Three years of me and Doug.

In late Summer of 2016, two very different versions of me existed. Both versions, were heartbroken to have just lost Jake.

Sad Tracey, otherwise known as the artist formally known as me, ached in ways I was unprepared for. Missing Jake (and Melvin) aside, the house was dog-less for the first time since I’d had dogs AND the house was empty. This version of me couldn’t bring myself to meet dogs because it was too soon, even though I knew the emptiness of the house might suffocate me. This version of me found comfort in dark places.

Desperate Tracey, otherwise known as survivor-mode-me, kept screaming inside of Sad Tracey’s head that fixing the empty house part would help. That getting a dog, despite every theory of when is ‘too soon’, was an easy solution to a very, very big problem.

Sad Tracey pulled most of the strings and screamed FU to thoughts of a dog, there would never be another dog in this house, not ever. The current heartbreak was too unbearable.

Desperate Tracey went rogue and adopted Doug.

That was three years ago. Today there is (thankfully) just one version of me. The me that has loved and lost and found more love. The me that joyfully hops through life with Doug, as Melvin and Jake love lives on in us both.

Doug came into this home six weeks after Jake died. He didn’t get the best version of me, which is funny in a way because Melvin joined my home as Max was dying and he didn’t get the best of me either. Dogs don’t always need the best of you, as long as the worst of you is still based in goodness and love.

Dearest Doug,

We started off in a complicated way. I fought loving you because it felt like a betrayal to Jake, and you were pretty intent on eating my feet, literally. You and I had to compromise  a lot for each other. I had to make room for you in my broken heart and you had to deal with some pretty intense mouthing urges. Both were high hurdles.

After three years, all of that is a bit of a blur now. When I walk in the house and I see you, my heart beats with pure joy. I love you fiercely. It seems like you have always been here and I pray that is how it feels for you too. There was another version of you at one time also, but that discarded dog has found a forever with me.

I look at you and think, you are so much like Melvin and Jake. I guess that has a lot to do with you each getting the same love from me. But you are also, very much, Doug. With your odd bursts of crazy, and your love of destruction. I think the disruptive parts of you, are what moved us both forward at the beginning. I think my love has calmed some of your anxiety. Prozac has helped too.

I see you bud. I know you, I know you better than you know you. My life is about you now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You make me laugh. You destroy my things but you remind me, things are nothing compered to you being happy and safe. There is nothing that you can throw at me that I won’t see you through. 

Then there is your breed. You being a hippopotamus and all. I have had to verbally defend you to people who don’t even know you.  I have had to explain, it is not how they are raised, it is in fact, the here and the now of who YOU are. The same as it is the here and now of who I am. I vow to always share your wacky ways in hopes that it will educate those who don’t know, just how silly and loving hipppos can be.

In the next year, there will come a moment that I will have had you, for as long as I had Jake. And in the moment that follows that one, I will have had you longer. Time is funny, how it marches on. I can’t control how long I have with each of you, I can only choose to focus on maximum joy and love with the time we are given.

Too soon is a barrier that broken hearts put up for protection. The leap I took with you, is everything now. 

I love you with my whole heart. Three looks really beautiful on us. 

Love, your s(mother). xoxo

 

I gotcha, Doug.

Dear Doug,

A year ago I was broken. I was overwhelmed with grief and I was paralyzed under the weight of there being no dogs here. Jakey had not been gone that long and the void in my heart and in the house was crushing me. I’d met dogs and all of them made me have breakdowns. None of them were the dog I wanted.

The dog(s) I wanted had died.

So I gave up. My exact words were: it will just have to be shitty until it isn’t.

Then I saw you. I was scrolling on Facebook and I saw you and went past you and then scrolled back up and then back down and then back up. What was it about you? I didn’t think: you’re not Jake. I didn’t say: it feels too soon. In you, I saw the love-child of my delicious duo. More so, I saw a tomorrow that you could be in. I brought you home (one year ago today) and there were no breakdowns, at least none that were grief driven.

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In the first weeks that followed, my feet bled.  This is not some sort of poetic rhetoric, they literally bled because you were insane and tried to eat my feet with every step I took.  Every step.  I remember running and hiding in the bathroom.  I googled steel toed shoes.  Steel toed footwear in the heat of summer = not cute. During those torturous weeks, you made me miss Jake more.  I won’t lie, I did not love you. I regularly asked myself and you out loud, what was I thinking?

In addition to my bloody stumps, you had more energy than all the dogs combined times infinity. We walked non stop and still you were wound up and running zoomies. Still trying to leave me footless. How was I going to walk you with no feet?

I cried. A lot. About you. You were not at all what I wanted.

But then it was October. Then November. And we’d worked on you chewing toys and not feet and although I was still sad about Jake, I was not as unsure about you. December came and I still cried myself to sleep missing Jake, but I woke up smiling that you were here.

You saw me through almost all the firsts I had to go through without Jake. You were fairly insensitive about my sadness, in fact most times when I would cry you would jump on my back and chew my hair.

In hindsight,  you were everything that I needed.

I didn’t need a hug. That was Melvin’s job. Melvin’s collars were too big for you. I didn’t need you to make me laugh, Jake had that covered.  Jake’s jackets were too small for you. What I needed was a disruption to the structure of grief. I needed to go a little crazy.  Who better to show me that than you? You are my boy in the middle. Sandwiched between your brothers. Sort of like that circle on the top of your head.IMG_1852

You crept slowly into my heart.

I didn’t love all the walks, but the fresh air healed me. I was not excited about how much training you needed, but it helped pass time that would have otherwise been spent wishing Jake was still laying on the couch next to me. I didn’t love that you were such a terror, but every night I went to bed, I was almost too exhausted to be sad.

You were not the dog I wanted at first. But no dog was.  Today, I know with certainty that we were meant to be. Not just because you are addicted to surgery and I love going broke, but because when you look at me, my heart squeals. You are so much like Melvin, and so much like Jake, and nothing like them at all.  Even though you never met them, I still feel like you are brothers, that you are connected to them, and I do not think I would have felt that way with any other dog but you.

Your story is the opposite of mine.  You never had a family to lose. You never had someone committed to your health or well-being. You never had a home, or beds or peanut butter. If there is one thing I know, it’s that the universe will send me the dogs that others would not be able to go the distance with. I will travel this crazy life with you and your wonky Barbie legs, always.

I know you know you’re home.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of joy.  You are a strong force in this army. You bring the joy AND the funk.

You own my heart. Sure, some days I am still worried you will chew it up like one of your beds or swing it around like one of your Jolly Balls, but as all unconditional loves go, I’m willing to take that risk.

Happy Gotcha Day, bud.  I love you.  Forever.

 

 

Oh little chicken – four years flew by.

Jakey, four years ago, you came into my life. Four months ago you died. This is not the gotcha letter I thought I’d be writing.

I still pretend that you’re here. I can’t seem to let go yet. I don’t know, I just figured since the universe was so hard on you, almost all at once, that it would at least give us time together after we made it through.

I was wrong.

I’m still haunted by your last year, how many times I said over and over that next year will be better bud. We didn’t get a next year. Spinal cancer had other plans.

It’s not fair.

However, I would choose love and loss every time over never loving at all. Loving you was worth every heartache that came after losing you.

Four years ago we became a little family. To say I never expected you is to say the sun provides light. You snuck in and my life and Melvin’s life was proven to be incomplete because you, in fact, completed us. That one little puzzle piece that we didn’t know was missing, was you. You became the humor in my life. No one has brought me as much laughter as you have.

Where Melvin taught me what unconditional love was, you taught me how to live it. You made me see challenges as things we were meant to overcome. Before you, I would have seen a paralyzed dog or a blind dog and thought poor thing. But through your lens, life became more about what we could achieve, not about what we couldn’t do. You gave me a purpose that changed me at my core. I already knew I was put on this earth to love you and Melvin, but I was also to make sure you knew your opportunities in life were endless.

We won.

We won and yet, you’re not here, so I have to hold onto that win even in loss. I’m sitting in my office and I’m still telling myself you are on the couch. Of course if you were actually on the couch I’d hear you barking and snarling because Doug would be driving you bonkers!

You and I are so much alike. I didn’t realize how much until after Melvin died and you and I grieved in the same exact way. Needing space, then needing each other, then needing space. In our last year, that year without him, you are the only living creature that understood exactly how I felt. You and I spoke through silent glances.  Our very own special language. When I lost you, I lost that beautiful connection. I had to bear losing you on my own.

I will likely never care for anyone to the extent I cared for you. I still miss nurturing you. My hands still reach for you. I still wake up in the middle of the night to check on you. Even though you’re gone, I still need to be your mom. Our beautiful relationship continues, I just have to be patient as it evolves.

Something tells me you sent Doug. Not because he has crazy energy and you’d get a good laugh out of it (although I know this to be true), not because he tries to eat my feet (still not funny bud), and not because the house was so lonely (good God I’d never felt so alone). I think you sent Doug because he is so much like young-Melvin was. Not nearly as loving as Melvin (we’ll give him time on that) but he was the closest thing you could send me that would remind me of Melvin being here to get me through the loss of you.  I know you love all things Melvin. It makes sense you’d want me to have a reminder of him as my emotions flood over you.

Jake, you will always make my heart swell. I love you in a billion different ways. I loved your sour smell, your googly eyes, your love of Melvin’s butt. I loved that in the early days, you’d stomp your rear leg to crank out meatballs and as your life progressed, you began to leave them more covertly. I loved all 31 billion of your noises. I loved your grumpy expression.  I loved buying rugs for you. And diapers. I miss your pee. I loved your glance that said I love you and feed me all at once. I love Jake love. There is nothing else like it in the whole world. I know that Melvin and I were your puzzle piece too. My life took a turn with you, I would never go back. Four years ago, we said hello forever.  We were meant to be.

I feel you next to me, watching me. I can almost hear you scooting along side of me. That makes me smile.

Happy Gotcha Day, Jake. I love you, bug.