We are all works in progress.

Doug and I came to be six weeks after Jakey died. Doug didn’t get the best of me, he probably didn’t notice because even the worst of me is probably better than living on the streets. It took about two weeks for him to decompress. Decompression is different for every dog. For Doug, during his first two weeks, he rested. Then he unleashed an exuberance and energy fury the likes I had not seen since I first got Melvin. Even then, Doug was WAY more into constant movement than Melvin ever was.

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Doug barely rested. He was also painfully mouthing my feet, so my heart and soul missed Jakey and my feet were begging for me to amputate them. He declared the couch a diving board and the house was his racetrack. Walks didn’t tire him out, in fact, they seemed to give him more energy.

This is about the time a different family might have returned Doug. I remember just agreeing with myself that it was OK that I didn’t love him with every fiber of my being at this point. And you know what, he probably felt the same about me. We had to figure out some things together, the road to joy is still paved with speed bumps, detours,  potholes and bloody feet.

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I reached out to some pit bull owners who assured me that many hippos like Doug were VERY energetic, that many mouthed, that many were impossible to keep weight on. And after those conversations, I looked at Doug and said out loud: I guess you are normal. I came to accept him because that’s what rescue and love is about. He came to accept me too.

We worked through the constant mouthing. It was not easy. In fact, of all the behavioral issues I have face, and don’t forget that Jake hunted EVERYTHING and I had to rescue living creatures from his mouth on a regular basis, Doug’s mouthing was by far the hardest. Not because it hurt, but because it made him be a dog that only I could be around. I couldn’t ask others to overlook the sharp clamp of his teeth on their feet by assuring them he had good bite inhibition. If he continued mouthing feet, he would never be ok for public consumption without a muzzle. (It should be stated here that I am a big fan of muzzle usage when it’s used right – not as punishment but as a safety tool – safety for dog and all involved). Doug mouthing feet was his quirk, but in a Pit Bull type dog, it would have been a scarlet letter.  Labs that mouth are ‘joyful’, Pit Bulls that mouth are ‘vicious’.

The mouthing eventually ended. Praise be!

Did someone say feet? IMG_3030

But Doug continued to be a dog that went non stop. During his back-to-back leg surgeries, others became aware of just what I meant when I said that. We tried a lot of different sedatives to keep Doug calm and safe during his five months of recovery and vets and surgeons and rehab techs would all ask: I thought you said he was on a sedative? He was. Even sedated Doug, was perpetually in motion. Eventually we found a medication that gave him the ability to self regulate his energy, still be Doug, and keep him safer during recovery.

It was when recovery was over and he came off that drug that I noticed something I had not seen in a while. That Doug’s day, is a series of escalation. He sleeps 10 hours a night and wakes up exuberant and joyful. As the day continues, Doug ramps up. The more he walks, the more energy he has after. The more zoomies he runs, the more zoomies he runs. I started noticing there were afternoons and evenings, that he was unable to relax or rest. I would have to force time outs/naps, just to give him a break. It was also during this time that his fears and anxieties came back full force. So he was in near constant motion and life was overwhelming him. So, after a few discussions with our vet, he went back on the medication that had helped before. It’s a human drug that regulates blood pressure and for Doug, it provided him the perfect balance – joy and energy and zoomies and fun but also the ability to relax. It worked beautifully for one year. In 2018, Doug lived his very best life.

And then overnight, this past January, it stopped working.

We had a rough few months at the start of this year. Doug’s digestion went to hell (again), he had blood work done and the values were so alarming we had to do scans and more tests to be sure his organs were functioning. Those test were fine and we started thinking he might have a digestive mobility issue. On top of all of this, and maybe even due to it in some way, his calming/anxiety medication stopped working. He was nauseous, manic and unable to rest. His anxiety and fears were at a new high. This is about the time he started self soothing, by suckling furry objects and licking EVERYTHING, constantly.

Videos of Doug mouthing to self sooth/calm:

I love Doug’s quirks. And alone, each one can be comical. But together, well I don’t want him to live a life that doesn’t allow him a moment of peace. Part of being joyful, is being content. Doug was no longer able to find contentment.

Doug’s fears include loud noises and change (I can’t change things in the house as Doug becomes uneasy, even if I just move something, like the trashcan.) Shiny floors, the vet, the vet’s shiny floors. Wind. Butterflies (I agree with this one). He is also uneasy about the powder room. He is unable to calm down if I am in the powder room with the door shut and if I leave the door open he pretty much freaks out until he is able to come in and lick my hand. So I sit on the toilet and let Doug lick my hand and there is nothing I love about this except for, of course, Doug.

We are getting his physical health back on track (food trial) and now we are focusing on his mental health. We went to see the behaviorist that I had taken Jake to after Melvin died. She is, at the top of her field and highly revered in the VA/DC area. I could listen to her talk for days. She taught me so much about Jake and she really helped me understand Doug so much more than I already did. Doug is hyperactive. Not just energetic, he has an inability to turn off. It’s not easy to watch. Also, his fears add up and it’s not OK with me for him to live with so much anxiety. So we talked about goals – my one demand for Doug’s life is the same I had for Melvin and Jake, that life be measured in joy. This is harder for Doug because I can put joy in front of him and he might not be able to see it through some of his barriers. Day-to-day, I want him to be his full exuberant self and those legs are built for zoomies so the more the better. I don’t want him to be sedated or tired, but I do want him to be able to relax. We agreed he needs help to turn off and find calm and he needs help to channel his anxiety. We are trying some new meds and so far he’s doing great. They are working really well on his hyperactivity but a little slower on his fears, which is totally expected.

I have nothing but time for him and making sure he is living his best life.

I wholeheartedly believe in tools to help dogs thrive, like muzzles, and medication and holistic approaches. We have tried everything on the Google search. CBD, oils, plug-ins, clothing, exercise, puzzles. I’m thankful we have a team of vets (from traditional to specialty to holistic) to help us. Every dog deserves to be seen as an individual and have their human advocate for his or her joy.

My joyful zoomer

 

 

Good Dog.

I know I share a lot of challenges about Doug.  Some I share so that others know that the struggle is real here too. Some are just funny.  Mostly, it’s just reality, right? Kids are way harder dogs, but raising dogs is something new every day too.  Both journeys are everything that love is about though.

Doug was handful from day one. He was every bit as spastic as Melvin was, but having Melvin didn’t automatically train me for Doug. Doug was energetic, Doug was not down with any helpful commands, but the worst part was, he mouthed my feet, 24/7.

Doug is now none of those things. Yes, he is energetic, and there are spastic moments, but that is also, just Doug. He and I have come a long way and there has been a lot of joint compromise.

There is now, mostly good. I mean, can’t we all claim that?  I’m mostly good too!

  • Doug greets the day with an exuberance that most will never be able to replicate. He springs from bed into a zoomie manuerver that takes him down the steps and out the door in about 3 seconds flat! He reminds me every morning that we are chasing joy.
  • Doug loves to eat. He loves food more than zoomies. But he has never once barked to be fed, and on days when we had to withhold food, he never showed me any punishment.
  • I taught him leave it. It is how I got him to stop destroying my feet. He knows leave it no matter what the situation is.  I have complete confidence in Doug and that command.
  • He never marked in the house. He had a few accidents at the start but who cares about that.
  • He is GREAT in the car. He loves car rides but just in general, he is calm and happy no matter how long the journey.
  • He does not beg.  He will stare at you with the intensity of a fiery hot sun. And he will drool.  But he will not try to take food or invade your eating space.
  • If i put him in the mudroom, or when he had to be crated after surgery, he never fought back on that. He goes in and waits to be let out.
  • He will stop anything and everything he is doing if I raise the volume on my voice and calmly say, absolutely not.
  • He sleeps 10+ hours a night. I’m not even joking about this.
  • He is not all that verbal. He’s more interested visually in what’s outside the window than he is to bark about it. He barks if he hears a noise that startles me and he barks like crazy at Bob #2.
  • He loves people.  Like he wiggles and wags and smiles and froths and very few people are nervous to meet him.  The ones who are mostly just worry his exuberance might result in them falling over.
  • He knows all the drills. When the doorbell rings, he has to go into the office. When I say bed, he goes upstairs and gets into his bed. When I say dinner, he breaks down all barriers to get to his bowl. He then sits and waits until it’s placed in front of him.
  • He knows go upstairs, go downstairs, get on your mat, go into your room (mudroom), go into office.
  • He knows sit, down, touch. He refuses to learn stay. Stay doesn’t translate to nuclear energy.
  • He never learned come but he did learn treat and now I use that to get him to where I need him to be.
  • He has moments when he has crossed over to hyper. When his face gets tight and his eyes get a little crazy. I say nap, and he goes to chill out for a little while.

He’s crazy. I am pretty sure he will always be a certain level of nuts.  That is who he is. But he’s also become a really, really, great dog.

I see so much of Melvin and Jake in him.  I know that what I see in him in those moments, is me. I am the common denominator.

I understand Doug and Doug understands me too.

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Doug is still in search of a sibling.

We are looking to add a dog to the household!  Doug loves meeting new dogs which makes it all very fun and easy, except for the part where I give a lot  of thought (probably too much for my own good!) to how each dog will fit.

As for my part in the search, the last dog I looked for was Doug and I met so many dogs and had so many breakdowns that each dog was not Jake. My last search was in the bubble of the deepest grief. That time when the house was so empty and my heart was broken and every dog I met made me even more sad (good times!).  Until I saw Doug’s face. The dog search before that, was wrought with so much stress because Jake hated every dog that was not Melvin. The dog search before that, was Jake.

I was the last winner of the dog search. img_2531

This go around is so fun! I am loving watching Doug meet potential new siblings. Sometimes he overwhelms them with his exuberance, sometimes they underwhelm him with not wanting to play with him. There are a few things I feel very strongly about this go around:

  • I obviously would like the two dogs to like each other. Basic like, they don’t have to love each other but hey, that would be great too!
  • Doug is still very young and has a lot of training left in his journey to breed ambassador. That means that unlike Max, who schooled Melvin, or Melvin who schooled Jake, this next dog is going to need to be part of Doug’s schooling. Doug can bring the funk, but this next dog is going to have to bring some of their own soulfulness.
  • I don’t want another Doug. That sounds harsh, but it’s really just honesty. I love Doug, I love that he is who he is. But when it comes to the next dog, I don’t want a dog a of equal energy. Not because I want to do less walks, Doug still needs walks so that is not going away. I just don’t want two dogs in the house, bouncing off each other. I want a dog that will play with Doug but also one who can school Doug on the other aspects of being a dog that don’t require constant zooming.
  • I think the age range that would work best for Doug and for me is 5-8 years old.
  • The ultimate goal is to have three dogs, the third of which is a super senior (10 or older)!

We have not found the dog yet but we have met some great dogs on our journey.

Is my new brother or sister in here? img_2507

We met Angel (here), who was lovely! She is a little older than Doug and she’s deaf. She made the most awesome noises. I was a little worried how Doug would respond to her Chewbaca talk but he did fine.  Doug and her got along pretty well, but they never stopped chasing each other. Inside, outside, inside, outside, chase me, no you chase me, ok I’ll chase you, hey jump off the back of the couch with me. No, please don’t. Just when I thought Doug could not get more energetic, enter Angel! Now before you worry that I don’t want Doug to play, I DO! I so want him to have a playmate and a life-partner-in-crime.  But I can sense when we meet a dog that plays into Doug’s need for anarchy and when we meet ones who have a better balance between mayhem and peace.

We met Wendy (here), who is the sweetest Pittie and who if  I had met her before Doug I would have swooped her up and called it a day. Wendy is adorable and lovely. Wendy is also very young, like Doug, and is coming into her exuberance (which she should!). Wendy and Doug would make for a tornado and while it would be so fun for them, mamma wants a more stable weather pattern. I know, I know, I’m a party pooper. I do trust my instinct to know when it’s right though.

I have prescreened about ten dogs for Doug. A few have gotten adopted because I am unable to walk into an adoption event and walk out with a dog. I NEED TIME! I NEED TO MAKE LISTS! I NEED MY LISTS TO GIVE BIRTH TO NEW LISTS. I am who I am! A few were not a good fit (the dog does not like other dogs in their space or they are dog selective). I have found when a dog is selective, Doug rarely makes the cut, even though he tries too so hard.

We are meeting  a dog this weekend that I actually met after Jake’s death, before I got Doug. She was one that was perfect, but at the time, was just not Jake. I go back and visit her often and this weekend, Doug is going with me.  We’ll keep you posted!

She lies, I’m always calm and wonderful and I never misbehave or chew feet or pillows, like this pillow which I destroyed yesterday but I only did it because I know she secretly wanted me to. img_2477

 

Doug has been here for four months.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please put your foot in my mouth. img_0384

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

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

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

Doug is my future.

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

 

Migraines and Doug.

When it comes to having a migraine with Doug in the house, I’m sorry to say it, but he’s the worst.  I love him. But I can love him even when he is THE WORST.

Let me explain to you why this is so.

When I have a migraine coming on, you can sense it.  People will tell me they can see it in my eyes and coloring (I turn gray).  Strangers will ask if I’m OK. Melvin and Jake always knew. Helen Keller could have probably sensed it based on the fact that every living creature I encounter KNOWS.  Except Doug.

There comes a point in the migraine when I can no longer remain upright. This is followed shortly by a time when I cannot stop getting sick.  So I get up, get sick, try to lay down. Repeat, repeat, repeat for 36 hours.

Doug views this as an invite to torture me. When I lay down, he jumps up and tries to balance his whole body on my head.  This is not a joke. He will try and put all four paws on my head to stand and balance there. Obviously this impossible so he will then sit on my head. With his butthole touching my hair (why?) and his other parts touching my face (gag) so this a definite NO, THANK YOU. But if I move, he will start all over.

So I stay still. It’s brutal. I can hear my soul crying at this point.

He will then try lay on me.  But not like a normal dog would.  I will be laying on my side in the fetal position and he tries to lay on top of my body ON HIS BACK.  He literally tries to balance on his back on the side of my body, which is also IMPOSSIBLE so he falls off and tries 100 times more.

Migraine day is Doug’s version of Disney.

At this point, I get sick again. When I come back, it starts all over.

I do not want to put him in his crate just because I don’t feel well because that feels all sorts of wrong for him (it would really be great for me personally but moms sacrifice all the time so…).

I will then go to my bed and put up a gate to keep him from me and my bed.

Well you would think from his reaction that I was a delicious steak dinner and he hadn’t eaten in months.  He sits at the gate and cries and barks then runs to the steps and runs back to see if reality has changed. This behavior gets stuck on a viscous loop.

The only thing more painful than all of this is when he comes into the bathroom while I’m getting sick.  In Doug’s mind, the only reason someone gets on the floor is for his enjoyment. The fact that I’m crying and pleading for him to stop only revs up his exuberance more.

I had a migraine this week.  I have bruises all over my body from Doug trying to bond with me during it.

Unconditional love hurts sometimes. What can you do.  (this is not an actual question).

Here is Doug looking adorable so that you all will think I’m the crazy one and embellishing this to work in my favor.

How abouts you lay back down here and let me walk all over your face again?img_1453

Looking handsome on a walk with our dog walker (life saver), Denise. img_2847-1img_2841-1

 

Doug and Melvin. Melvin and Doug.

Doug is Doug.  Although my first sight of him screamed Melvin and Jake’s love child, when I met him and decided to adopt him, he was his own dog.  During that first half hour, he didn’t do anything that would lead me to believe that A Dog’s Purpose (best book ever) could be true.

Since living with him for a month, he is still…Doug. There are however, so many things about him that are exactly like Melvin.  Not just things like, he devours his food as fast as Melvin used to, but specific things like:

  • Excitement about the Car: When I met Doug and took him out to my SUV to get in and take him home, he was afraid of the car. I had to pick him up and lift him in. I really thought we were going to have to work on the car since he was afraid to get in and out. The next day, as we exited the garage for a walk and were walking past the SUV, he started to spin with excitement and went right to the back door of the SUV – EXACTLY LIKE MELVIN DID 4,000 TIMES BEFORE WHEN PASSING MY CAR. It’s actually a spin/hop move and Doug has the same form that Melvin had.
  • His exuberance and how he is unable to manage his own joy: EXACTLY LIKE MELVIN. When we are walking to the mudroom to go outside, one door goes the back yard and one goes to the garage (for walks). Doug bounces off of each door, just like Melvin used to, spinning in between bounce (just like Melvin used to) to indicate he does not care which door we use, it’s all going to be great! This exuberance was/is also in their going up and down steps style. Go up a few steps, wiggle with glee, turn to make sure I am coming, repeat, repeat, repeat.  Go down the steps by leaning into my legs and only taking steps when I do but I can’t really take steps because you are pushing me up against the banister and the space you are giving me is smaller than my actual foot and you are hopping due to pending joy implosion.
  • Sitting on my lap: While Melvin never tried to be my backpack, he regularly would crawl onto my lap and put his paws on my shoulders and hug me like a human would. Doug. Does. This. Too! This happens a lot in the purple chair, which I refer to as Melvin’s throne.
  • Bathroom breaks: Doug goes to the bathroom with me (I know a lot of dogs do this) but like Melvin, he knows when I’m going to the bathroom before I indicate where I’m going and runs in ahead of me and sits down before I ever make it in.  Melvin did the very same thing.
  • Nervousness about fall weather: Both Melvin and Doug were/are spooked by blowing leaves and the need to eat the leaves that scarily blow by them. The same exact reaction when one blows by (to freeze and look from leaf to me) then the same action (to pounce the leaf and eat it).
  • To fit their large bodies on a small pillow: exactly the same need and approach.

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No photo of hug-Doug (yet).

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Mostly, I’m reminded of Melvin through Doug because both of them are tied (currently) for most unruly dog I have ever had. Of course Melvin grew out of that phase but not before owning it like a boss. Something tells me Doug will be more challenging, but you never know! I think Doug’s mystery 12% DNA is Melvin, with the perfect sprinkle of Jakey.

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P.S. This photo of Jake by the door is one of my favorites because it captures a vulnerability about him that most photos do not.

One month and training.

Doug has been here for just over a month.  Every week, he surprises me in new ways of how he is settling in.  I don’t even think he fully knows he is staying just yet. I am guessing he hopes so, but there are still so many things that are new to him and our routine is ever evolving to accommodate new issues so we are still in the ‘settling in phase’.  I cannot stress enough, when you rescue a dog, the first few months are not the dance. The first few months are you two finding the rhythm you will dance to, then the dancing begins. Along the way, the tune will change, many, many times. It’s called life.

Every morning when I wake up I say: time to mold me and Doug more. We are both works in progress.

Hey lady, wanna breakdance?img_0611

Doug and I currently take two training classes each week.  One is a group class outside of the house and one is private training inside the house. The outside of the class training is mostly to keep him social and work on him focusing on me. The private lesson class is the really important one, as it focuses solely on what Doug needs (and what I want).

Doug getting in a suitcase – prior to this was jumping through a hula-hoop, to which he said, no thank you. img_0642

Doug’s current challenges are:

  • Impulse Control. He is almost always in a heightened state of excitement (or he can get there very quickly). This is where mouthing comes in. The moment he escalates, he needs something in his mouth. His first impulse is feet and his second impulse is hands. He does not bite, but it still hurts likes hell and it’s not cool. He does this when people come over or when we meet them out and about. MUST PUT HUMANS IN MY MOUTH. Toys are not as awesome as hands or feet for a redirect, but treats earned, are starting to help.
  • He considers me the ultimate playmate and the living room is apparently the epicenter of joy.  When I sit on the couch, he leaps onto my back and uses his mouth to climb up my hair. If I lay down, he runs up and down my body. If I stand up, he tries to jump up on me.  If I take ten steps into the kitchen, he leaves me alone. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY can’t I sit on my own couch Doug, why?!
  •  He knows his harness = a walk.  The moment it comes out, he is unable to stay still or to remain within a ten foot radius. Also, he thinks step one is eating the harness. It can take up to five minutes to get his harness on. My neighbors don’t understand how I’m already sweating when we exit the garage when the walk has not even started yet. Also, the first ten minutes of our walk are him trying to eat the leash and me trying to play it cool.  Oh hey, yeah it’s totally fine, that he is hanging from the leash as I walk. All the cool kids are doing it.
  • His other big challenge is that he does not know that any of the above is an issue!

So we train. As we should and as we will, likely for the next several years. And Doug is doing great.

  • I still have feet AND hands.  His mouthing of me has gone from 100% of the time to about 10%. YAY! The problem is, he does not translate that to other feet or hands. He only knows not to mouth me, others are still totally edible. We will get there.
  • We are also slowly making progress in the couch area.  He still escalates the moment I walk in, but that is exactly the time we do some training and try to refocus his need to use me as human rock wall or treadmill. I still don’t watch too much TV sitting down but its great for circulation and my apple watch loves that I’m constantly upright! Try to see the positives, even when your dog wants to be your backpack.
  • The harness, well the harness is just something that will take time.  Melvin was the same way with the leash.  I’d rather have a dog overjoyed to go on walks than one I have coerce!
  • He has done INCREDIBLE with every single dog we have met, even the ones that did not do so great themselves.  He is very social and wants to meet all the dogs and all the people.

One month!  One month ago I was afraid Doug would eat my limbs. I still have bruises healing from that time with him. Doug and Tracey takes time. Doug will never be more or less perfect than I am.  We are a team now. I think he’s starting to trust that.

Let me out so I can mouth meet some humans!img_0484

 

 

 

Oh Doug.

Doug continues to be the most energetic animal I have ever encountered.  Here are some updates on how he/we are doing.

  • We are starting to make progress on him not mouthing me. My feet are less afraid to walk by him and my old bruises are healing nicely.
  • I have embraced our attempt to walk across the country as often as needed and he now only tries to eat the leash for the first ten minutes of the walk.
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  • He does great in the crate (both when I’m gone and at night).  I’m not sure when he will be a dog that can sleep with me (see next bullet point)
  • Doug views me as his playmate. But only in certain rooms, and for the life of me, I cannot figure this out. If I am in the kitchen, he will walk over to see what I’m doing but then he will go do his own thing. If I am in the office, he will either go play and entertain himself (between walks) or he will lay down in the bed in my office. If I go into the TV/couch area, he turns into a maniac and thinks I’m there to play with him and he will bounce off my body from all directions to try to engage me non-stop.  He does the same thing in my bedroom (which is why the crate sleeping arrangement is currently in play).  I’m going to be honest here, I really miss the comfortable areas of my house. Like my couch. I guess I will just have to cook or work in the office if I want to relax.
  • He is doing great with training.  He sits on command, most of the time.  He still won’t sit when I’m trying to sit on the couch though, apparently he does not believe in synchronized sitting.
  • He continues to do great with housebreaking!
  • We went to my nieces soccer game this weekend.  There were tons of people and a lot of activity and he did awesome! He does great in the car too.

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I was thinking about what a handful Doug is and how different he is from what I expected.  I’m not sure expected is the right work, he’s just different from what I’ve had so I guess my idea of how he would be was based on wrong things. Anyway,  I know some of us get up in arms when someone adopts a dog and then has doubts, or calls in a panic that the dog is not what they thought they’d be or that they are not sure if it can work.

If we want a dog to growl, to give us that warning sign that all is not ok, then we have to be more prepared when a recent adopter calls with the same type of alert.

As committed as I am to the dogs, Doug is a lot more work than I ever thought he’d be. He has so much more to learn which means I have so much more to teach him and that can be overwhelming and exhausting for even the most seasoned dog lover. There have been moments with Doug when I think, a first time dog owner would cry with him.  And the thing is, Doug is a great dog. He’s a normal dog. He’s got more energy than I’m used to but it’s still probably a normal amount. He has made me realize I need to figure out a better way to support new dog rescuers. When the dog is biting at your feet and you are worried they will never stop, I can’t come back to them with it won’t always be this way or it will get better.  When someone is overwhelmed in that moment, they need a more immediate idea.  Telling them it gets better will only make them worry more in the here and now because the future feels so far away.

It’s like if you are crying and someone says, don’t cry. Don’t cry? That is all you got? I mean at least go get me a tissue.

To all of you out there just starting off on your rescue endeavor, if you are overwhelmed or unsure or tired beyond recognition, here are some of my truths:

  • It’s hard!  You are not imagining how hard it is! You are both new to each other at first yet somehow you already love this crazy stranger. It takes a while to find a grove, even something resembling a grove. They don’t know what you want and you don’t know what they need. When you hit an a-ha milestone though, it feels so sweet.
  • It is A LOT of work. It is not always going to feel rewarding, in fact sometimes it feels like you are being tortured and maybe on a secret reality TV show. Crying is ok.
  • Some new dog owners do not go through a hard phase. Some of them just continue on as they were pre-rescue and it’s blissful and joyous. And you will be happy for them and still want to make a voodoo doll with a strand of their hair.  Not everyone’s path is going to be the same.
  • There is a reason I didn’t blog during Melvin’s first few years with me; it’s because he was even harder than than Doug is now. I didn’t have time or energy to blog becaue I was begging him to sit still. But you know how Melvin turned out. Melvin was worth every injury, every moment I hid in the bathroom because I was afraid to walk him.  Every time I sat in my car for a moment’s peace before walking in to deal with his exuberance. My love for Melvin is anchored in those early years, from those seemingly impossible rough patches, from those tearful ‘what the F was I thinking getting this dog’ moments.

This dog, yes this Melvin, my Melvin, was a full fledge nightmare the first year I had him.  The first time I had him the car, he busted through the SUV barrier and hopped into my lap while I was driving down a highway at 65 mph.  Poetically, we were on our way to see a behaviorist when that happened. Worth. Every. Single. Minute.photo

 

 

 

 

Hey Doug!

I met 20 dogs over the past seven weeks.  Every single time, while I loved the dog (I love them all!), I’d come home and have a terrible breakdown because that dog, wasn’t Jake. The house was empty, but I wanted Jake. I wanted my boy back.

I kept trying. I kept having breakdowns. Why was I torturing myself? I finally decided to take a break. The moment I decided to do that, a weight was lifted. I knew I would find a dog when I found a dog and it would just have to be ok that there were no dogs here.

That decision, lightened me. My smile started coming back. I found my laughter. I cried when I missed Jake but there were no torturous breakdowns. I needed time to realize that there is no situation that could present itself, even the next dog, where I wouldn’t still want to have Jake back. I accepted that another dog would come and that there could be sadness over the loss and joy over the gain. It didn’t have to be one or the other.

I could breathe again.

A little over a week ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw this:

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I froze, in the warmest way. I saw Melvin in this dog. I saw Jake in this dog. This dog was their love child. My boys sent me this dog, I knew this to be certain. I applied for him immediately. I emailed them to say I must meet him. He was meant to be mine.

There were no breakdowns.

I had a home visit, didn’t cry once.

I bought him stuff (before meeting him), still calm.

Then last Thursday, my friend Virginia and I drove to meet him.

He came rounding the corner in his foster mom’s house and I felt Melvin and Jake. I felt them in his exuberance, in his clumsiness, in his joy.  I also, just saw him, as his own being. This new, beautiful change my life was about to take.

The moment I saw his face in the first photo, I saw a Doug. Face-to-face, he was still Doug to me. He’d found a new name. A new home.

Doug was found as a stray in rural South Carolina. He quickly became a shelter favorite.  The shelter called Pet Connect Rescue and asked if they could take him out or SC and give him a new life in the DC area. The rescue said yes, and Hooty/Doug made his way up North, into foster and now to me.

Here is what I know so far…

  • A lot of things in the house are new to him.  Like garage doors opening. And refrigerator ice maker noises. And mirrors.
  • He was neutered mid-August and the vet estimated him to be 1-2 years old. I worried a lot about 1-2 years old because that was by far the youngest dog I have ever considered. But he was already mine so 1-2 would have to be ok.  Imagine my surprise when I took him to my vet and she said… he is not a day over eight months. My eyes were crazier than Jake’s at that moment!
  • Doug is a puppy. He mouths EVERYTHING. When I try to walk, he tries to put my feet in his mouth. We go on 7,489 walks a day and somehow he still has energy.
  • He has not had a single accident in the house.
  • He puts himself to bed at 7:30pm, and I go get him to keep him up for fear that he will want to wake up at 4am.
  • He has yet to meet a person or dog he does not like.
  • At any moment, he could explode from joy.
  • He is not the dog I thought I wanted.  As it turns out, he is everything that I need.

Especially if what I needed was exhaustion! No seriously, how long are they puppies?

We start obedience training on Wednesday! Amen to training!

As for what breed he is, he’s listed as an English Bulldog mix. I ordered a DNA kit so we’ll def do a contest at some point for guesses.

I can only confirm he’s happy.

As am I.

Don’t be fooled by these photos, he only rests about 14 min a day.

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Flashback Friday – the letter to Melvin’s first family.

I’m going to do Flashback Fridays every now and then as Facebook reminds me of a post from the past that I think is worth re-sharing. This post was from a few years ago, it was a letter to Melvin’s first family, who knew him as Riley.

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A thank you note, to Melvin’s first family.
Posted on August 12, 2014

 

I was torn when I got Melvin, I was happy he was mine but upset that his owners let his health deteriorate It took me a little while to just feel grateful. This letter might have been different if I’d written it when I first got him. With time comes clarity.

Dear previous family of then Riley,

Thank you for deciding to not be dog owners. It’s because of you that my heart is full and my life is happy.

I was told of your frustration with owning Riley, that everyday you’d let him out in a fence-less yard before you left for work and that he’d wander off. You’d probably met some wonderfully well-behaved dogs in your life and you likely assumed Riley would hang out and wait for you while you were gone. Let’s be honest, Riley was not wonderfully well-behaved back then. He was a need-a-fence kinda dog. (To this day his recall is only mediocre). I’m just so thankful he was never hit by a car. They told me how frustrated you were that animal control had picked him up so many times and that on that last time, when they called you said: Keep him. Those two words, changed my life forever. When he left you and came to me he had mange and giardia and massive yeast infections, not to mention his horrible allergies. I want you to know that he’s so much better now, I don’t think you’d even recognize him!

I know that someone, somewhere did something to him with hangers. If that was you, I hope that heavy regret has set in. I pray that whoever it was, if they ever consider getting another dog, that the universe puts a hanger in their path and they’re reminded that they are not dog people. I want to assure you, his current life is free from punishment, what is required from him is only what he has to offer. Some days it’s exuberance, some days it’s sleep. Today it’s regurgitation. It’s all good.

I didn’t like you at first.  But I know now that you and I were meant to unite.  I’m eternally grateful you didn’t allow the vet to put him down. I’m sure many would have seen ‘the worlds most allergic dog’ as a hopeless case. I’m thankful you said  – maybe someone else can help him.  I imagine defeat was hard to admit. Or maybe you celebrated his departure. Either way, that’s okay.

Here’s the truth:  I understand.  I know how much money his medications cost.  I know how expensive his food can be.  I know, that just when I think we’ve spent all we can on tests, more are needed.  He is not the dog for everyone and you didn’t know that when you went and picked him from the litter.  I will probably never be able to retire, but I was able to make that choice freely when I took him.  I really do understand.

His name is Melvin now. He is healthy.  He is happy.  He is my heart.  He knows true love. He personifies joy.  He and I were meant to be together which means you were meant to have him first. I rescue dogs, that means that they each have previous owners, a past that I have zero control over.

Thank you, for giving him up.  You did the right thing. If we were ever to meet you on the street, I know he would greet you with love and understanding and wiggles.

Sincerely,

Me.  His forever.

PS.  No, you cannot have him back.

Sucker.

I love my dog.  I have a blog about my dog.  His face is on my Christmas card.  I am unconditionally committed to his health and his happiness.  That said, there are days, when he frustrates me to my core.  Days when I don’t enjoy him being underfoot, or showing me exuberance when I’m trying to relax.  Days when he does things that he knows he absolutely should not do.  Days when I must reprimand him.  Days when I have to give him ‘the look’ over, and over and over.

These days are few and far between, for the most part Melvin is a sweet boy and his good days outweigh the bad ones 50 to one.  But on those ‘one’ days, after I’ve let frustration speak my words and dirty looks have run amuck, I am always overcome with complete and weighty guilt. Each and every time.  I try to think back on all the occasions my parents reprimanded me, told me to go to my room, left me to wallow in what I’d done.  I’d survived.  But Melvin looks up at me as if he doesn’t know why I’m mad.  And then I convince myself that perhaps he doesn’t know, even though he’s just done the shameful act right in front of me.  Or did he?  There it is again, that look where he tilts his head and seems to say ‘huh?’.

Today is one of those days.  And yes, I just apologized to him for him being a bad dog.