A cart dog road off with my heart.

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. photo[2]

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. IMG_1731IMG_4119

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.

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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.

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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.

xoxo

 

Two months and new urns.

This weekend it will be two months since I lost Jake.

I miss him. Pretty much all the minutes and all the hours and all days. The ache is constant, but it’s no longer overwhelming.

I miss the meatballs, oh how i miss the meatballs. Why do I miss the meatballs? I miss the diaper changes, his face, his paws, his eyes. I miss his strange smell. I miss all his noises. I miss him needing me. I miss his glance. I miss him in my arms, kissing my face. I miss cooking for him. I miss our evenings on the couch. I miss waking up to his wiggly, wonky body.

I miss the all of him and the all of us.

I still get up in the middle of the night to check on him. Doug’s snoring, which is not nearly as loud as Jake’s snoring, reminds me that Jake is gone and Doug is here. I smile for the here-and-now and go back to sleep.

After one month without Jake, he felt so far away from me. It felt like he’d been gone forever. At two months I can start to admit that while he was loved and happy, his body was not built to last. Now, he’s a part of me. Now, two months feels like, two months. It’s not that long from a sadness perspective but its long enough for some healing to begin.

I’m still processing the last year.

We lost Melvin.

We had the hardest year of both of our lives.

I lost Jake.

It’s OK. Love is hard and beautiful and wild and complicated. I carry the heartache. I cry the tears. But I also find great comfort in them being together again. My angel dogs.

Three days after Jake died, I ordered him and Melvin matching urns. Jake’s arrived on time, about three weeks after the order was placed. It’s lovely and everything that I wanted. Melvin’s did not arrive. I called the post office and they set out on a search for it. They had been having some ‘troubles’ and a lot of packages had ‘gone missing’.  I asked them who would open a box and realize it was an urn and still keep it?  They did not have an answer.

Melvin’s original urn never came. The tracking still says delayed in transit. There is a beautiful hero in this story though. The very awesome owner of Vitrified Studios made me another one. She is amazing in all the ways we like people to be amazing!  Melvin’s urn arrived last night.  My boys are together at the bridge, together in my heart and now together here:

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If you’d like to get your very own, you can learn more about them here. Tell them Oh Melvin sent you!

Meatballs from Heaven.

Losing Jake is hard in obvious ways and different in unexpected ways. It’s always different for each loss,  but as hard as it was to lose Melvin, losing Jake comes with a swell of other losses and disruptions.

There is the expected part where I am incredibly sad, I miss him so much and I still need to be taking care of him. This part…it’s the given. The price we pay for true love. I say ‘I love you, Jakey’ out loud, all day, because it’s everything that I feel.

Then there is this house. When I lost Max and Melvin, while taking up their things was hard, I still had water bowls and beds to leave out. Each time, there was still a dog. Jake has SO MUCH more stuff than just beds and bowls and toys. This home is set up for him. There are yoga mats running the width and length of this house. The mudroom is a makeshift vet treatment room. There are washable pee pads, diapers and diaper inserts, everywhere. And for one dog, there are more beds than I can count on two hands and just as many waterproof mattress covers.  I have slowly started gathering things up but with each thing I pick up there are emotions to work through. First, picking up the things that made his life easier feels like saying, ‘these things are in the way’. Jake was never in my way and those solutions brought us both so much joy. No one wants to have to clean-up joy! Secondly, picking up his things is a reminder that there are no dogs here.

There is no ‘our’ or ‘we’. It’s just me.

The moment Melvin died, I immediately felt him in a new way. I felt him become a part of me. I missed him and the ache was palpable but he wrapped himself around me and I carried him forward with me. I never I thought I’d say these words about anyone but…he imprinted on me.

I don’t feel Jake all that much (yet). I worry that his googly eyes got confused at the end and maybe he imprinted on the couch instead of me.

I think I know why Jake feels so far away.

While Jake most definitely knew I loved him and we felt love with no words…so much of Jake’s and my love was also through touch and action. He felt my love, literally by feeling me taking care of him. I channeled so much of my love through nurturing. My hands were on him caring for him. Love felt when lifting him, carrying him, holding him up. He’d look up at me with a single glance (and a single eye), and I’d reach down, knowing exactly what he needed, to help him maneuver. Now, my hands feel idle much of the day. I know that part of not feeling him is that, I literally can no longer reach out to help him. I don’t lean over or kneel down 50 times a day. My apple watch is probably worried I’m dead based on the drop in activity.

I never thought I’d miss meatballs.

The other thing is, and this one might not be one that everyone will understand and I may not do a great job of explaining it but even if you don’t get it, it’s the perfect example of how odd grief can be. When Max died, I could picture his old-dog body healed and him running again. I’d known Max his whole life.  When Melvin died (he’d only had cancer for 40 days), he looked exactly the same on earth as I thought of him at the Rainbow Bridge. The only difference was, he was cancer and allergy free, easy to see. Jake is different.  I was not Jake’s mom during his healthier years. The majority of time I knew Jake, he had progressive mobility issues.  I was wonky-legged-paralyzed-Jake’s mom. I saw those issues as challenges and together, we made a life where Jake lived his own version of normal and I thought we’d have many, many more years together so I had let go of ‘upright Jake’. I always wanted more for Jake, but I never wanted more than Jake. When someone says ‘Jake’s not suffering anymore’ or ‘Jake is running in heaven’…it is everything I always wanted for him, but I also feel…disconnected. I still see, my Jake. When I have visions of Jake now, he’s usually laying with Melvin or sitting next to him. Although he’s happy, I can’t (yet) bridge my mind to zooming Jake. I can easily see him with no diaper rash (yay), I can even see him with no hamburger eye (oh those gorgeous googly eyes).   I think this is just another reason why I don’t feel him as much yet (in the way I felt and saw Melvin). Grief has a way of making random shit more difficult than it needs to be and this is just a strange grief barrier I need to break through.

Maybe, maybe I’m just looking for him in the wrong places. I have faith it will work out.

This past week I have felt Melvin more than usual. I know he is letting me know he’s got our boy. It’s funny how roles can flip.  Now I’m the one who is somewhat paralyzed at moments. I’m the one with separation anxiety. I’m the one with wide-eyes, looking to be lifted up. The boys moved forward every day, no matter what.

That legacy will live on in me.

As for no dogs being here, well that will feel lame until there are dogs here again. I had to come to terms with Jake not wanting other dogs. I committed to that for him so it’s not easy to turn that switch and say ‘ok Jake’s gone, there can be other dogs now’. I am still the impassioned leader of Team Jake. This week, I’ve slowly started looking at rescue sites again. As always, there are dogs that make my heart thump. I know that rescue is my calling. I hear it.

I just wish Jake was still here. It’s only been two weeks.

There have been so many beautiful people; my family, my friends, you…who have been there, here, wherever you are…sharing stories of how Jake inspired you, that you miss him also, reminders that we made a difference. To say I am blessed, is to say love lives on.

I have been re-reading my post that talks about how ‘the one love’ should move forward (click here to read).  Trying to remind myself of who I am. Up until this moment right now, I have never lost a dog and not had a dog and faced how to go about moving forward with a new dog. I have always gotten a dog before losing a dog. There has always been a dog! So that post about ‘the one love’ was written by the old me. It’s still me, but since writing it there has been a lot of loss and there has been a wonky-legged-googly-eyed-I-hate-any-dogs-that-are-not-Melvin dog. So when I read that post now, I tend to laugh because up until Jake, all the dogs I have had wanted me to love again. Melvin and Max loved love. They wanted me to always be paying our love forward. Jake…well Jake loved being loved. But sharing was not his thing. Some with Melvin but definitely after Melvin, he did not share his neighborhood, his yard, his toys, his food, me or his Melvin’s our home. Something tells me Jake is in heaven being reminded that the F-word is absolutely not permitted…

‘Uh, F no mom. Step away from the rescue sites. We did fine without dogs when I was there and you can totally do this no dog thing without me. If you see someone with a F-ing dog, look away, you do not want what they have. We talked about this, NO DOGS IN MY HOUSE!                                That one-love crap, that ended with me!

Of course that is all said in his Barry White bark voice while he continues to flip and flail long after he’s done saying it and there are probably heavenly meatballs (made of glitter). Jake behaving exactly like he did every time I tried to bring a dog home to him. And in true form, Melvin is just laying next to him, calm as can be, rolling his eyes over the idea that Jake uses up so much energy on such silly things. And Max is thinking…there is no way we are related.

I sorta like the vision of spirited Heavenly Jake. It allows the hashtag #lifewithJake to live on, just like the love does.

I pity the fool that gets another dog. IMG_0835

Formal wear.

I pride myself on finding solutions for Jake. There have certainly been times when those efforts have failed to produce options, but usually just for the minor stuff.

Jake drags his hind legs around now, which means his diaper gives me a big F-you every time I put it on him.  I readjust his diaper, true story, 100 times a day. Ask all the carpets we have waved goodbye too, the system was not working great. I had tried suspenders but Jake is pretty small and since he is on his stomach a lot, having the underside suspender part was not ideal because it would cut into him.  I also tried wrapping a scarf around the diaper (tighter), the scarf also gave me the big F-you. I even tried that mesh wrap the vet uses but I’d have to get a 2nd and 3rd job to afford that for every friggen diaper change.

So  I did what Elsa suggested and I let it go, and I just became the re-adjuster. Then Amazon, who serves up ideas based on my previous searches (guys, my searches would make you full on pee your pants — and we would have a diaper for you!), put the solution in front of me. Sheet binders. The straps you put on your fitted sheet to keep it in place.  They were 8 inches, the EXACT length Jake is from collar to diaper. Same day delivery? Yes, please!

We are only on day two, but my back is already hollering hallelujah! And Jake looks like he just came from a wedding reception. Pretty much the ONLY time you’d see white suspenders.

I mean, try not to laugh!IMG_9448IMG_9441

It took a while to get the sizing right so he was not choking.  Choking is bad. IMG_9425

For the record, dude had just pee’d in this bed and I was taking it up to wash.  He has no shame. He is more like a wedding crasher. IMG_9437

 

Jake’s reverse evolution.

Benjamin Button’s Jake’s legs continue to fail him. There are good days, but the balance between good and bad has shifted more to bad.  This household moves forward, so his bad legs days are now, normal legs days.

I’m trying to teach him to drag his legs. His first inclination when his legs don’t work is to sit and stare at me.  I mean, I get it, I’m lovely. Stare away!  But we probably need a better plan than that. So I try to entice him with food to come over to me, using whatever means necessary.  My next effort might be to try him in a drag bag, to get him more used to his legs dragging behind him.

Um, help. IMG_1709

We are having some changes elsewhere in his life also.  We went from having a meatball maker to the plant equipment going on strike.  He’s moved from going every day to every three days and it’s likely due to his bottom parts losing their production power. He’s not constipated, more like, his body just forgot it has to work. Luckily, there is a group on the Internet for everyone.  Including parents of paralyzed (in any capacity) animals. So I asked this group ‘how can I make Jake poop (in a not-constipated-way)’ (oh the glamour in our every day)?  And you know what, it’s one of their most popular questions, and that made it feel completely normal and it empowered me and I breathed relief. I won’t share the details (unless you need the same advice) but I will say that I proved even further that there isn’t anything I won’t do for the boys!

Don’t worry woman, I won’t have to poop for three days so you can sleep in! IMG_6851