Grateful Hearts.

I am so thankful for each and every one of you. Each time I have come here to celebrate the boys, you have cheered us on. Every time I have come here broken hearted, you have lifted us up.

To each of you that has commented, messaged, called, texted, and sent goodies. Thank you! You all have reached out to your vets and your rescue communities to try and help us and I am forever grateful. And thank you for raising the most wonderful minis!

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The Christmas after Melvin died I was going through the decorations and I had a bunch of stockings with his name on them. I vowed to never do stockings again so that I wouldn’t have to have a void where his should be. When Jake died and Doug came and Christmas followed, I felt fine about my decision. We are living proof that Christmas still occurs even if you don’t have stockings. But this year, with Doug’s health improving and Bob being here, I leapt into faith and got them matching stockings with their names on them. As I was undecorating this week, and it came to those stockings, there was a painful pause. I put them in the box and I prayed that my future self would be able to handle opening that box next year if Doug isn’t here.

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Doug’s disease was always going to be. In the same way he and I were written in the stars, so was this diagnosis. Doug and I are not the sum of what is coming. We are the sum of every second of every minute of every day that we have had. We were sent to each other, so neither of us would be alone. Don’t forget, he came to me during the darkest days of grief. I owe him a debt of love that is infinite.

In the time since Jake died, I have given a lot of thought to adopting another special needs dog. To be honest, up to now, I didn’t think I could do it again. Not so much the taking care of (that’s just love), but the void that is left when a special needs dog dies. There are still nights that I wake up to help Jake. I’m not sure when that will stop.

Turns out, Doug is that dog. And all of me is 100% ready and 100% terrified and 100% armed with joy and 100% heartbroken. All of those things can absolutely exist at once.

We had arranged to buy another cart for a Frenchie in Jake’s rescue. We were just waiting on them to place the order and give us the amount. The invoice came the evening I found out about Doug’s genetic test. Paying that bill, still brought joy. And Doug and I celebrated that a little frog dog named Dorey was about to start a beautiful new chapter. Sometimes, in darker moments, you have to be or see the joy in someone else’s life.

I am happy to report there have been no changes in Doug’s symptoms over the past two weeks! We have started seeing a new rehab specialist who wants to teach Doug how to live in an unbalanced world before the NCL hits him harder. And that means, we are back in rehab with his girlfriends! I am also setting up acupuncture and a nutritionist.  We have found one Am Staff that went through this, and our vets are working to learn all they can from that case.

Harem, check. Treats, check! IMG_9182

My wiggly warrior.

Zonked on the way home.

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Happy New Year!

xoxo

t&d

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis.

It’s been a week and I still can’t pronounce it.

I continue to look for someone who has been through this disease with their dog. If I can’t find one person among any breed, I’m not sure how I will find someone with an Am Staff.

My emotions range from heartache that this is happening, to moments of rage that this is happening.

As I have mentioned, Doug has always been clumsy. His hind legs may be bionic but apparently for Doug, bionic = mediocre. He has never been able to stop himself when he is running too fast inside the house, just ask the 50 things he runs into daily. Going down the steps in the morning he goes three at a time and going up in the evening, is very, very slow.  That has pretty much been him since the day I got him, before and after the leg surgeries.

So a few months ago, I just thought he was more clumsy. It was cooler, maybe his arthritis was acting up . There were a few times early on, that he tipped over, but since I couldn’t anticipate it happening, I never really saw what preceded it. I thought he tripped, or turned a leg the wrong way and it gave out. The first time he fell off the couch, he was sleeping. So when it happened again the same day when he was awake, I thought nothing of it. We all have those days.

At no time did I think that he was dying. Because I had talked myself out of thinking that way the first year with him. I would say: it won’t be like Melvin. It won’t be like Jake. Have faith.

As he started falling off the couch more, and stumbling for reasons I couldn’t figure out, I knew it was something, but I still was leaning towards his legs. But then one day, I was taking a video of him for Instagram and during the time I was taking it, he shook (as all dogs do many times a day), and that’s when I saw it. I stopped recording and pulled up the clip to see if I had imagined it. Something was wrong, and it was not his legs.

This is the video clip I took that day. He shakes, and immediately after, his eyes roll back into his head. A wave of motion then runs through his body and you can see him falter a little.

I may not know for certain when his symptoms started, but I know the exact moment I knew it wasn’t nothing.

The following are Doug’s current symptoms:

  • He shakes about 20 times a day and his eyes roll back into his head about 15 of those times. Sometimes he falls over, sometimes not. That has not changed much since I first noticed it. This is by far the hardest part to watch at this point. There is a part of me that wants to look away, but I owe it to him to watch every single one and count them out for our documentation.
  • He is wobbly on softer surfaces.
  • He stumbles sometimes when he is going faster than a normal walk pace.
  • I can tell when he is having dizzier days than others. On those days he is a little out of it. He tends to stay close to me those days. He also stares into my soul on those days and I know he knows I know. I stay close to him too.
  • There have been two shakes to date that I have seen where he froze for about 3 seconds after it ended. I don’t think he could move for those few seconds, but then he was fine.
  • He has had 2-3 bad days. When he can’t walk in straight line, more like he’s in a fun house. I mean our house is fun, but…
  • He is on a few new supplements (CoQ10 and Super B Complex) to maybe help. He is also on a motion sickness drug. I have been giving it to him in the morning but I am going to move it to dinner because he wakes up dizzy and I think it might wear off during the night.

Our vet has not had much luck digging anything up but she did find one piece of research that suggested Am Staffs were not as likely to go blind. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I’m holding onto it pretty tightly.

While we were waiting on the test results this past month, a little voice kept whispering what if you lose Doug too? I almost talked myself out of doing Christmas cards because of that stupid voice. I didn’t want to do them if I knew it was going to be his last Christmas. So we held the fastest Christmas photo shoot ever known to Santa. I took the photos, edited them, and ordered the card within 1/2 hour. I found out his diagnosis two days later. The cards came this weekend and I’m really F’ing happy we did it. I think this journey is going to be a lot like those cards. Less thinking, more doing.

When joy calls, we gotta answer.

xoxo,

t&d

 

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…

Jake and Project Joy.

I don’t know how it is for others who have lost a pet, but for me, year one was just getting through all the firsts. After that, holidays come and go and I wish Melvin and Jake were here but I don’t necessarily count the number of moments they’ve missed.

Except the anniversary of when we said goodbye. I try not to think about it, but my brain does not always comply. My brain reminds me in March, that Melvin died in April.  And I try to think of other things but something more powerful than me forces  me to remember. And on that day in April, I have a day to myself. No social media, no blog. Doug and I take donations to shelters and pay Melvin’s love forward.  I may cry a little, but for the most part, Melvin is always with me.

It’s a little different with Jake’s anniversary. My mind starts reminding me much earlier. And I fight really hard to ignore it. There are many more tears. Losing Melvin was pure sadness. Losing Jake was more traumatic. Melvin was gone, Jake was gone. There were no dogs. Days felt infinite because I was no longer caring for Jake.

Grief is so confusing and hurtful.

Next week will be two years since I looked into Jake’s googly eyes, and I can still feel the spiral of emotion that I went through before and after he died. And at the same time, joy washes over me every time I see his face.

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So that is where you come in. The best way for me to combat those emotions, is to pay Jake love forward. So Melvin & Jake’s Project Joy would like to find a dog in need of wheelchair. The dog can be in their forever home or waiting to be rescued, but preferably in the US.

Please message us at ohmelvinyojake@gmail.com if you know of a dog that needs a cart. We will pick one on July 18th so that Jakey’s anniversary can be more joyful than sad!

#loveliveson

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A cart dog road off with my heart.

A rescue that I volunteer for, recently had a situation where a younger dog was starting to experience what Jake went through when we first realized he had a spine issue. This dog started losing use of his legs and in a panic, the owner felt they were unable to care for the dog and they reached out to this rescue to take him. The rescue responded and started having discussions with the owner.  They told them they were absolutely open to taking the dog, and behind the scenes, a foster was being lined up. The owner was understandably upset – spine symptoms can hit suddenly and there was the added emotion of having to give the dog up. The rescue made sure the family knew there was no rush, they were there if/when the family needed them.

Before I continue, all I know about this situation is: the family had a dog, the dog suddenly started to have mobility issues, the family panicked and reached out to rescue, rescue suggested a few things the vet should try (pain medication to start), the family and rescue touched base every day for about a week.

Here is what I do not know: what the feedback was from the vet, updates on that were from the owner, but from what the rescue could tell, it sounded so much like what Jake went through and that pain meds were helping.

Instead of surrendering the dog to rescue, the family choose to put the dog down. They told the rescue after they put him down, not before, when the rescue could have pleaded.

When Jake and I came to be, I had no idea he would start to become paralyzed a year later. I only knew he ran funny, his back legs would go in a circular motion when he was running. I just assumed that was how Frenchies rolled. Jake’s paralysis was destiny. There was nothing his first family or his forever family could have done to prevent it. I often wonder if I would have adopted Jake knowing he’d be or if he already was, paralyzed. It’s a hypothetical not worth dwelling on, because similar to Jake’s paralysis, he and Melvin and I, were also destined to be. One way or another, he was to rescue us.

Able body Jake, the day we met him. photo[2]

The day Jake’s legs suddenly gave out, panic is not even close to what I felt. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I had no comprehension of all the terms the vet and neurologist were throwing out to me. I cried for so many different reasons. But the next day, we all got up, and we started figuring it out.

Wheels and diapers, check. IMG_1731IMG_4119

When I read the post that the family put the dog down, a lot of the air around me vanished. Everything started spinning and I had to sit down. My mind started going in so many directions. There was lack of comprehension and information. Grief showed up out of nowhere and gut punched me and my hands became desperate to reach for Jake again. To scream how grateful I was that his first family gave up on him before they had any sort of reason to put him down. The only thing worse than a life that is now without Jake, is a life that never knew him.

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I don’t know this family’s story. I only know our story. Our story is about dog named Jake and the family that he made whole. When Jake’s legs gave out that winter morning, I am not the only one who panicked. Jake looked to both Melvin and I when his legs were swimming and Melvin was the first one to make it over to him. He used his nose and front paws to stand behind Jake and push on him so he wasn’t losing footing. I then picked him up. My little family at is absolute finest.

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Caring for Jake was one of the hardest roles I’ve ever had. Frustration came knocking daily. Life threw a lot of obstacles in Jake’s way, but we said to every one of them:

Move bitch, get out da way“. (Ludacris)

Special needs dogs are not for everyone.  And that is ok. But they are absolutely for someone. Jake widened my patience. He taught me about resilience. He gave me the most incredible purpose. Every obstacle, was an opportunity to find solution. We never gave up.

He wasn’t broken, he was perfect.

My bond with Jake is strong and tough and fierce – forever.  I’m sad that family made the decision that they did, because that dog would have saved a person he was meant for. The same way Jake saved me.

xoxo

 

May Day.

It has been a little too busy over here. I am helping out with some extra projects at work so that is one part of it, our roof decided to give up 7 years into existing so when it rained ALL week last week, it did so outside AND inside.

Here are some highlights as we call ‘uncle’ on May!

  • Doug met a few ‘potentials’. It turned out they were only potentials for me. Doug hated them. Thus, we met with a new trainer, who I really like.  In the past I have worked with trainers on his need to mouth feet, or my need to be able to encourage him from wild to place. This trainer is going to help us get Doug back to being more comfortable with play dates and hopefully then, a housemate. I will do a separate post on this.
  • I don’t think Bob #1 is with us anymore. She could have relocated, we had a surge of feral cats this spring so maybe she found a new gang to run with. I have not seen her in several months. She is chipped to me and I have not gotten any phone calls so, who knows. We wish that vixen all the best.
  • Bob #2 is a regular. Last night I pulled into the driveway and he was in our bushes.  I stood in the garage to see if he would come up to his bowl and he did. Every time a bird flew by or there was a noise, he would flinch. I guess that is the life of a feral cat. After he ate he took a little siesta on the driveway and even though I’m deathly allergic and he is just generally terrified, I think he knows I’m the provider of food. Also, I love him. IMG_9524

 

  • This spring is so much better than last spring for Doug! Last year at this time we were a few weeks into Doug’s first surgery. This year, Doug owns his yard like a boss. He chases the squirrels out of it, he digs for moles (I could live without this), he makes sure his jolly balls get the attention they deserve and then he lays down on every soft surface, except the dog chaise I bought for him.IMG_9396

 

  • To add to the awesomeness of Doug’s life, he has graduated from being in the mudroom when I am gone to having access to the main floor of the house. I slowly gave him more freedom and he has done really great with it all.  The first few days he sat and stared at the door like a statue, but somewhere around day 5 he realized he could do what all other dogs do when their humans are way – lick his parts and nap.IMG_9363

 

  • Melvin and Jake continue to send me songs and beautiful sunsets. And Doug and I continue to help dogs in need so that their #loveliveson .

Have a wonderful week!

 

 

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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