Recently, we got some bittersweet news. Our friends over at Yellow Brick Home are stepping back from doing pet portraits (I had to stop when I was reading it to hyperventilate) to make more time for the newest project they are cooking up, a baby girl! Ugh, it’s so hard to stay upset when it’s for such a good reason!
I am not sure I can put into words the feelings I have for the YBH paintings of my boys. Despite having tens of thousands of photographs of them, our YBH paintings are among the treasures I would rush in to save during a disaster. It’s not just that they are one-of-a-kind; they are one of my kind. My boys. I commissioned each one during a very definitive phase of our lives.
Melvin & Jake was ordered the moment I realized that my little odd couple were becoming soul mates. My very first, little family.
Melvin’s was ordered just before his 10th birthday, to capture how soulful his Eeyore face had become. I found out he was dying while Kim was painting it and it arrived one week before we said good-bye.
Jake’s was ordered just after Melvin died. During his intense grief, Jake’s eyes took on the most delicate vulnerability and I wanted Kim to capture it. Little did I know how poetic the timing was; his eye ruptured just a few weeks after the painting arrived.
I had just ordered Doug’s (in the hopes no sadness would surround the timing of it) when YBH announced they were stepping back from the pet portraits. I just recently received it. My collection is complete!
Some would say it’s all just paint on wood, but it’s infinitely so much more than that. Kim understands the connection between pet and person. There is an emotion in each stroke, the same way true love is painted into our hearts.
Farewell (for now) Yellow Brick Home. Thank you for the treasures!
I am part of a support group on FB for folks who have dogs going through the same surgeries as Doug. A lot of times people will post that they feel bad for their dogs, day after day, every day, to have to go through any of this, and that is the moment where I have to ask myself: why I don’t feel this way? Do I not care about Doug? Am I dead inside?
The reality is, despite what Doug is going through, it is nothing even close to what Jake (or even Melvin had to go through). And that is not to say that Doug’s life is a comparison to theirs, not at all. It’s just…I never looked at Jake and thought, you poor thing. I felt for his struggle but our entire lives were built around overcoming and opportunity. Sure, that last year I screamed to the universe ENOUGH already! But Jake and I moved forward, even on his last day.
Doug is going to have a great life. I have a lot of faith that his legs will be better than ever (and sure, a little worry here and there that they will not be able to keep up with him at all). Whatever will be, will be. We will figure it out.
Our plans for this summer got squashed. No doubt about it. Unlike Melvin and Jake, Doug loves to be outside, even by himself. I have screens that allow him to go in and out on his own while I’m home. The back yard is built for him to enjoy and run zoomies There will not be a single day during spring, summer or most of fall that Doug isn’t outside on leash, with me. No opening the door to let him run, I must go out with him. No lingering on the patio furniture, he is not allowed to jump up or down. No pool time, he’d 100% break another part of his body.
As sad as that is, Doug is fine. There is no way he will remember this phase. The first chance he has at a full outside zoomie session, he will transition from inmate to superhero. He will live in every moment and continue to have everything he needs. If and when the next challenge comes along, he’ll get through that too. Doug is powered by joy. Trust me on this, I live it every day.
Here are some positives that have come out of Doug being in jail:
He’s had to work on impulse control, and he’s doing great.
If I am not in the room with him, he will chill all day in the jail cell if necessary. This is a great tool for us to have when people come over who are not dog/Doug enthusiasts.
Despite the death stares, he knows I’m in this with him. He and I have bonded, even during the barking and snarling. (I bark and snarl also).
Walks are less stressful now because he is so excited to be out and about that he doesn’t chew the leash or dart left and right and backwards the entire time.
We have MASTERED all his commands.
One of my favorite sayings/quotes is: Where you’re at is not who you are. I have applied that to just about every struggle I have ever had. Those low moments, they don’t define you. This legs phase, will pass. And I have no doubt that one day Doug will break something else in his attempt to be the most insanely crazy dog on earth!
And with that, I give you my little graduate. I wrote this blog post last week and this week Doug was cleared to be off leash in the house. I am 100% panicked he will break his entire body but here we go anyway!
Where are the chains that usally hold me down?
The jail cell comes down:
Doug’s first moments of freedom are spent next to me. Can anyone say Stockholm Syndrome?
He’s clearly not familiar with freedom yet. All those lovely industrial rugs and mats are to prevent slipping (and surgery!).
Doug started therapy in May. That was for his old-new leg. We were rocking all his exercises and moving our way towards graduation. Then we hit a roadblock known as new-new leg. While we did surgery and recovery on leg #2, therapy had to be put on hold. That meant that leg #1 lost some ground. Double ugh!
A month after his second surgery, Doug was cleared for therapy for both legs. Woooohooooooooo, take us back to Peanut Butter City where the grass is green and girls are pretty!
Doug LOVES Peanut Butter City. That is what we call therapy because they feed him peanut butter to get him to do what they want him to do.
It’s not just the peanut butter, he LOVES the ladies there too. I mean hard-core, loves them. One of them, Becky, he loves more than he loves peanut butter. Perhaps even more than he loves me. If Becky greets him at the elevator, he explodes with joy. If he’s doing an exercise and Becky walks by, he loses all ability to focus. If she disappears, he is inconsolable and flips and flops in a furry of a tantrum. Doug has no game.
He. Loves. Her.
This is who he stalks Becky. He’s totally holding in his gut to impress her.
I mean, I’m glad he loves someone. Despite living with him, feeding him, snuggling with him, buying him several jail cells, paying all his bills and DRIVING HIM TO PEANUT BUTTER CITY, all I get are death stares.
You’re not Becky.
I will chew this tie down and set myself free and find Peanut Butter City on my own.
A year ago I was broken. I was overwhelmed with grief and I was paralyzed under the weight of there being no dogs here. Jakey had not been gone that long and the void in my heart and in the house was crushing me. I’d met dogs and all of them made me have breakdowns. None of them were the dog I wanted.
The dog(s) I wanted had died.
So I gave up. My exact words were: it will just have to be shitty until it isn’t.
Then I saw you. I was scrolling on Facebook and I saw you and went past you and then scrolled back up and then back down and then back up. What was it about you? I didn’t think: you’re not Jake. I didn’t say: it feels too soon. In you, I saw the love-child of my delicious duo. More so, I saw a tomorrow that you could be in. I brought you home (one year ago today) and there were no breakdowns, at least none that were grief driven.
In the first weeks that followed, my feet bled. This is not some sort of poetic rhetoric, they literally bled because you were insane and tried to eat my feet with every step I took. Every step. I remember running and hiding in the bathroom. I googled steel toed shoes. Steel toed footwear in the heat of summer = not cute. During those torturous weeks, you made me miss Jake more. I won’t lie, I did not love you. I regularly asked myself and you out loud, what was I thinking?
In addition to my bloody stumps, you had more energy than all the dogs combined times infinity. We walked non stop and still you were wound up and running zoomies. Still trying to leave me footless. How was I going to walk you with no feet?
I cried. A lot. About you. You were not at all what I wanted.
But then it was October. Then November. And we’d worked on you chewing toys and not feet and although I was still sad about Jake, I was not as unsure about you. December came and I still cried myself to sleep missing Jake, but I woke up smiling that you were here.
You saw me through almost all the firsts I had to go through without Jake. You were fairly insensitive about my sadness, in fact most times when I would cry you would jump on my back and chew my hair.
In hindsight, you were everything that I needed.
I didn’t need a hug. That was Melvin’s job. Melvin’s collars were too big for you. I didn’t need you to make me laugh, Jake had that covered. Jake’s jackets were too small for you. What I needed was a disruption to the structure of grief. I needed to go a little crazy. Who better to show me that than you? You are my boy in the middle. Sandwiched between your brothers. Sort of like that circle on the top of your head.
You crept slowly into my heart.
I didn’t love all the walks, but the fresh air healed me. I was not excited about how much training you needed, but it helped pass time that would have otherwise been spent wishing Jake was still laying on the couch next to me. I didn’t love that you were such a terror, but every night I went to bed, I was almost too exhausted to be sad.
You were not the dog I wanted at first. But no dog was. Today, I know with certainty that we were meant to be. Not just because you are addicted to surgery and I love going broke, but because when you look at me, my heart squeals. You are so much like Melvin, and so much like Jake, and nothing like them at all. Even though you never met them, I still feel like you are brothers, that you are connected to them, and I do not think I would have felt that way with any other dog but you.
Your story is the opposite of mine. You never had a family to lose. You never had someone committed to your health or well-being. You never had a home, or beds or peanut butter. If there is one thing I know, it’s that the universe will send me the dogs that others would not be able to go the distance with. I will travel this crazy life with you and your wonky Barbie legs, always.
I know you know you’re home.
Thank you for joining me on this journey of joy. You are a strong force in this army. You bring the joy AND the funk.
You own my heart. Sure, some days I am still worried you will chew it up like one of your beds or swing it around like one of your Jolly Balls, but as all unconditional loves go, I’m willing to take that risk.