE.  My blood clotting condition had gone to new heights, not in a good way. Three things owned my worry at that point:

  1. Doug. I had left for a quick errand and now I would not be home for days. I called his tribe and they took over. His meals were made, he got walks, he got play time and I got lots of video proof that my boy was just fine. This was perhaps the best of all the medicine.
  2. That I was suddenly not safe.  That I could clot and/or perhaps die at any minute. This feeling has not gone away yet.  Its heavy and scary and I’m still working on this one.
  3. That there was a clot at all.  After you have situations like this, the event itself is less scary.  I knew it would be painful, I knew it would be some time of not feeling well but it occurred, I survived, and the doctors were taking care of it. This is not me making light of anything, it’s just a reality that I live with.

I came home to a well fed and very loved Doug. My not feeling well pretty much went unnoticed by him, he still wanted to jump on me and ride my back and eat my hair.  In some ways, although more painful than usual, it helps to have a dog that is of the everything is normal and great, let’s go!.

A few days later, on Thanksgiving, I got a migraine, because why wouldn’t I.  Then decided to decorate the Christmas tree and had to come face-to-face with all my Jakey decorations. One year ago I had to deal with Melvin’s ornaments and now dealing with Jake’s made pulling both of their decorations out of the box sting so much more. I wanted Jake to be here.  I wanted him on the couch as I decorated the tree.  He wasn’t supposed to die. So I cried and I got overwhelmed because the week had been hard enough and well to be honest, because I felt sorry for myself and I gave in that it was ok to feel defeated. Now, the tree is up. The boy’s decorations are on there. I survived a blood clot, a migraine and another painful grief moment. This week had to let go of me eventually.  Then I looked at the calendar.

Yesterday was Jake’s gotcha day.  I miss him more than I am afraid to die.

Here is the thing though, being scared and overwhelmed and sad, those are human emotions and I am going to feel those things because, well because last time I checked I am still human. But they aren’t who I am. I can’t stay there because I believe in joy. I’m committed to joy.  When the boys died I promised them that I would carry on. When I feel afraid, my first instinct is to wonder when or how I can feel brave again. When I feel beaten down I think, I’m still here, get up.  When I think of Jake and Melvin, I know it’s ok to be sad, but I desperately want to feel warmth during thoughts of them both. Joy takes work. Sometimes chasing joy is the last thing I want to do and often I have no energy to even try but then I realize, it’s the only way. Joy haunts me. When I look at the tree now, those ornaments that brought tears, bring smiles, because Melvin and Jake were here, they were right here with me and I had precious time with them and I also had a ridiculous amount of ornaments made with their names on them and that alone is both crazy and funny. I also think, poor Doug has no ornaments.  YET!

I had written Jake’s last gotcha letter before the health events. I will finish that up and post it tomorrow.  Everyday I will celebrate quietly that he came to me. He was here. That there was and always will be, great Jakey love.

And I’ll leave you with this. On the tree decorating day, after the hospital stay and the migraine and all the ornament ugly crying. I sat on the couch exhausted and Doug started jumping on me and I said out loud but calmly, I need Melvin. Five minutes later Doug allowed me to lay down and he snuggled with me on the couch as I cried and I napped, for the rest of the day.

Joy found.

Oh the joy of giving joy.

After Jake died, my friend G reached out to me to ask if she could donate to Melvin & Jake’s Project Joy.  I don’t have it set up as non-profit so up to this point, the donations towards the efforts have been from me and my parents (who donated generously after Melvin and Jake each died). It was sorta just this very-big-to-me, little effort I did.

My heart felt so full with G’s very generous donation and I additionally felt a tad overwhelmed to find the ‘perfect’ use for the money. It’s a great problem to have, right? I think it was partly that it was our first donation outside of my family and that it would be our first big gift of joy since adding Jake to the cause.  I took a step back and a deep breath and reminded myself, as long as we are giving joy, it’s going to be right.


I looked at her check for a long time. My heart felt so full. I searched for a while for what felt the most right. In the end, a foster with the French Bulldog Rescue Network (Jake’s rescue) won my heart. Axl, a three-year old Frenchie had been given up by his family after his spinal condition and paralysis became too much for them to handle. I saw him and I knew. He needed some Jakey joy.

Axl is young, way too young to be facing paralysis. I knew that a wheelchair would do two things.

  1. Give him his mobility freedom back (yay)!
  2. Give his future forever family one less thing to worry about (the cost of a wheelchair) which would free them up to just love him more.

Joy at it’s finest.

As for Axl’s first family giving him up, hey, I understand. From the moment I saw Jake falter for the first time to him not having much use of his back legs at all, I never ever considered giving him up.  But…taking care of him and the costs associated with that was extremely overwhelming at times and very expensive. Not everyone is going to say ‘we will figure this out’, some will have to admit ‘we can’t do this’. I think those cases are why rescue exists. There was a time when I would have much rather seen someone give up their dog because paralysis was too much to handle versus not having enough time for the dog.  But then a family gave up Jake because they didn’t have time for him and well, Jake and I were meant to be. Maybe I love all the reasons that brought me Melvin, Jake and Doug. When you are trying to spread joy, its best to leave judgment behind.

Axl got fitted in person at Eddie’s Wheels.  I called that night and paid for the cart, just as I had a few years back when I bought Jake’s cart from them. And it felt seven billion types of lovely to pay that invoice of joy with love and to send G the email announcing the joy she helped facilitate.

Without further ado, I give you, Axl. Every step he takes, love will live on!

Axl before his cart. img_0857

Axl in his new ride! Video below the two photos! If you look closely, you’ll see Jake in sunshine. img_1167img_1168


You can read more about Axl here!

#joytrain #allaboard #choochoo



Doug is my little oddball.

Yesterday, Doug went under anesthesia so that the vet could do X-rays of his mouth and leg. He is missing four teeth (which is odd at his age) and we needed to see if they were impacted. As for his leg, his body is a ball of muscle, except his rear left leg.  It’s much weaker than the other legs and he often holds it up/won’t put weight on it.

The teeth situation is that it seems Doug never had those teeth. There is no sign that he had them and lost them and there are no teeth currently up in there. This is VERY good news.  He’s been having some drooling and pain when chewing so we were very worried this was an issue (that would require a speicalist to deal with). The pain is likely that HE IS SUCH AN INSANE SUPER CHEWER.

As for his leg, there is no indication that there is a bone issue.  His hips look good, his knee looks good too. So it’s likely a soft tissue issue. When they said soft tissue my mind immediately went to Jake who had a soft tissue cancer. But then I quickly pulled myself back. Doug is not even one yet, he’s healthy, it’s a something we can do rehab on and be fine.

I am currently two to three different people at any given time. I’m Jake (and Melvin’s) mom, who is still grieving and who worries when limps present themselves. I’m Doug’s mom who is learning what is it like to have an active, relatively healthy young dog, a role I am not used to yet.  And I’m me, the person who tries to be them both without being too much of either. Stay in the middle Tracey, learn from where you have come but don’t be afraid of where you are going.

True of all of my dogs, Doug was completely out of it all night long and has the explosive poops. He’s mine, all mine.

Why is the room spinning? No really,  make it stop. Is the fire burning my butt? My butt burns too. img_1223

Thank you for all of the well wishes!  We really apprciate it! xoxo

He’s mine.

I have had Doug for two months. We have been to the vet four times. He’s definitely my dog.

Our first time was to just introduce him and see what was up. The second visit he had been super itchy and it was determined he had mites. Third appointment was an ear infection. Fourth appointment, well that one is a little more complicated.

Let’s go back to the very first appointment we had.  After a thorough look-over, the vet informed me that Doug was missing four teeth. Two on top, two on the bottom. Not the same teeth on each side. My question back was: how is that possible?

Reasons could include:

  1. He lost them. But if I got Doug at 8 months old and his gums did not show signs of any post-healing, he would have to have lost them REALLY early.  And four of them?
  2. He never got them, that perhaps genetically, he never had them.  It would be odd but not impossible.
  3. They were still in there and never came down. This scenario would be least favorable.

We decided at the time to take a wait-and-see approach. Last week, Doug was chewing a Kong and he yelped. This didn’t stop him from chewing it, when you are obsessed with destruction, you laugh in the face of pain. After a few more yelps, and very drooly morning, we headed to the vet.

Must keep chewing through the pain to impress pink hippo girlfriend.img_1084

Doug is going to get anesthetized (try to schedule for this week) so that they can determine via X-ray if any of the four teeth are in there. If any are, we will have to see a specialist for removal since it’s not a simple procedure.  Of course the entire time they were telling me this I was 100% certain at least one tooth was in there because this is how my dogs go.

We had pre-surgical blood work done.  Here is the interesting thing about joy and hope. It heals quietly. The last ten (+) times I have had blood work done on dogs was with Melvin and Jake and those results were not good and I knew the moment their blood was drawn it wouldn’t be good. I had been somewhat conditioned that blood draws = bad news. But at no time in waiting for Doug’s results did I worry that his would be anything but healthy.  And they were exactly that, perfect.  It would be easy to think Doug is somehow destined for cancer or illness but when I look at him, I have faith that we will have a long life together.  Maybe a few less (hidden) teeth but still a long life.

While he is under, they are going to x-ray his hind leg too, for some reason, it’s much weaker than the other leg.  Yep, my dog indeed!

Pain meds Doug is very snuggly. img_1034

Sidetone: For all of you praying for our Foster Athena, as of Thursday she was still at the vet battling the infection. We are not going to be getting her back but I will let you know when I hear back that she is on the mend.  Doug and I donated to her care, all we want is for her to heal and find joy.

Our very first foster day.

Where to start…

Our foster, Athena, was supposed to come a few weeks ago. There was a delay in her arrival from the shelter due to her having a rough spay operation and also that they had to remove a mammary tumor (it turned out to be benign).  They had a hard time getting her incisions to heal and she was at the vet for over a week. I wasn’t for sure if we were even going to get her.

This did not stop me from planning.  I bought bigger crates, I bought baby gates and I drove 40 minutes to buy the food she was currently eating so that we could slowly transition her to better food. It also gave me a chance to train Doug away from he mudroom.

When I went to pick her up on Saturday, she still had sutures (which I knew would be the case).  Upon looking at her underside, it was obvious it didn’t look like it was supposed to.  The area where the mammary tumor was removed should have been flat, instead it was raised up like a tennis ball.

We got her in the car. She was timid but sweet. Her sad eyes told her story.


The meet and greet with Doug did not go very well.  They lunged at each other pretty early on (on the walk on leash). There was snarling. I was worried about this since Doug has never ever reacted this way but I was more worried about the state of her incisions.

The vet that the rescue uses got us in right away.  When we got into the exam room, I noticed that she has a heart-shape-spot on the side of her body.


It took two vets and two vet techs to remove the mangled staples that were buried in her swollen incision areas.  They flushed the areas out. They opted to not do new sutures because of the infection, they wanted to see if they would close better on their own, without the staples. They cleaned out her ears, they may never have been cleaned out before, and we left an hour-and-a-half later with her antibiotic and instruction that she should not be outside too much, or lay down outside at all.  Her incisions were susceptible to more infection.

She remained sweet as could be.

I got her home and into the mudroom.  Doug was hyper aware she was there and kept trying to jump up on the gate (I had three gates separating them, I am nothing if not efficient). She was extremely uneasy in the mudroom. She did not like being in the crate our outside of the crate near the gate.  Even when I was in there with her, she was uneasy.  I don’t know if she had ever been in a house before. If I left the mudroom, she tried to jump the gates, not a good idea in general or with her incisions.

I tried everything. Leaving her in the mudroom with a visual of me to see if she’d calm down. I went into the mudroom with her. I gave her a frozen peanut butter Kong, then a bully stick, then cheese.  She wouldn’t eat. I put Doug in his crate in the office and brought her into the house to see if she would calm down. She didn’t.

It was only outside that she was relaxed.  She had lived an outside existence for many of her years. After a few minutes outside, she would prance around, sniffing, occasionally coming up to me.  It was a gorgeous day on Saturday so I would have stayed outside with her all day had it not been for her incisions.

Every time I brought her back into the house, she panicked. Her and Doug growled at each other from afar, although Doug did start to relax a little.  He had no problem eating his Kong or bully stick. But she just barked and whimpered and paced.

I tried to get her more comfortable in the house.  The rescue group’s trainer called me and we chatted about her anxiety. Was it Doug? Was it me? Was it the house? Was it how she felt? I had a had a plan for if her and Doug hit it off and for if they didn’t.  I however did not have a plan for her being uneasy in the crate, mudroom or house in general.

The trainer asked me to send her photos of the incisions, that maybe the vet was being overly cautious.  Once they saw them I think they agreed that she needed to stay as clean as possible to hopefully avoid more surgery.  We chatted about options and decided to take her to the 24 hour vet (it was evening) so they could get her calm and get her some pain medication (something we had not gotten at the first vet appointment, even though I asked for them).  It was painful to look at her incisions, it had to be painful for her to have them that way.

This vet was about 40 minutes away.  She calmed down dramatically in the car. She was timid going into the next vet but I went with her into the back room and got her settled into a cage in the back treatment room.  She was perfectly calm in that cage. She sat down and then laid down as I sat with her. She was much more comfortable in this setting over being in my house.

I went over everything with the techs, said my good byes to her and went home.  The plan was for her to stay there until they decided if she needed surgery to clean up the incisions.

I went home and felt defeated, mostly for her.  I had not thought that day one would be easy or great, I only thought it would be as good as it could be. But with the state of her incisions and her anxiety level, I felt like she had a much rougher time than anyone ever deserved. I’m not sure knowing about her health issue would have made me plan differently.

Doug rounded out the first day of fostering with marking all areas she touched. Luckily for him, I love him and I was way too tired to care.