Wait, what? Can you repeat that please.

As a reminder, Doug is impossible to keep weight on. We tried food after food to find one that he keeps down and doesn’t poop 25 times a day on and one that keeps his poops ‘moderately’ good. While on the one food that somewhat worked, he consistently lost weight.

His bionic leg endeavors deterred some of our digestive progress.  Or masked it. Or made us forget all about it. But he started throwing up regularly and we went to the vet. And the vet did bloodwork and it all came back terrible and they were worried Doug could be in organ failure and I was overwhelmed and he was malnourished and ok universe JUST STOP BEING SUCH AN A$$HOLE.

We did x-rays. We did ultrasounds. Scope was up next, but we decided to do a food change to see if we could pinpoint the issue. Doug went on the food that has pre digested protein. The one I argue is the worst.

You knew all of this from previous posts but I wanted to get you back up to speed. Also, here is a reminder of what Doug looks like!

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We did the food trial for 8 weeks. Doug went from skinny to pleasantly plump. I had to cut back on the recommended amount because he was clearly back up to healthy hippo weight, and maybe even for the first time, a little overweight.

We had his bloodwork redone and the vet called. I could hear in her voice that the results were unexpected, maybe even questionable. Then she delivered a statement to me that has never once been said, to me, about any dog:

Doug’s bloodwork is perfect. Like textbook perfect. Like we’ve never seen such good bloodwork ever, in the history of all the bloodwork.

I legit cried. I mean I’m not saying we will ever be able to find out what the mystery of an ‘annual vet visit’ is like, but hot damn, we got him from possible organ failure to poster child of health!

Turns out, Doug has an intolerance to Chicken. And a few other things. This explains while during the terrible weeks, when we put Doug on the bland diet (chicken and rice), everything got way worse. The predigested food is a short term solution as even that manufacturer of the foods says that dogs should not stay on it long term. Doug is now on a food trial with Kangaroo and higher fiber (which we know he does better on). He’s tolerating the food great and we will do another blood test after 8 weeks, but I can just tell, he’s nutrient boosted and being fueled by food joy. Yay!

Doug is the perfect example of how nothing happens overnight. This September will mark our 3rd year together, and it is has taken this long to figure out all his digestive issues. In between all of it was two major leg surgeries and a host of anxiety and behavioral learnings. He is never boring, currently his hind legs are posturing in a way that his outside paw pads and nails don’t touch the ground. We learned this by noticing that those nails are always super long, unlike the other nails that wear down normally on all the walks. Who knows what the solution to that is.

I think the moral to this story and maybe all of my stories about all of the dogs is 1. get health insurance for your pet and 2. there are no guarantees for how easy or difficult or challenging life with a pet will be. There is only what you make of the joy.

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We didn’t make the cut.

I am going to share something with you that might send some of you into a tailspin, but hear me out, it will be ok.

We were denied approval to adopt a dog. Technically, we didn’t even apply.

Deep breaths, it’s ok. I would love to think we live in a world where everyone, everywhere is willing to give me all the dogs. And the truth is, 99.9% of the time we are approved. It’s usually me that decides it’s not a good fit. We have met a lot of dogs that  the interaction between the dogs decided a NO for us. There were also seemingly great dogs that for whatever reason, I didn’t think were right.

It took me 7 months to choose a couch, I take commitment pretty seriously.

The story goes like this. Doug used to be great with dogs. Doug met a few dogs that did not love him and attacked him and he ended up in the ER one time but still he loved dogs. Then he had two extensive leg surgeries and he became not so lovey of dogs and started lunging at them.

Why did that dog Wolverine my face?IMG_3696

Now, he’s getting much better about being around his own kind again and he shows the most love and promise with puppies.

Ugh.

Puppies.

I know I am not the majority on this one but I’m just not a puppy person. There is not a single person who can suggest I am not willing to do the work with dogs. A day in the life of Jake has more than proven that. But puppies, and their chewing and their housebreaking and their need to be up when the rest of the world sleeps, make them, not for me. The argument that puppies grow up does not work with me like you would expect it too. It is that very theory, that puppies grow up, that has me proclaiming I shall wait until they do to adopt them. Some people ohhh and ahhh over puppies. I love me a good sugar faced senior.

So, puppies are a yes for Doug and a, maybe, for me.

The second part of this story is about my over abundance of caution. I had zero fear with Melvin meeting dogs. I brought Jake home and knew that Melvin would accept him by virtue of me being the one to bring him home. Melvin trusted me. I was 3000% nervous about every dog that Jake met because Jake was the most beautiful asshole that ever lived but he was extra assholey to any dog that was not Melvin. Every time. Every dog.

Please bring me more dogs to eat. IMG_6002

Even Doug being great with dogs, I always want success for him. He’s a pit bull. He gets judged much harsher than others. So Doug might be doing great with another dog, but my caution knows no boundaries so it is always on high alert. Many will argue I’m too cautious. I will argue that there are far worse things to be.

When we met the puppy in question, Doug did great! Like super great. Like if I loved puppies we would have just said yes right away. During the meet and greet, I left Doug’s leash on. The foster mom suggested I could take it off, but – hello, my name is caution and I oh wait, what, yes I want to leave the leash on. Leaving it on is not about Doug. It’s about safety. I want to set both dogs up for success and safety. If you bring your baby over to my house, I will also leave Doug’s leash on because Doug will knock that baby over, sit on top of him/her and lick their face joyfully.

The puppy we met seemed to love Doug. This puppy is very people shy, but I felt like she did well with me.

I guess my caution raised a red flag. To be honest, I was having a hard time with this very young puppy part anyway, but the rescue reached out and said they felt we were not a good match for the puppy because of my over abundance of caution and/or them wondering why I kept Doug on leash. They wrote a nice email, and I wrote a thank you back and told them that there was probably no circumstance where I would come in, confidence ablaze, to make a puppy feel my assurance over being a responsible dog owner. Sort of an agree, to disagree.

Apparently having Jake’s life documented on the web does not in fact guarantee we will be approved for all situations.

We are not approved for cautious puppies. I am okay with this! I have said no to some really great dogs, it’s ok that someone says no to me. That little nugget was meant for someone else. And I get to hold onto my caution for longer!

If a puppy is meant to be, I’ll know when we meet.

Give me all the puppies, smother. IMG_3061

 

We are all works in progress.

Doug and I came to be six weeks after Jakey died. Doug didn’t get the best of me, he probably didn’t notice because even the worst of me is probably better than living on the streets. It took about two weeks for him to decompress. Decompression is different for every dog. For Doug, during his first two weeks, he rested. Then he unleashed an exuberance and energy fury the likes I had not seen since I first got Melvin. Even then, Doug was WAY more into constant movement than Melvin ever was.

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Doug barely rested. He was also painfully mouthing my feet, so my heart and soul missed Jakey and my feet were begging for me to amputate them. He declared the couch a diving board and the house was his racetrack. Walks didn’t tire him out, in fact, they seemed to give him more energy.

This is about the time a different family might have returned Doug. I remember just agreeing with myself that it was OK that I didn’t love him with every fiber of my being at this point. And you know what, he probably felt the same about me. We had to figure out some things together, the road to joy is still paved with speed bumps, detours,  potholes and bloody feet.

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I reached out to some pit bull owners who assured me that many hippos like Doug were VERY energetic, that many mouthed, that many were impossible to keep weight on. And after those conversations, I looked at Doug and said out loud: I guess you are normal. I came to accept him because that’s what rescue and love is about. He came to accept me too.

We worked through the constant mouthing. It was not easy. In fact, of all the behavioral issues I have face, and don’t forget that Jake hunted EVERYTHING and I had to rescue living creatures from his mouth on a regular basis, Doug’s mouthing was by far the hardest. Not because it hurt, but because it made him be a dog that only I could be around. I couldn’t ask others to overlook the sharp clamp of his teeth on their feet by assuring them he had good bite inhibition. If he continued mouthing feet, he would never be ok for public consumption without a muzzle. (It should be stated here that I am a big fan of muzzle usage when it’s used right – not as punishment but as a safety tool – safety for dog and all involved). Doug mouthing feet was his quirk, but in a Pit Bull type dog, it would have been a scarlet letter.  Labs that mouth are ‘joyful’, Pit Bulls that mouth are ‘vicious’.

The mouthing eventually ended. Praise be!

Did someone say feet? IMG_3030

But Doug continued to be a dog that went non stop. During his back-to-back leg surgeries, others became aware of just what I meant when I said that. We tried a lot of different sedatives to keep Doug calm and safe during his five months of recovery and vets and surgeons and rehab techs would all ask: I thought you said he was on a sedative? He was. Even sedated Doug, was perpetually in motion. Eventually we found a medication that gave him the ability to self regulate his energy, still be Doug, and keep him safer during recovery.

It was when recovery was over and he came off that drug that I noticed something I had not seen in a while. That Doug’s day, is a series of escalation. He sleeps 10 hours a night and wakes up exuberant and joyful. As the day continues, Doug ramps up. The more he walks, the more energy he has after. The more zoomies he runs, the more zoomies he runs. I started noticing there were afternoons and evenings, that he was unable to relax or rest. I would have to force time outs/naps, just to give him a break. It was also during this time that his fears and anxieties came back full force. So he was in near constant motion and life was overwhelming him. So, after a few discussions with our vet, he went back on the medication that had helped before. It’s a human drug that regulates blood pressure and for Doug, it provided him the perfect balance – joy and energy and zoomies and fun but also the ability to relax. It worked beautifully for one year. In 2018, Doug lived his very best life.

And then overnight, this past January, it stopped working.

We had a rough few months at the start of this year. Doug’s digestion went to hell (again), he had blood work done and the values were so alarming we had to do scans and more tests to be sure his organs were functioning. Those test were fine and we started thinking he might have a digestive mobility issue. On top of all of this, and maybe even due to it in some way, his calming/anxiety medication stopped working. He was nauseous, manic and unable to rest. His anxiety and fears were at a new high. This is about the time he started self soothing, by suckling furry objects and licking EVERYTHING, constantly.

Videos of Doug mouthing to self sooth/calm:

I love Doug’s quirks. And alone, each one can be comical. But together, well I don’t want him to live a life that doesn’t allow him a moment of peace. Part of being joyful, is being content. Doug was no longer able to find contentment.

Doug’s fears include loud noises and change (I can’t change things in the house as Doug becomes uneasy, even if I just move something, like the trashcan.) Shiny floors, the vet, the vet’s shiny floors. Wind. Butterflies (I agree with this one). He is also uneasy about the powder room. He is unable to calm down if I am in the powder room with the door shut and if I leave the door open he pretty much freaks out until he is able to come in and lick my hand. So I sit on the toilet and let Doug lick my hand and there is nothing I love about this except for, of course, Doug.

We are getting his physical health back on track (food trial) and now we are focusing on his mental health. We went to see the behaviorist that I had taken Jake to after Melvin died. She is, at the top of her field and highly revered in the VA/DC area. I could listen to her talk for days. She taught me so much about Jake and she really helped me understand Doug so much more than I already did. Doug is hyperactive. Not just energetic, he has an inability to turn off. It’s not easy to watch. Also, his fears add up and it’s not OK with me for him to live with so much anxiety. So we talked about goals – my one demand for Doug’s life is the same I had for Melvin and Jake, that life be measured in joy. This is harder for Doug because I can put joy in front of him and he might not be able to see it through some of his barriers. Day-to-day, I want him to be his full exuberant self and those legs are built for zoomies so the more the better. I don’t want him to be sedated or tired, but I do want him to be able to relax. We agreed he needs help to turn off and find calm and he needs help to channel his anxiety. We are trying some new meds and so far he’s doing great. They are working really well on his hyperactivity but a little slower on his fears, which is totally expected.

I have nothing but time for him and making sure he is living his best life.

I wholeheartedly believe in tools to help dogs thrive, like muzzles, and medication and holistic approaches. We have tried everything on the Google search. CBD, oils, plug-ins, clothing, exercise, puzzles. I’m thankful we have a team of vets (from traditional to specialty to holistic) to help us. Every dog deserves to be seen as an individual and have their human advocate for his or her joy.

My joyful zoomer

 

 

Oh spring.

This is the time of year that both Melvin and Jake were diagnosed with cancer. I don’t think about those actual dates as often as I think of all the memories. Warmer days, lingering outside, both of them slowing down during their respective battles. Melvin would be 14 this year and Jake would be 11.

Googly eyed pots watching over us. IMG_3056

As the warmer weather starts to bare it’s pale hiney, Doug is sent into ballistic joy to be outside, with no snow, and the sun shining on his seasonal alopecia spots (which are finally filling in)! He runs out the door as if the sun and warmth are his long lost loves returning from battle. He will stay outside, trying to eat bees, until I have to chase him in.

Bring my food outside, I’m never going back in. IMG_3041

I’m living in the moment with crazy Doug. As we play in the yard and I throw him the ball, I still see Melvin staring blankly at me as I threw him a ball he never once retrieved. I still see Jake ‘running’ the way he only could, in dewy grass, wonky legs dragging behind. I see all three of them, in the same space that is my heart.

Doug continues to make sure I’m coming along on his crusade of zoom. He snuggles like Melvin, he’s as defiant as Jake, and he is 100% like no other dog I have ever had.

Doug has had his fair share of health issues these last few months. We are still working  things out and getting tests done. At one point, liver failure was being thrown around and it would be really easy for me to say ‘it’s likely one of my dogs has this’ but that is not how joy rolls. Joy reminds me to stay in my lane until told to pull over. He didn’t have liver failure. He may or may not have a properly working digestive system. We are figuring that out with a food trial (I’ll do a post on this).

On top of his physical health, Doug struggles with anxiety and fear and hyperactivity (beyond energy).  He is the most outgoing, exuberant dog you have ever met until he encounters a fear and then he is paralyzed and looks to me to get him to safety, or until he runs so hard that he is incapable of shutting off. We are working on those things too. I will share that in a future post also.

A lot of you ask how we choose joy. We do not find joy 24/7/365. But, we do find joy eventually. There will always be grief, and stress, and health challenges and the universe determined to hold us down or kick us.  I don’t see Melvin and Jake as not here anymore,  that they were here, is something I celebrate every day. Doug destroys things that I love and his anxiety is not always easy to maneuver, but that dog is fueled by pure joy so I don’t have a whole lot of time to worry before he is standing on top of me wiggling with delight. Doug (as his brothers were also) is a walking and living reminder that life is unfolding every second of every minute of every hour. I don’t want to miss a single beat of his wild drum.

You coming (s)mother?IMG_3184 2

Eight years.

I started this blog, eight years ago today. It began as a way to chronicle life with the world’s most allergic dog. But it quickly turned into a blog about US. The definition of ‘us’ has grown, but the focus has pretty much stayed on our journey to joy.

The me that started this blog, has changed more than I ever thought I would or could. Eight years ago me had no idea what was to come. I didn’t know that three dogs (and cat) would drive my evolution.

Eight years ago, Melvin was six and it was just him and me.

I didn’t know back then…

  • that Melvin would teach me how deep love can go
  • that the vet would become a weekly destination
  • that Melvin would lose his tail
  • that I would have one of the most bonded pairs ever
  • that I would have a googly-eyed, cart dog
  • that I wasn’t meant to see Melvin grow old. Or Jake
  • that I would lose Melvin so quickly
  • that grief would break me. Twice in one year
  • that Melvin would become a part of me, his heart guiding mine
  • that my hands would always reach to care for Jake, even years after he was gone
  • that love could live on so beautifully, as if it was always meant to be
  • that joy would be my guiding light
  • that a pit bull named Doug, would save me

I also didn’t know that so many glorious and thoughtful people would love us and lift us up for so long! Thank you for following along with us. I know I don’t post as often. I want to, I promise! Doug has had some health issues and anxiety the past few months but we are turning a corner and I will be back to share that with you. We are over on Instagram stories almost daily if you want to get your Doug fix over there too (@DougHolupka.for.president).

I love this blog. I love its readers. I wholeheartedly love the dogs that have inspired each and every word, laugh, and tear. My heart will always be full because of them and you.

 

When love is hard.

There are a million different ways that love is hard. For me lately, it’s keeping Bob and Doug healthy and safe.

Bob.

Loving a feral cat is complicated. There should be a support group. Hi my name is Tracey and I love my feral cat, but I’m also a control freak so my inability to control Bob’s movements and life’s journey drives me nuts. 

We had a polar vortex. Doug would barely go outside, hell, I barely went outside. But then there is Bob, stuck outside. No matter how much I insulate both condos, or how much food I put out, Bob is on his own out there. I crack the garage door and put food just inside in hopes he is brave enough to come in and realized the garage his heated. The food is always there when I go to check if this worked.

I lay in bed thinking and worrying about Bob. Mostly just due to that lack of control factor. Thankfully, Bob shows up after every thaw, so he must know what he’s doing. Any time I can catch him near the house, I always go put wet food out. He devours it right away. Wet food, is my new form of control. To ensure he always comes back to us.

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Doug. 

Doug has started drifting out of my control area as well. When it came to Melvin’s health, we had a list of things to do. That included a list of medications for me to provide for him. And some of it was trial and error but we knew the issue (allergies and colitis) and we responded accordingly. And Jake, he had a shit-ton of issues, but they were all definable challenges that I was able to match with a joyful solution. Control at it’s finest.

The only time I didn’t have control over their health, was at the end. That’s just how the end goes.

Doug is hard to keep weight on. There is currently one food in the universe (that we know about) that doesn’t give him the poops. Once or twice a month he will throw up at night (for 2-3 nights), and then not again for a 2-3 weeks. What he throws up is not normal. From a scent perspective.

Oh excuse me for not throwing up lilies and sunshine.IMG_2268

We recently re-did blood work on him and his liver and cholesterol levels came back very low. Very, very low. So we did x-rays, and ultrasounds. Both came back fairly normal which was great because ‘liver failure’ was being thrown around a lot and if that’s what it was going to be we’d figure it out but also, universe, please just stop. We’d like to decline liver failure if possible.

I’m with (s)mother on this one, no thank you liver failure, take care nowIMG_2324

So here we are. Blood work metrics too low to suggest it’s nothing. But we’ve ruled out a lot of somethings. Also, the last liver ultrasound I went through was the day that we found out Melvin had cancer so it was nice to hear the words ‘liver looks good’. Always, whenever possible, balance bad juju with joy. It’s life changing.

So I guess next we consider scoping Doug’s digestive track. Believe it or not, NONE OF MY DOGS HAS EVER HAD SCOPE! We have a found a test that has gone untested in this house. Pure cray.

I predict my insides will look very sexyIMG_2339

We will keep you posted! xoxo

An update from Doug.

Yo, ya, yeeeeeee! It’s me, Doug! I’m taking over today cause the (s)mother had shoulder surgery and her arm smells funny so she can’t blog. I don’t know if that is true or not cause I love me some fake news so the truth can suck it!

Whoa, I have been very busy. Swamped. I need an assistant. I traveled to a far away land to visit my grandparents (she said they live an hour away in the same state but I age in dog years and this is my story to tell so shut it…). My grandparents wanted me to visit because they love everything about me and it had nothing to do with her having surgery. They came to pick me up and it just happened to be on the same day she needed a ride home from the hospital.  Good grief she’s needy.

Any who, they picked me (us) up and we went to their enchanted castle and they all just kept saying DOUG! OH DOUG! DOUG, YOU HANDSOME DEVIL! DOUG!!! (She will say they were screaming DOUG – NO! but she was loopy so she does not know).

I snuggled with Grammy, I went on walks through majestic forests with Grandpap, Great Grandma Betz snuck me food. I don’t even know if my (s)mother was there the whole time or not because the entire visit was all about me and my family wanting one-on-one Doug time. To be honest, I really just live for moments with Grandpap. Every night they would lock me in the room with her (and her weird arm) and I would do something that I have never done before: cry. I would cry if I heard my grandfathers voice and she would laugh and say ‘grandpap needs a break’ and I would say SHUT UP YOU’RE DUMB!

On the 4th day we were there, I woke up to the most glorious smells. Turkey. Pie. Gravy! I was in a scent coma and assumed that Grandpap had made some delicious feast to celebrate that he had decided to adopt me so we could spend the rest of our lives together. Oddly, I didn’t get a single bite of that dinner. In fact, I had to spend time in a condo because there was a teeny tiny person there and she said I am not approved for children under the age of one. I don’t know what Thanksgiving Day means to you but for me it was scent torture and exclusion.

We are back home now. Boooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrringggggggg. It’s weird because my dog walker comes everyday but (s)mother is here also. I guess her weird arm doesn’t want to walk me anymore since apparently I was the reason she had to have surgery. Everyone always blames Doug!

What else, what else? I had a birthday! We took some treats and beds and toys to dogs at the county jail. What? That wasn’t a jail? There were cells with concrete floors and the dogs were in the cells no softness. What do you mean that is where they live!??? We need to get them out of there! No, I don’t want them to come here but they need to go to someone’s home to be loved on like I am!

I somehow may have agreed to let her TRY to find a second dog and I somewhat promised to be as nice as possible to those she deems worthy to meet me. I mean, I cannot stand the thought of dogs in that jail situation. Ugh, I’m always having to ‘do the right thing’. It’s exhausting.

Anywho, I’m pretty exhausted from doing all the Christmas decorating so I’m heading to nap. I’m supposed to tell you that my cat brother Bob is doing great but that dude is not my brother and I am not going to give any updates on him during my blog time.

Peas out. Doug

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