I’m allergic to cats. The type of allergic that swells my eyes shut. I got allergy tested when I was younger, my back swelled up from the cat test-prick so much that I had to spend a night in the ER. Thus, I have never been much of a cat fan.
Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a fairly young cat in the neighborhood. Everyday I see it walk by my office window but when I run to go and see if I can intercept it, it’s gone (hence not having a photo of it). I have posted that there is a stray and a description of the cat on a few neighborhood FB sites to see if the cat belongs to anyone. So far, it does not.
I don’t have to love cats to not want this tiny creature to go without food or shelter. So now, we have a cat. I’ve named the cat Bob. I don’t know if the cat is a he or a she, but to me, it’s still Bob.
I bought cat food and I leave food out for the cat everyday.
I bought the cat an outdoor cat house. You read that right. I know the cat lives in the sewer (others have seen it entering and exiting) so I have to guess this cat condo is just as, if not more, accommodating. It has a front and back door, in the case of an intruder (that seemed important) and it has plastic flaps on each door to keep wind and rain out (I took the front door off for now thinking that Bob is not skilled on cat condo door operation yet).
I hope to catch Bob (no clue how this will go down) and get it to the vet for shots and spay/neuter. I am not sure what the plans are past that.
That is pretty much the update. We have a cat. Its name is Bob. I have only ever seen it through the window.
The other related update is that Doug likes cat food.
I can see the transition in Doug from ‘am I a guest here’ to ‘I’m home’. It started with his ability to stop backpacking me lay down and snuggle and it continues in other ways. Every day with him, I’m reminded of the same exact settling-in trajectory that Melvin had.
Doug knows the dance. He knows the waltz of the morning, he knows the jam that I go into the office most of the day and he can do what he wants. He knows how to boogie to the different doors for ‘walk’ or ‘potty’. He comes when called.
In the past couple of weeks, when I go into the office, he heads up to the big bed and naps. Exactly what Melvin used to do.
What? I’m working too.
He is also more aware of what is going on outside. He now goes from window to window protecting the house. Exactly what Melvin used to do.
I will protect you mother.
You know that hypothetical we often talk about, whether our dogs would protect us if someone broke in (or am I the only one who does that?). I always knew, 100% that Jake would lay on the couch and watch the break-in unfold. I’m sure part of that was his mobility and that he had for the most part, accepted his limitations. In his mind, he had faith that if I was abducted or knocked unconscious, I would have had a back-up plan for him to be fed (I did). As for Melvin, I was never really sure. I mostly thought that he would be excited to see anyone and that even if I was afraid, he would just wiggle and wag. From time to time, there were indications he might react if I was in true danger.
Doug is every bit as friendly as Melvin. When people come over, even if he has never met them, he loves them already. Everyone that comes over, he wiggles away for. Even when new dog walkers come and I’m not home, he acts like he has known them forever. He has yet to meet a stranger. On walks, he is the mayor of our zip code. I don’t want to meet everyone on our walks, but Doug does.
I have defintiely noticed that when it comes to being home, he is becoming more protective of all the comforts he now enjoys. If I know the doorbell is going to ring and respond knowingly to it, Doug runs to the door and gets ready to be greeter extraordinaire. If I am not expecting the doorbell and it takes me by surprise, Doug stands at attention and barks. He will move in front of me, as if he is protecting me from the ding donging. Doug can read me well. If I get scared (hear a noise at night or during a movie or even waking up from a nightmare), Doug’s response is to immediately take a protective stance. The one exceptioin to all of this is rustling leaves: wind + leaves = I am on my own. When we are in the backyard, if the neighborhood dogs are barking on the other side of the fence or if I’m perfectly calm, Doug does not bark back or even really notice them. But if I hear a noise beyond the fence other than scary leaves, and my heartbeat picks up, Doug assumes a guarding position in front of me and issues a few barks (Melvin would have run inside and Jake would have run to the noise/fence to hunt).
What? I hunted. Don’t judge.
That Doug is protective does not bother me (strangers hearing barking from our house is not a terrible thing), but I am aware that my reaction plays a role in his reaction so I need to be sure that he always knows that everything is OK. I want to be sure he knows that he does not need to be protective. The doors have locks, we have a security system, we have security cameras, we love our neighbors. It’s important to me as he goes through this phase of realizing how great his life is now that he not worry about anything. I have been working with him a lot and now if something causes him to go into protect mode, all I have to say is, it’s okay, and he gets back to wiggling.
You will still protect me from the rustling leaves though, right?
Jake has been gone for six months. I’m not going to write too much because at this stage, I still miss him so much. What I will say is that my love for him has grown infinitely and that photos now bring many more smiles than tears.
Jakey, I love you. You will always be my pea-nugget. #loveliveson
Grief was wrong. Grief made me feel there would be a break in the timeline of my little family. That Doug would never be connected to Jake and Melvin because he never knew either of them. I cried about this a lot.
Turns out I forgot about the one link in the family chain that remained. My love. They are connected, forever and beautifully, I feel it with all that am.
Doug gained two pounds! The dog who runs zoomies for a living burns double the calories that he eats is finally gaining weight! How did it happen? I have no flippen clue.
When last we checked in on skinny-Doug, he was down to 43 lbs (had lost weight) but was eating a diet for a 60lb dog. He was also pooping fourteen six times a day. Losing weight and pooping a ton, not the usual happy ending to a digestive love story. I am still feeding him a part cooked diet (Grandma Lucy’s) but have added in a part raw diet (Primal Raw). Before anyone gasps or says ‘you are not supposed to feed raw and cooked together’, this is our middle ground right now. He is gaining weight back and he is only pooping 2-3 times a day. We like it here in the land of thriving and NOT SPENDING ALL DAY EVERY DAY PICKING UP POOP! The long-term plan will be for him to move to all raw. But what I have learned from my super active monkey is that he does not transition well. Not physically, not behaviorally, not digestively, not even emotionally. Doug needs time and space to be, Doug.
There are areas that he is proving to be my dog. Like the need for regular vet visits. This week we went in because his peeing has picked up and he had a few ‘accidents’ in the house. He was fine in that area so that is why ‘accidents’ have air quotes. (Funny story here, we did blood work and the only metric out of range was the one that would suggest the dog is VERY ACTIVE).
The other thing that is going on with him, that does seem to be something, is that 3-4 times a week, he does this thing were his cheeks puff in and out. It took forever for me to get it on video and once I was able to get close to him when it’s happening, I could see that during these episodes, his tongue flutters super fast and he is unable to stop it. He is otherwise normal during it, he can walk, is alert, but for 45 seconds to a minute, he does this:
There is no trend on when it happens. In the morning, afternoon, evening. At home, on a walk, in the car. The vet suggested it could be seizure related. Then she said the words that I have heard before. You should see a neurologist and get an MRI and Spinal Tap. If/when Doug goes and has these test done, IT WILL BE THE FOURTH TIME IN FIVE YEARS THAT MY DOGS HAVE HAD AN MRI AND SPINAL TAP. Melvin had one where the findings were inconclusive but they suspected a primary cancer (two years later that turned out to be true). Jake had one when his legs stopped working the first time (and we found out he’d be paralyzed) and one last February when his legs stopped working again (as much as wonky legs could stop working) and we found out he had cancer. The words ‘MRI and Spinal Tap’ ignite my grief.
For now, we are going to start him on anti-seizure meds and see if that helps. Not because I’m not willing to have the MRI/ST done, of course he will have whatever tests he needs. And not because it hasn’t even been a year since our last MRI/ST where I heard that Jake had cancer. It’s more that I don’t think we need to go from point A to point MRI without hitting point B and C. Doug is young, I have to remind myself not to live a life of ‘cancer finds us’ and instead live a life of ‘it will be ok’.
It’s funny, I’ve written before how sometimes a dog comes and they just fit and sometimes a dog comes and it’s stressful and worrisome and you are not sure you made the right decision.
When Melvin came, I was dealing with Max who was at the end of his life and Melvin was, a wild, untamed creature full of energy and exuberance. I had moments where I wondered what the hell I had done, not just to Max, but to myself. Max died and Melvin and I eventually found a groove. Clearly, ours was a love story written in the stars. He taught me that love takes work. My post about that struggle is HERE.
When Jake came, it was not so crazy. We did the two-week shut-down approach and then did Jake on tie-down for a few weeks. Also, by that point in life, I had complete faith in Melvin. There were challenges for sure (Jake, I’m talking about you buddy), but I never doubted that the two of them would work out.
Doug is a lot like Melvin. So much so that sometimes I think Melvin is inside him (A Dog’s Purpose is my favorite book). Doug has now been here for four months. It seems more like four years (even though his is only one, math bores me). He came along during a blurry time in my life and sometimes memory and timelines play tricks on me and I think that maybe he’s been here for longer, maybe he was here with Jakey. It’s a good kind of strange.
Doug has come farther in four months than I think any dog I have had has. The whole dogs age seven years for every one of our years, is never so apparent than during the first year and the last years. I’ve come far in four months too. Doug is my first young dog and I was his who-the-hell-are-you-forever. When he first came, his feet biting had me very worried. I could tell he was sweet and exuberant but that impulse control was never needed when he ran stray. The mouthing was really scary to me and I worried a lot about it. Not just that it hurt me physically but I was worried that he would mouth someone and they would claim biting or have reason to perpetuate myths about Pit Bulls based solely on Doug. Would he be a breed ambassador someday? I hoped so. Was that day in the foreseeable future? No.
Hour one with Doug. The tag hanging from his neck says Melvin on it because I had to have a tag with my phone number on it to take him home. Little did I know how much he’d be like his brother.
To be clear, he never bit. He has very good bite inhibition. But his canine teeth are SUPER sharp and you don’t need to draw blood for mouthing to hurt. I read up a lot on mouthing. Ways to train against it, how long it could last. I tried everything. The first month, it seemed as if the more comfortable he got, the more he mouthed. I’m a positive person, but I was not seeing the light on this one.
Please put your foot in my mouth.
I was already crying over Jake at that point but I spent many a night crying about Doug and his need to put all things into his mouth. There were days I looked forward to putting him in his crate at night because I needed a break (you will always get honesty here). I don’t know when it started getting better, I only know that it took A LOT of work. It took more patience than I thought I had. It started with praising him and treating him if he went one-second without mouthing. We then made it to one minute. Impulse control is hard, we had plenty of setbacks. Somehow we went from him mouthing most of the time to him mouthing a few times a day. He almost never mouths me anymore and if he does I know it’s because he is over-tired so he goes in for a nap and exits much more well-behaved. Because he gets SO excited over every visitor or person we meet on walks, well that is still a work in progress but he’s doing much, much, much better.
He still has a lot of energy but I’m more used to it now. I know when he needs to burn some off with an extra long walk and I know days when he is calmer that we can cut back on a walk here and there. He usually offers me every bit of compromise that I offer to him. I think that the recent start of snuggling has a lot do with him trusting me more and more. I was broken when Doug came to live here. As I mend, he finds more calm in me.
Max will always be the dog that made me a dog person. Melvin will always be my heart. Jake is my heartbeat (because he and Melvin are an eternal team). Doug is, hopefully, going to be the dog that I own the longest. He is the dog that I will go through every phase of his life with. He is the dog that I will bring more dogs home to. He is the dog that will see me through the next decade or more of my life.
Doug is my future.
My boy, having a moment with his brothers. #loveliveson
We had a relatively quiet New Years. I had a migraine (fun!). Oh, and miracle or two occurred.
Things like, DOUG SNUGGLES NOW!
I’m not sure how it happened. I was talking to Melvin and Jake one night, saying how it’s ok that I don’t see them in my dreams, that maybe it would be too hard to see them and then wake up. It’s ok, because I feel them and that matters more to me than dreams. I did throw out there to them that they should, COULD, WOULD need to help guide Doug. I specifically asked that they help him learn to snuggle (or at least let me sit on the couch without being playfully mauled).
The next day, this started. I assumed it was a fluke. That’s my head, he’s not sitting on it!
And that is my leg, he’s not standing on it.
When he let me put the blanket over him, I assumed he was dying.
Snugglefest has continued for a week now!
I forgot what it is like to watch TV and not have every muscle in my body tensed-up because Doug is hanging off my back or climbing my hair or standing in my lap trying to lick my face.
I reward snuggle-Doug with belly rubs and calm face massages to encourage him to always want to be calm on the couch. The miracles continued as he slept in the bed ONE NIGHT! He was pretty good from 10pm to about 4am and then he decided it was time to rave so we are taking that one slower. Mama needs her sleep!