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

 

 

 

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!

He’s mine.

Doug gained two pounds!  The dog who runs zoomies for a living burns double the calories that he eats is finally gaining weight! How did it happen? I have no flippen clue.

When last we checked in on skinny-Doug, he was down to 43 lbs (had lost weight) but was eating a diet for a 60lb dog. He was also pooping fourteen six times a day. Losing weight and pooping a ton, not the usual happy ending to a digestive love story. I am still feeding him a part cooked diet (Grandma Lucy’s) but have added in a part raw diet (Primal Raw). Before anyone gasps or says ‘you are not supposed to feed raw and cooked together’, this is our middle ground right now. He is gaining weight back and he is only pooping 2-3 times a day.  We like it here in the land of thriving and NOT SPENDING ALL DAY EVERY DAY PICKING UP POOP! The long-term plan will be for him to move to all raw. But what I have learned from my super active monkey is that he does not transition well.  Not physically, not behaviorally, not digestively, not even emotionally. Doug needs time and space to be, Doug.

There are areas that he is proving to be my dog. Like the need for regular vet visits. This week we went in because his peeing has picked up and he had a few ‘accidents’ in the house.  He was fine in that area so that is why ‘accidents’ have air quotes. (Funny story here, we did blood work and the only metric out of range was the one that would suggest the dog is VERY ACTIVE).

The other thing that is going on with him, that does seem to be something, is that 3-4 times a week, he does this thing were his cheeks puff in and out.  It took forever for me to get it on video and once I was able to get close to him when it’s happening, I could see that during these episodes, his tongue flutters super fast and he is unable to stop it.  He is otherwise normal during it, he can walk, is alert, but for 45 seconds to a minute, he does this:

There is no trend on when it happens. In the morning, afternoon, evening. At home, on a walk, in the car. The vet suggested it could be seizure related. Then she said the words that I have heard before.  You should see a neurologist and get an MRI and Spinal Tap.  If/when Doug goes and has these test done, IT WILL BE THE FOURTH TIME IN FIVE YEARS THAT MY DOGS HAVE HAD AN MRI AND SPINAL TAP. Melvin had one where the findings were inconclusive but they suspected a primary cancer (two years later that turned out to be true). Jake had one when his legs stopped working the first time (and we found out he’d be paralyzed) and one last February when his legs stopped working again (as much as wonky legs could stop working) and we found out he had cancer. The words ‘MRI and Spinal Tap’ ignite my grief.

For now, we are going to start him on anti-seizure meds and see if that helps. Not because I’m not willing to have the MRI/ST done, of course he will have whatever tests he needs.  And not because it hasn’t even been a year since our last MRI/ST where I heard that Jake had cancer. It’s more that I don’t think we need to go from point A to point MRI without hitting point B and C. Doug is young, I have to remind myself not to live a life of ‘cancer finds us’ and instead live a life of ‘it will be ok’.

Oh Doug!

 

Doug has been here for four months.

It’s funny, I’ve written before how sometimes a dog comes and they just fit and sometimes a dog comes and it’s stressful and worrisome and you are not sure you made the right decision.

When Melvin came, I was dealing with Max who was at the end of his life and Melvin was, a wild, untamed creature full of energy and exuberance. I had moments where I wondered what the hell I had done, not just to Max, but to myself. Max died and Melvin and I eventually found a groove. Clearly, ours was a love story written in the stars.  He taught me that love takes work. My post about that struggle is HERE.

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When Jake came, it was not so crazy. We did the two-week shut-down approach and then did Jake on tie-down for a few weeks. Also, by that point in life, I had complete faith in Melvin. There were challenges for sure (Jake, I’m talking about you buddy), but I never doubted that the two of them would work out.

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Doug is a lot like Melvin.  So much so that sometimes I think Melvin is inside him (A Dog’s Purpose is my favorite book).  Doug has now been here for four months. It seems more like four years (even though his is only one, math bores me).  He came along during a blurry time in my life and sometimes memory and timelines play tricks on me and I think that maybe he’s been here for longer, maybe he was here with Jakey. It’s a good kind of strange.

Doug has come farther in four months than I think any dog I have had has. The whole dogs age seven years for every one of our years, is never so apparent than during the first year and the last years.  I’ve come far in four months too. Doug is my first young dog and I was his who-the-hell-are-you-forever. When he first came, his feet biting had me very worried. I could tell he was sweet and exuberant but that impulse control was never needed when he ran stray. The mouthing was really scary to me and I worried a lot about it.  Not just that it hurt me physically but I was worried that he would mouth someone and they would claim biting or have reason to perpetuate myths about Pit Bulls based solely on Doug. Would he be a breed ambassador someday? I hoped so. Was that day in the foreseeable future? No.

Hour one with Doug. The tag hanging from his neck says Melvin on it because I had to have a tag with my phone number on it to take him home.  Little did I know how much he’d be like his brother. img_0118

To be clear, he never bit. He has very good bite inhibition.  But his canine teeth are SUPER sharp and you don’t need to draw blood for mouthing to hurt. I read up a lot on mouthing. Ways to train against it, how long it could last.  I tried everything. The first month, it seemed as if the more comfortable he got, the more he mouthed. I’m a positive person, but I was not seeing the light on this one.

Please put your foot in my mouth. img_0384

I was already crying over Jake at that point but I spent many a night crying about Doug and his need to put all things into his mouth. There were days I looked forward to putting him in his crate at night because I needed a break (you will always get honesty here). I don’t know when it started getting better, I only know that it took A LOT of work. It took more patience than I thought I had. It started with praising him and treating him if he went one-second without mouthing. We then made it to one minute. Impulse control is hard, we had plenty of setbacks.  Somehow we went from him mouthing most of the time to him mouthing a few times a day.  He almost never mouths me anymore and if he does I know it’s because he is over-tired so he goes in for a nap and exits much more well-behaved. Because he gets SO excited over every visitor or person we meet on walks, well that is still a work in progress but he’s doing much, much, much better.

He still has a lot of energy but I’m more used to it now. I know when he needs to burn some off with an extra long walk and I know days when he is calmer that we can cut back on a walk here and there. He usually offers me every bit of compromise that I offer to him. I think that the recent start of snuggling has a lot do with him trusting me more and more. I was broken when Doug came to live here. As I mend, he finds more calm in me.

Max will always be the dog that made me a dog person. Melvin will always be my heart. Jake is my heartbeat (because he and Melvin are an eternal team). Doug is, hopefully, going to be the dog that I own the longest. He is the dog that I will go through every phase of his life with. He is the dog that I will bring more dogs home to. He is the dog that will see me through the next decade or more of my life.

Doug is my future.

My boy, having a moment with his brothers. #lovelivesonimg_1979

 

A Christmas Miracle.

We had a relatively quiet New Years.  I had a migraine (fun!).  Oh, and miracle or two occurred.

Things like, DOUG SNUGGLES NOW!

I’m not sure how it happened.  I was talking to Melvin and Jake one night, saying how it’s ok that I don’t see them in my dreams, that maybe it would be too hard to see them and then wake up.  It’s ok, because I feel them and that matters more to me than dreams.  I did throw out there to them that they should, COULD, WOULD need to help guide Doug. I specifically asked that they help him learn to snuggle (or at least let me sit on the couch without being playfully mauled).

The next day, this started.  I assumed it was a fluke. That’s my head, he’s not sitting on it!img_1723

And that is my leg, he’s not standing on it. img_1873img_1886

When he let me put the blanket over him, I assumed he was dying.

Snugglefest has continued for a week now!  img_1955img_1966img_1990img_2025img_2033

I forgot what it is like to watch TV and not have every muscle in my body tensed-up because Doug is hanging off my back or climbing my hair or standing in my lap trying to lick my face.

I reward snuggle-Doug with belly rubs and calm face massages to encourage him to always want to be calm on the couch.  The miracles continued as he slept in the bed ONE NIGHT!  He was pretty good from 10pm to about 4am and then he decided it was time to rave so we are taking that one slower. Mama needs her sleep!

Snuggle on!

 

I had a dream.

I use the term dream lightly.  It was a nightmare.

I came home and the house was empty and I was calling for Melvin and Jake.  I searched the entire house and panic overtook me.  I started making calls, running around the neighborhood.  Screaming their names. It was one of the worst dream moments I’ve ever had.

People came but they wouldn’t help me look for them. Not in a mean way, they would just stand there and watch me and listen to me.  But they wouldn’t help me look.  I frantically begged them to help me but they just kept saying you won’t find them. I was crying so hard, my heart was pounding.

A man came over to me and said, go through that door, maybe you can find them in there. I tore the hinges off of that door opening it and I ran in desperate to see my boys.

I found myself in a giant maze inside a building that was the size of a city. There were hallways and staircases and ramps but no rooms. I started running and screaming Melvin and Jake’s names. At every dead-end, someone I knew was standing there and they would say, you won’t ever find them again.

I continued to run and scream their names and I hit a dead-end each time. The same words were repeated to me, that they would never be found. The dream went on for what felt like eternity. I was exhausted but I refused to give up. I would have stayed there forever, looking for them.

I woke up screaming and sweating.  Unable to breathe. I sat on the edge of the bed and then walked around to shake it off. I eventually fell back asleep.

The next morning I laid in bed thinking about the dream.  I thought about how horrible it was. How tormented and helpless I felt.

Then all of a sudden, I got it. That nightmare, is me.

That nightmare is all the feelings I carry with me. It’s who I am now that Melvin and Jake are both gone. It’s not the whole of me, but there is a part of me that feels a painful hole from having lost my little family.  My perfect little family. That city sized maze with stairways and ramps and hallways that I was running through blindly, is my grief.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that above all else, I’m grateful they were mine to love. That we found such a lovely balance is one of life’s greatest gifts of joy. The dream was not the story. The story is love.

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Losing both boys required me to start over in a lot of ways.  I am not the same person I was after I lost Melvin. I am most definitely not the same person since losing Jake. I wouldn’t say I’m better or worse, I’m just a more current version of me. I’m still figuring me, without them, out.  That Doug wasn’t part of the Melvin and Jake era doesn’t make him any less perfect. That he wasn’t in the dream doesn’t mean that he doesn’t fit. It actually is more along the lines of me not fitting. Like life continues and I have to reinsert my new self back into it and that new self is not technically new. I have memories and I often want to go backwards to how it was as much as I want to go forward and see how it will be. I think the dream is a reminder that I still have to work to do. As I continue to build on life moving forward, a new family structure will grow that can’t be and shouldn’t be painted from a memory. It should, however, be influenced by the same love.

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I have started looking for a new dog.  I spend a lot of time thinking about who that dog should be (to me and to Doug). Who that new dog is can’t be fully determined until he or she is here, which is part of the problem about even trying to envision it or wanting to be one way or another. It will be how it will be. I do happen to have faith in my ability to pick awesome dogs. I’m excited to see how the next dynamic duo plays out.

To all of you reinserting yourself back into life. I get it.  It’s a maze sometimes, but new chapters must be written if we want our story to continue.

As 2016 nears its end, it would be easy for me to say this was a terrible year and to want 2017 to arrive already.  The truth is, I’m OK if this year lingers a little longer. This year is the last year I had Jakey here with me. So despite his cancer, his death, the grief and even the blood clots, I want to stay here as long as possible. I’m familiar with this wind down to the end of the year. I felt the same exact way last year about Melvin.

This year is also the year of Doug! And that makes it all kinds of beautiful too. I’m very excited about the adventures Doug and I will have next year and curious as to who might join us on our journey of love and exuberance.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah! Happy everything! We hope with all of our hearts that you find your joy!

xoxo – T&D

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Where have we been?

I am not sure where to begin with this one.  It’s been quite a week.

I was having back pain and it hurt to breathe so I assumed that I pulled something.  I went to our local ER and that turned into an ambulance ride to a different hospital and that turned into being in the hospital for three days.  I had a pulmonary embolism. Before you gasp and hurt yourself, this was not my first PE. In fact, I have had many, many blood clots find their way into my lungs. I’m not sure how I’m still here but I’m grateful that is the case.

The thing that is different about this time is that I was on medication to prevent blood clots.  Yet here I was in the hospital with another PE.  My blood clotting condition had gone to new heights, not in a good way. Three things owned my worry at that point:

  1. Doug. I had left for a quick errand and now I would not be home for days. I called his tribe and they took over. His meals were made, he got walks, he got play time and I got lots of video proof that my boy was just fine. This was perhaps the best of all the medicine.
  2. That I was suddenly not safe.  That I could clot and/or perhaps die at any minute. This feeling has not gone away yet.  Its heavy and scary and I’m still working on this one.
  3. That there was a clot at all.  After you have situations like this, the event itself is less scary.  I knew it would be painful, I knew it would be some time of not feeling well but it occurred, I survived, and the doctors were taking care of it. This is not me making light of anything, it’s just a reality that I live with.

I came home to a well fed and very loved Doug. My not feeling well pretty much went unnoticed by him, he still wanted to jump on me and ride my back and eat my hair.  In some ways, although more painful than usual, it helps to have a dog that is of the everything is normal and great, let’s go!.

A few days later, on Thanksgiving, I got a migraine, because why wouldn’t I.  Then decided to decorate the Christmas tree and had to come face-to-face with all my Jakey decorations. One year ago I had to deal with Melvin’s ornaments and now dealing with Jake’s made pulling both of their decorations out of the box sting so much more. I wanted Jake to be here.  I wanted him on the couch as I decorated the tree.  He wasn’t supposed to die. So I cried and I got overwhelmed because the week had been hard enough and well to be honest, because I felt sorry for myself and I gave in that it was ok to feel defeated. Now, the tree is up. The boy’s decorations are on there. I survived a blood clot, a migraine and another painful grief moment. This week had to let go of me eventually.  Then I looked at the calendar.

Yesterday was Jake’s gotcha day.  I miss him more than I am afraid to die.

Here is the thing though, being scared and overwhelmed and sad, those are human emotions and I am going to feel those things because, well because last time I checked I am still human. But they aren’t who I am. I can’t stay there because I believe in joy. I’m committed to joy.  When the boys died I promised them that I would carry on. When I feel afraid, my first instinct is to wonder when or how I can feel brave again. When I feel beaten down I think, I’m still here, get up.  When I think of Jake and Melvin, I know it’s ok to be sad, but I desperately want to feel warmth during thoughts of them both. Joy takes work. Sometimes chasing joy is the last thing I want to do and often I have no energy to even try but then I realize, it’s the only way. Joy haunts me. When I look at the tree now, those ornaments that brought tears, bring smiles, because Melvin and Jake were here, they were right here with me and I had precious time with them and I also had a ridiculous amount of ornaments made with their names on them and that alone is both crazy and funny. I also think, poor Doug has no ornaments.  YET!

I had written Jake’s last gotcha letter before the health events. I will finish that up and post it tomorrow.  Everyday I will celebrate quietly that he came to me. He was here. That there was and always will be, great Jakey love.

And I’ll leave you with this. On the tree decorating day, after the hospital stay and the migraine and all the ornament ugly crying. I sat on the couch exhausted and Doug started jumping on me and I said out loud but calmly, I need Melvin. Five minutes later Doug allowed me to lay down and he snuggled with me on the couch as I cried and I napped, for the rest of the day.

Joy found.

Oh the joy of giving joy.

After Jake died, my friend G reached out to me to ask if she could donate to Melvin & Jake’s Project Joy.  I don’t have it set up as non-profit so up to this point, the donations towards the efforts have been from me and my parents (who donated generously after Melvin and Jake each died). It was sorta just this very-big-to-me, little effort I did.

My heart felt so full with G’s very generous donation and I additionally felt a tad overwhelmed to find the ‘perfect’ use for the money. It’s a great problem to have, right? I think it was partly that it was our first donation outside of my family and that it would be our first big gift of joy since adding Jake to the cause.  I took a step back and a deep breath and reminded myself, as long as we are giving joy, it’s going to be right.

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I looked at her check for a long time. My heart felt so full. I searched for a while for what felt the most right. In the end, a foster with the French Bulldog Rescue Network (Jake’s rescue) won my heart. Axl, a three-year old Frenchie had been given up by his family after his spinal condition and paralysis became too much for them to handle. I saw him and I knew. He needed some Jakey joy.

Axl is young, way too young to be facing paralysis. I knew that a wheelchair would do two things.

  1. Give him his mobility freedom back (yay)!
  2. Give his future forever family one less thing to worry about (the cost of a wheelchair) which would free them up to just love him more.

Joy at it’s finest.

As for Axl’s first family giving him up, hey, I understand. From the moment I saw Jake falter for the first time to him not having much use of his back legs at all, I never ever considered giving him up.  But…taking care of him and the costs associated with that was extremely overwhelming at times and very expensive. Not everyone is going to say ‘we will figure this out’, some will have to admit ‘we can’t do this’. I think those cases are why rescue exists. There was a time when I would have much rather seen someone give up their dog because paralysis was too much to handle versus not having enough time for the dog.  But then a family gave up Jake because they didn’t have time for him and well, Jake and I were meant to be. Maybe I love all the reasons that brought me Melvin, Jake and Doug. When you are trying to spread joy, its best to leave judgment behind.

Axl got fitted in person at Eddie’s Wheels.  I called that night and paid for the cart, just as I had a few years back when I bought Jake’s cart from them. And it felt seven billion types of lovely to pay that invoice of joy with love and to send G the email announcing the joy she helped facilitate.

Without further ado, I give you, Axl. Every step he takes, love will live on!

Axl before his cart. img_0857

Axl in his new ride! Video below the two photos! If you look closely, you’ll see Jake in sunshine. img_1167img_1168

 

You can read more about Axl here!

#joytrain #allaboard #choochoo

 

 

Doug is my little oddball.

Yesterday, Doug went under anesthesia so that the vet could do X-rays of his mouth and leg. He is missing four teeth (which is odd at his age) and we needed to see if they were impacted. As for his leg, his body is a ball of muscle, except his rear left leg.  It’s much weaker than the other legs and he often holds it up/won’t put weight on it.

The teeth situation is that it seems Doug never had those teeth. There is no sign that he had them and lost them and there are no teeth currently up in there. This is VERY good news.  He’s been having some drooling and pain when chewing so we were very worried this was an issue (that would require a speicalist to deal with). The pain is likely that HE IS SUCH AN INSANE SUPER CHEWER.

As for his leg, there is no indication that there is a bone issue.  His hips look good, his knee looks good too. So it’s likely a soft tissue issue. When they said soft tissue my mind immediately went to Jake who had a soft tissue cancer. But then I quickly pulled myself back. Doug is not even one yet, he’s healthy, it’s a something we can do rehab on and be fine.

I am currently two to three different people at any given time. I’m Jake (and Melvin’s) mom, who is still grieving and who worries when limps present themselves. I’m Doug’s mom who is learning what is it like to have an active, relatively healthy young dog, a role I am not used to yet.  And I’m me, the person who tries to be them both without being too much of either. Stay in the middle Tracey, learn from where you have come but don’t be afraid of where you are going.

True of all of my dogs, Doug was completely out of it all night long and has the explosive poops. He’s mine, all mine.

Why is the room spinning? No really,  make it stop. Is the fire burning my butt? My butt burns too. img_1223

Thank you for all of the well wishes!  We really apprciate it! xoxo

He’s mine.

I have had Doug for two months. We have been to the vet four times. He’s definitely my dog.

Our first time was to just introduce him and see what was up. The second visit he had been super itchy and it was determined he had mites. Third appointment was an ear infection. Fourth appointment, well that one is a little more complicated.

Let’s go back to the very first appointment we had.  After a thorough look-over, the vet informed me that Doug was missing four teeth. Two on top, two on the bottom. Not the same teeth on each side. My question back was: how is that possible?

Reasons could include:

  1. He lost them. But if I got Doug at 8 months old and his gums did not show signs of any post-healing, he would have to have lost them REALLY early.  And four of them?
  2. He never got them, that perhaps genetically, he never had them.  It would be odd but not impossible.
  3. They were still in there and never came down. This scenario would be least favorable.

We decided at the time to take a wait-and-see approach. Last week, Doug was chewing a Kong and he yelped. This didn’t stop him from chewing it, when you are obsessed with destruction, you laugh in the face of pain. After a few more yelps, and very drooly morning, we headed to the vet.

Must keep chewing through the pain to impress pink hippo girlfriend.img_1084

Doug is going to get anesthetized (try to schedule for this week) so that they can determine via X-ray if any of the four teeth are in there. If any are, we will have to see a specialist for removal since it’s not a simple procedure.  Of course the entire time they were telling me this I was 100% certain at least one tooth was in there because this is how my dogs go.

We had pre-surgical blood work done.  Here is the interesting thing about joy and hope. It heals quietly. The last ten (+) times I have had blood work done on dogs was with Melvin and Jake and those results were not good and I knew the moment their blood was drawn it wouldn’t be good. I had been somewhat conditioned that blood draws = bad news. But at no time in waiting for Doug’s results did I worry that his would be anything but healthy.  And they were exactly that, perfect.  It would be easy to think Doug is somehow destined for cancer or illness but when I look at him, I have faith that we will have a long life together.  Maybe a few less (hidden) teeth but still a long life.

While he is under, they are going to x-ray his hind leg too, for some reason, it’s much weaker than the other leg.  Yep, my dog indeed!

Pain meds Doug is very snuggly. img_1034

Sidetone: For all of you praying for our Foster Athena, as of Thursday she was still at the vet battling the infection. We are not going to be getting her back but I will let you know when I hear back that she is on the mend.  Doug and I donated to her care, all we want is for her to heal and find joy.

Happy Halloween!

Melvin never really took to costumes and for me that was fine.  I am one of the few people that never really enjoyed Halloween.  I’d buy him costumes (to entertain the trick-or-treaters) and if he wore it great, if not, no biggie. He would usually overheat before anyone even made it to our house.

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Then came Jake. Jake was always cold so he was almost always wearing a sweatshirt or sweater, so when Halloween rolled around, he’d pretty much wear anything I put on him, as long as it provided warmth.  If it had a wig, he was fine with it, meant his head would be warm too.  I grew to love planning his costumes (and would try to make Melvin’s as easy as possible to compliment).

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Doug does not like wearing anything. He regularly tries to get his collar off. That did not stop me from buying him three costumes. Call them grief purchases.  I was sorta hoping he’d let me dress him up since I am missing Jake.

He must have heard, eat your costume and I won’t be sad anymore!

One costume he destroyed during an unwanted tug-of-war when trying to put it on him.  The second one I tried was a lumberjack.  In some of the photos you may see a beard hanging from his neck. That beard no longer exists.

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Costume three is where we ended up. The inmate, guilty of murdering throw pillows and costume parts. My guess is that after tonight, this costume will qualify for Zombie Prison Inmate.

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