Wild Kingdom.

Doug has never really shown interest in chasing squirrels.  He might see them and stare but for the most part, no. Obviously last spring through fall, he was on post-surgery tie down, so much more so, nope to squirrels.

This year, Doug is pretty aware of the two squirrels (they have lived just behind our fence for YEARS and I named them Breakfast and Dinner because Jake used to hunt them 24/7, even in his sleep) who use our yard as a dumping ground for acorn shells and squirrel germs. Doug doesn’t hunt them like Jake, he is much more of the: I shall chase after them but hopefully I don’t catch them because they could be violent or be concealing a weapon.

He will see them from the couch, and sometimes forget he’s inside as he goes to chase after them. Almost always, they will see him (whether he is inside or outside) and do a freeze with a look that says, you are way less scary than the dog before you, and then they will take off. If Doug is outside, sometimes he thinks, I guess, that he can jump over our 7-foot fence. He however, cannot.

Where dat squirrel at? IMG_7106

It’s all fun.  If a squirrel drops anything in its efforts to escape, Doug, true story, will go locate said item (an acorn) and bring it inside as an extra FU.  I just love having acorns in my house with squirrel saliva all over them.

So to recap, squirrels = friends/playful.

Move over to the driveway side of the house, where Boy Bob (Bob 2) taunts Doug with his meowing. Doug is way more aware of that window now and he polices it pretty regularly. Recently I noticed that Bob’s food bowl was being taken over by ants so in true crazy person mode, I googled ant-less feeding solutions.  Found a few and I’ve been outside setting up some of those fixes, along with a new condo for Boy Bob to take a break from the elements. My being out there makes Doug even more aware of the Boy Bob situation.

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Well this week, a crow has taken up residence in our driveway area.  I have never once, in seven years here, seen a crow.  So it makes sense that the first one to move in, moves into our yard. Apparently the crow thinks the condo and food bowl are his. Or hers. I don’t know crow gender. Let’s call him S/he.  So this giant food thief is always lurking. This has not gone unnoticed by Doug. There is nothing, NOTHING, that Doug flips out more over than this crow. I don’t know if they know each other from the streets of  South Carolina or what, but Doug sits at the window like a scarecrow and comes to life horror movie style when the crow arrives. I have yet to catch it on film because the home camera does not pick up that window and if I’m home, I’m just trying to avoid having the crow fly into our house via a suddenly broken window.

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To maintain my sanity on this issue, I do pretend that Doug is defending Boy Bob’s condo and food. It’s the story I plan to tell the window replacement company.

A cart dog road off with my heart.

A rescue that I volunteer for, recently had a situation where a younger dog was starting to experience what Jake went through when we first realized he had a spine issue. This dog started losing use of his legs and in a panic, the owner felt they were unable to care for the dog and they reached out to this rescue to take him. The rescue responded and started having discussions with the owner.  They told them they were absolutely open to taking the dog, and behind the scenes, a foster was being lined up. The owner was understandably upset – spine symptoms can hit suddenly and there was the added emotion of having to give the dog up. The rescue made sure the family knew there was no rush, they were there if/when the family needed them.

Before I continue, all I know about this situation is: the family had a dog, the dog suddenly started to have mobility issues, the family panicked and reached out to rescue, rescue suggested a few things the vet should try (pain medication to start), the family and rescue touched base every day for about a week.

Here is what I do not know: what the feedback was from the vet, updates on that were from the owner, but from what the rescue could tell, it sounded so much like what Jake went through and that pain meds were helping.

Instead of surrendering the dog to rescue, the family choose to put the dog down. They told the rescue after they put him down, not before, when the rescue could have pleaded.

When Jake and I came to be, I had no idea he would start to become paralyzed a year later. I only knew he ran funny, his back legs would go in a circular motion when he was running. I just assumed that was how Frenchies rolled. Jake’s paralysis was destiny. There was nothing his first family or his forever family could have done to prevent it. I often wonder if I would have adopted Jake knowing he’d be or if he already was, paralyzed. It’s a hypothetical not worth dwelling on, because similar to Jake’s paralysis, he and Melvin and I, were also destined to be. One way or another, he was to rescue us.

Able body Jake, the day we met him. photo[2]

The day Jake’s legs suddenly gave out, panic is not even close to what I felt. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I had no comprehension of all the terms the vet and neurologist were throwing out to me. I cried for so many different reasons. But the next day, we all got up, and we started figuring it out.

Wheels and diapers, check. IMG_1731IMG_4119

When I read the post that the family put the dog down, a lot of the air around me vanished. Everything started spinning and I had to sit down. My mind started going in so many directions. There was lack of comprehension and information. Grief showed up out of nowhere and gut punched me and my hands became desperate to reach for Jake again. To scream how grateful I was that his first family gave up on him before they had any sort of reason to put him down. The only thing worse than a life that is now without Jake, is a life that never knew him.

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I don’t know this family’s story. I only know our story. Our story is about dog named Jake and the family that he made whole. When Jake’s legs gave out that winter morning, I am not the only one who panicked. Jake looked to both Melvin and I when his legs were swimming and Melvin was the first one to make it over to him. He used his nose and front paws to stand behind Jake and push on him so he wasn’t losing footing. I then picked him up. My little family at is absolute finest.

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Caring for Jake was one of the hardest roles I’ve ever had. Frustration came knocking daily. Life threw a lot of obstacles in Jake’s way, but we said to every one of them:

Move bitch, get out da way“. (Ludacris)

Special needs dogs are not for everyone.  And that is ok. But they are absolutely for someone. Jake widened my patience. He taught me about resilience. He gave me the most incredible purpose. Every obstacle, was an opportunity to find solution. We never gave up.

He wasn’t broken, he was perfect.

My bond with Jake is strong and tough and fierce – forever.  I’m sad that family made the decision that they did, because that dog would have saved a person he was meant for. The same way Jake saved me.

xoxo

 

Who runs the world? Moms.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! To the hockey moms, the dog moms, the new moms, the grand-moms.  To the male moms, the single moms, the families with more than one mom moms. To the cheer moms, the carpool moms, the dance moms. To the moms that gave birth and to the moms who open their doors to children in need. To the working moms, the stay-at-home moms and the do-whatever-is-necessary moms. To the worry-they-have-no-idea-what-they-are-doing moms. To the moms of one and the moms of many. To the moms setting a better example for their kids, than what was set for them. To the moms preparing to become moms.

To the moms who have lost a child. I won’t pretend to have the words.

To those who have lost their moms. I wish you strength as memories sneak or flood in.

Moms rule this universe. A mom created your beating heart and then (hopefully) filled it with love and confidence and joy and understanding.

To my mom, you taught me the meaning of true, unconditional love. It’s the foundation of my beautiful life.

To Max, Melvin, Jake, Bob(s) and Doug, being your mom, is my everything. You are my joy.

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Joy.

I get asked a lot about choosing joy. How I choose it over grief, or anger, or uncertainty.  The answer to that is, it is not always easy, but it has become who I am.

I have human moments. I start crying in the car for no reason (ok, fine, when the boys send me songs) and I have to pull over for other’s safety. I get sad and even mad that Melvin and Jake are not here anymore. Work stresses me out. People annoy me. Sometimes, it seems like the day/week is against me.

Choosing joy is not always a done deal. Eventually though, Melvin pops into my mind and love and joy rush over me and well… I have no option but to do as he taught me.

  • Jake and Melvin are not here anymore. But they were here. And were here is way more incredible than never here. And I feel them and I see them in all the beautiful things.
    • My heartbeat, is joy.
  • Doug does things that frustrate me. He is absolutely not the yin to my yang. He sometimes manages to push all my buttons, at once. But the moment I feel the frustration creeping in, I start laughing. Because Doug is, quite literally, powered by joy. He was delivered to my life when I prayed to still be a joy seeker after Jake died. I said the words please help me to continue on this joy journey and the universe said: here you go. Joy powers this one, whenever you are running low on joy, just look at him.
    • Joy still lives here.
  • Sometimes the wrong memories get served up. A moment of frustration with Jake, me wondering if Melvin’s cancer could have been cured had we found out earlier. A day after Melvin died when I was broken and not the best mom for Jake. Life sometimes tries to come at me from all the wrong directions. I do not entertain any of those moments. I did my best, I refuse to be torn down, not after all we’ve been through. So when those moments try to sneak in, I say nope. I go towards the joy. I go towards the moments that mattered, the moments that we won.
    • Joy owns my past.
  • Work stresses me out. Some days I feel like I’m drowning. But there is never a moment that joy doesn’t remind me that this job, that I happen to LOVE, this job has allowed me to give the boys everything they have ever needed. When cancer struck, I didn’t have to worry about whether I could give them the best care possible.
    • Joy is always just around the corner.

Let’s be honest folks, joy does not win (right away) every time. That would be odd and impossible. Sometimes, the grief is way stronger than the joy. Sometimes, the transition from angry to joy filled takes a few days.  I choose joy when I can and I accept that some days it’s going to be harder than other days.

I just don’t see myself ever giving up on the chase. Joy for me, translates a lot of the time, to thankfulness.  I have yet to arrive at a day where I am not thankful for something.

This joy journey all started with Melvin. From day one, Melvin dragged me, forward. I kicked and screamed and he just kept dragging me. One day he stopped for a break, and I had a moment of reflection and I looked back and realized, he’d gotten me through. Where I might have been happier to linger in a sad or difficult situation, he had shown me how to persevere. He changed me. From that point on, every time I looked at him, I felt joy wash over me and I knew with all that I was, that he and I were meant to continue chasing that emotion. He was the original joy for me. The joy catalyst. The one creature in this life that absolutely, every time, no matter what – moved forward with joy in his heart.

I’m just another way that his love lives on. Even saying those words, is joy to me.

We are coming up on the third anniversary of his death. I get haunted by flashbacks of our life three  years ago. But our life is not defined by our end, in fact I’d argue, the end is separate. The end will always come, but the middle, the middle is all ours. What we make of the middle, is what defines who we are. We don’t get to choose our beginning or our end, but we can own the shit out of the time in-between.

Our middle, is joy.

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Letters from Heaven. Letter three.

Hey Doug, it’s me, Jake.  How’s it hanging homey?

Your legs seem to be doing better. Only one dog can own wonkalicious and that is me, brother.  You’re going to have to get your own nickname. I was thinking you could own zoomiezombie!

I have been sending you some high fives from Heaven.  You try to chase birds, in flight!  Dude, you are awesome! You run, while they fly, and then you ram into the fence.  Hahahahahaha – oh brother, I really wish I was there with you, we would destroy those birds.

I also really, really, really appreciate how viciously you bark at Bob #2.  I mean s/he runs when you ram up against the window at her/him.  You and I both know that you would crap yourself if s/he ever saw you without the protection of the window. But good for you brother, you make me proud.

We noticed that you are finally not a spaz in the big bed.  That bed has a really beautiful history of naps with her (she called them migraines but they were naps), we were starting to think you were going to darken our legacy, but you finally calmed the F down.

Things here are great. We miss her, a lot. We send her signals that we are there with her and she catches every single one. She is so smart. Melvin and her talk all the time. He says it is his joy and purpose, on earth and in Heaven, to be her guardian angel.  I love her too, but I keep pretty busy making sure this place stays bumpin! I greet all the new dogs like I own the place!

We added a few to our gang recently, Sally – I know how much you love her brother, she’s here and she’s doing great. She is my spirit animal. She and I will probably get married. She is just impossible not to love.  Massey is here, I used to fence fight him but come to find out, he’s a cool, chill dude. He’s running (he is so fast) and jumping and keeping an eye on his family. Guinness is here now. That dude is so awesome, like I secretly watch him so I can learn his moves. He’s still pretty focused on letting his mom know he’s ok and that he’s with his sisters. I have a feeling he and I will get leather gang vests at some point (Sally will totally get one too). Diamond just arrived. Corbin leapt over like six hundred dogs to meet her! She lived the longest of all of us and she said that despite all her years, all she recalls is the love over the last few years with her mom.

Hey Doug, that time of year is coming up, the dates when she found out that Melvin and I had cancer.  Those dates still haunt her a little.  She tries really hard to forget them, but she can’t, because they are linked to us. So on February 9th and March 3rd – be extra saucy or snuggly. Keep her mind focused on joy. We are counting you.  Don’t let me down bro.

We still have bets on you. You are such a wild card.  I think you will still turn out like me. Weird legs, troublemaker, badass.  But Melvin thinks you will be soulful, like him and Max (boring!).  Either way, we made a really great choice in sending you to her. We can tell you love her like we love her. And it’s ok that she loves you every bit as much as she loves us. Love is supposed to live on. We only want her happy and safe.

Ok brother, I gotta go, my peeps need me to start this day with some Jakey funk!  Keep chasing the birds, I’ll be right next to you, hoping you catch one!

Love,

Your hero mentor brother, Jakey.

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A few of my favorite things.

Christmas brought with it some awesome additions for the mudroom.  I actually took all the photos down in there and rearranged them to include some of the new stuff.  Here are a few of my favorite gifts:

Just in case there is any confusion who the treats are for. IMG_8126

New here are the ‘You, me, & the dog’ and the oh-so-perfect ‘Hello/goodbye’ gifts. IMG_8127

I got the super fun ‘make your own sign’ for my birthday and the other two pieces for Christmas. IMG_8129

This awesome leash hook! IMG_8131

This true statement – luckily Doug loves everyone. IMG_8133

I also got the bottom two in this photo.  Be still my heart.  The photo above them is a gift I got after Melvin died. It’s the outline of his body (nubbin tail and all) filled in with words I would say – both about him and to him.  IMG_8134

Thankful. Grateful. Blessed.

There are so many things I am thankful for.

I’m thankful for beautiful sunsets sent by angels. For surgeons who know their shit. I’m thankful for Peanut Butter City and a dog who can now run zoomies again. For sushi and salt and vodka. I’m thankful for my family, for friendship and beautiful moments realized.

I’m thankful for rescue, vets. vet techs and tranquilizers. For leashes that hold up, for healthy treat options and for photographs. I’m thankful for Instagram stories, Facebook and blogging. I’m thankful for you. For this community, for constant support and understanding.

I’m really thankful for laughter and love. And random acts of kindness.

I’m thankful for good hair days, handbags, boots and cold-snuggly nights. I’m thankful for the kids in my life.  I’m thankful for all the dogs, and a cat named Bob.

I’m thankful for memories, for giving hearts, and that love lives on.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: Bev Hollis54342NNhol112204-R4-057-Edit

Photo credit: Bridgette E. PhotographyBT4A9990

Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography kate_juliet_photography_pets_melvin_022836v2-2