Jake and Project Joy.

I don’t know how it is for others who have lost a pet, but for me, year one was just getting through all the firsts. After that, holidays come and go and I wish Melvin and Jake were here but I don’t necessarily count the number of moments they’ve missed.

Except the anniversary of when we said goodbye. I try not to think about it, but my brain does not always comply. My brain reminds me in March, that Melvin died in April.  And I try to think of other things but something more powerful than me forces  me to remember. And on that day in April, I have a day to myself. No social media, no blog. Doug and I take donations to shelters and pay Melvin’s love forward.  I may cry a little, but for the most part, Melvin is always with me.

It’s a little different with Jake’s anniversary. My mind starts reminding me much earlier. And I fight really hard to ignore it. There are many more tears. Losing Melvin was pure sadness. Losing Jake was more traumatic. Melvin was gone, Jake was gone. There were no dogs. Days felt infinite because I was no longer caring for Jake.

Grief is so confusing and hurtful.

Next week will be two years since I looked into Jake’s googly eyes, and I can still feel the spiral of emotion that I went through before and after he died. And at the same time, joy washes over me every time I see his face.

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So that is where you come in. The best way for me to combat those emotions, is to pay Jake love forward. So Melvin & Jake’s Project Joy would like to find a dog in need of wheelchair. The dog can be in their forever home or waiting to be rescued, but preferably in the US.

Please message us at ohmelvinyojake@gmail.com if you know of a dog that needs a cart. We will pick one on July 18th so that Jakey’s anniversary can be more joyful than sad!

#loveliveson

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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

 

May Day.

It has been a little too busy over here. I am helping out with some extra projects at work so that is one part of it, our roof decided to give up 7 years into existing so when it rained ALL week last week, it did so outside AND inside.

Here are some highlights as we call ‘uncle’ on May!

  • Doug met a few ‘potentials’. It turned out they were only potentials for me. Doug hated them. Thus, we met with a new trainer, who I really like.  In the past I have worked with trainers on his need to mouth feet, or my need to be able to encourage him from wild to place. This trainer is going to help us get Doug back to being more comfortable with play dates and hopefully then, a housemate. I will do a separate post on this.
  • I don’t think Bob #1 is with us anymore. She could have relocated, we had a surge of feral cats this spring so maybe she found a new gang to run with. I have not seen her in several months. She is chipped to me and I have not gotten any phone calls so, who knows. We wish that vixen all the best.
  • Bob #2 is a regular. Last night I pulled into the driveway and he was in our bushes.  I stood in the garage to see if he would come up to his bowl and he did. Every time a bird flew by or there was a noise, he would flinch. I guess that is the life of a feral cat. After he ate he took a little siesta on the driveway and even though I’m deathly allergic and he is just generally terrified, I think he knows I’m the provider of food. Also, I love him. IMG_9524

 

  • This spring is so much better than last spring for Doug! Last year at this time we were a few weeks into Doug’s first surgery. This year, Doug owns his yard like a boss. He chases the squirrels out of it, he digs for moles (I could live without this), he makes sure his jolly balls get the attention they deserve and then he lays down on every soft surface, except the dog chaise I bought for him.IMG_9396

 

  • To add to the awesomeness of Doug’s life, he has graduated from being in the mudroom when I am gone to having access to the main floor of the house. I slowly gave him more freedom and he has done really great with it all.  The first few days he sat and stared at the door like a statue, but somewhere around day 5 he realized he could do what all other dogs do when their humans are way – lick his parts and nap.IMG_9363

 

  • Melvin and Jake continue to send me songs and beautiful sunsets. And Doug and I continue to help dogs in need so that their #loveliveson .

Have a wonderful week!

 

 

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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Merry and Happy.

The holidays can be lovely, joy filled, and happy.  They can also be challenging, lonely, and heartbreaking.

I always say that best part about any holiday is who you share your couch with.  Sometimes, the couch is full.  Inevitably, someone is missing.

We understand.

This will be our third Christmas without Melvin, and the second without Jake. There are a few tears when I put their ornaments on the tree, but at this point, I’m mostly just grateful that they are both in my heart and that every beat is a chance for me to seek and spread joy in their memory.  Despite their physical absence, I’m blessed to still have a full couch.

Love lives on. But it is not always an easy journey.

We wish you all much love and much laughter this holiday season. To anyone who is dreading the holidays or too sad to celebrate, we send you love and hugs. We’ll hold a spot for you, just in case.

xoxo, Tracey & Doug

PS: If you are wondering what Doug thinks of Christmas, just check out his expression on our card.  It’s the ho-ho-ho version of  F-you.

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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.

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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