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.

 

 

Oh Melvin, Yo Jake.

This Monday is the one year anniversary of finding out Jake had cancer. I remember sitting in my car after getting the call and my eyes and chest burning from sadness and fear. I couldn’t breathe. I remember feeling so overwhelmed because I was still mourning Melvin. Jake couldn’t have cancer, they must be wrong.  I raced home to be with Jake, since more than ever, every second counted.

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In two weeks, it’s the two-year anniversary of finding out Melvin was dying. Calendars suck.

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I don’t plan to remember these dates forever. But back to back loss makes me feel like I’ve been sad for a long time. I also know how far I’ve come despite losing them both so close together.

My love for Melvin continues to grow. He is me. He is my heart, my guiding light, the goodness I try to put out into the world.  As for losing Jake, he and I still have some first to go through on our way to the year anniversary of his death this July. I still feel that burning in my chest sometimes when I think of Jake. Sadness and joy still struggle for the win when I think of him.

But then there is this, in my world, Melvin and Jake are the sun, they are the joy, and the laughter and everything that is beautiful in this life. I have learned that great loss does not slow down the trajectory of great love.

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Melvin was, and in some ways, will always be the muse for this blog. He is the reason it exists.Funny though, I have a hard time even recalling the posts I did about Melvin as an only dog. When I look back, it’s as if it was always Melvin and Jake. I guess that’s all part of  a love that was meant to be. Now that they are both gone, they are eternally one. Melvin & Jake. Jake & Melvin. My favorite odd couple. The source of so much of my joy.

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After Melvin died, I mentioned that I might change the name of the blog. There were many comments asking me not to, that it felt wrong to do that, and in the end, I kept the name.

But now, its time.

Here is where my heart is…

  • Oh Melvin the blog started six years ago with just me and Melvin, hardly anyone even read back then! I chronicled his severe allergies, his tail amputation, his joyful exuberance.
  • When Jake came along, it was easy to add him and still feel like Oh Melvin worked. Everyday that passed, they became life partners. Now that Doug is here, and knowing other dogs will come, Oh Melvin feels…like a look back. Oh Melvin doesn’t feel like it captures this new world where I am without Melvin and Jake, where I am learning to chase joy with Doug.
  • Oh Melvin is from where I’ve come, and although it will always be a part of me, I don’t say those treasured words very often anymore. And the moments when I do say them, well now those moments are more personal, they belong only to me.
  • The URL will always be ohmelvin.com because Melvin is the soul of this blog. OhMelvin.com is the road that will always lead you to me and me to you, but it’s time for the blog name itself to support a past, present and future.

Moving forward is OK. Its good. Its how life goes.

I’m not going to do a big introduction, one day soon you will stop by and the change will have occurred (it’s actually all loaded up, I just have to publish it). The photo will change too, I thought I should warn of you that also. I hope when you see it, you smile. I can tell you with certainty that Melvin and Jake are fine with it.

Just as a sidenote, I changed our Instagram name this week too (it’s now: @dougholupka.for.president).  It only seemed fair that Doug get some real estate in some of our social media presence. I’m not sure why I never changed that account name after Melvin died (but had I, it would have either been Just Jake or Wonkalicious). I think Jake was ok living under the Oh Melvin umbrella though. I think he wouldn’t have had any other way.

Change is hard, but joy will guide us.

xoxo, Tracey

 

One love.

Grief was wrong. Grief made me feel there would be a break in the timeline of my little family.  That Doug would never be connected to Jake and Melvin because he never knew either of them.  I cried about this a lot.

Turns out I forgot about the one link in the family chain that remained. My love.  They are connected, forever and beautifully, I feel it with all that am.

A little example of how love lives on.

 

 

 

Happy weekend!

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.

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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

 

A Christmas Miracle.

We had a relatively quiet New Years.  I had a migraine (fun!).  Oh, and miracle or two occurred.

Things like, DOUG SNUGGLES NOW!

I’m not sure how it happened.  I was talking to Melvin and Jake one night, saying how it’s ok that I don’t see them in my dreams, that maybe it would be too hard to see them and then wake up.  It’s ok, because I feel them and that matters more to me than dreams.  I did throw out there to them that they should, COULD, WOULD need to help guide Doug. I specifically asked that they help him learn to snuggle (or at least let me sit on the couch without being playfully mauled).

The next day, this started.  I assumed it was a fluke. That’s my head, he’s not sitting on it!img_1723

And that is my leg, he’s not standing on it. img_1873img_1886

When he let me put the blanket over him, I assumed he was dying.

Snugglefest has continued for a week now!  img_1955img_1966img_1990img_2025img_2033

I forgot what it is like to watch TV and not have every muscle in my body tensed-up because Doug is hanging off my back or climbing my hair or standing in my lap trying to lick my face.

I reward snuggle-Doug with belly rubs and calm face massages to encourage him to always want to be calm on the couch.  The miracles continued as he slept in the bed ONE NIGHT!  He was pretty good from 10pm to about 4am and then he decided it was time to rave so we are taking that one slower. Mama needs her sleep!

Snuggle on!

 

Where have we been?

I am not sure where to begin with this one.  It’s been quite a week.

I was having back pain and it hurt to breathe so I assumed that I pulled something.  I went to our local ER and that turned into an ambulance ride to a different hospital and that turned into being in the hospital for three days.  I had a pulmonary embolism. Before you gasp and hurt yourself, this was not my first PE. In fact, I have had many, many blood clots find their way into my lungs. I’m not sure how I’m still here but I’m grateful that is the case.

The thing that is different about this time is that I was on medication to prevent blood clots.  Yet here I was in the hospital with another PE.  My blood clotting condition had gone to new heights, not in a good way. Three things owned my worry at that point:

  1. Doug. I had left for a quick errand and now I would not be home for days. I called his tribe and they took over. His meals were made, he got walks, he got play time and I got lots of video proof that my boy was just fine. This was perhaps the best of all the medicine.
  2. That I was suddenly not safe.  That I could clot and/or perhaps die at any minute. This feeling has not gone away yet.  Its heavy and scary and I’m still working on this one.
  3. That there was a clot at all.  After you have situations like this, the event itself is less scary.  I knew it would be painful, I knew it would be some time of not feeling well but it occurred, I survived, and the doctors were taking care of it. This is not me making light of anything, it’s just a reality that I live with.

I came home to a well fed and very loved Doug. My not feeling well pretty much went unnoticed by him, he still wanted to jump on me and ride my back and eat my hair.  In some ways, although more painful than usual, it helps to have a dog that is of the everything is normal and great, let’s go!.

A few days later, on Thanksgiving, I got a migraine, because why wouldn’t I.  Then decided to decorate the Christmas tree and had to come face-to-face with all my Jakey decorations. One year ago I had to deal with Melvin’s ornaments and now dealing with Jake’s made pulling both of their decorations out of the box sting so much more. I wanted Jake to be here.  I wanted him on the couch as I decorated the tree.  He wasn’t supposed to die. So I cried and I got overwhelmed because the week had been hard enough and well to be honest, because I felt sorry for myself and I gave in that it was ok to feel defeated. Now, the tree is up. The boy’s decorations are on there. I survived a blood clot, a migraine and another painful grief moment. This week had to let go of me eventually.  Then I looked at the calendar.

Yesterday was Jake’s gotcha day.  I miss him more than I am afraid to die.

Here is the thing though, being scared and overwhelmed and sad, those are human emotions and I am going to feel those things because, well because last time I checked I am still human. But they aren’t who I am. I can’t stay there because I believe in joy. I’m committed to joy.  When the boys died I promised them that I would carry on. When I feel afraid, my first instinct is to wonder when or how I can feel brave again. When I feel beaten down I think, I’m still here, get up.  When I think of Jake and Melvin, I know it’s ok to be sad, but I desperately want to feel warmth during thoughts of them both. Joy takes work. Sometimes chasing joy is the last thing I want to do and often I have no energy to even try but then I realize, it’s the only way. Joy haunts me. When I look at the tree now, those ornaments that brought tears, bring smiles, because Melvin and Jake were here, they were right here with me and I had precious time with them and I also had a ridiculous amount of ornaments made with their names on them and that alone is both crazy and funny. I also think, poor Doug has no ornaments.  YET!

I had written Jake’s last gotcha letter before the health events. I will finish that up and post it tomorrow.  Everyday I will celebrate quietly that he came to me. He was here. That there was and always will be, great Jakey love.

And I’ll leave you with this. On the tree decorating day, after the hospital stay and the migraine and all the ornament ugly crying. I sat on the couch exhausted and Doug started jumping on me and I said out loud but calmly, I need Melvin. Five minutes later Doug allowed me to lay down and he snuggled with me on the couch as I cried and I napped, for the rest of the day.

Joy found.

Oh the joy of giving joy.

After Jake died, my friend G reached out to me to ask if she could donate to Melvin & Jake’s Project Joy.  I don’t have it set up as non-profit so up to this point, the donations towards the efforts have been from me and my parents (who donated generously after Melvin and Jake each died). It was sorta just this very-big-to-me, little effort I did.

My heart felt so full with G’s very generous donation and I additionally felt a tad overwhelmed to find the ‘perfect’ use for the money. It’s a great problem to have, right? I think it was partly that it was our first donation outside of my family and that it would be our first big gift of joy since adding Jake to the cause.  I took a step back and a deep breath and reminded myself, as long as we are giving joy, it’s going to be right.

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I looked at her check for a long time. My heart felt so full. I searched for a while for what felt the most right. In the end, a foster with the French Bulldog Rescue Network (Jake’s rescue) won my heart. Axl, a three-year old Frenchie had been given up by his family after his spinal condition and paralysis became too much for them to handle. I saw him and I knew. He needed some Jakey joy.

Axl is young, way too young to be facing paralysis. I knew that a wheelchair would do two things.

  1. Give him his mobility freedom back (yay)!
  2. Give his future forever family one less thing to worry about (the cost of a wheelchair) which would free them up to just love him more.

Joy at it’s finest.

As for Axl’s first family giving him up, hey, I understand. From the moment I saw Jake falter for the first time to him not having much use of his back legs at all, I never ever considered giving him up.  But…taking care of him and the costs associated with that was extremely overwhelming at times and very expensive. Not everyone is going to say ‘we will figure this out’, some will have to admit ‘we can’t do this’. I think those cases are why rescue exists. There was a time when I would have much rather seen someone give up their dog because paralysis was too much to handle versus not having enough time for the dog.  But then a family gave up Jake because they didn’t have time for him and well, Jake and I were meant to be. Maybe I love all the reasons that brought me Melvin, Jake and Doug. When you are trying to spread joy, its best to leave judgment behind.

Axl got fitted in person at Eddie’s Wheels.  I called that night and paid for the cart, just as I had a few years back when I bought Jake’s cart from them. And it felt seven billion types of lovely to pay that invoice of joy with love and to send G the email announcing the joy she helped facilitate.

Without further ado, I give you, Axl. Every step he takes, love will live on!

Axl before his cart. img_0857

Axl in his new ride! Video below the two photos! If you look closely, you’ll see Jake in sunshine. img_1167img_1168

 

You can read more about Axl here!

#joytrain #allaboard #choochoo