Grateful hearts.

I had surgery last week and spent an extra few days at my parents so they could help with Doug and my recovery. I’m so thankful to have family close by and that they are so generous with their time.

This week, someone from the blog reached out to ask me about the grief Jake experienced after Melvin died and to find out if we tried any medication to help. They needed some guidance on their grief journey. I have written before that Jake had a very hard time the hours and days and weeks after Melvin died. He was not Jake, he was hollow, and unsure and broken-hearted. He howled at the door Melvin had gone out of. I couldn’t use words to tell him what had happened. I couldn’t use any language to explain to him that I understood. I could only be as strong as my grief would allow and somehow try to cushion the hardest moment of our lives for both of us.


Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography

We did try medication. Prozac. And it helped tremendously.

After Melvin died, Jake and I had an appointment with a well-known behaviorist in our area. So much was going on with Jake in the Melvinless world. His sadness. His confusion. His physical decline; all he did was lay at the door. Waiting for his soul mate to return.

I told her stories of them, from their first days together, to their last.

She took everything in.

She said: Jake needs Prozac.

We had a two-hour session with her, it was VERY expensive and when she delivered that line, I stared at her waiting for more. This couldn’t be all she had to say and why did she say it so matter-of-factly? I could have suggested Prozac and I’m only a fake vet.

I said: Ok, why?

And then she delivered words that gutted me the way that “Melvin has cancer” and “Jake has Cancer” gutted me.

She said: He needs Prozac because from the day he arrived at your house, having lived a life of little interaction with humans and having felt no real love, he suddenly received natural Prozac in the form of Melvin. Melvin cured life for Jake. And now Melvin is gone and Jake feels alone.

My whole body went hot, she was still talking but I felt more emotion than I had been ready to feel at that moment.

So many images flashed in front of me. What I had seen between Melvin and Jake had been Jake idolizing Melvin, Jake obsessed with Melvin’s butt, Jake following Melvin around and sometimes trying to antagonize him. But all of a sudden, I saw it. Something I had never noticed. Melvin always the one to move closer to Jake, standing near Jake, waiting for Jake. Melvin allowing the invasion of his butt. MELVIN LEADING JAKE. Melvin giving Jake understanding unlike any creature I had ever seen.

Melvin saw who Jake was from day one and he accepted the all of him without pause. When Jake leapt of the couch onto Melvin’s head, Melvin met him with stability and forgiveness. Melvin made Jake feel safe, and cherished, and loved. When Jake’s legs gave out, or he’d fall, Melvin was by his side before I could get to him. Melvin was in the house, all day long, everyday, even when I was not. Jake was never alone.

Until Melvin died.

I may have signed the papers, but Melvin rescued Jake.

That moment with the behaviorist felt sad at first. Mostly because I got a glimpse into Jake’s grief and it was way too heavy for his sweet little soul. I felt Melvin after he died. He never left me. But Jake needed the visual of Melvin. The smell of Melvin. The feel of Melvin.

I would rather Jake have found and lost his soul mate, then to have never known what true love felt like. In all sadness, there is still joy.  No one hopes their dog will need medication to exist joyfully in the world, but I am always open to the dogs getting what they need to have full lives. That might be special diets, that might be appointments with trainers or a behaviorist and it might be Prozac. I’m glad we live in a world with options.

Jake’s gotcha day is Thanksgiving weekend. It is so poetic that he came to us at that time. I gave a lot of thought this Thanksgiving to when Jake showed up in our lives and how he and Melvin were destined to be. I live a grateful life, and there are very few things I am more grateful for than my boys.

Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with much to be grateful for!



10 thoughts on “Grateful hearts.

  1. I’m glad you wrote this, I think we’re in for this trip in the nearish future. Our older boy is 11 and a half, he’s had IBD his entire life, they now think he has Addison’s Disease but they can’t test for it because of his IBD medication which he can’t come off of. He’s now coughing when he rolls over onto his back. He’s going in for chest x-rays tomorrow. Anyway, long story short his little sister loses her $h!t when he leaves, howls and scream-y barks. It’s really sad and we’re not sure what life’s going to be like when we lose him. We’ve toyed with the idea of taking her with when “it’s time” but we don’t want her to hate the vet’s office. We’re probably putting too much human emotion and thinking into it but I feel like if she could “see” he’s gone, she’d understand. I don’t know, we don’t know the right thing to do.

    • Ugh, I’m so sorry. I think putting human emotion into it is our way of loving them even when we don’t know what to do. We actually let Melvin go at home and after I brought Jake over to see and smell him. Obviously this didn’t work for us. I think half the battle is realizing they will have their own reaction. Hopefully you have much more time. xoxo

      • So sorry here, too. You might talk with your vet about in-home euthanasia; some vets offer this service, and there’s a national organization called Lap of Love which contracts with vets in some areas to do home euthanasia. We found it was very helpful to have the “quality of life/euthanasia” discussion with our vet well before the need arose, so when we had to make the decision, we already knew our options. Best wishes that things go as well as they can for you and your pups!

      • Thank you, and thanks for mentioning it didn’t work. I’m definitely attaching human emotion to it and I want her to “understand” but I’m not sure she will, ya know?

      • We’ve also discussed in home as well, and we’re split. Probably putting too much human emotion into it again. We didn’t want some “stranger” coming into our house killing her brother then taking off. Sadly because of his situation I’ve had this conversation with his vet many many times over the years. I just am torn on what to do, he hates going to the vets office, so it’s stressful, but having strangers in the house is stressful for him too. We’ve talked about a sedative to give him prior to going to the vet when it’s time. I just am torn, I also feel a little selfish, part of me wants to have the goodbye to “just me” and not share it with anyone else. I dunno, the whole thing is sucky and hard and I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with it.

      • I am not an expert on sibling plan for saying goodbye but I have let all three boys go at home. And that plan was set up for me and the dog I was saying goodbye to. Similar to you, I wanted as much control over the moment as possible. For us, Max, Melvin and Jake were more comfortable at home. Our lifetime vet came. There was no rush. We said goodbye. Then we had as much time as we needed after. Jake was with my sister in law when we said goodbye to Melvin. He didn’t even know people were there. I think you should do what feels right for you and know that there is no real tested plan for the other pets in the family. I will say that I took a few steps before Melvin was gone to help Jake out. I got a T-shirt and rubbed Melvin down with for weeks before he died. His scent and saliva were all over it. I gave this to Jake after. I also didn’t wash any of Melvin’s bedding for a long time after he was gone. Jake did seem to take comfort with those things.

  2. I was crying before this post ended. Despite the sadness of the post, the way you describe Jake’s despair and grief, and your aha moment with the behaviorist…well it is a beautiful post. It is all about the love, love within species, love between species, and what we all do for each other. You are a top notch pet parent and terrific writer. Thank you

    PS. Might I be so bold as to suggest you ponder writing a book about your trip with Melvin and Jake, and of course Doug. I would absolutely buy it.

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