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

 

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.

Joy rising.

I was thinking about #loveliveson last night. How the day after Melvin died, that idea formed in my mind and got me out of bed. I didn’t know then what I know now, that it would become my purpose, who I was to become. Love living on is a force that drives me. Sometimes it’s a big gesture of effort and sometimes it is much more quiet. 100% of the time, I’m a required participant.

Joy can’t spread on its own.

Grief can tend to make a lot of things grey and dark. Being open to joy takes work.  I sometimes have to dig deep to see the colors of a day fill in. I have to be open to seeing Melvin and Jake’s love, growing and blooming in unexpected places. While I may wake up on any given day with a strong ache of loss, the universe will almost always serve me up something beautiful to balance it. It’s not always obvious, but it’s always there. Like a note from a reader saying my grief experience is helping her deal with the loss of her dog. Or unexpectedly seeing a video of Oliver running around in the wheelchair that we donated to him. Sometimes, love living on is as easy as sunshine or a quiet moment that lets a memory of the boys take over. Love lives on in every sunset too. Last night there was a frost warning here, love exploded through that alert because for many, many years the first frost signaled the end of allergy season for Melvin.  That alert was joy reminding me from where I came.

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Love living on requires me to take action. To donate Jake’s things. To take in a foster, to donate to a cause, to be there for someone in need.  Some days, love living on is through patience for Doug.

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Love living on requires me to hold onto the fact that they were here, we persevered, love won; in the same moment it requires me to be present. If I had been the one to go, Jake and Melvin would have spread my love like a wildfire.

This is life’s beautiful work.

Of course, the boys live on through my efforts with Melvin and Jake’s Project Joy too. I was more public with how we reached out with Melvin’s Project Joy efforts.  Since adding Jake to that cause, I have been a little more quiet about the ways we are helping.  Melvin was loud and proud and exuberant. So were our efforts in his memory.  Jake was more reserved. Our last year together was he and I leaning on each other, so for the last few months, my giving has been more quiet, like Jake and I were. But every single thing I do in his memory, sends loud joy outward and inward.

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Every thought of them both, inspires me to always give more than I take.

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When I get up each morning, there is a nanosecond where I keep my eyes closed and pretend Melvin and Jake are still here with me.

  • I have gotten up 562 times since Melvin died. Since that very first morning, I felt him with me.  I will never be able to explain it but he has never really left me.
  • I have risen 100 times since Jake died.  There is still sadness in those moments. Less air. There is still more healing needed, more joy to spread to be sure that mending continues.
  • I have woken up to Doug, 55 times. That makes me have a smile explosion.

Three different boys, two different losses, one beautiful love. I rise up every day to make sure that love lives on and grows and that I do my part to fuel our joy train.

This song lifts me, inspires me, calms me and brings me joy. This song is my battle cry.

 

 

 

Two months and new urns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m still processing the last year.

We lost Melvin.

We had the hardest year of both of our lives.

I lost Jake.

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

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

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

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

Doug the power plant.

Doug has been here for a little over a week now. His energy could provide power to New York City. I’m exhausted! He is exuberant, mischievous and a complete love bug.

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I’d be lying if I said he was easy. As a reminder, I went from Jake, who was paralyzed and loved to nap to Doug, whose idea of a good time is pretending like he’s a backpack (on my back) when I’m trying to sit on the couch and rest my weary bones. So some of the challenge is me and what I’m used to.

He be cray, but I love him.

He’s doing great with housebreaking, he’s only had one accident. It wasn’t really even an accident because he had already been out and he seemed pretty purposeful in his actions.  Dude does not realize that I know intentional peeing when I see it.

We have gotten our walk schedule down.  I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to get a young dog during an East Coast heat wave. For the past 10 days I have felt perpetually sweaty and my Apple watch alerts me everyday that I have met my exercise goal, by noon. His energy has been a challenge, a little due in part to the fact that I work from home and when I say work I mean I REALLY DO WORK. The challenge is, I’m here, so he wants me to play. We are slowly working out together time and independent time. We take our first walk in the morning after he eats. We take a 2nd walk around lunchtime, our 3rd walk late afternoon and our last walk after dinner. In between each walk I will take him into the backyard and play Jolly Ball or fetch with him. Sometimes he just runs zoomies on his own and I stand out there asleep with my eyes open. The rest of the day he plays in the house and even sometimes takes load off and rests.

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We started back with our trainer.  I cried when I was waiting for her to arrive. She has only ever trained Jake. In fact, our first session for Doug was paid for by a left over session from Jakey. It just felt odd for her to be here and for Jake to be gone. I am coming up on two months without Jake, I still have many more of these types of moments to go through. But Doug did great on training day one and we have practiced our homework of touch and sit every day.

For the most part, Doug is a lot like Melvin. A lot. The early-years-Melvin that used to leap off the back of the couch and fly into the glass french doors (that were closed) to try to chase squirrels. I recall having to call upon a lot of patience for that Melvin, the same way I am calling upon it now for the Dougster.

Doug is young. He doesn’t know any rules, or any commands and doesn’t know what is expected of him. When I say words to him that the boys used to know, he just runs zoomies at the sound of my voice. He went from being a stray, to being in a shelter, to being in foster to me. It’s easy to get frustrated when he mouths my feet with each step that I take (trust me, I walk into the bathroom, shut the door and count to ten a lot. Sometimes I count to 50). Or to curse when he jumps on my back while I’m resting my bones on the couch (instead I take some deep breaths and I stand up and wait it out). Instead of yelling or correcting his every move, I look at a photo of Melvin and I recall our journey from wildebeest to soulful boy. From crazy to sweet. I recall what’s possible. Then I look at Doug and I know that he does what he does, out of pure joy for life. A life that I am responsible for guiding. He just has to learn to focus his joy on good, not my feet.

I still wake up and wish that Jake were here too. I wish Melvin and Jake were both here to help me guide Doug.  But they are not, so I will lead him. Doug keeps me in the here and now, the here and now where I have to stay very hydrated!

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Superman.

This is the song I sang to Jake during his battle with cancer.  I’d pick him up and dance around the house. I’m pretty sure he hated it but he must have felt I needed those moments so he gave in and for the most part, didn’t pee on me.

Now, sometimes when I’m missing Jake hard, I ask him to come sit with me. Almost every time, this song plays shortly thereafter.

Now, he sings it to me. #loveliveson

 

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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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