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.

Please put your foot in my mouth. img_0384

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

 

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.

Doug is my little oddball.

Yesterday, Doug went under anesthesia so that the vet could do X-rays of his mouth and leg. He is missing four teeth (which is odd at his age) and we needed to see if they were impacted. As for his leg, his body is a ball of muscle, except his rear left leg.  It’s much weaker than the other legs and he often holds it up/won’t put weight on it.

The teeth situation is that it seems Doug never had those teeth. There is no sign that he had them and lost them and there are no teeth currently up in there. This is VERY good news.  He’s been having some drooling and pain when chewing so we were very worried this was an issue (that would require a speicalist to deal with). The pain is likely that HE IS SUCH AN INSANE SUPER CHEWER.

As for his leg, there is no indication that there is a bone issue.  His hips look good, his knee looks good too. So it’s likely a soft tissue issue. When they said soft tissue my mind immediately went to Jake who had a soft tissue cancer. But then I quickly pulled myself back. Doug is not even one yet, he’s healthy, it’s a something we can do rehab on and be fine.

I am currently two to three different people at any given time. I’m Jake (and Melvin’s) mom, who is still grieving and who worries when limps present themselves. I’m Doug’s mom who is learning what is it like to have an active, relatively healthy young dog, a role I am not used to yet.  And I’m me, the person who tries to be them both without being too much of either. Stay in the middle Tracey, learn from where you have come but don’t be afraid of where you are going.

True of all of my dogs, Doug was completely out of it all night long and has the explosive poops. He’s mine, all mine.

Why is the room spinning? No really,  make it stop. Is the fire burning my butt? My butt burns too. img_1223

Thank you for all of the well wishes!  We really apprciate it! xoxo

Oh Doug.

Doug continues to be the most energetic animal I have ever encountered.  Here are some updates on how he/we are doing.

  • We are starting to make progress on him not mouthing me. My feet are less afraid to walk by him and my old bruises are healing nicely.
  • I have embraced our attempt to walk across the country as often as needed and he now only tries to eat the leash for the first ten minutes of the walk.
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  • He does great in the crate (both when I’m gone and at night).  I’m not sure when he will be a dog that can sleep with me (see next bullet point)
  • Doug views me as his playmate. But only in certain rooms, and for the life of me, I cannot figure this out. If I am in the kitchen, he will walk over to see what I’m doing but then he will go do his own thing. If I am in the office, he will either go play and entertain himself (between walks) or he will lay down in the bed in my office. If I go into the TV/couch area, he turns into a maniac and thinks I’m there to play with him and he will bounce off my body from all directions to try to engage me non-stop.  He does the same thing in my bedroom (which is why the crate sleeping arrangement is currently in play).  I’m going to be honest here, I really miss the comfortable areas of my house. Like my couch. I guess I will just have to cook or work in the office if I want to relax.
  • He is doing great with training.  He sits on command, most of the time.  He still won’t sit when I’m trying to sit on the couch though, apparently he does not believe in synchronized sitting.
  • He continues to do great with housebreaking!
  • We went to my nieces soccer game this weekend.  There were tons of people and a lot of activity and he did awesome! He does great in the car too.

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I was thinking about what a handful Doug is and how different he is from what I expected.  I’m not sure expected is the right work, he’s just different from what I’ve had so I guess my idea of how he would be was based on wrong things. Anyway,  I know some of us get up in arms when someone adopts a dog and then has doubts, or calls in a panic that the dog is not what they thought they’d be or that they are not sure if it can work.

If we want a dog to growl, to give us that warning sign that all is not ok, then we have to be more prepared when a recent adopter calls with the same type of alert.

As committed as I am to the dogs, Doug is a lot more work than I ever thought he’d be. He has so much more to learn which means I have so much more to teach him and that can be overwhelming and exhausting for even the most seasoned dog lover. There have been moments with Doug when I think, a first time dog owner would cry with him.  And the thing is, Doug is a great dog. He’s a normal dog. He’s got more energy than I’m used to but it’s still probably a normal amount. He has made me realize I need to figure out a better way to support new dog rescuers. When the dog is biting at your feet and you are worried they will never stop, I can’t come back to them with it won’t always be this way or it will get better.  When someone is overwhelmed in that moment, they need a more immediate idea.  Telling them it gets better will only make them worry more in the here and now because the future feels so far away.

It’s like if you are crying and someone says, don’t cry. Don’t cry? That is all you got? I mean at least go get me a tissue.

To all of you out there just starting off on your rescue endeavor, if you are overwhelmed or unsure or tired beyond recognition, here are some of my truths:

  • It’s hard!  You are not imagining how hard it is! You are both new to each other at first yet somehow you already love this crazy stranger. It takes a while to find a grove, even something resembling a grove. They don’t know what you want and you don’t know what they need. When you hit an a-ha milestone though, it feels so sweet.
  • It is A LOT of work. It is not always going to feel rewarding, in fact sometimes it feels like you are being tortured and maybe on a secret reality TV show. Crying is ok.
  • Some new dog owners do not go through a hard phase. Some of them just continue on as they were pre-rescue and it’s blissful and joyous. And you will be happy for them and still want to make a voodoo doll with a strand of their hair.  Not everyone’s path is going to be the same.
  • There is a reason I didn’t blog during Melvin’s first few years with me; it’s because he was even harder than than Doug is now. I didn’t have time or energy to blog becaue I was begging him to sit still. But you know how Melvin turned out. Melvin was worth every injury, every moment I hid in the bathroom because I was afraid to walk him.  Every time I sat in my car for a moment’s peace before walking in to deal with his exuberance. My love for Melvin is anchored in those early years, from those seemingly impossible rough patches, from those tearful ‘what the F was I thinking getting this dog’ moments.

This dog, yes this Melvin, my Melvin, was a full fledge nightmare the first year I had him.  The first time I had him the car, he busted through the SUV barrier and hopped into my lap while I was driving down a highway at 65 mph.  Poetically, we were on our way to see a behaviorist when that happened. Worth. Every. Single. Minute.photo

 

 

 

 

Sucker.

I love my dog.  I have a blog about my dog.  His face is on my Christmas card.  I am unconditionally committed to his health and his happiness.  That said, there are days, when he frustrates me to my core.  Days when I don’t enjoy him being underfoot, or showing me exuberance when I’m trying to relax.  Days when he does things that he knows he absolutely should not do.  Days when I must reprimand him.  Days when I have to give him ‘the look’ over, and over and over.

These days are few and far between, for the most part Melvin is a sweet boy and his good days outweigh the bad ones 50 to one.  But on those ‘one’ days, after I’ve let frustration speak my words and dirty looks have run amuck, I am always overcome with complete and weighty guilt. Each and every time.  I try to think back on all the occasions my parents reprimanded me, told me to go to my room, left me to wallow in what I’d done.  I’d survived.  But Melvin looks up at me as if he doesn’t know why I’m mad.  And then I convince myself that perhaps he doesn’t know, even though he’s just done the shameful act right in front of me.  Or did he?  There it is again, that look where he tilts his head and seems to say ‘huh?’.

Today is one of those days.  And yes, I just apologized to him for him being a bad dog.