Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis.

It’s been a week and I still can’t pronounce it.

I continue to look for someone who has been through this disease with their dog. If I can’t find one person among any breed, I’m not sure how I will find someone with an Am Staff.

My emotions range from heartache that this is happening, to moments of rage that this is happening.

As I have mentioned, Doug has always been clumsy. His hind legs may be bionic but apparently for Doug, bionic = mediocre. He has never been able to stop himself when he is running too fast inside the house, just ask the 50 things he runs into daily. Going down the steps in the morning he goes three at a time and going up in the evening, is very, very slow.  That has pretty much been him since the day I got him, before and after the leg surgeries.

So a few months ago, I just thought he was more clumsy. It was cooler, maybe his arthritis was acting up . There were a few times early on, that he tipped over, but since I couldn’t anticipate it happening, I never really saw what preceded it. I thought he tripped, or turned a leg the wrong way and it gave out. The first time he fell off the couch, he was sleeping. So when it happened again the same day when he was awake, I thought nothing of it. We all have those days.

At no time did I think that he was dying. Because I had talked myself out of thinking that way the first year with him. I would say: it won’t be like Melvin. It won’t be like Jake. Have faith.

As he started falling off the couch more, and stumbling for reasons I couldn’t figure out, I knew it was something, but I still was leaning towards his legs. But then one day, I was taking a video of him for Instagram and during the time I was taking it, he shook (as all dogs do many times a day), and that’s when I saw it. I stopped recording and pulled up the clip to see if I had imagined it. Something was wrong, and it was not his legs.

This is the video clip I took that day. He shakes, and immediately after, his eyes roll back into his head. A wave of motion then runs through his body and you can see him falter a little.

I may not know for certain when his symptoms started, but I know the exact moment I knew it wasn’t nothing.

The following are Doug’s current symptoms:

  • He shakes about 20 times a day and his eyes roll back into his head about 15 of those times. Sometimes he falls over, sometimes not. That has not changed much since I first noticed it. This is by far the hardest part to watch at this point. There is a part of me that wants to look away, but I owe it to him to watch every single one and count them out for our documentation.
  • He is wobbly on softer surfaces.
  • He stumbles sometimes when he is going faster than a normal walk pace.
  • I can tell when he is having dizzier days than others. On those days he is a little out of it. He tends to stay close to me those days. He also stares into my soul on those days and I know he knows I know. I stay close to him too.
  • There have been two shakes to date that I have seen where he froze for about 3 seconds after it ended. I don’t think he could move for those few seconds, but then he was fine.
  • He has had 2-3 bad days. When he can’t walk in straight line, more like he’s in a fun house. I mean our house is fun, but…
  • He is on a few new supplements (CoQ10 and Super B Complex) to maybe help. He is also on a motion sickness drug. I have been giving it to him in the morning but I am going to move it to dinner because he wakes up dizzy and I think it might wear off during the night.

Our vet has not had much luck digging anything up but she did find one piece of research that suggested Am Staffs were not as likely to go blind. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I’m holding onto it pretty tightly.

While we were waiting on the test results this past month, a little voice kept whispering what if you lose Doug too? I almost talked myself out of doing Christmas cards because of that stupid voice. I didn’t want to do them if I knew it was going to be his last Christmas. So we held the fastest Christmas photo shoot ever known to Santa. I took the photos, edited them, and ordered the card within 1/2 hour. I found out his diagnosis two days later. The cards came this weekend and I’m really F’ing happy we did it. I think this journey is going to be a lot like those cards. Less thinking, more doing.

When joy calls, we gotta answer.

xoxo,

t&d

 

Doug hates Halloween

Remember how I used to really kill it on Halloween with the dog costumes? Well, Doug does not do costumes. Unless do costumes = eat costumes off his back. 

Last year I dressed him up as a Handmaids TAIL, and he rammed the bonnet into the wall and destroyed it before I could even push the camera button on my phone.

The ONLY costume I have successfully kept on him for more than 5 minutes was Frankenweenie, when I drew the costume on him with liquid eyeliner (and I couldn’t get it off for weeks).

Here is a little walk down memory-costume-lane so you can waste a few extra minutes at work on a Friday.

Also, if you need me, I’ll be decorating for Christmas.

Frankenweenie (it worked because he had so many scars from his leg surgeries. IMG_7448Prisoner, because he was on lockdown during leg surgeries. img_0953-1Hannibal Lector, because he ate so many frogs. IMG_6124IMG_6128Mr. T and the Fool. IMG_0835IMG_0824

King of my heart. 11 4 13f

Snookie. 10 30 13a11 4 13c

He hated this so much. I took it right off him. 10 30 13

Punk Melvin. IMG_2839IMG_2819photo[1]

Time is funny.

I think it goes without saying that I don’t post here as often (hello captain obvious). One of those reasons is that I love Instagram and Doug gives me so much content for daily stories so we are over there each day and I sometimes just assume all of you are over there with us. The other reason I find myself over here less is that for a long time, I’ve felt uninspired, or maybe inspired differently. Instagram has been a great channel to share Doug because he is ridiculous and funny and the things he does require video proof. In fifteen-second intervals, people get to know Doug. But when it comes to blogging about him, I haven’t really felt the same connection between writing and Doug that I did with Melvin, and then Melvin and Jake.

Neither could read. IMG_9840

I had Melvin for a couple of years before I started this blog and you got to experience how my love grew for him. Jake fit seamlessly into the blog stories as his own googly-eyed personality but also as Melvin’s soulmate. You then traveled these pages with us as Melvin and I said farewell for now, as me and Jake mourned, and then as I said another painful see you on the other side to Jake.

Even when I forced myself to share Doug with you all, it wasn’t the same. It isn’t that I didn’t love telling you about him, I just didn’t derive as much joy from writing about me and him. And when Instagram stories became a thing, that felt way more right.

I’ve been thinking about the why of that lately.

I think part of it has to do with Melvin. This blog, the reason it exists, is Melvin. And it’s not because I don’t love Doug like I love Melvin, it’s that my love of writing this blog, was always tied to, my love for Melvin. I felt a disconnect when I started writing about Doug, because I couldn’t connect him to Melvin. I could have written every day about Doug and you probably would have kept on reading, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it they way I should have, so I slowly tapered off.

That is probably not the only reason.

I’m also afraid of losing Doug. Not every minute of everyday, or even something I think about regularly. More so in the way that, sharing him in words on this page, make him a dog I will lose. He has had a ton of health issues this year and I want to come to this community and share it but there is a part of me who wants to keep his updates verbal. Nothing to refer back to, every detail not chronicled in words somewhere for me to linger on. No Facebook memory pop-ups to remind me of posts that end in heartbreak.

I still wholeheartedly chase joy and Melvin and Jake love lives on the most beautiful ways. But losing them, broke big parts of me. And for a long time, this blog haunted me more than it reminded me that joy is who we are.

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Photo Credit: Kate Juliet Photography

I know that Doug is connected through Melvin in the second best way; me. And these past few years with Doug, although not as much was chronicled here, he and I have forged a beautiful life. A life filled with love that healed a tremendous amount of grief in me. A love that soothes his anxiety and gives him something to rely on. A love that is fueled by Melvin and Jake but uniquely made for only Doug.

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And in the past month, I have found myself wanting to be here more. Wanting to write more about Doug. Moments in the ER, yes, but also moments where Doug steals hearts and brings laughter. So I have written some posts and didn’t post them because I wanted to really decided if we would be back more or not.

I think we will be here a little more often. If nothing else, you know that a piece of my heart will always be found at ohmelvin.com. Melvin and Jake #loveliveson here, it’s like coming home.

 

 

Three years of me and Doug.

In late Summer of 2016, two very different versions of me existed. Both versions, were heartbroken to have just lost Jake.

Sad Tracey, otherwise known as the artist formally known as me, ached in ways I was unprepared for. Missing Jake (and Melvin) aside, the house was dog-less for the first time since I’d had dogs AND the house was empty. This version of me couldn’t bring myself to meet dogs because it was too soon, even though I knew the emptiness of the house might suffocate me. This version of me found comfort in dark places.

Desperate Tracey, otherwise known as survivor-mode-me, kept screaming inside of Sad Tracey’s head that fixing the empty house part would help. That getting a dog, despite every theory of when is ‘too soon’, was an easy solution to a very, very big problem.

Sad Tracey pulled most of the strings and screamed FU to thoughts of a dog, there would never be another dog in this house, not ever. The current heartbreak was too unbearable.

Desperate Tracey went rogue and adopted Doug.

That was three years ago. Today there is (thankfully) just one version of me. The me that has loved and lost and found more love. The me that joyfully hops through life with Doug, as Melvin and Jake love lives on in us both.

Doug came into this home six weeks after Jake died. He didn’t get the best version of me, which is funny in a way because Melvin joined my home as Max was dying and he didn’t get the best of me either. Dogs don’t always need the best of you, as long as the worst of you is still based in goodness and love.

Dearest Doug,

We started off in a complicated way. I fought loving you because it felt like a betrayal to Jake, and you were pretty intent on eating my feet, literally. You and I had to compromise  a lot for each other. I had to make room for you in my broken heart and you had to deal with some pretty intense mouthing urges. Both were high hurdles.

After three years, all of that is a bit of a blur now. When I walk in the house and I see you, my heart beats with pure joy. I love you fiercely. It seems like you have always been here and I pray that is how it feels for you too. There was another version of you at one time also, but that discarded dog has found a forever with me.

I look at you and think, you are so much like Melvin and Jake. I guess that has a lot to do with you each getting the same love from me. But you are also, very much, Doug. With your odd bursts of crazy, and your love of destruction. I think the disruptive parts of you, are what moved us both forward at the beginning. I think my love has calmed some of your anxiety. Prozac has helped too.

I see you bud. I know you, I know you better than you know you. My life is about you now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You make me laugh. You destroy my things but you remind me, things are nothing compered to you being happy and safe. There is nothing that you can throw at me that I won’t see you through. 

Then there is your breed. You being a hippopotamus and all. I have had to verbally defend you to people who don’t even know you.  I have had to explain, it is not how they are raised, it is in fact, the here and the now of who YOU are. The same as it is the here and now of who I am. I vow to always share your wacky ways in hopes that it will educate those who don’t know, just how silly and loving hipppos can be.

In the next year, there will come a moment that I will have had you, for as long as I had Jake. And in the moment that follows that one, I will have had you longer. Time is funny, how it marches on. I can’t control how long I have with each of you, I can only choose to focus on maximum joy and love with the time we are given.

Too soon is a barrier that broken hearts put up for protection. The leap I took with you, is everything now. 

I love you with my whole heart. Three looks really beautiful on us. 

Love, your s(mother). xoxo

 

Three years without Wonkalicious.

Jake went to be with Melvin three years ago.

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Putting it in that context has always made it hurt a little less. I was always meant to find Melvin, and so was Jake.

 

Losing Jake was so hard, something this community knows very well. Melvin was gone and Jake’s last year was so difficult. His soulmate had left him and he didn’t know why. His beautiful googly eye formed a hole from an ulcer and after emergency surgery, struggled to heal (never forget hamburger eye!). He went fully paralyzed in his hind legs.  He got MRSP. His body had a much harder time fighting infection and then cancer came knocking again, this time with two different types for Jake.

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I have conflicting feelings about his last year. He was so lost without Melvin and there were moments, where it was just me and him, that I saw how small and lonely he was without his big brother. But he and I got to have that year together, just the two of us, and I really do believe that is how it was meant to be. He got all the love, something he had never gotten from anyone, ever.

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We made the best of that year. Many moments of me holding him in my arms, dancing around the house. Trips to the beach, rolling around the hood in his stroller. Owning the front door watch post like a boss. Him doing all the meatball production and me doing all the meatball clean up.

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A lot has happened in the last three years, and in some ways, nothing has changed. I said goodbye to Jake and hello to Doug; my little family may look different, but Melvin and Jake are still part of it. Jake is still my baby, I don’t think any dog will ever need me as much as he did. Melvin is my co-pilot and Jake is Doug’s. He is the little voice that whispers inside Doug’s head, some are really good ideas and some are really, really, really bad ideas.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jake told me to do it. IMG_2805

Every year around the time of Jake’s death, I try to find a dog in rescue who needs a cart. It started with Oliver, just before Jake died, and this week, we bought our 4th cart in memory of Jakey, paid with love, for a little nugget named Declan. Declan is about to regain his mobility, and every joyful step he takes with his new wheels, will be more of Jake’s beautiful love living on, and one more step closer to Declan finding his forever.

I am so thankful this wonky-googly-eyed ball of comedy rescued me. I’m so happy to have been chosen to watch over both Jake and Melvin and watch their love grew. They brought me more happiness than I could ever explain! If you ever ask my advice on how to navigate all of  life’s beautiful and soul crushing moments, my response is always: Be the joy. So this week, in memory of someone who’s love should live on, be the Jakey joy. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Love. Lives. On.

 

Oh spring.

This is the time of year that both Melvin and Jake were diagnosed with cancer. I don’t think about those actual dates as often as I think of all the memories. Warmer days, lingering outside, both of them slowing down during their respective battles. Melvin would be 14 this year and Jake would be 11.

Googly eyed pots watching over us. IMG_3056

As the warmer weather starts to bare it’s pale hiney, Doug is sent into ballistic joy to be outside, with no snow, and the sun shining on his seasonal alopecia spots (which are finally filling in)! He runs out the door as if the sun and warmth are his long lost loves returning from battle. He will stay outside, trying to eat bees, until I have to chase him in.

Bring my food outside, I’m never going back in. IMG_3041

I’m living in the moment with crazy Doug. As we play in the yard and I throw him the ball, I still see Melvin staring blankly at me as I threw him a ball he never once retrieved. I still see Jake ‘running’ the way he only could, in dewy grass, wonky legs dragging behind. I see all three of them, in the same space that is my heart.

Doug continues to make sure I’m coming along on his crusade of zoom. He snuggles like Melvin, he’s as defiant as Jake, and he is 100% like no other dog I have ever had.

Doug has had his fair share of health issues these last few months. We are still working  things out and getting tests done. At one point, liver failure was being thrown around and it would be really easy for me to say ‘it’s likely one of my dogs has this’ but that is not how joy rolls. Joy reminds me to stay in my lane until told to pull over. He didn’t have liver failure. He may or may not have a properly working digestive system. We are figuring that out with a food trial (I’ll do a post on this).

On top of his physical health, Doug struggles with anxiety and fear and hyperactivity (beyond energy).  He is the most outgoing, exuberant dog you have ever met until he encounters a fear and then he is paralyzed and looks to me to get him to safety, or until he runs so hard that he is incapable of shutting off. We are working on those things too. I will share that in a future post also.

A lot of you ask how we choose joy. We do not find joy 24/7/365. But, we do find joy eventually. There will always be grief, and stress, and health challenges and the universe determined to hold us down or kick us.  I don’t see Melvin and Jake as not here anymore,  that they were here, is something I celebrate every day. Doug destroys things that I love and his anxiety is not always easy to maneuver, but that dog is fueled by pure joy so I don’t have a whole lot of time to worry before he is standing on top of me wiggling with delight. Doug (as his brothers were also) is a walking and living reminder that life is unfolding every second of every minute of every hour. I don’t want to miss a single beat of his wild drum.

You coming (s)mother?IMG_3184 2

Happy Birthday, Doug! Three.

I know that the norm in rescue, is to not know your pets actual birthday (or age). Melvin and Jake were both turned into to rescue by their original owners, so I knew both for them.

Doug’s age was guessed and his birthday was chosen by me.  On December 1st he is ‘officially’ three. But there is a chance he’s four. Or five. And there are 364 chances that his birthday is not December 1st.

The only thing we know for sure, is that Doug is living his best life.

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The time he has lived in this home, exceeds the time he lived as a stray in South Carolina. If I’m doing my job right, he doesn’t even recall his first life.  He only knows stability and routine; his belly is always full and his legs are now built to ferociously chase joy.

He is unlike any dog I have had before and at the same time, he reminds me of his brothers daily. Love lives on fiercely in this one.

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We are opposites, in so many ways. He has so much energy and a party animal mentality. I’m laid back and calm. He likes mobs of people, I like intimate crowds. He seeks to destroy, I like mending things.

There are a few areas we agree on. We both like the same spot on the couch. We both are food motivated. We both like a good nights sleep and we both give all we have, to spreading joy.

Doug – your entire existence in my life was unexpected. The only thing I know for certain is that you have my heart. I can’t wait to watch your glorious life continue to unfold.

 

 

The dogs have never gotten birthday gifts – they live lives of leisure and safety and they want for nothing. Instead, to celebrate, we donate items to a shelter so that a dog in need will know about comfort and love.

Happy Birthday, baby! Three (or four or five) looks great on you!

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