I gotcha, Doug.

Dear Doug,

A year ago I was broken. I was overwhelmed with grief and I was paralyzed under the weight of there being no dogs here. Jakey had not been gone that long and the void in my heart and in the house was crushing me. I’d met dogs and all of them made me have breakdowns. None of them were the dog I wanted.

The dog(s) I wanted had died.

So I gave up. My exact words were: it will just have to be shitty until it isn’t.

Then I saw you. I was scrolling on Facebook and I saw you and went past you and then scrolled back up and then back down and then back up. What was it about you? I didn’t think: you’re not Jake. I didn’t say: it feels too soon. In you, I saw the love-child of my delicious duo. More so, I saw a tomorrow that you could be in. I brought you home (one year ago today) and there were no breakdowns, at least none that were grief driven.

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In the first weeks that followed, my feet bled.  This is not some sort of poetic rhetoric, they literally bled because you were insane and tried to eat my feet with every step I took.  Every step.  I remember running and hiding in the bathroom.  I googled steel toed shoes.  Steel toed footwear in the heat of summer = not cute. During those torturous weeks, you made me miss Jake more.  I won’t lie, I did not love you. I regularly asked myself and you out loud, what was I thinking?

In addition to my bloody stumps, you had more energy than all the dogs combined times infinity. We walked non stop and still you were wound up and running zoomies. Still trying to leave me footless. How was I going to walk you with no feet?

I cried. A lot. About you. You were not at all what I wanted.

But then it was October. Then November. And we’d worked on you chewing toys and not feet and although I was still sad about Jake, I was not as unsure about you. December came and I still cried myself to sleep missing Jake, but I woke up smiling that you were here.

You saw me through almost all the firsts I had to go through without Jake. You were fairly insensitive about my sadness, in fact most times when I would cry you would jump on my back and chew my hair.

In hindsight,  you were everything that I needed.

I didn’t need a hug. That was Melvin’s job. Melvin’s collars were too big for you. I didn’t need you to make me laugh, Jake had that covered.  Jake’s jackets were too small for you. What I needed was a disruption to the structure of grief. I needed to go a little crazy.  Who better to show me that than you? You are my boy in the middle. Sandwiched between your brothers. Sort of like that circle on the top of your head.IMG_1852

You crept slowly into my heart.

I didn’t love all the walks, but the fresh air healed me. I was not excited about how much training you needed, but it helped pass time that would have otherwise been spent wishing Jake was still laying on the couch next to me. I didn’t love that you were such a terror, but every night I went to bed, I was almost too exhausted to be sad.

You were not the dog I wanted at first. But no dog was.  Today, I know with certainty that we were meant to be. Not just because you are addicted to surgery and I love going broke, but because when you look at me, my heart squeals. You are so much like Melvin, and so much like Jake, and nothing like them at all.  Even though you never met them, I still feel like you are brothers, that you are connected to them, and I do not think I would have felt that way with any other dog but you.

Your story is the opposite of mine.  You never had a family to lose. You never had someone committed to your health or well-being. You never had a home, or beds or peanut butter. If there is one thing I know, it’s that the universe will send me the dogs that others would not be able to go the distance with. I will travel this crazy life with you and your wonky Barbie legs, always.

I know you know you’re home.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of joy.  You are a strong force in this army. You bring the joy AND the funk.

You own my heart. Sure, some days I am still worried you will chew it up like one of your beds or swing it around like one of your Jolly Balls, but as all unconditional loves go, I’m willing to take that risk.

Happy Gotcha Day, bud.  I love you.  Forever.

 

 

Here we go again.

Doug is 12 weeks post a complicated luxated patella and TPLO surgery.  Two weeks ago we waved goodbye to our surgeon. As of last week, we probably had about six weeks more to go until he was free to zoom. We had just come off of pen confinement and needing to be leashed in the house.  Our rehab had finally picked up in intensity to really start building his muscle back up. He was sleeping upstairs again.

In other words, we saw the light.

This weekend, Doug tore his other ACL. I’d personally like to live in denial of this.  But Doug can barely walk now and his second surgery is today, so it’s apparently time to take a bite of this reality sandwich.

I sorta wish we had not seen the light or given him more freedom. To have it given, then abruptly taken away, has left him angry. He now sits in the pen and barks at me non stop. Not ideal, for either of us. 

I don’t really have the words to describe how hard it has been to keep Doug’s activity restricted.  I know a lot of people probably say that about their dogs, but the people around us can confirm that Doug is not, most dogs.  He is constantly in motion. When he’s being held back, he goes into destructive mode.  And as much as that drives me nuts, it is way more taxing on him to have to live the life as an inmate. These leg issues keep Doug from being Doug. He should be going in and out of the house into the yard whenever he wants. He should be running zoomies. Instead, he’s been in jail and on tie down and the moment he starts to taste freedom again, the jail bars drop back down.

He holds me responsible for it all, and it definitely impacts our relationship building. 

I am not sure how we will get through round two, but I know we will find a way.  I mean, we have no choice. Hopefully since this one should only be the TPLO surgery and not the luxated patella fix also (please God), it may be a bit easier on him.  Not sure about that but I am holding onto that hope.

If either Melvin or Jake needed this surgery, or even if they both needed it at the same  time, we’d all probably be high-fiving.  Staying still and resting was their goal in life. They probably would have cut their own ACLs if they knew it came with months of inactivity.  This down time for Doug, goes against his DNA.

I have had Doug for almost 11 months. It is estimated he ran stray for about 5 months. I’m hopeful he thinks jail-city is still better than being stray, but I can’t be sure. I’m trying to focus on the positive: we can afford these surgeries, he has good insurance, he’s young so healing is faster. But the truth is, my little family needs a win. 

Last night when I was laying in bed saying no, no, nope, no to this happening, over and over like a crazy person, I had a vision of Doug running stray.  What if he had not been found? What if both of his ACLs blew out and he was dragging his bloody stumps around? What if, God forbid, someone found him and decided he was not worth saving?

He came to me for a reason. One of those reasons is to be mended. We all know he will get that. Another reason could be to test the boundaries of my sanity. This surgery may breach that barrier, but who knows, it might help us get through round two!

Is he going to test my patience?  Yes, absolutely.  Will he pick back up on planning my death? Probably.

Will we make it through? Of course we will.  We are joy warriors.

 

 

Pet Insurance and a Melvin and Jake’s Project Joy giveaway.

Neither Melvin or Jake were insurable. When I got them, pet insurance was different.  If a dog had a pre-existing condition, the dog was denied.  Now, the pre-existing condition isn’t covered but the dog still can be.  Let’s be honest, Melvin and Jake were walking pre-existing conditions.

During Jake’s last year of life. With the eye ulcers, the emergency eye surgery, the follow-up eye issues, the MSRP infection, the diaper rash, the cancer, the radiation and all of his medications, ointments and specialists (6) over that 12-month span, I paid out $25,000. This is not a complaint, it’s just a fact.

When I got Doug, I had already investigated pet insurance plans and had decided on Healthy Paws. I pay $30 a month. The annual deductible is $500.  Our plan reimburses 90% of accidental issues and illness.  Routine care and pre-existing conditions are not covered.

I just got our $5,000 check reimbursement for Doug’s surgery.  I cried. Whenever possible, I take a positive approach to life, even when things are dark and heavy, I try to see the light. It’s been a couple of dark years with Melvin and Jake both having cancer and dying.  That reimbursement check meant way more to me than money.

I deserved that break.

I have a great job.  I have a great family support system. I happily paid Melvin and Jake’s bills and I will happily pay Doug’s. But it felt really good to get something back from a health conundrum.

That said, we pay joy forward. So in honor of yesterday being ten months since Jakey died, we’d like to buy an Eddie’s Wheels Wheelchair for a dog in need.  Please share submissions of dogs who could use a cart (their name and story) in the comments below, on this Facebook post or email to ohmelvinyojake@gmail.com.  I’ll put together a little committee of folks who will help me pick the lucky dog.

Melvin and Jake love, lives on. Always.

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Doug’s surgery.

Doug has surgery tomorrow to repair/replace/fix (all of those I guess) his kneecap issue.  All I know is that the kneecap is unable to get back over and they have to carve out some notches in his bones to allow it to get back into place and they will also move around some tissue to accommodate that and hold the kneecap in place.  I’m the 101 of medical speak. The surgery worries me less than the recovery. Well the anesthesia worries me the most, followed by recovery, then surgery.

Doug has to be chill/still for four-weeks.  I’m not even sure it’s four, it might be six, the surgeon said a number and my mind went to the absolute longest time I thought I could possibly survive with a pent-up Doug. That is four weeks. Give or take 3 weeks.

He will spend at least the first night in the hospital. Despite having almost every medical issue known to (wo)man and dog, Melvin never spent a night in a hospital and Jake only spent one, when his eye tried to explode. I know that once he is home, the first few days and nights will be the worst, but in terms of caring for him, I have been training for this since I had Max.

We will figure it all out.

I have a dog pen, I have various sized crates. I have tie down plans so he can be outside but not moving around. I have cones, bed covers and plans to feed him mini meals throughout the day via Kong to keep him busy.  I have bones, and bully sticks and new toys. I have a plan to try to keep his weight in check.

I also have tranquilizers. For him, but if they fail, I may take them.

This is what Doug looks like when he’s on tranquilizers. He is awake. Wide awake. But somewhat still, for like ten minutes. IMG_3980

I’m excited to get this issue fixed although I am a bit worried about one other thing. What if this leg issue has been holding the real Doug back. What if he is even more energetic, more zoomerific, more cray? Since he has been on pain medication, I have noticed that crazy Doug has reemerged.  He is still only using 3 legs but the pain medication is definitely making him feel more, him.  I’m scared people. I mean really, what if…

Yippppeeeeee, I can’t wait to fly through the air again like I was born to do! IMG_3999

I will keep you posted via Facebook and Instagram. If you have any advice for post surgical care or keeping exuberant dogs calm, PLEASE share that with me! Please!

Have a great week!

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.

 

 

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