Tomorrow is Melvin’s 14th birthday. I honestly cannot think of anything more delicious than a 14-year-old Melvin.
I am far more happy that he was born, than sad that he died. I carry him in my heart every beat, every day. He and I remain perfectly and beautifully connected. He continues to make me a better person, and he continues to remind me to choose joy.
As his birthday is approaching, I have been talking to him a little more lately. Just reminding him of all the little things that I love so much about him. And he responds back, in songs on the radio, in beautiful sunsets, and in love.
When Melvin was here, the one constant every day was that he would make the big bed his own while I was at work. Every day I would make the bed, and every day Melvin would ‘make it better’. When he died, seeing the bed untouched by him each day, was really hard.
But last night, Melvin sent a hello, via Doug.
Doug is not allowed upstairs when I’m not home. But yesterday I accidentally left the gate open. I came walking into the bedroom, took one look at the bed, lost my breath for a moment and then felt so much Melvin that I tear’d up realizing how blessed I am to have so much love and beauty in my life. Melvin is always watching over me; he is my original joy.
There are a million different ways that love is hard. For me lately, it’s keeping Bob and Doug healthy and safe.
Loving a feral cat is complicated. There should be a support group. Hi my name is Tracey and I love my feral cat, but I’m also a control freak so my inability to control Bob’s movements and life’s journey drives me nuts.
We had a polar vortex. Doug would barely go outside, hell, I barely went outside. But then there is Bob, stuck outside. No matter how much I insulate both condos, or how much food I put out, Bob is on his own out there. I crack the garage door and put food just inside in hopes he is brave enough to come in and realized the garage his heated. The food is always there when I go to check if this worked.
I lay in bed thinking and worrying about Bob. Mostly just due to that lack of control factor. Thankfully, Bob shows up after every thaw, so he must know what he’s doing. Any time I can catch him near the house, I always go put wet food out. He devours it right away. Wet food, is my new form of control. To ensure he always comes back to us.
Doug has started drifting out of my control area as well. When it came to Melvin’s health, we had a list of things to do. That included a list of medications for me to provide for him. And some of it was trial and error but we knew the issue (allergies and colitis) and we responded accordingly. And Jake, he had a shit-ton of issues, but they were all definable challenges that I was able to match with a joyful solution. Control at it’s finest.
The only time I didn’t have control over their health, was at the end. That’s just how the end goes.
Doug is hard to keep weight on. There is currently one food in the universe (that we know about) that doesn’t give him the poops. Once or twice a month he will throw up at night (for 2-3 nights), and then not again for a 2-3 weeks. What he throws up is not normal. From a scent perspective.
Oh excuse me for not throwing up lilies and sunshine.
We recently re-did blood work on him and his liver and cholesterol levels came back very low. Very, very low. So we did x-rays, and ultrasounds. Both came back fairly normal which was great because ‘liver failure’ was being thrown around a lot and if that’s what it was going to be we’d figure it out but also, universe, please just stop. We’d like to decline liver failure if possible.
I’m with (s)mother on this one, no thank you liver failure, take care now
So here we are. Blood work metrics too low to suggest it’s nothing. But we’ve ruled out a lot of somethings. Also, the last liver ultrasound I went through was the day that we found out Melvin had cancer so it was nice to hear the words ‘liver looks good’. Always, whenever possible, balance bad juju with joy. It’s life changing.
So I guess next we consider scoping Doug’s digestive track. Believe it or not, NONE OF MY DOGS HAS EVER HAD SCOPE! We have a found a test that has gone untested in this house. Pure cray.
Yo, ya, yeeeeeee! It’s me, Doug! I’m taking over today cause the (s)mother had shoulder surgery and her arm smells funny so she can’t blog. I don’t know if that is true or not cause I love me some fake news so the truth can suck it!
Whoa, I have been very busy. Swamped. I need an assistant. I traveled to a far away land to visit my grandparents (she said they live an hour away in the same state but I age in dog years and this is my story to tell so shut it…). My grandparents wanted me to visit because they love everything about me and it had nothing to do with her having surgery. They came to pick me up and it just happened to be on the same day she needed a ride home from the hospital. Good grief she’s needy.
Any who, they picked me (us) up and we went to their enchanted castle and they all just kept saying DOUG! OH DOUG! DOUG, YOU HANDSOME DEVIL! DOUG!!! (She will say they were screaming DOUG – NO! but she was loopy so she does not know).
I snuggled with Grammy, I went on walks through majestic forests with Grandpap, Great Grandma Betz snuck me food. I don’t even know if my (s)mother was there the whole time or not because the entire visit was all about me and my family wanting one-on-one Doug time. To be honest, I really just live for moments with Grandpap. Every night they would lock me in the room with her (and her weird arm) and I would do something that I have never done before: cry. I would cry if I heard my grandfathers voice and she would laugh and say ‘grandpap needs a break’ and I would say SHUT UP YOU’RE DUMB!
On the 4th day we were there, I woke up to the most glorious smells. Turkey. Pie. Gravy! I was in a scent coma and assumed that Grandpap had made some delicious feast to celebrate that he had decided to adopt me so we could spend the rest of our lives together. Oddly, I didn’t get a single bite of that dinner. In fact, I had to spend time in a condo because there was a teeny tiny person there and she said I am not approved for children under the age of one. I don’t know what Thanksgiving Day means to you but for me it was scent torture and exclusion.
We are back home now. Boooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrringggggggg. It’s weird because my dog walker comes everyday but (s)mother is here also. I guess her weird arm doesn’t want to walk me anymore since apparently I was the reason she had to have surgery. Everyone always blames Doug!
What else, what else? I had a birthday! We took some treats and beds and toys to dogs at the county jail. What? That wasn’t a jail? There were cells with concrete floors and the dogs were in the cells no softness. What do you mean that is where they live!??? We need to get them out of there! No, I don’t want them to come here but they need to go to someone’s home to be loved on like I am!
I somehow may have agreed to let her TRY to find a second dog and I somewhat promised to be as nice as possible to those she deems worthy to meet me. I mean, I cannot stand the thought of dogs in that jail situation. Ugh, I’m always having to ‘do the right thing’. It’s exhausting.
Anywho, I’m pretty exhausted from doing all the Christmas decorating so I’m heading to nap. I’m supposed to tell you that my cat brother Bob is doing great but that dude is not my brother and I am not going to give any updates on him during my blog time.
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.
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.
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!
I had surgery last week and spent an extra few days at my parents so they could help with Doug and my recovery. I’m so thankful to have family close by and that they are so generous with their time.
This week, someone from the blog reached out to ask me about the grief Jake experienced after Melvin died and to find out if we tried any medication to help. They needed some guidance on their grief journey. I have written before that Jake had a very hard time the hours and days and weeks after Melvin died. He was not Jake, he was hollow, and unsure and broken-hearted. He howled at the door Melvin had gone out of. I couldn’t use words to tell him what had happened. I couldn’t use any language to explain to him that I understood. I could only be as strong as my grief would allow and somehow try to cushion the hardest moment of our lives for both of us.
Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography
We did try medication. Prozac. And it helped tremendously.
After Melvin died, Jake and I had an appointment with a well-known behaviorist in our area. So much was going on with Jake in the Melvinless world. His sadness. His confusion. His physical decline; all he did was lay at the door. Waiting for his soul mate to return.
I told her stories of them, from their first days together, to their last.
She took everything in.
She said: Jake needs Prozac.
We had a two-hour session with her, it was VERY expensive and when she delivered that line, I stared at her waiting for more. This couldn’t be all she had to say and why did she say it so matter-of-factly? I could have suggested Prozac and I’m only a fake vet.
I said: Ok, why?
And then she delivered words that gutted me the way that “Melvin has cancer” and “Jake has Cancer” gutted me.
She said: He needs Prozac because from the day he arrived at your house, having lived a life of little interaction with humans and having felt no real love, he suddenly received natural Prozac in the form of Melvin. Melvin cured life for Jake. And now Melvin is gone and Jake feels alone.
My whole body went hot, she was still talking but I felt more emotion than I had been ready to feel at that moment.
So many images flashed in front of me. What I had seen between Melvin and Jake had been Jake idolizing Melvin, Jake obsessed with Melvin’s butt, Jake following Melvin around and sometimes trying to antagonize him. But all of a sudden, I saw it. Something I had never noticed. Melvin always the one to move closer to Jake, standing near Jake, waiting for Jake. Melvin allowing the invasion of his butt. MELVIN LEADING JAKE. Melvin giving Jake understanding unlike any creature I had ever seen.
Melvin saw who Jake was from day one and he accepted the all of him without pause. When Jake leapt of the couch onto Melvin’s head, Melvin met him with stability and forgiveness. Melvin made Jake feel safe, and cherished, and loved. When Jake’s legs gave out, or he’d fall, Melvin was by his side before I could get to him. Melvin was in the house, all day long, everyday, even when I was not. Jake was never alone.
Until Melvin died.
I may have signed the papers, but Melvin rescued Jake.
That moment with the behaviorist felt sad at first. Mostly because I got a glimpse into Jake’s grief and it was way too heavy for his sweet little soul. I felt Melvin after he died. He never left me. But Jake needed the visual of Melvin. The smell of Melvin. The feel of Melvin.
I would rather Jake have found and lost his soul mate, then to have never known what true love felt like. In all sadness, there is still joy. No one hopes their dog will need medication to exist joyfully in the world, but I am always open to the dogs getting what they need to have full lives. That might be special diets, that might be appointments with trainers or a behaviorist and it might be Prozac. I’m glad we live in a world with options.
Jake’s gotcha day is Thanksgiving weekend. It is so poetic that he came to us at that time. I gave a lot of thought this Thanksgiving to when Jake showed up in our lives and how he and Melvin were destined to be. I live a grateful life, and there are very few things I am more grateful for than my boys.
Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with much to be grateful for!
I get a lot of questions about how I get the dogs to sleep in. I think Melvin trained me, to sleep train. Melvin’s foster dad was in the army and they both woke at 0500 to walk. I don’t even know what 0800 looks like, so 0500 was never going to fly. The first couple of weeks Melvin was mine, he slept during the day and paced on top of the bed (with me in it) all night. I tried putting him downstairs so that I could get sleep but he barked non-stop. He had run stray, his skin was on fire. It took him a while to learn to relax but once he did, that dog embraced sleep like no dog ever has.
It has been such an honor to give all the boys a life where they could embrace sleep, and without them really knowing I was a sleep pusher, I was also happy to get them addicted to it.
Here are some of my tricks:
Never, never, never get up when your alarm goes off. This gives them the go-ahead to rise and shine the moment they hear it. By not getting up when the alarm goes off, they basically stop hearing it. This step will take the longest. Jake wasn’t great at this so I had an alarm clock downstairs and while we were watching TV or I was working, it would go off and I would not change what I was doing. Eventually, he ignored it.
Vary the times you hit snooze. Dogs can count, trust me. If you vary the snooze hits, they will learn that each subsequent alarm noise is a non-day-starter also.
During training, if they get up and try to get you up, be a lifeless zombie. Melvin would lay on top of me and cut off my breathing and I never moved. I just kept thinking: ‘0500 is what happens if you move’. Doug would lay on my face. DO NOT GIVE IN.
Have a verbal get up signal – mine is OK. This is crucial if you have to pee, but plan to come back to bed. I always give a stay command for this. It does not always work but all dogs have learned to follow me back to bed until the office OK.
I need 8 hours of sleep and that was always enough for Melvin and Jake. Doug needs 10-12 hours so he has been pretty easy to train once he realized the alarm means nothing.
I have a gate at the top of our steps so Melvin could go out into the loft whenever he wanted. Doug sleeps with me about 50% of the time (he has to stay used to his little bed area for when I have migraines) so he can also venture out to the loft. But by keeping them upstairs, we avoid ‘starting the day’ or seeing food bowls. Jake always stayed in his ‘meatball factory’ zone so he was the easiest.
Have a water bowl near the bedroom. It’s not prison!
This is how I did it with Max (came to me used to getting up at 7am), Melvin (0500), Jake (I’m not sure anyone ever gave Jake a schedule so he was just happy to have love), and Doug (goes from 0 to 4,576 upon waking so waking rules are key).
I am having surgery in November, and it’s all Doug’s fault.
She’s a liar, I’ve never done anything wrong in my life.
Last fall, I was lifting Doug out of my SUV. We had just been to rehab and even though he was cleared for activity, jumping out of the back of the SUV is a little tough on his stubby hippo legs so I always lift him out.
It is important to note here that aside from my parents house, Doug will not go #1 or #2 anywhere but in our yard or in our neighborhood. He would drink 5,000 gallons of water at rehab and never pee before I got him in the car to come home.
Why, Doug, why?
I’ll tell you why, my body, my rules. If you get to say it, so do I.
When I put him down on the ground and took the leash, I didn’t expect for him to lunge-run to the closest grass, which was about 30 feet away. I was pulled down and dragged/slid. The pain was terrible and I honestly felt dizzy from it. All I could do was hold onto his leash and get us both inside.
Ok, if I’m being honest, I may remember doing this now. But in general, I would never try to purposely hurt my sMother. I mean, my Mother.
My shoulder and arm hurt so bad, I thought they were broken. I had road-rash up and down my entire body. As someone who has a blood clotting condition and a takes blood thinners, you can imagine the horror scene. I had to make my way upstairs and into my shower so as not to bleed out on all of the white furniture I see the need to invest in!
Why, Tracey, why?
The road rash eventually cleared up. My shoulder pain went from excruciating to acceptable. I managed to still love Doug.
Over the past six months or so, my shoulder has become more and more painful and the activities I’m able to do with that arm have become more and more limited. Also, sleeping is impossible. There is no position that works. I mean, who needs sleep anyway?
I got an MRI and some X-rays and it turns out that I have fully torn Rotator Cuff on my right (dominant) shoulder. Surgery is set for mid-November and apparently recovery is terrible. Thanks again, Doug! I will be off work for one week, working from home the 2nd week and hopefully be in the office a little more from weeks 3-6. I guess the first two weeks I won’t have much use of that arm at all, which seems like it is going to make everything challenging. I’ve been trying to not use that arm at all to get my left arm ready but so far it’s not going well. I tried to put make-up on with left hand and I legit looked like a crack whore. I also tried to get dressed, brush my teeth, makes Doug’s food and blow dry my hair with just my left hand and I can say with absolute certainty that if it was only up to me, none of those things would happen. Luckily, I will have plenty of help.
The worst part about all of this is that I can’t drive for 6 weeks. Well, the actual worst part of this is that the pain I’m currently feeling is causing problems with my neck and likely contributing to an increase in migraines. But the not being able to drive part is up there.
Way to go Doug!
Um, who’s going to take me to get Pupccinnos?
Um, who’s going to feed me? It’s not my fault my brother is a jerk!
Melvin pulled me down once on a walk when he tried to take off running after another dog. I escaped with only a bruise. Jake poop’d on me but that mostly caused emotional bruising, nothing physical. Doug has caused the need for surgery. I don’t know what award he wins for this but congratulations on whatever it is!
Many of you have sent notes and messages asking why I don’t post as often here on the blog. The answer is simple: WORK. Work has been crazy busy the past six months and by the time I have a moment to blog, I also have a million other things I want or need to do.
Work is slowing down, which is great, and hopefully I will be able to post on the blog more as that continues. I also have a surgery in November (I’ll post separately about that) so I will have several weeks of downtime. That should also give me time to blog. Writing this blog is my happy place. True story.
However, regardless of my postings here, we are over on Instagram daily. Instastories is something I can do while multitasking and we are pretty good about posting regularly there.
All of that content, is pure Doug. Even the name of our account: dougholupka.for.president . He regularly entertains his fans with his odd behavior, his strange sleeping positions and his new need to occupy the spot that I am in at that exact moment. Every once in a while he will share where he stands on his bid for president.
It’s true. I’m your next POTUS.
If you are new to Instagram, once you add us you will see that there is a feed that you can scroll through and the Instastories are found at the top of the feed. Just find our circle and click on it to watch all the Doug you could ever want. Each story only lasts 24 hours but have no fear, we post often enough to keep you entertained. And we will follow your account back!
Here are couple recent Instastories showing casing Doug’s new need to sit on me and him seeing BECKY and JESSIE last week!
During the early days with Melvin, I was all about making lists of all the things he needed to change. A list of all the things ‘he was doing wrong’. When we finally found a behaviorist that I liked, and after finding a way to secure him in the car so that he didn’t jump in my lap while I was driving and traveling 55 mph, we met with her.
In one 60 min session, she changed the way I think about dogs (and people) forever. That might be selling myself a little short, since I have worked really hardat this area of life, but she was the one that gave me an ‘ah ha’ moment to build on.
I brought my list to her. The Melvin-is-terrible list. The how-can-one-dog-do-so-much-wrong list. She asked me to pick one thing on the list that caused me the most frustration. The one thing I wish I could change about him.
He is missing out on playdates with other dogs because he seems to hate every dog we meet.
In response to that she asked me three questions:
Do you like and want to spend time with every person you meet? No.
What exactly do you feel he is ‘missing out on’? Fun?
What if this is Melvin and he just doesn’t like other dogs? Is that ok? Wow. Of course.
She took my list and asked, what are the things he does that makes you happy? Make a list of that. What are the areas he’s already improved on? Make that a list.
From her I learned to meet Melvin where he was. Not to wait for him to arrive where I was or where I wanted him to be. I had to do the work to figure out who Melvin was, why he was where he was, and honestly assess what he (and I) should become. I couldn’t hand him a list and say ‘be this/do this’, I had to take each area of him and figure out how the two of us could be a team in him having a happy, successful life.
Obviously, he turned out to be perfect.
Melvin couldn’t bend for me. We had to learn a shared language. I let go of the demands, and embraced our journey.
In my life with Melvin, he never, not even once as a joke, play-bowed. He preferred me over other dogs, and he preferred me over all people, although he did love just about every human that he met. In Melvin’s first life, he didn’t know love. So once he came to me and felt crazy amounts of love, he became a love and joy junkie. He didn’t need a life with other dogs.
He had me. And then he had Jake. His life was complete.
I met Jake where he was. I’ve done the same for Doug.
She’s lying. I was perfect.
The number one thing I ask almost every day now is: why is Doug doing this? I don’t scream this at him, I don’t get upset about this question, I truly want to know why he’s doing what he’s doing so that he and I can figure out a better plan. What I have come to learn is that, Doug has a lot of fear about life. And the more comfortable he is with me and the more joy we find, the more he is willing to let his fear flag wave. He will run joyfully towards life and he will experience some form of fear in everything that is new. This list includes but is not limited to: bugs that crawl, bugs that fly, leaves, leaves that move with wind, mud, a clicking noise, a new car, a new food bowl, a sweater, a blanket with pom-poms, a new ring tone, shiny flooring, a purple koala bear on a cereal box.
He ran stray before he came to me. They don’t have purple koala bears on the not-shiny, rural streets of South Carolina. Every thing is new to him. It’s my job to make him feel safe but still encourage him to move in the direction of new things. In doing so, I have to step VERY FAR out of my comfort zone with bugs and mud and just this morning a slug, to meet Doug at Fear Avenue and get him on his way to the Joy Highway.
When we moved into this house seven years ago, I bought a new couch made specially for the main living area. If I was on that couch, Melvin was on the couch right next to me.
When Jake came, he sorta owned the chaise part of the couch like a boss (see, one of my dogs did appreciate a good chaise). He would nap there, with his face pressed into the cushion and snoring loudly. He had therapy on the chaise. I changed his diaper there. That chaise saw its fair share of meatballs. We even said goodbye to the little nugget on his favorite spot. But nothing more spectacular took place on that couch, than Melvin and Jake becoming soul mates. (also, their matching collar game was STRONG).
My dad helped me get it cleaned up and we donated it to a fantastic organization called Gabriel Homes. They provide independent living for adults with Down Syndrome. It is now bringing joy to a new little family.
Someone asked me if it was hard to give it away since it is the couch where the boys became one. The answer is, no. That couch doesn’t have to exist for my memories to live on. And the fact that it is making a new set of people happy, means their love lives on.
On the last couch, Doug had zero interest in using it for rest or hanging out with me. He used the chaise part as a cliff to jump off of as many times a day as possible. Exactly what the leg surgeon suggested. Oh wait, no. Exactly what a dog with double TPLO, shin stabilizing and grade 4 luxated patella fix SHOULD NOT DO.
I legit had to pick a couch that was safer for Doug.
As for the new couch. Well it’s F’ing magical. Every time Doug is on it, he falls right to sleep. I am not sure if it is the couch alone or the couch paired with the new pillows, or that fact that there is no chaise since he so clearly ANTI CHAISE, but it doesn’t matter, because I have a magical unicorn couch and Doug snuggles now!
You have been here for two years. I went to visit you at your foster’s house on 9/1/16. Jake had been gone for six weeks. I was not the best version of me when we met.
You were this low riding hippopotamus with a permanent smile. Your foster mom was telling me how you were absolutely perfect and that you hadn’t had any issues with the other dogs in your house. That is the exact moment you got protective of me and lunged at the other bulldog. I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom and cry, because that is EXACTLY what Jake did the day I met him.
Jake was there with us.
I took you home.
I wasn’t sure I would ever love you as much as you deserved. My love was fractured and you spent all day trying to eat my feet. I was tired and wondering what I had done in bringing you home. It’s all a bit of a blur, some of that is because I was in perpetual heat exhaustion taking you on 9,000 walks a day and hopping through the house the rest of the time, trying to save my feet.
I cried a lot of nights for the first four months you were here. The balance of why, teetered from losing Jake to trying to understand you.
I felt inadequate.
It’s been two years. It seems like much longer. Grief is no longer an open wound in me. It left beautiful battle scars, but the days of looking back or standing still, those cracks have been filled in with Doug joy.
Adopting you disrupted the theory of It’s too soon to get another dog. Now I know, It’s actually never too soon. A lot of grief’s load, is just love with nowhere to go. Love wants to be perpetually in motion. Grief suggests a sudden stop in love. That is when the war in our hearts start. What I have found to be true, is that love, is it. It’s why we are here. It is not meant to stop. In the same way we don’t have to feel rushed, we also should embrace, It’s never too soon. If something were to happen to me, I would never want my loved ones to delay seeking joy. I would want them to run to joy and bust through that joy door with all the love they have in their hearts for me.
That is what I did when I brought you home. I said FU to too soon and hello to let love live on.
Jake has always been your #1 fan. I know this. Jake was the scrolling power on the Facebook post when I first saw you. His googly eyes saw what my sad eyes couldn’t. He absolutely loves how disruptive you seem to me sometimes. In that way, you are so much like him.
That concern I had, about being able to love you enough… it was unfounded. I love you fiercely. I love you forever. I love you, no matter what. A love that could not be bigger or more glorious but yet every day, it is.
I love you every bit as much as your brothers. My love passes over and through each of you, infinitely.
I would not trade time with you, for time with them. I had my beautiful years with Melvin and he filled up my heart with joy and he is with me every moment of every day. I had my beautiful time with Jakey and he and I won at so much life together, he is my baby, and I know that he guides you now, the same way that Melvin guides me.
My little family is stronger and more beautiful than ever.
Doug, you have taught me so much. You and I have bent equally for one another. I have to advocate for you differently than I did your brothers. Where so many used to run up to them, a lot of people are unsure about you. If you could dial down the exuberance every once in a while, that’d be good too. If not, we’ll figure it out.
I didn’t get to see your brothers grow old, and now there is a very good chance, that I will have you for the longest. That I will have you longer than the seven years I had with Melvin. And the four years I had with Jake. I hope there are more dogs that can join our family during that time. This is a giant hint, mister. Hopefully none of them are as young as you were!
Happy Gotcha day chicken legs. You are a beautiful part of my journey of joy. I look forward to many more years of waking up with your ass in my face and you breaking world records in zoomie nation. I promise that our next house will have no shiny tile. Please don’t eat Bob. Also, if you could try to keep your limbs intact and somewhat unharmed, that’d be super.
The days and weeks after Jake died, were absolutely the darkest of my moments. Jake was gone. Melvin was gone.
I was so lost.
I couldn’t solve anything. I’d gone from being Jake’s caretaker 24/7 to having no obvious purpose. The house had no dogs. That silence killed me a little each day. The days and weeks after Melvin died, were hard, but I felt him guiding me. Melvin is a part of me. I didn’t feel that connection to Jake after he died. He felt far and the void swallowed me.
I am not ashamed to say I had to take medication to get me through that period. It helped. It helped to give me space to breathe. Breathing is important.
Thirty nine days after Jake died (and exactly two years ago today). I saw this post:
I had tried to meet dogs. They all made me cry. I scrolled past the post.
I had hyperventilated after meeting dogs. They weren’t Jake. I’m not ready. I scrolled back up to look at the post again.
I kept reaching for Jakey. I decided to just accept the emptiness in the house. It was too soon. I scrolled past the post again.
The dogs I had met were all wrong. A few hours later I checked that post to see how many likes it had. Scrolled back down again. Back up to count likes.
Next thing I know someone had commented. It was me. Well that’s strange, I didn’t remember doing that. Oh wait, now I’m sending them an email telling them the story of Jake and how I know without question this dog, whose name will never stay Hooty, this dog is part of my journey. Pleading with them to consider me, to let me give this dog a forever. I sent them a link to this blog to show my commitment to dogs.
Crazy grief filled dog lady, line 2.
At the same time, an angel of ours, who had adopted from this rescue group before, sent a message on our behalf. Likely negating some of the crazy, and pumping up some of the normal.
The rescue wrote back that they would not post him as adoptable until I was able to meet him.
We decided that Thursday, September 1st seemed like a good day to meet.
I slept better that night. I felt Jakey inch a little closer to my heart.
If you follow us on Instagram (@firstname.lastname@example.org) you know that Doug has some fears. Public enemy #1 is the shiny tile on the fire-place. If a drop of the best food he has ever eaten rolls onto that tile, he will let that morsel go. He might stare it down, but there is zero chance he would risk life or limb to break the voodoo barrier of the shiny tile.
The shiny tile fear transitions to most floors that are not hardwood or carpet. The floor at the vet, scary. The floor at Home Depot, he calls it Terror Depot. The floor at all the pet stores we love – no thank you, love Doug.
I accept Doug as he is and I’m just glad that for the most part we can avoid shiny floors. And that he is only 50lbs so I can carry him when he refuses to move.
Doug also doesn’t enjoy movement that causes noise. This does not include toy noise/squeaking (but secretly I wish it did). Like if a ball rolls under the table with the acrylic chairs, and he bumps into a chair and it makes various noises, he’s gonna go with, see you later ball. If his tags are going to hit the metal part of the island’s stools, so long treat that rolled under there.
But last week, he took fear to a whole new level.
I was in the office and he started with his fear bark. Which sounds more like a smokers cough.
I never know right away what he is afraid of. Like legit, never.
But I do care, so I risk my own life, to fix whatever problem his fear has created.
But this one had me stumped. He loves that rug. He pretty much loves everything about the kitchen (except the island bar stools), so what could it have been?
I’ll tell you what.
It is clearly very hard to say ‘menacing’ when you are laughing so hard inside.
FU Koala Bears on a cereal box!
Be careful out there folks. Danger is lurking everywhere.
Yo, yo, yo my peeps. Doug here, with all the updates you need.
First off, I’m still awesome! I’m the fastest and bestest zoomie runner in the whole world. Even She knows it! When I run zoomies, especially inside, she starts flailing her arms and yelling go Doug go! Try and go faster! Use the couch as a launching pad! At least that is what I assume she is saying, I don’t speak human.
Here is me being handsome. I do it with such ease.
My legs are great. Sometimes I will land on one and get a major ouchie so I get really dramatic and yelp and fall to the ground and wiggle around until she brings snacks. She usually says get up Grandpa, you’re fine. Maybe stop thinking you can fly. She is so funny.
As for other dogs, who needs ’em? Can I get an AMEN? I just don’t see why we need another dog here right now. We barely have enough toys or Kongs for me. Why should I suffer so another dog can have a home? Hold on, what did you say woman? She knows I don’t know what selfish bastard means.
Any who… Jake’s cry day was last week and as per the name of the day, she cried. And then she got happy because she found a Frenchie in foster that needed a wheelchair (uh, pretty sure it’s rude to be happy about someone down on their luck like that) and we she is buying them a cart and I just hope we still have enough money for food. Two things I care about: zoomies and putting all the food into my belly.
It’s raining here. A lot. I don’t like being wet. The end.
My new obsession is Starbucks. WHERE HAS STARBUCKS BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE???? First off, we have to get in the car to go there! The car is almost as amazing as Starbucks! When we get there, everyone is all like oh my gosh, cutest dog ever, what’s his name? Oh my gosh, Doug is the best name and he is the cutest dog and… – yo people, calm down and move out of the way so Henry can hand over my pupaccino! One day I’m going to marry a pupaccino and we are going to register for Starbucks gift cards.
I shall use this for my Tinder profile. I look mysterious. Like do I only have half a face? Swipe right to find out.
We went to the vet this week because my ear hurts. I would rather my ear fall off than ever have to go to the vet. They are nice people and all but I just feel very heart beaty and nervous there and to add to the horror: they have shiny floors. WHYYYYYYYY do shiny floors exist? Anywho.. She got some drops and I make her chase me to put them in my ear, it’s so fun! She loves it!
What else, what else… I still hate the chaise. I just don’t think it is worthy of my body.
Also, I like to eat bees. It’s painful but delicious.
I guess that is a pretty good update for now. Hope everyone has a great week!
I don’t know how it is for others who have lost a pet, but for me, year one was just getting through all the firsts. After that, holidays come and go and I wish Melvin and Jake were here but I don’t necessarily count the number of moments they’ve missed.
Except the anniversary of when we said goodbye. I try not to think about it, but my brain does not always comply. My brain reminds me in March, that Melvin died in April. And I try to think of other things but something more powerful than me forces me to remember. And on that day in April, I have a day to myself. No social media, no blog. Doug and I take donations to shelters and pay Melvin’s love forward. I may cry a little, but for the most part, Melvin is always with me.
It’s a little different with Jake’s anniversary. My mind starts reminding me much earlier. And I fight really hard to ignore it. There are many more tears. Losing Melvin was pure sadness. Losing Jake was more traumatic. Melvin was gone, Jake was gone. There were no dogs. Days felt infinite because I was no longer caring for Jake.
Grief is so confusing and hurtful.
Next week will be two years since I looked into Jake’s googly eyes, and I can still feel the spiral of emotion that I went through before and after he died. And at the same time, joy washes over me every time I see his face.
So that is where you come in. The best way for me to combat those emotions, is to pay Jake love forward. So Melvin & Jake’s Project Joy would like to find a dog in need of wheelchair. The dog can be in their forever home or waiting to be rescued, but preferably in the US.
Please message us at email@example.com if you know of a dog that needs a cart. We will pick one on July 18th so that Jakey’s anniversary can be more joyful than sad!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)?
My first photo of Doug.
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.
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?
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.
Ahhhhhhhhh, this is more like it.
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.
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.
Doug has never really shown interest in chasing squirrels. He might see them and stare but for the most part, no. Obviously last spring through fall, he was on post-surgery tie down, so much more so, nope to squirrels.
This year, Doug is pretty aware of the two squirrels (they have lived just behind our fence for YEARS and I named them Breakfast and Dinner because Jake used to hunt them 24/7, even in his sleep) who use our yard as a dumping ground for acorn shells and squirrel germs. Doug doesn’t hunt them like Jake, he is much more of the: I shall chase after them but hopefully I don’t catch them because they could be violent or be concealing a weapon.
He will see them from the couch, and sometimes forget he’s inside as he goes to chase after them. Almost always, they will see him (whether he is inside or outside) and do a freeze with a look that says, you are way less scary than the dog before you, and then they will take off. If Doug is outside, sometimes he thinks, I guess, that he can jump over our 7-foot fence. He however, cannot.
Where dat squirrel at?
It’s all fun. If a squirrel drops anything in its efforts to escape, Doug, true story, will go locate said item (an acorn) and bring it inside as an extra FU. I just love having acorns in my house with squirrel saliva all over them.
So to recap, squirrels = friends/playful.
Move over to the driveway side of the house, where Boy Bob (Bob 2) taunts Doug with his meowing. Doug is way more aware of that window now and he polices it pretty regularly. Recently I noticed that Bob’s food bowl was being taken over by ants so in true crazy person mode, I googled ant-less feeding solutions. Found a few and I’ve been outside setting up some of those fixes, along with a new condo for Boy Bob to take a break from the elements. My being out there makes Doug even more aware of the Boy Bob situation.
Well this week, a crow has taken up residence in our driveway area. I have never once, in seven years here, seen a crow. So it makes sense that the first one to move in, moves into our yard. Apparently the crow thinks the condo and food bowl are his. Or hers. I don’t know crow gender. Let’s call him S/he. So this giant food thief is always lurking. This has not gone unnoticed by Doug. There is nothing, NOTHING, that Doug flips out more over than this crow. I don’t know if they know each other from the streets of South Carolina or what, but Doug sits at the window like a scarecrow and comes to life horror movie style when the crow arrives. I have yet to catch it on film because the home camera does not pick up that window and if I’m home, I’m just trying to avoid having the crow fly into our house via a suddenly broken window.
To maintain my sanity on this issue, I do pretend that Doug is defending Boy Bob’s condo and food. It’s the story I plan to tell the window replacement company.
A rescue that I volunteer for, recently had a situation where a younger dog was starting to experience what Jake went through when we first realized he had a spine issue. This dog started losing use of his legs and in a panic, the owner felt they were unable to care for the dog and they reached out to this rescue to take him. The rescue responded and started having discussions with the owner. They told them they were absolutely open to taking the dog, and behind the scenes, a foster was being lined up. The owner was understandably upset – spine symptoms can hit suddenly and there was the added emotion of having to give the dog up. The rescue made sure the family knew there was no rush, they were there if/when the family needed them.
Before I continue, all I know about this situation is: the family had a dog, the dog suddenly started to have mobility issues, the family panicked and reached out to rescue, rescue suggested a few things the vet should try (pain medication to start), the family and rescue touched base every day for about a week.
Here is what I do not know: what the feedback was from the vet, updates on that were from the owner, but from what the rescue could tell, it sounded so much like what Jake went through and that pain meds were helping.
Instead of surrendering the dog to rescue, the family choose to put the dog down. They told the rescue after they put him down, not before, when the rescue could have pleaded.
When Jake and I came to be, I had no idea he would start to become paralyzed a year later. I only knew he ran funny, his back legs would go in a circular motion when he was running. I just assumed that was how Frenchies rolled. Jake’s paralysis was destiny. There was nothing his first family or his forever family could have done to prevent it. I often wonder if I would have adopted Jake knowing he’d be or if he already was, paralyzed. It’s a hypothetical not worth dwelling on, because similar to Jake’s paralysis, he and Melvin and I, were also destined to be. One way or another, he was to rescue us.
Able body Jake, the day we met him.
The day Jake’s legs suddenly gave out, panic is not even close to what I felt. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I had no comprehension of all the terms the vet and neurologist were throwing out to me. I cried for so many different reasons. But the next day, we all got up, and we started figuring it out.
Wheels and diapers, check.
When I read the post that the family put the dog down, a lot of the air around me vanished. Everything started spinning and I had to sit down. My mind started going in so many directions. There was lack of comprehension and information. Grief showed up out of nowhere and gut punched me and my hands became desperate to reach for Jake again. To scream how grateful I was that his first family gave up on him before they had any sort of reason to put him down. The only thing worse than a life that is now without Jake, is a life that never knew him.
I don’t know this family’s story. I only know our story. Our story is about dog named Jake and the family that he made whole. When Jake’s legs gave out that winter morning, I am not the only one who panicked. Jake looked to both Melvin and I when his legs were swimming and Melvin was the first one to make it over to him. He used his nose and front paws to stand behind Jake and push on him so he wasn’t losing footing. I then picked him up. My little family at is absolute finest.
Caring for Jake was one of the hardest roles I’ve ever had. Frustration came knocking daily. Life threw a lot of obstacles in Jake’s way, but we said to every one of them:
“Move bitch, get out da way“. (Ludacris)
Special needs dogs are not for everyone. And that is ok. But they are absolutely for someone. Jake widened my patience. He taught me about resilience. He gave me the most incredible purpose. Every obstacle, was an opportunity to find solution. We never gave up.
He wasn’t broken, he was perfect.
My bond with Jake is strong and tough and fierce – forever. I’m sad that family made the decision that they did, because that dog would have saved a person he was meant for. The same way Jake saved me.