Two years.

Melvin died two years ago this week. I’m not sure how that is even possible since I was so sure I wouldn’t make it through losing him, let alone exist without him.

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Melvin changed me, profoundly. He changed the structure of my existence, he guided me to my purpose.

I have said this before. Melvin was a part of me in life and now in death. He is the goodness in me, the joy, the laughter and the reason love lives on. Losing him broke me, but then, he healed me. I carry him in my heart. I feel closer to him now than I ever have. I am grateful for that every day .

As we approach the anniversary of losing him, it makes me miss Jake even more.

You read that right.

When I lost Melvin and went through the grief and then found out Jake was dying, I sorta just thought, here we go again.  In a, grief will repeat itself sort of way.

Grief is not a protocol. It’s a living, breathing, organic, emotional, extension of us. I persevered Melvin grief, I remember what it felt like to start to emerge from it. With Jake grief, I usually don’t feel like dealing with it much at all. I want to overcome it and I don’t ignore its impact but it’s more of a one day it will be over sort of way. Truth be told, I’m a bit apathetic about this grief journey.

I think some of that has to do with who I spent each journey with. Jake and I lost Melvin together. Jake sat a lot so we sat a lot together and we worked through our sad moments as a team. Doug didn’t lose Jake, so he goes on his merry way and I go along with him and sometimes I try to bypass grief on my very, very, oh so very long walks with Doug. Grief doesn’t work that way; there is no going around it. Grief will chase you and tackle you and say hey, I’m the boss of you, get back here.

Grief is an asshole.

Jake died nine months ago this week.

Jake is most certainly a part of me too. Jake taught me to see the beautiful in the broken, he taught me that struggle is not the end, in many ways, it’s just the beginning. But spiritually, Jake is not necessarily the parts of me that I derive strength from. He’s more like my weakness. In a beautiful way, not in a way that I would change.

Jake is my baby.

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I have come to accept that my hands will always reach for him. The need to nurture him, lives on as much as the love does. It is a constant, and perhaps, eternal ache.  It just is what it is. I think some thoughts of Jake will always trigger that lump in my throat. I’m not sure why. It’s ok though, each and every time, my soulful connection to Melvin helps ease the Jake sadness.

They are still a team, even in death.

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Don’t fret, memories of Jake bring me joy.  I laugh out loud watching videos of him, even videos of him towards the end. For every struggle, we found a solution. In Melvin and Jake’s life, we won, way before cancer showed up. I think at the end of my life, that is what I will be most proud of.

As we come up on the two year anniversary of losing Melvin, I’m grateful for the unbreakable connection I have with him. And, I’m so happy that if I can’t have Jake here, that Melvin holds him close for me.

This post, is a post I go back to regularly.  I wrote it a week after Melvin died and it is, everything to me. It’s a reminder of how strong my connection to Melvin has always been. And this post was written one year ago. A testament to love living on.

I miss my boys, but the honor of loving them is worth every ounce of grief.

We won.

 

 

Letters from Heaven. Dear Doug.

Hey Doug, over here, it’s me, Jake. What do you mean, who? No you didn’t just ask that. I’m your little-big brother. The one who left their scent up all over in that house.  Yeah, you got it, that’s me bro. I left those scents for the next dog, since I mean you’ve met her, we all knew there would be more dogs. She’s gotta put that love somewhere, ya know.

Anyway…I’m keeping an eye on you. In a are-you-worthy sorta way but also in a what-the-heck-is-he-thinking-gotta-guide-this-dude way too. I’m pretty much the only one that can keep an eye on you since you move so fast, it requires eyes that can go in two different directions.

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Some observations, if I may (oh I may cause I’m the new damn boss of you)…

  • Why are you such a spaz? I mean Melvin and Max and I laugh sometimes cause you cray bro, but then other times we are like MOM, WATCH OUT, DOUG IS GONNA LAND ON YOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUU. And then, you land on her. She bruises easily, treat her gently. Trust me, there will come a time when she has to carry you and she will do it with so much love that you will melt into her. I miss those moments with her. So this is my way of saying, if I can’t be there, you need to be really good to her.
  • I saw that dog attack you Sunday. First off, let me say, that girl had some killer moves! I was really impressed with how she flew through the air towards you. I mean in a lot of ways, that dog is me! But then you didn’t like it as much Melvin used to love when I chewed his face and then the brothers up here reminded me that we are on your side (ugh, sides are so boring) so then I felt bad that you were bleeding,  I’m supposed to tell you, don’t be like me. Don’t go changing and start to dislike other dogs (I’m reading from a script cause I don’t actually believe all this but…), you are more like Melvin and Max. You’re nice (hey who wrote this? I’m nice. Ok, ok, I’m not the nicest of the four of us. Fine).  Just stay you. She will want other dogs and well…just let her have her way. Ok?
  • About your sleeping style, what the BLEEP are you thinking? Why are you sleeping above her head like that? I mean in the middle of the night you stretch and your feet land on her face.  You are not a hat. You are a dog. Sleep normal. Melvin says you gotta move down and snuggle in.  Trust us dude, we know what we are talking about. MOVE DOWN (and hold off on meatball production when you are in the bed, when possible).
  • Dog bed destruction. Stop. Just stop. She bought me 19 beds and there are like 2 left and we get it, you don’t do sentimental but she wants those beds to be passed down.  Let her pass down the damn beds.  She does not ask for much.  I mean it, I will come back and haunt you… OK. OK. I’m being told to calm down. Sorry (not sorry) about my tone.
  • Last piece of advice (for now), chase all the squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, frogs and birds that you can bro! Life is short, hunt!

I’m sorry we can’t be there with you.  Trust us, there is no where on earth we would rather be than there, with her (and you). But we see potential in you bro. I for one love the noises you make and your snoring game is strong! I also really appreciate the ‘accidents’ you have had in the house, she has so many pee products, am I right bro?! We took bets on whose Kongs would fit best in your mouth, I thought it would be mine but Melvin won that bet.  You are a lot like Melvin, I bet you smell delicious. Melvin guides you the most, but I like to chime in too. You are a lot like me in some ways, in the ways that probably drive her a little bonkers.  I get you bro. I’ve been where you are, new, spunky, making sweet love to the rug running zoomies like a wild banshee. We don’t want you to change, we just want to make sure you get some guidance. She’s like the best thing that ever happened to us and well, we watch over her day and night and so we are here for you too. We’ll do our best to help you make good decisions. Don’t you love it when she says that to ‘make good decisions’. She is so funny.

I miss her so much.

Lastly… when her eyes leak and she says my name, MOVE OVER CHUMP cause I’m right next to her trying to make her feel me there and you usually sit right on top of me.  Yeah that’s right, I’m that cramp in your leg! Watch it!

Love, Googly eyes always watchin you. I’m like Santa.

PS. This is a new thing we will do from time to time.  Letters from Heaven. xoxo

My socialite.

We have been meeting lots of dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. In the past with Melvin, I was always nervous meeting other dogs. He was basically not interested in dogs but sometimes he flat out did not like them and would suddenly just lunge at them. He defined leash aggression. I loved him and all of his moments. With Jake, well he hated all dogs except for Melvin. Like hated with the intensity of a thousand hot suns. I have never seen a paralyzed dog so able-bodied and ready to rumble as Jake was. Good God I miss that dog.

Call me Rambo. IMG_5653

With Doug, I sometimes forget that I can leave worry at the door.  I mean, you guys probably know me well enough to know I’m cautious. A planner. I’m not just gonna throw Doug into any situation that I have not given some thought to.  But in general, Doug has never met a stranger.

We have met several dogs on walks that their owners have claimed were well-behaved. They were in fact not well-behaved. Doug handles it every time. If a dog starts going crazy, Doug usually just lays downs and ignores them.

We have met dogs that want to hump Doug. Male dogs. Female dogs. It’s all good. Doug takes it (he literally takes it) and after they have a go at him, he rolls onto his belly to be sure they know he is fine with being violated.  My dog is so weird. I sorta like it.

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Doug is super social. I’m an introvert so this confuses me a bit. But I loved Melvin for all the things he was and wasn’t and I loved Jake for all that he could do and all that he couldn’t and well…I am really enjoying this social dog thing. In addition to meeting dogs, I take Doug to a lot of places with me. He’s great in the car, he’s somewhat well-behaved in dog friendly stores (he’s still mouthy so I have to be careful in those situations), and he seems to really enjoy our adventures.

While we continue to look for the right next dog (my work situation is changing a little and I have a vacation coming up soon so we are on hold for a little bit), I’m starting to think about taking Doug to a local doggy daycare.  Just typing that is outside of my comfort zone because I’m not a fan of situations in which I am not in total control. (admitting you have a problem is the first step in letting people know that you don’t care if they know you have this problem). Doug needs to be with other dogs. I can see it in his behavior when he hasn’t been around dogs in a few days versus when he has. So we are going to tippy toe and try out one that I have vetted so much that I could own the damn place. I have 25 point googled everything about this place and the employees, like full on stalking at this point.

I filled out all the paperwork and was sure to answer in ways that would let the facility know that I am likely the type to send in a CIA operative in to confirm the well-being of my dog. I want them to know, I’m watching them, always.

Doug’s mom is crazy.

Oh Melvin, Yo Jake.

This Monday is the one year anniversary of finding out Jake had cancer. I remember sitting in my car after getting the call and my eyes and chest burning from sadness and fear. I couldn’t breathe. I remember feeling so overwhelmed because I was still mourning Melvin. Jake couldn’t have cancer, they must be wrong.  I raced home to be with Jake, since more than ever, every second counted.

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In two weeks, it’s the two-year anniversary of finding out Melvin was dying. Calendars suck.

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I don’t plan to remember these dates forever. But back to back loss makes me feel like I’ve been sad for a long time. I also know how far I’ve come despite losing them both so close together.

My love for Melvin continues to grow. He is me. He is my heart, my guiding light, the goodness I try to put out into the world.  As for losing Jake, he and I still have some first to go through on our way to the year anniversary of his death this July. I still feel that burning in my chest sometimes when I think of Jake. Sadness and joy still struggle for the win when I think of him.

But then there is this, in my world, Melvin and Jake are the sun, they are the joy, and the laughter and everything that is beautiful in this life. I have learned that great loss does not slow down the trajectory of great love.

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Melvin was, and in some ways, will always be the muse for this blog. He is the reason it exists.Funny though, I have a hard time even recalling the posts I did about Melvin as an only dog. When I look back, it’s as if it was always Melvin and Jake. I guess that’s all part of  a love that was meant to be. Now that they are both gone, they are eternally one. Melvin & Jake. Jake & Melvin. My favorite odd couple. The source of so much of my joy.

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After Melvin died, I mentioned that I might change the name of the blog. There were many comments asking me not to, that it felt wrong to do that, and in the end, I kept the name.

But now, its time.

Here is where my heart is…

  • Oh Melvin the blog started six years ago with just me and Melvin, hardly anyone even read back then! I chronicled his severe allergies, his tail amputation, his joyful exuberance.
  • When Jake came along, it was easy to add him and still feel like Oh Melvin worked. Everyday that passed, they became life partners. Now that Doug is here, and knowing other dogs will come, Oh Melvin feels…like a look back. Oh Melvin doesn’t feel like it captures this new world where I am without Melvin and Jake, where I am learning to chase joy with Doug.
  • Oh Melvin is from where I’ve come, and although it will always be a part of me, I don’t say those treasured words very often anymore. And the moments when I do say them, well now those moments are more personal, they belong only to me.
  • The URL will always be ohmelvin.com because Melvin is the soul of this blog. OhMelvin.com is the road that will always lead you to me and me to you, but it’s time for the blog name itself to support a past, present and future.

Moving forward is OK. Its good. Its how life goes.

I’m not going to do a big introduction, one day soon you will stop by and the change will have occurred (it’s actually all loaded up, I just have to publish it). The photo will change too, I thought I should warn of you that also. I hope when you see it, you smile. I can tell you with certainty that Melvin and Jake are fine with it.

Just as a sidenote, I changed our Instagram name this week too (it’s now: @dougholupka.for.president).  It only seemed fair that Doug get some real estate in some of our social media presence. I’m not sure why I never changed that account name after Melvin died (but had I, it would have either been Just Jake or Wonkalicious). I think Jake was ok living under the Oh Melvin umbrella though. I think he wouldn’t have had any other way.

Change is hard, but joy will guide us.

xoxo, Tracey

 

Doug is still in search of a sibling.

We are looking to add a dog to the household!  Doug loves meeting new dogs which makes it all very fun and easy, except for the part where I give a lot  of thought (probably too much for my own good!) to how each dog will fit.

As for my part in the search, the last dog I looked for was Doug and I met so many dogs and had so many breakdowns that each dog was not Jake. My last search was in the bubble of the deepest grief. That time when the house was so empty and my heart was broken and every dog I met made me even more sad (good times!).  Until I saw Doug’s face. The dog search before that, was wrought with so much stress because Jake hated every dog that was not Melvin. The dog search before that, was Jake.

I was the last winner of the dog search. img_2531

This go around is so fun! I am loving watching Doug meet potential new siblings. Sometimes he overwhelms them with his exuberance, sometimes they underwhelm him with not wanting to play with him. There are a few things I feel very strongly about this go around:

  • I obviously would like the two dogs to like each other. Basic like, they don’t have to love each other but hey, that would be great too!
  • Doug is still very young and has a lot of training left in his journey to breed ambassador. That means that unlike Max, who schooled Melvin, or Melvin who schooled Jake, this next dog is going to need to be part of Doug’s schooling. Doug can bring the funk, but this next dog is going to have to bring some of their own soulfulness.
  • I don’t want another Doug. That sounds harsh, but it’s really just honesty. I love Doug, I love that he is who he is. But when it comes to the next dog, I don’t want a dog a of equal energy. Not because I want to do less walks, Doug still needs walks so that is not going away. I just don’t want two dogs in the house, bouncing off each other. I want a dog that will play with Doug but also one who can school Doug on the other aspects of being a dog that don’t require constant zooming.
  • I think the age range that would work best for Doug and for me is 5-8 years old.
  • The ultimate goal is to have three dogs, the third of which is a super senior (10 or older)!

We have not found the dog yet but we have met some great dogs on our journey.

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We met Angel (here), who was lovely! She is a little older than Doug and she’s deaf. She made the most awesome noises. I was a little worried how Doug would respond to her Chewbaca talk but he did fine.  Doug and her got along pretty well, but they never stopped chasing each other. Inside, outside, inside, outside, chase me, no you chase me, ok I’ll chase you, hey jump off the back of the couch with me. No, please don’t. Just when I thought Doug could not get more energetic, enter Angel! Now before you worry that I don’t want Doug to play, I DO! I so want him to have a playmate and a life-partner-in-crime.  But I can sense when we meet a dog that plays into Doug’s need for anarchy and when we meet ones who have a better balance between mayhem and peace.

We met Wendy (here), who is the sweetest Pittie and who if  I had met her before Doug I would have swooped her up and called it a day. Wendy is adorable and lovely. Wendy is also very young, like Doug, and is coming into her exuberance (which she should!). Wendy and Doug would make for a tornado and while it would be so fun for them, mamma wants a more stable weather pattern. I know, I know, I’m a party pooper. I do trust my instinct to know when it’s right though.

I have prescreened about ten dogs for Doug. A few have gotten adopted because I am unable to walk into an adoption event and walk out with a dog. I NEED TIME! I NEED TO MAKE LISTS! I NEED MY LISTS TO GIVE BIRTH TO NEW LISTS. I am who I am! A few were not a good fit (the dog does not like other dogs in their space or they are dog selective). I have found when a dog is selective, Doug rarely makes the cut, even though he tries too so hard.

We are meeting  a dog this weekend that I actually met after Jake’s death, before I got Doug. She was one that was perfect, but at the time, was just not Jake. I go back and visit her often and this weekend, Doug is going with me.  We’ll keep you posted!

She lies, I’m always calm and wonderful and I never misbehave or chew feet or pillows, like this pillow which I destroyed yesterday but I only did it because I know she secretly wanted me to. img_2477

 

Six months now.

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

Doug has been here for four months.

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.

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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.

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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. img_0118

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. img_0384

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. #lovelivesonimg_1979