Paradise.

My family takes an annual trip to the Bahamas during March. It’s one of those vacations where relaxation is required by law. Drinks are delivered, to pool, beach, cabana, wherever you are and it is the only place on earth where I am known to nap.

The last two years of this trip, I was dealing with Melvin, and then Jake, dying. I almost didn’t go on the trip with Melvin because his prognosis was so grave. I ended up going because 1. I was leaving him in the best care (seriously, I had about 40 people/vets checking on him hourly, he was too busy to die) 2. The oncologist said the odds of him dying in those few days were extremely unlikely and 3. I cut my part of the trip to 3 days. I went because, if Melvin could be dying suddenly, it was a reminder how short our time on earth can be. I went because the people I take this trip with are equally important to me and you never know when it could be the last trip we all take together.

Wow, that paragraph was depressing.

Leaving Jake last year was difficult, but his prognosis was WAY different. I knew we had time.

Suffice it to say, the last two years in the Bahamas, there was a lot of crying on my part. This year, I will be leaving a healthy Doug.  That has not stopped me from saying to him several times leading up to this trip, If you die, I’ll kill you.

The notes I left when it was just Melvin were long, partly because I’m crazy, but also because I had to outline a ton of ‘what ifs’. What to do if he ate something he shouldn’t have and had a reaction. What to do if his colitis flared up.  What to do if his tick disease flared up.  Etc. Etc. Etc. The notes for Jake were long, partly because crazy doesn’t just go away, and mostly because he had A LOT OF INSTRUCTIONS! Peeing, meatballs, diapers, mobility, ramps, wheelchair, stroller, rashes, MRSP, googly eye drops. The list goes on.

In sitting down to write Doug’s first note, it was fairly short. I looked at it and thought, I must be missing something. The majority of the note is how to get Doug to settle and snuggle, not really instructions for his care. For the first time, I have a dog that wakes up, is a fairly basic dog during the day, goes to bed, repeat. Since the note wasn’t long enough, I padded it with a little extra crazy, just for good measure.

Our dog walker, Denise, is staying here with Doug. She gets Doug. She is so patient with him that sometimes I have to tell her to be a bit more stern with him, like when he is hanging from her scarf with his mouth. I have complete faith that all will be great here, and in the Bahamas, and I’m looking forward to a tear-free getaway.

This year, Melvin and Jake will be with me. They are the beauty I see all around me. They are in every sunset and every sunrise.

Have a great week!

One of my favorite pre-Bahamas-trip memories – when Jakey was mobile and climbed into my suitcase. 6 30a6 30d6 30c

March 1st.

March 1, 2015. That is the day I would give if someone granted me the ability to go back. It’s one day before Melvin’s 10th birthday and two days before we found out he was dying. Its today…two years ago.

That March 1st is the last normal day I had with my perfect little family. It’s the last day that felt right, complete. That I even have a day to go back to where I feel life was such perfection, makes me blessed beyond measure.

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In addition to Melvin being there, Jake would be there too. My odd couple, in all their glory. I could live March 1, 2015 on loop, indefinitely.

That said, I have started realizing that March 1, 2015 will not always be the day. In fact, with each new day I remember, joy is where you look for it. I am still in a bitt of a messy grief stage since Jake has not been gone that long. A phase where escaping loss and missing Melvin and Jake, sometimes trumps the joy that is currently unfolding. But each new day, I become less torn, more here-and-now.

I have loved Doug since the moment I saw him on Facebook. I didn’t have my full self to give to him because Jake had only been gone a few weeks. As the grief of Jake lessens, I realize how much my heart is opening up to Doug. There is a love that connects him to his brothers, and that love is powerful and lovely. There are moments I look at Doug and know that we are building towards a love that will own me, (and one day, crush me). You can’t have one without the other. I can confirm that journey is worth it.

I love Doug. I love him every bit as much as I love Melvin and Jake and he has started healing me in ways that I didn’t expect. He has started to soften March 1st. He has made me believe in right now and has made me excited about tomorrow. He holds coveted space in my heart next to Max, Melvin and Jake and he is every bit as amazing (albeit much more crazy) than my angels are.

It’s hard to learn a new love in a shadow. I don’t think Doug realizes any of that though. From day one with me, he has been loved a thousand times more than he ever was in his previous life. As that bond between us becomes magical, I see the realization in his eyes. I see him look at me and he knows I’m his. He knows he’s home. He has opened himself up to love and joy and relaxation.

So have I.

On the eve of Melvin’s 12th birthday, when all of me feels the ache of not knowing a 12-year old Melvin (I mean the only thing more perfect than a 12-year old Melvin would be a 9-year old Jake by his side), I sit with Doug, and I tell him stories of his brothers and I realize that this March 1st, is a good one too.

Doug’s love anchor is winning. And that is how it’s supposed to go. Tomorrow we will celebrate Melvin’s heavenly birthday.  We will do things that Melvin enjoyed and we celebrate a love that lives on, a love that Doug owns now. I know Melvin sent Doug and I know he is fine with me letting the old March 1st go.

Doug in Melvin’s chair, in Jake’s sit style. #lovelivesonimg_3108

 

 

 

The princess and the pea.

Those of you who have read the blog for a while know that I have a dog bed buying obsession like the dogs to have nice beds. Melvin and Jake both had multiple beds so that there was a bed in most rooms and, so I could swap them out when it came time to clean them.

Doug inherited all the beds.

Doug has destroyed all the beds.

The end.

The last two beds died this weekend. One on Saturday.img_2796

The other on Sunday. img_2805

To be fair, there are two beds left. They have Melvin and Jake’s name embroidered on them so, yeah, I have not introduced those treasures to Demo-Doug and I likely never will!

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.

Why are your eyes so leaky?IMG_6475

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 and the big bed.

One of the hardest things to get used to after Melvin died was his absence in the bed night. He was always there, every night. Some nights, he took up the whole bed, and for a dog that was not loved in his previous life, that was how it was meant to be. Him living like a king.  Jake was always uneasy sleeping in the big bed for the full night.  He’d snuggle for a while but he’d eventually want to get down and sleep in his bed. I think it was lack of control of being able to get down from the bed.  He was just always uneasy up there for more than an hour or so, even when Melvin was alive.

When I first got Doug, I let him into the big bed at night. It was pure torture. I honestly thought about lending him out to the military to use a tool to get enemies to talk. It took him a full 20 minutes to stop bouncing around the bed and off of my face and body and when he finally did lay down, it was a constant state of temporary.  If I took a deep breath or moved an inch, he took it as an invite to play.  He did this all night long. If I rolled over, he’d jump on my back in a lets-get-ready-to-rumble way.

Enter his ‘condo’. On night two or three, I dragged out one of the soft crates I had and Doug went right in and slept for ten hours. Ok, so that was a huge blessing and a note-to-self that he was obviously crate trained.  Good to know. So he has been sleeping in Big Red at night since then.

Recently, during the shocking realization that Doug snuggles now, I thought I’d try in him in the big bed again.  He was still pretty bouncy at first but he quickly calmed down, took a position on the bed and went to sleep.  I was shocked.  I moved and coughed and rolled over and he just kept sleeping. The only minor issue is that his chosen position on the bed IS LAYING ACROSS MY PILLOW. And it has to be on the pillow I’m on. If I move to another pillow, he moves with me. Doug is small in comparison to Melvin but he is not small in comparison to pillows. Here and there I let him sleep with me but it’s not the best night sleep when you are wearing your dog as a helmet.

Isn’t this awesome, Mom, its like I’m your pillow.  You’re welcome for that. img_2678

The net net of this post is that as we are working on Doug sleeping in the big bed, I hate looking at the giant red crate in the room.  It’s all part of my decorating illness brain, I need things to be visually pleasing and in their place.  I know it’s a little cray but there are worse obsessions to have!

So this weekend I dragged out Jake’s teepee to see if Doug would entertain sleeping in it.  I left Big Red just in case it didn’t work out.  But much like Jake, Doug likes caves and cozy spaces.  He took right to it and slept all night. I’ll trial it out one or two more nights and then move the teepee over to where the crate is and all will be glorious in my visual field again!  Win, win!

There is a cover on his bed because if there is not a cover on his bed, he tries to eat his bed. Apparently the cover is not as delicious. img_2694

He has a home now.

I can see the transition in Doug from ‘am I a guest here’ to ‘I’m home’. It started with his ability to stop backpacking me lay down and snuggle and it continues in other ways. Every day with him, I’m reminded of the same exact settling-in trajectory that Melvin had.

Doug knows the dance. He knows the waltz of the morning, he knows the jam that I go into the office most of the day and he can do what he wants. He knows how to boogie to the different doors for ‘walk’ or ‘potty’. He comes when called.

In the past couple of weeks, when I go into the office, he heads up to the big bed and naps. Exactly what Melvin used to do.

What? I’m working too. img_2232

He is also more aware of what is going on outside.  He now goes from window to window protecting the house.  Exactly what Melvin used to do.

I will protect you mother. 

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You know that hypothetical we often talk about, whether our dogs would protect us if someone broke in (or am I the only one who does that?). I always knew, 100% that Jake would lay on the couch and watch the break-in unfold. I’m sure part of that was his mobility and that he had for the most part, accepted his limitations. In his mind, he had faith that if I was abducted or knocked unconscious, I would have had a back-up plan for him to be fed (I did). As for Melvin, I was never really sure.  I mostly thought that he would be excited to see anyone and that even if I was afraid, he would just wiggle and wag.  From time to time, there were indications he might react if I was in true danger.

Doug is every bit as friendly as Melvin. When people come over, even if he has never met them, he loves them already. Everyone that comes over, he wiggles away for. Even when new dog walkers come and I’m not home, he acts like he has known them forever.  He has yet to meet a stranger. On walks, he is the mayor of our zip code. I don’t want to meet everyone on our walks, but Doug does.

I have defintiely noticed that when it comes to being home, he is becoming more protective of all the comforts he now enjoys. If I know the doorbell is going to ring and respond knowingly to it, Doug runs to the door and gets ready to be greeter extraordinaire.  If I am not expecting the doorbell and it takes me by surprise, Doug stands at attention and barks. He will move in front of me, as if he is protecting me from the ding donging. Doug can read me well. If I get scared (hear a noise at night or during a movie or even waking up from a nightmare), Doug’s response is to immediately take a protective stance.  The one exceptioin to all of this is rustling leaves: wind + leaves = I am on my own. When we are in the backyard, if the neighborhood dogs are barking on the other side of the fence or if I’m perfectly calm, Doug does not bark back or even really notice them. But if I hear a noise beyond the fence other than scary leaves, and my heartbeat picks up, Doug assumes a guarding position in front of me and issues a few barks (Melvin would have run inside and Jake would have run to the noise/fence to hunt).

What? I hunted. Don’t judge. IMG_6002

That Doug is protective does not bother me (strangers hearing barking from our house is not a terrible thing), but I am aware that my reaction plays a role in his reaction so I need to be sure that he always knows that everything is OK. I want to be sure he knows that he does not need to be protective. The doors have locks, we have a security system, we have security cameras, we love our neighbors. It’s important to me as he goes through this phase of realizing how great his life is now that he not worry about anything. I have been working with him a lot and now if something causes him to go into protect mode, all I have to say is, it’s okay, and he gets back to wiggling.

You will still protect me from the rustling leaves though, right?img_2347

 

One love.

Grief was wrong. Grief made me feel there would be a break in the timeline of my little family.  That Doug would never be connected to Jake and Melvin because he never knew either of them.  I cried about this a lot.

Turns out I forgot about the one link in the family chain that remained. My love.  They are connected, forever and beautifully, I feel it with all that am.

A little example of how love lives on.

 

 

 

Happy weekend!