Vacation.

We had our annual family vacation last week. The dogs have never gone because a few family members are allergic to dogs. Last year when I left Doug for this trip, he was still in recovery from his first leg surgery and was living life as an inmate in his pen. He was also on meds to keep him calm.  Just typing that makes me laugh, most days those drugs were no match for Doug.

Oh sure bitch, just leave me. IMG_4886

When I used to leave Melvin, he knew the moment the suitcase came out that I was abandoning leaving him. He’d have an extra sad face, he’d be an angel for the dog sitter and when I got home, he’d greet me with pure joy and delight and then ignore me for at least a week. Punishment hurts.

Please don’t leave me alone with him. I miss you already. 2 19 14

Jake didn’t care that I was leaving and he didn’t really notice when I came back. The only living creature that Jake reacted to them leaving, was Melvin. If I snuck Melvin out for a vet appointment, Jake would rally his digestive system and even if he had JUST GONE, he would start shooting meatballs out while also flailing his body around and doing some odd gurgle-howl. He is the reason we have so many cameras, so we could watch his crazy outbursts. When Melvin left us, Jake sat by the door and howl-cried for two weeks. I had to put him on Prozac just to help get him through.

Thank you for this new bed. It is mine now.  6 30a

I don’t think Doug sees the suitcase as anything but something new to chew or jump over. But once I’m gone and the sitter is here for a few days, he decides to retaliate. This last trip, retaliation was going from being fine left alone, to dragging every item not bolted down to the center of the room and trying to eat it all. IMG_0213IMG_0214

The first question I asked the dog sitter, after laughing hysterically, was if the basket still had all it’s pom-poms on it.  Priorities folks!

Doug did notice when I returned.  Which of course makes up for all the shit he destroyed while I was gone.

Doug is home.

There was a lot of debate about how old Doug was when I rescued him. The shelter that took him in and the rescue that brought him to DC put him at 2 years old (In August of 2016). When I adopted him, based on all this, I thought he was two. That made him the youngest dog I had ever rescued.

Once I got him to my vet, they were not feeling the two-years-old part. After a very thorough looking over, and a few vets weighing in, they felt he was more of the 8-months old.

Rescue photo of Doug.  HOW OLD ARE YOU 2016 Hooty (his rescue name)? IMG_0076

My first photo of Doug. img_0118

It took me a minute to realize what I’d done. I’d adopted a puppy.  (Insert record scratch noise here). Jake had just died six-weeks before, I’d adopted Doug in a desperate attempt to have dog life back in the house. I was grieving so hard, a puppy was the last thing I needed.

Oh, but I was wrong. Doug is exactly the disruption that would see me through.

The only thing that came even remotely close to how painful losing Jake was, was Doug mouthing my feet. It was like he’d see me cry over Jake and say, you want to cry, I’ll show you pain. That mouthing and his insane energy level screamed PUPPY. We trained, we walked, he ran zoomies, he mouthed my feet.

We celebrated his maybe first birthday on his made up birth date, December 1st (2016). Then we went on a not epic journey, to surgery town. Two surgeries and five months of lockdown, with a dog born to zoom.

We then celebrated his maybe 2nd birthday on December 1st (2017).

Over the last few months, Doug has started channeling an inner calm.  It’s not a consistent calm, consistent is not a word that really fits with Doug. Homeboy likes to mix it up. There are still moments when his face gets tight and he looks like he could implode from nuclear energy and running zoomies only exasperates the situation. But, in general, I would say that 75% of the time now, Doug is somewhat chill.

Some of it might be his legs. They are fixed in an as good as it gets way, but they are not perfect. They may be slowing down his body but I don’t think they could be fully responsible for slowing down his soul.

Our current estimate is that Doug is two-and-a-half. But maybe the rescue was right, maybe he’s four.  That would better explain some of his calmer nature.

Here is the thing, Doug is following the same trajectory that Melvin did.  Arrive crazy, be insane for about two  years, find some inner zen.

I think the main contributor to the calm, is that Doug knows he’s home. Both Melvin and Doug were outdoor wanderers before they came here. Melvin had a home but he was more of their outside dog. Doug ran legit stray. Maybe even in a gang.  Living life on high alert, adrenaline pumping. I guess it took about two years for them to know they were home. There is something really magical about a dog snuggling into their forever.

When I was trying to tame wild Melvin, we worked with a behaviorist on a few of his issues. I went in with a list of things that seemed ‘off’ about him. She and I worked through the list and for each item she’d say…what if this is just Melvin?  What if this is who he is? For example, while I wanted him to like other dogs and have playmates, she made me realize that Melvin did not want that. Melvin just wanted to be around me and other humans. What I wanted was what seemed normal, but dogs are anything but. Not all dogs like dogs. Some love cats. Others chew. Some don’t like thunder. I could go on and on but that behaviorist taught me to approach each dog as a unique individual.

I don’t think I’ve ever done that more than I have with Doug. Jakey probably comes closest.

She also taught me the most important approach to loving dogs. And that is…to meet the dog where they are at. Not where you want them to be, how can they meet you where you want them to be when they are clearly where they are at and they don’t speak english or understand your flailing arms. But if you meet a dog where they are at, and you explore the place they are comfortable in, you can slowly, get to the next chapter, together.

Where was Melvin at and what did he need? His body was on fire from allergies and mange and I doubt he’d ever felt true love. He needed me.

I just need you, woman. IMG_1088

Where was Jake and what did he need? Jake had spent five years waiting. Waiting for his owner to return from 12 hour shifts. Waiting for someone, anyone, to make him feel loved or wanted. What did Jake need? He needed a home where his life could begin. He needed love from me and Melvin.

Am I done waiting?photo[1]

Where was Doug and what did he need? I have learned from watching Bob that stray animals are always on high alert. There is no rest. Doug had come from running stray (perhaps his whole life before me was him being stray), part of his crazy was probably him always having one eye open. He needed safety, and rest, and someone who could provide a lookout for him so that he could just be a dog.

Uh, when I asked you to protect me, jail was not what I meant. IMG_6244

Ahhhhhhhhh, this is more like it. IMG_2698

I love Doug’s calm.  In general, it’s just a way better day when he is not trying to be my back pack or climbing on me by using my hair as some sort of rope. But mostly, I see a soulfulness peeking through in him that is very reminiscent of Melvin. And that is good for the universe.

xoxo

The Decade of Melvin.

I rescued Melvin ten years ago. Of course he rescued me ten years, and one week ago (when I drove to Delaware to meet him). I don’t know how it is possible that it is only ten years, because I cannot really recall a time before, or without, Melvin.

Melvin made me believe in fate.  I believe the universe delivered a master plan in us.

Yes, Melvin won in his life with me. He got the vet care he needed. We waged an assault on his allergies. He had the healthiest life he could have, with me. I love him with my whole heart. But the winner of our union will always be, me.

He changed me. He taught me to chase joy. Jake came, because of Melvin. Because we were joy junkies and we needed that little peanut so we could all be more joyful together. I have so much patience for Doug, because Melvin taught me to be understanding of all dogs. To accept that it is not where we’ve been or where we are going, it’s where we are right now.

I worried when he died that he wasn’t able to impart his wisdom on more dogs. Had I know cancer would strike so quickly, I would have brought more dogs into our house so they could soak up Melvin vibes. But now with Doug, I realize that I am his link to all that. I am the connection from Doug to Melvin and Jake. And there are so many things about Doug that remind me of his brothers. My love is the link to them all.

There will be more decades of Melvin, because I carry him in my heart. His love, and life, and light, will always shine brightly in me. Melvin magic lives on.

A few years ago, I wrote a letter to Melvin’s first family. You can find it here.

I have said this before, I have hard time being anything but happy about Melvin. I didn’t spend a ton of time being angry at his life before me. I made a huge effort to not be angry when I was grieving his loss. Melvin personified (dogified?) joy every moment he was alive. I mean his tail got amputated and he came out of that surgery, on the stretcher, wagging his nubbin. He was ALL JOY, all the time. I worked really hard after he died, to not let anger become a part of our story.  There is a peace that has always washed over me when I see Melvin’s face. I hope that stays with me forever.

Ten years of Melvin in my heart. I’m blessed.

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Who runs the world? Moms.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! To the hockey moms, the dog moms, the new moms, the grand-moms.  To the male moms, the single moms, the families with more than one mom moms. To the cheer moms, the carpool moms, the dance moms. To the moms that gave birth and to the moms who open their doors to children in need. To the working moms, the stay-at-home moms and the do-whatever-is-necessary moms. To the worry-they-have-no-idea-what-they-are-doing moms. To the moms of one and the moms of many. To the moms setting a better example for their kids, than what was set for them. To the moms preparing to become moms.

To the moms who have lost a child. I won’t pretend to have the words.

To those who have lost their moms. I wish you strength as memories sneak or flood in.

Moms rule this universe. A mom created your beating heart and then (hopefully) filled it with love and confidence and joy and understanding.

To my mom, you taught me the meaning of true, unconditional love. It’s the foundation of my beautiful life.

To Max, Melvin, Jake, Bob(s) and Doug, being your mom, is my everything. You are my joy.

mothers day.jpg

 

Joy.

I get asked a lot about choosing joy. How I choose it over grief, or anger, or uncertainty.  The answer to that is, it is not always easy, but it has become who I am.

I have human moments. I start crying in the car for no reason (ok, fine, when the boys send me songs) and I have to pull over for other’s safety. I get sad and even mad that Melvin and Jake are not here anymore. Work stresses me out. People annoy me. Sometimes, it seems like the day/week is against me.

Choosing joy is not always a done deal. Eventually though, Melvin pops into my mind and love and joy rush over me and well… I have no option but to do as he taught me.

  • Jake and Melvin are not here anymore. But they were here. And were here is way more incredible than never here. And I feel them and I see them in all the beautiful things.
    • My heartbeat, is joy.
  • Doug does things that frustrate me. He is absolutely not the yin to my yang. He sometimes manages to push all my buttons, at once. But the moment I feel the frustration creeping in, I start laughing. Because Doug is, quite literally, powered by joy. He was delivered to my life when I prayed to still be a joy seeker after Jake died. I said the words please help me to continue on this joy journey and the universe said: here you go. Joy powers this one, whenever you are running low on joy, just look at him.
    • Joy still lives here.
  • Sometimes the wrong memories get served up. A moment of frustration with Jake, me wondering if Melvin’s cancer could have been cured had we found out earlier. A day after Melvin died when I was broken and not the best mom for Jake. Life sometimes tries to come at me from all the wrong directions. I do not entertain any of those moments. I did my best, I refuse to be torn down, not after all we’ve been through. So when those moments try to sneak in, I say nope. I go towards the joy. I go towards the moments that mattered, the moments that we won.
    • Joy owns my past.
  • Work stresses me out. Some days I feel like I’m drowning. But there is never a moment that joy doesn’t remind me that this job, that I happen to LOVE, this job has allowed me to give the boys everything they have ever needed. When cancer struck, I didn’t have to worry about whether I could give them the best care possible.
    • Joy is always just around the corner.

Let’s be honest folks, joy does not win (right away) every time. That would be odd and impossible. Sometimes, the grief is way stronger than the joy. Sometimes, the transition from angry to joy filled takes a few days.  I choose joy when I can and I accept that some days it’s going to be harder than other days.

I just don’t see myself ever giving up on the chase. Joy for me, translates a lot of the time, to thankfulness.  I have yet to arrive at a day where I am not thankful for something.

This joy journey all started with Melvin. From day one, Melvin dragged me, forward. I kicked and screamed and he just kept dragging me. One day he stopped for a break, and I had a moment of reflection and I looked back and realized, he’d gotten me through. Where I might have been happier to linger in a sad or difficult situation, he had shown me how to persevere. He changed me. From that point on, every time I looked at him, I felt joy wash over me and I knew with all that I was, that he and I were meant to continue chasing that emotion. He was the original joy for me. The joy catalyst. The one creature in this life that absolutely, every time, no matter what – moved forward with joy in his heart.

I’m just another way that his love lives on. Even saying those words, is joy to me.

We are coming up on the third anniversary of his death. I get haunted by flashbacks of our life three  years ago. But our life is not defined by our end, in fact I’d argue, the end is separate. The end will always come, but the middle, the middle is all ours. What we make of the middle, is what defines who we are. We don’t get to choose our beginning or our end, but we can own the shit out of the time in-between.

Our middle, is joy.

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Melvin man.

Thirteen years ago today, at some point, my life was set on a path. I didn’t know it that day. It would be three years until I understood the magnitude of this date, one so great, as to change my life and my purpose, forever.

Today is Melvin’s birthday. He would have been 13.

There are parts of me so full of joy that he was born, that we found each other, that I got to love him. Oh man, that I got to be the one to love him is so much of everything that it is in fact, everything. Me. I was chosen. I’m infinitely grateful for everything about him.

I have never wanted to be by a dogs side as they grew older, more than I did with Melvin. Every year, he was more soulful, our connection more spiritual. I cannot imagine anything more delicious than Melvin being 13. I would have been honored to care for him, to linger longer on walks, to stare into his always loving eyes.

Melvin and I were not meant to grow older together. He is forever ten. Same goes for Jake, he is forever eight.

On Melvin’s birthday today, I will celebrate love. I will celebrate all the moments I had with him, and all the moments I’ve had becasue of him.

Today, I choose joy.

Maybe, just maybe, Melvin and Jake, were preperation for me guiding Doug as he grows older. Maybe Doug will be, my old dog.

Time will tell. Melvin will guide us. Love lives on.

This was my last birthday letter to Melvin, on his tenth birthday. The day after that birthday, he was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma.

We still won.

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Letters from Heaven. Letter three.

Hey Doug, it’s me, Jake.  How’s it hanging homey?

Your legs seem to be doing better. Only one dog can own wonkalicious and that is me, brother.  You’re going to have to get your own nickname. I was thinking you could own zoomiezombie!

I have been sending you some high fives from Heaven.  You try to chase birds, in flight!  Dude, you are awesome! You run, while they fly, and then you ram into the fence.  Hahahahahaha – oh brother, I really wish I was there with you, we would destroy those birds.

I also really, really, really appreciate how viciously you bark at Bob #2.  I mean s/he runs when you ram up against the window at her/him.  You and I both know that you would crap yourself if s/he ever saw you without the protection of the window. But good for you brother, you make me proud.

We noticed that you are finally not a spaz in the big bed.  That bed has a really beautiful history of naps with her (she called them migraines but they were naps), we were starting to think you were going to darken our legacy, but you finally calmed the F down.

Things here are great. We miss her, a lot. We send her signals that we are there with her and she catches every single one. She is so smart. Melvin and her talk all the time. He says it is his joy and purpose, on earth and in Heaven, to be her guardian angel.  I love her too, but I keep pretty busy making sure this place stays bumpin! I greet all the new dogs like I own the place!

We added a few to our gang recently, Sally – I know how much you love her brother, she’s here and she’s doing great. She is my spirit animal. She and I will probably get married. She is just impossible not to love.  Massey is here, I used to fence fight him but come to find out, he’s a cool, chill dude. He’s running (he is so fast) and jumping and keeping an eye on his family. Guinness is here now. That dude is so awesome, like I secretly watch him so I can learn his moves. He’s still pretty focused on letting his mom know he’s ok and that he’s with his sisters. I have a feeling he and I will get leather gang vests at some point (Sally will totally get one too). Diamond just arrived. Corbin leapt over like six hundred dogs to meet her! She lived the longest of all of us and she said that despite all her years, all she recalls is the love over the last few years with her mom.

Hey Doug, that time of year is coming up, the dates when she found out that Melvin and I had cancer.  Those dates still haunt her a little.  She tries really hard to forget them, but she can’t, because they are linked to us. So on February 9th and March 3rd – be extra saucy or snuggly. Keep her mind focused on joy. We are counting you.  Don’t let me down bro.

We still have bets on you. You are such a wild card.  I think you will still turn out like me. Weird legs, troublemaker, badass.  But Melvin thinks you will be soulful, like him and Max (boring!).  Either way, we made a really great choice in sending you to her. We can tell you love her like we love her. And it’s ok that she loves you every bit as much as she loves us. Love is supposed to live on. We only want her happy and safe.

Ok brother, I gotta go, my peeps need me to start this day with some Jakey funk!  Keep chasing the birds, I’ll be right next to you, hoping you catch one!

Love,

Your hero mentor brother, Jakey.

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