Vet visit 10,591.

As Doug’s legs have gotten better, I started noticing that he is having some other issues. My general rule for vet visits is that 1. If it seems like an emergency, it is an emergency and we go right away.  2. If it something shows up (but not a 911) and persists, we go.  Doug’s latest symptoms have shown up, then gone away, then shown up a few weeks later for a day or two, then gone away. So it took me a little while to realize that in this case, persisting was defined a little differently.

  • He throws up. Not daily. Sometimes less than once a week. But enough that I can say ‘regularly’.
  • He has runny poops or poops that start out good then go runny.  This will happen once and then he’ll be fine for a week then it will happen again for maybe two times then not happen again for two weeks. (This one made a little more sense to me. As he has come off tie down and gone back to his normal exploring mode, things go in that shouldn’t).
  • He has a cough. He will cough one day, then not again for a week, then maybe throughout one day, and not again for several days.
  • He rarely has any of these issues at the same time.

All of the above started after his last surgery but also after he came off all his meds and as he was becoming  more active. Then last week he was just off.  He was hyper one day then completely lethargic the next day. And I could tell he was nauseous from the amount of drool he was producing. So off to the vet we went.

Take me to the vet woman. IMG_7171

I listed out all of the things for the vet and I mentioned how he never had any stomach upset with surgery or pain meds and that I thought it was odd that all of this started as he came off meds.

The vet found the timing to be very suspect. All of his symptoms (other than the poop part) could point to his esophagus being irritated during the last surgery when they put in or removed the breathing tube. He felt the on and off again could indicate it healing then flaring, repeat, repeat, repeat. So we started on some meds to coat his digestive tract, some meds to tamper down acid production and some meds to help with the poops. He also got a nausea shot that night and we went home with nausea medication.

The first few days on the meds were just more of the same. But by day 3 or 4, Doug was remarkably better and WAY CRAZIER than usual.  I could tell he was feeling better. The only thing that is persisting is the cough.  I know this cough, Jake had it when he was going through radiation and having anesthesia (and thus a breathing tube) daily.

The next step, since the meds did seem to help, will be to scope him and see whats going on. Is there inflammation in his esophagus?  Is it limited to there or does he perhaps have an ulcer.  Is it something else all together?

The only thing I  know for sure is that getting insurance on Doug is the best things I have EVER done.

I’m gonna take a nap but you need to keep working so you can pay for my insurance. IMG_7352

Doug’s corner. Featuring, Doug.

Heyyyyyyyy my people!  I’m out of jail and living the good life!

Where to start?…

So a few (dog) years ago she got all I’m the boss of you and now I’m going to kidnap you in your own house and put you in this jail cell and oh wait some stranger is going to cut your leg open and its going to hurt and you won’t be able to walk or run or jump or be a dog and the moment its healed he’s going to cut the other leg open and you will live a life of de ja vu and I’m still the boss of you and you will like it and I’ll keep a leash on you at all times and no running and stay still and sleep down here alone and seriously no running, not even thoughts of running including but not limited to memories of running!

She’s the worst. Well at least for this part of the update she’s the worst. Don’t even try to disagree with me unless your mother is also addicted to having surgery done on you.  No one? Thought so.

I mean sure, she came in the jail cell with me. And fine, she made me some pretty incredible treats.  And there were all those times she took me to Peanut Butter City and hello, that place is heaven on earth! They have Beckys there. I mean you gotta get you own Becky cause I got my Becky but there is also a Becky there named Jessie that I really liked too, anywhooooo, yeah, Smother is ok I guess.

Also, I graduated from rehab!  But she promises we can still go back and visit my harem. IMG_7302 (1)

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Where was I? Oh, right, I’m freeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Like she always says, forward is the best direction. So forwards is where I go.  Does it count if your forwards is a really fast zoomie circle?

The leg scars make me look incredibly rugged. I can tell the ladies love it. She dressed me up as something called Franken(leg)weenie for Halloween and she drew some lines on me that look like more scars and then she found out that stuff does not wash off easily so now it looks like faded tattoos and I’m not gonna lie, I like it. A lot.  I look like a damn badass.  IMG_7448

She says I’m not really a bad ass because I’m afraid of wind. She’s dumb.

Also, I love blankets now.  And not just as a snack! IMG_7268

So… I’M FREE!  I’M FREE! I’M FREE!

She keeps trying to introduce me to dogs (and Jake keeps whispering to me in my sleep that I should not, under any circumstance, fall for it or allow it).  Who should I listen to?

Gotta run, she just went upstairs so its time to eat another shoe!

 

 

Sweet Freedom.

Doug came off of all tie-downs a little over a week ago.  I didn’t make a huge deal about it because I figured he’d take off running and break something else. That is a truly what I think. I am still not sure it won’t happen.

For now, he and I both have freedom again.

I no longer have to take him into our backyard on leash.

He is no longer on tie down on the patio. Or in the house.

The jail cell is packed away.

He can run, jump and partially fly, whenever he wants. Although he has yet to do any of this yet, I’m hoping he feels some of his own physical limitations and will slowly increase his crazy. A mom can dream!

There are so many things I’m thankful for, like his wonderful surgeon (Dr. Sutherland at The Life Center/VSC) and his rehab girls at VSCR (Jesse and Becky).  It’s because of them that we are waving goodbye to limping, and hopping, and jail cells, and tie downs.  They set us free again.

I’m also, so thankful for all of you! Reaching out, commiserating, providing laughter during tears. We. Love. You! We feel your support, it wraps around us like a giant hug!  You helped to heal us!

Video and photo proof that the inmate has been released!

Wait, why are we so far apart?IMG_7106

 

What is freedom? Where are the chains that hold me back. IMG_7108

 

Incisions are healed so he is finally free to…be a dog.  IMG_7114

 

Hey brothers, she set me free!  I can pee on you now.  (they are not really there, just our little memory tree) #lovelivesonIMG_7103

That’s the way love goes.

I have some friends who have lost dogs recently and find themselves in a heavy-hearted conundrum. One that I know very well. No dogs in the house and uncertainty about ever being able to love a dog again. Then there is the ever awesome (not) feeling of guilt that they are in some way, moving on, or away from, the one they lost.

The number one question I get about grief and moving forward with Doug is: Did you love Doug right away.

The answer is, no. Love and grief are a strange combination.

Max was the dog that showed me the way. Without him, there would never have been a Melvin, a Jake or a Doug. He was the beginning, the catalyst, the original.

Melvin was a massive growth spurt for my heart. It is unlikely I will ever love another dog in the same way I loved Melvin. Our connection is spiritual and I am fine with that part of me belonging only to him. He changed me. But as with all loves, they grow and move and are meant to live on.

Melvin love, brought Jake home.

Jake is my baby. My love for him is different from my love for Melvin or Max. It is no more or less, just unique to Jake.  I felt that way when Melvin was here and after Melvin died. I doubt I will ever love a dog the way I loved Jake. That is exactly how it was meant to be.

Jake love, brought Doug home.

When I got Doug, my heart was still living in the Melvin and Jake era. I was still figuring out where my little family went. He didn’t fit in perfectly but at the same time, he didn’t have to find his place because there were no dogs here. I never felt guilty about bringing Doug home (but I certainly had felt that about dogs I met after Jake but before Doug).  I also never felt passionate about Doug’s arrival. In a lot of ways he solved the empty house problem which is not the most loving reason to get a dog.  Then again, I got Melvin because Max was dying so maybe life knows what it’s doing after all.

For most of Doug’s first year, I missed Jake.  If I wore some sort of emotional gauge, that is what would register as #1. Grief owns you until it doesn’t.

Last night after Doug was a madman and ran and jumped and did all the things he is not supposed to do post surgery I snuggled with my little guy. I have felt love for him for a long time now, it sorta just snuck up on me a few months into him joining the family. I know that sounds sad, I loved him enough to bring him home and keep him during the times he tried to eat my feet but I was not struck with an overwhelming YOU ARE THE ONE, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH right away with him.  I liked him a whole lot. I just didn’t have control over where my love had scattered after losing Melvin and Jake.

Last night, I realized, in a rather quiet, a-ha moment, that I LOVE him. Fiercely. Every bit as much as his brothers and in a completely different way that is also exactly the same. For anyone and everyone who has loved and lost and then loved again, you know what I mean. It’s not a guilty, replacement love. It is brand new love from the same loving heart.

I believe with all that I am that love lives on. That our hearts love, and when we lose the one we love, that loves stays theirs but our capacity to love widens to welcome the next love home. The chapters of our lives move on. What other choice do we have? Love is not meant to be tucked away in its pages, love needs air and light and new places to land.

The world needs love to live on, more than ever.

I know that if Doug could talk the first thing he would do is to thank Max, Melvin and Jake for sending my love back out into the universe.  I know with all that I am that Melvin, the owner of my heart, wants me to rain love down on as many dogs as I can fit into this lifetime and that anything else would be unacceptable to him.

Melvin’s song as you all know is Photograph.  Jake’s song is Superman. Every time I look at Doug, this song plays in my head.

Go out and spread some love today. Or better yet, do that every day.

#loveliveson

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Our Yellow Brick Home collection.

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.

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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. holupka-melvin-scan[1]

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.

holupka-jake-scan

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!

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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!

xoxo

Tracey, Melvin-man, Googly Eyes and Crazy Doug

This too shall pass.

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!

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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?IMG_6483.JPG

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!).

 

 

 

 

Peanut Butter City.

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.

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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. IMG_4270

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. IMG_6244

I will chew this tie down and set myself free and find Peanut Butter City on my own. IMG_6341IMG_6347