Dear Doug. Year two.

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.

xoxo, me.

 

 

 

Let there be light.

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:

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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.

To be continued…

The Decade of Melvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Merry and Happy.

The holidays can be lovely, joy filled, and happy.  They can also be challenging, lonely, and heartbreaking.

I always say that best part about any holiday is who you share your couch with.  Sometimes, the couch is full.  Inevitably, someone is missing.

We understand.

This will be our third Christmas without Melvin, and the second without Jake. There are a few tears when I put their ornaments on the tree, but at this point, I’m mostly just grateful that they are both in my heart and that every beat is a chance for me to seek and spread joy in their memory.  Despite their physical absence, I’m blessed to still have a full couch.

Love lives on. But it is not always an easy journey.

We wish you all much love and much laughter this holiday season. To anyone who is dreading the holidays or too sad to celebrate, we send you love and hugs. We’ll hold a spot for you, just in case.

xoxo, Tracey & Doug

PS: If you are wondering what Doug thinks of Christmas, just check out his expression on our card.  It’s the ho-ho-ho version of  F-you.

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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.

 

 

One year.

Tuesday will mark the one year anniversary of losing Jake. Of all the days I have had to face after losing both Melvin and Jake, this one is by far the most difficult for me.

I don’t want it to be one year because I don’t want it to even be one minute. Most days, I barely accept that he’s gone. I still lose my breath during moments of missing him. I have theories on why this has been so hard on me, but the reality is that the theories don’t really matter.  Losing Jake has been the hardest thing I’ve gone through. It is what it is.

I know that some of you are thinking, even harder than losing Melvin?

Yes. Much harder.

Some of that is likely due to losing both boys back-to-back with Jake being second.  Some of that is that I had Jake during the year after losing Melvin. Some of that is Doug is not a healer, he’s a spaz who barely senses emotion (I still love him).  Mostly though, and I never thought I would be someone who would say these words but I say them with complete conviction: Melvin imprinted on me. I felt intense grief when he died, but then he reached out and played a role in my healing process.  He is a part of who I am. A part I can feel, call upon, and count on.  I will never be able to explain it, I’m only just grateful that it happened. He and I are one.

It is not the same with Jake. And it wouldn’t be fair of me to ask that the universe make it the same.  Each loss is different. Losing Jake left a wide void. I have not figured out how to mend it yet.

When I hit the one year mark of losing Melvin, I recall it being easier to celebrate all the beautiful moments we’d had, and sure, I was sad that he was not here (and always will be) but I was infinitely stronger to face life without Melvin than I have been to face days without Jake. I went through every photo I ever took of Melvin and made a few videos to share with you all. I was unable to do the same for Jake. I don’t feel guilty about this, I know he doesn’t care. I fully accept my limitations where grieving him is concerned.

I have two posts coming next week to pay tribute to my love for Jake. But I can tell you with all that I am, that I hope Tuesday will be a day that fades in and then fades away. I want the calendar to stop reminding me that he’s gone.

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For those of you who are new to the blog, here is the post that explains Jakey’s last days with me.

And here is my one year post after Melvin died.

Two years.

Melvin died two years ago this week. I’m not sure how that is even possible since I was so sure I wouldn’t make it through losing him, let alone exist without him.

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Melvin changed me, profoundly. He changed the structure of my existence, he guided me to my purpose.

I have said this before. Melvin was a part of me in life and now in death. He is the goodness in me, the joy, the laughter and the reason love lives on. Losing him broke me, but then, he healed me. I carry him in my heart. I feel closer to him now than I ever have. I am grateful for that every day .

As we approach the anniversary of losing him, it makes me miss Jake even more.

You read that right.

When I lost Melvin and went through the grief and then found out Jake was dying, I sorta just thought, here we go again.  In a, grief will repeat itself sort of way.

Grief is not a protocol. It’s a living, breathing, organic, emotional, extension of us. I persevered Melvin grief, I remember what it felt like to start to emerge from it. With Jake grief, I usually don’t feel like dealing with it much at all. I want to overcome it and I don’t ignore its impact but it’s more of a one day it will be over sort of way. Truth be told, I’m a bit apathetic about this grief journey.

I think some of that has to do with who I spent each journey with. Jake and I lost Melvin together. Jake sat a lot so we sat a lot together and we worked through our sad moments as a team. Doug didn’t lose Jake, so he goes on his merry way and I go along with him and sometimes I try to bypass grief on my very, very, oh so very long walks with Doug. Grief doesn’t work that way; there is no going around it. Grief will chase you and tackle you and say hey, I’m the boss of you, get back here.

Grief is an asshole.

Jake died nine months ago this week.

Jake is most certainly a part of me too. Jake taught me to see the beautiful in the broken, he taught me that struggle is not the end, in many ways, it’s just the beginning. But spiritually, Jake is not necessarily the parts of me that I derive strength from. He’s more like my weakness. In a beautiful way, not in a way that I would change.

Jake is my baby.

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I have come to accept that my hands will always reach for him. The need to nurture him, lives on as much as the love does. It is a constant, and perhaps, eternal ache.  It just is what it is. I think some thoughts of Jake will always trigger that lump in my throat. I’m not sure why. It’s ok though, each and every time, my soulful connection to Melvin helps ease the Jake sadness.

They are still a team, even in death.

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Don’t fret, memories of Jake bring me joy.  I laugh out loud watching videos of him, even videos of him towards the end. For every struggle, we found a solution. In Melvin and Jake’s life, we won, way before cancer showed up. I think at the end of my life, that is what I will be most proud of.

As we come up on the two year anniversary of losing Melvin, I’m grateful for the unbreakable connection I have with him. And, I’m so happy that if I can’t have Jake here, that Melvin holds him close for me.

This post, is a post I go back to regularly.  I wrote it a week after Melvin died and it is, everything to me. It’s a reminder of how strong my connection to Melvin has always been. And this post was written one year ago. A testament to love living on.

I miss my boys, but the honor of loving them is worth every ounce of grief.

We won.