As Doug’s legs have gotten better, I started noticing that he is having some other issues. My general rule for vet visits is that 1. If it seems like an emergency, it is an emergency and we go right away. 2. If it something shows up (but not a 911) and persists, we go. Doug’s latest symptoms have shown up, then gone away, then shown up a few weeks later for a day or two, then gone away. So it took me a little while to realize that in this case, persisting was defined a little differently.
He throws up. Not daily. Sometimes less than once a week. But enough that I can say ‘regularly’.
He has runny poops or poops that start out good then go runny. This will happen once and then he’ll be fine for a week then it will happen again for maybe two times then not happen again for two weeks. (This one made a little more sense to me. As he has come off tie down and gone back to his normal exploring mode, things go in that shouldn’t).
He has a cough. He will cough one day, then not again for a week, then maybe throughout one day, and not again for several days.
He rarely has any of these issues at the same time.
All of the above started after his last surgery but also after he came off all his meds and as he was becoming more active. Then last week he was just off. He was hyper one day then completely lethargic the next day. And I could tell he was nauseous from the amount of drool he was producing. So off to the vet we went.
Take me to the vet woman.
I listed out all of the things for the vet and I mentioned how he never had any stomach upset with surgery or pain meds and that I thought it was odd that all of this started as he came off meds.
The vet found the timing to be very suspect. All of his symptoms (other than the poop part) could point to his esophagus being irritated during the last surgery when they put in or removed the breathing tube. He felt the on and off again could indicate it healing then flaring, repeat, repeat, repeat. So we started on some meds to coat his digestive tract, some meds to tamper down acid production and some meds to help with the poops. He also got a nausea shot that night and we went home with nausea medication.
The first few days on the meds were just more of the same. But by day 3 or 4, Doug was remarkably better and WAY CRAZIER than usual. I could tell he was feeling better. The only thing that is persisting is the cough. I know this cough, Jake had it when he was going through radiation and having anesthesia (and thus a breathing tube) daily.
The next step, since the meds did seem to help, will be to scope him and see whats going on. Is there inflammation in his esophagus? Is it limited to there or does he perhaps have an ulcer. Is it something else all together?
The only thing I know for sure is that getting insurance on Doug is the best things I have EVER done.
I’m gonna take a nap but you need to keep working so you can pay for my insurance.
Doug gained two pounds! The dog who runs zoomies for a living burns double the calories that he eats is finally gaining weight! How did it happen? I have no flippen clue.
When last we checked in on skinny-Doug, he was down to 43 lbs (had lost weight) but was eating a diet for a 60lb dog. He was also pooping fourteen six times a day. Losing weight and pooping a ton, not the usual happy ending to a digestive love story. I am still feeding him a part cooked diet (Grandma Lucy’s) but have added in a part raw diet (Primal Raw). Before anyone gasps or says ‘you are not supposed to feed raw and cooked together’, this is our middle ground right now. He is gaining weight back and he is only pooping 2-3 times a day. We like it here in the land of thriving and NOT SPENDING ALL DAY EVERY DAY PICKING UP POOP! The long-term plan will be for him to move to all raw. But what I have learned from my super active monkey is that he does not transition well. Not physically, not behaviorally, not digestively, not even emotionally. Doug needs time and space to be, Doug.
There are areas that he is proving to be my dog. Like the need for regular vet visits. This week we went in because his peeing has picked up and he had a few ‘accidents’ in the house. He was fine in that area so that is why ‘accidents’ have air quotes. (Funny story here, we did blood work and the only metric out of range was the one that would suggest the dog is VERY ACTIVE).
The other thing that is going on with him, that does seem to be something, is that 3-4 times a week, he does this thing were his cheeks puff in and out. It took forever for me to get it on video and once I was able to get close to him when it’s happening, I could see that during these episodes, his tongue flutters super fast and he is unable to stop it. He is otherwise normal during it, he can walk, is alert, but for 45 seconds to a minute, he does this:
There is no trend on when it happens. In the morning, afternoon, evening. At home, on a walk, in the car. The vet suggested it could be seizure related. Then she said the words that I have heard before. You should see a neurologist and get an MRI and Spinal Tap. If/when Doug goes and has these test done, IT WILL BE THE FOURTH TIME IN FIVE YEARS THAT MY DOGS HAVE HAD AN MRI AND SPINAL TAP. Melvin had one where the findings were inconclusive but they suspected a primary cancer (two years later that turned out to be true). Jake had one when his legs stopped working the first time (and we found out he’d be paralyzed) and one last February when his legs stopped working again (as much as wonky legs could stop working) and we found out he had cancer. The words ‘MRI and Spinal Tap’ ignite my grief.
For now, we are going to start him on anti-seizure meds and see if that helps. Not because I’m not willing to have the MRI/ST done, of course he will have whatever tests he needs. And not because it hasn’t even been a year since our last MRI/ST where I heard that Jake had cancer. It’s more that I don’t think we need to go from point A to point MRI without hitting point B and C. Doug is young, I have to remind myself not to live a life of ‘cancer finds us’ and instead live a life of ‘it will be ok’.
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.
Thank you for all of the well wishes! We really apprciate it! xoxo
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:
If you’d like to get your very own, you can learn more about them here. Tell them Oh Melvin sent you!
Losing Jake is hard in obvious ways and different in unexpected ways. It’s always different for each loss, but as hard as it was to lose Melvin, losing Jake comes with a swell of other losses and disruptions.
There is the expected part where I am incredibly sad, I miss him so much and I still need to be taking care of him. This part…it’s the given. The price we pay for true love. I say ‘I love you, Jakey’ out loud, all day, because it’s everything that I feel.
Then there is this house. When I lost Max and Melvin, while taking up their things was hard, I still had water bowls and beds to leave out. Each time, there was still a dog. Jake has SO MUCH more stuff than just beds and bowls and toys. This home is set up for him. There are yoga mats running the width and length of this house. The mudroom is a makeshift vet treatment room. There are washable pee pads, diapers and diaper inserts, everywhere. And for one dog, there are more beds than I can count on two hands and just as many waterproof mattress covers. I have slowly started gathering things up but with each thing I pick up there are emotions to work through. First, picking up the things that made his life easier feels like saying, ‘these things are in the way’. Jake was never in my way and those solutions brought us both so much joy. No one wants to have to clean-up joy! Secondly, picking up his things is a reminder that there are no dogs here.
There is no ‘our’ or ‘we’. It’s just me.
The moment Melvin died, I immediately felt him in a new way. I felt him become a part of me. I missed him and the ache was palpable but he wrapped himself around me and I carried him forward with me. I never I thought I’d say these words about anyone but…he imprinted on me.
I don’t feel Jake all that much (yet). I worry that his googly eyes got confused at the end and maybe he imprinted on the couch instead of me.
I think I know why Jake feels so far away.
While Jake most definitely knew I loved him and we felt love with no words…so much of Jake’s and my love was also through touch and action. He felt my love, literally by feeling me taking care of him. I channeled so much of my love through nurturing. My hands were on him caring for him. Love felt when lifting him, carrying him, holding him up. He’d look up at me with a single glance (and a single eye), and I’d reach down, knowing exactly what he needed, to help him maneuver. Now, my hands feel idle much of the day. I know that part of not feeling him is that, I literally can no longer reach out to help him. I don’t lean over or kneel down 50 times a day. My apple watch is probably worried I’m dead based on the drop in activity.
I never thought I’d miss meatballs.
The other thing is, and this one might not be one that everyone will understand and I may not do a great job of explaining it but even if you don’t get it, it’s the perfect example of how odd grief can be. When Max died, I could picture his old-dog body healed and him running again. I’d known Max his whole life. When Melvin died (he’d only had cancer for 40 days), he looked exactly the same on earth as I thought of him at the Rainbow Bridge. The only difference was, he was cancer and allergy free, easy to see. Jake is different. I was not Jake’s mom during his healthier years. The majority of time I knew Jake, he had progressive mobility issues. I was wonky-legged-paralyzed-Jake’s mom. I saw those issues as challenges and together, we made a life where Jake lived his own version of normal and I thought we’d have many, many more years together so I had let go of ‘upright Jake’. I always wanted more for Jake, but I never wanted more than Jake. When someone says ‘Jake’s not suffering anymore’ or ‘Jake is running in heaven’…it is everything I always wanted for him, but I also feel…disconnected. I still see, my Jake. When I have visions of Jake now, he’s usually laying with Melvin or sitting next to him. Although he’s happy, I can’t (yet) bridge my mind to zooming Jake. I can easily see him with no diaper rash (yay), I can even see him with no hamburger eye (oh those gorgeous googly eyes). I think this is just another reason why I don’t feel him as much yet (in the way I felt and saw Melvin). Grief has a way of making random shit more difficult than it needs to be and this is just a strange grief barrier I need to break through.
Maybe, maybe I’m just looking for him in the wrong places. I have faith it will work out.
This past week I have felt Melvin more than usual. I know he is letting me know he’s got our boy. It’s funny how roles can flip. Now I’m the one who is somewhat paralyzed at moments. I’m the one with separation anxiety. I’m the one with wide-eyes, looking to be lifted up. The boys moved forward every day, no matter what.
That legacy will live on in me.
As for no dogs being here, well that will feel lame until there are dogs here again. I had to come to terms with Jake not wanting other dogs. I committed to that for him so it’s not easy to turn that switch and say ‘ok Jake’s gone, there can be other dogs now’. I am still the impassioned leader of Team Jake. This week, I’ve slowly started looking at rescue sites again. As always, there are dogs that make my heart thump. I know that rescue is my calling. I hear it.
I just wish Jake was still here. It’s only been two weeks.
There have been so many beautiful people; my family, my friends, you…who have been there, here, wherever you are…sharing stories of how Jake inspired you, that you miss him also, reminders that we made a difference. To say I am blessed, is to say love lives on.
I have been re-reading my post that talks about how ‘the one love’ should move forward (click here to read). Trying to remind myself of who I am. Up until this moment right now, I have never lost a dog and not had a dog and faced how to go about moving forward with a new dog. I have always gotten a dog before losing a dog. There has always been a dog! So that post about ‘the one love’ was written by the old me. It’s still me, but since writing it there has been a lot of loss and there has been a wonky-legged-googly-eyed-I-hate-any-dogs-that-are-not-Melvin dog. So when I read that post now, I tend to laugh because up until Jake, all the dogs I have had wanted me to love again. Melvin and Max loved love. They wanted me to always be paying our love forward. Jake…well Jake loved being loved. But sharing was not his thing. Some with Melvin but definitely after Melvin, he did not share his neighborhood, his yard, his toys, his food, me or hisMelvin’s our home. Something tells me Jake is in heaven being reminded that the F-word is absolutely not permitted…
‘Uh, F no mom. Step away from the rescue sites. We did fine without dogs when I was there and you can totally do this no dog thing without me. If you see someone with a F-ing dog, look away, you do not want what they have. We talked about this, NO DOGS IN MY HOUSE! That one-love crap, that ended with me!‘
Of course that is all said in his Barry White bark voice while he continues to flip and flail long after he’s done saying it and there are probably heavenly meatballs (made of glitter). Jake behaving exactly like he did every time I tried to bring a dog home to him. And in true form, Melvin is just laying next to him, calm as can be, rolling his eyes over the idea that Jake uses up so much energy on such silly things. And Max is thinking…there is no way we are related.
I sorta like the vision of spirited Heavenly Jake. It allows the hashtag #lifewithJake to live on, just like the love does.
I had to leave Jake for a few days. Leaving anyone towards the end of their life feels impossible and complicated and emotionally painful but sometimes other loved ones in your life need you also and you make compromises.
The only saving grace was that if Jake were able to make his own bucket list, the first nine out of ten items would be to have his dog sitter, Tayler (and her mom), come stay with him. He may love her more than me. And I’m fine with that. For the record, Jake’s tenth item on the bucket list would be for us to go live wherever Melvin went and for me to pack really good snacks for the journey.
Tayler has watched him many times before,the last time this past winter. That did not stop me from channeling my inner insanity detailing every step of Jake’s day in notes. Here is a look at the note, the highlighted areas are items that are new/different since the last time she watched him.
Crazy, party of one.
The original plan was to take Jake on the trip. But sometimes life puts cancer in your day and you cannot add to your baby’s struggle anymore than it already does.
Jake’s bucket list: own a harem. Check.
Most of you don’t know this but I had to leave Melvin for a few days, just after we found out he was dying. There was a very special and important family trip and although I could have canceled, there was the potential for regret no matter what choice I made. As it turned out, Melvin was just fine without me and he too got to spend a special last visit with his love, Vasha.
Even in dying and death, we have to live. It’s not always easy (I cried so much when I left Melvin for that trip but I also had some wonderful people around me, giving me strength to go back and face the hardest phase of my life).
So I left Jake for a few days, and there were tears (mine, not his!). I worried way too much, but I did relax some. I overthought everything and yet still found some clarity. I checked-in like a crazy person and even had the vet come by to check on him and of course, he did fine.
I would care for Jake until the end of time. I would change his diapers, care for his infections, carry him…forever. But it’s always nice to get a little break. I came back rejuvenated and when Jake pooped on me as I was giving him my snuggly hello, I laughed so hard. That is what our love looks like and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our life right now is fairly, ordinary. I love ordinary. We made some changes to Jake’s pain management and so far, he’s doing really great. We are in that phase where living in denial is not really possible anymore but we are also not in the phase of ‘this is the end’.
We’ve made it three months since diagnosis. Instead of thinking he has a certain amount of time left, we instead like to rest on our achievements. We made it three months!
Stop! Snuggle time.
Jake is still eating. Peanut butter is a part of his every day. The pain meds help him sleep super soundly (so soundly that I have to set my alarm to check for meatballs because homeboy now does not wake up if he has gone in the middle of the night) but they don’t keep him sedated all day. He is more limited than six months ago, heck he’s more limited than one month ago, but he in fact is, just Jake. He does the ramp to out back as if he has done it his whole life. He is clearly still CEO of the meatball factory. He still takes his Neighborhood Watch shift very seriously.
Not every day is all lollipops and rainbows. Life is just not like that. I will admit, I do get a tad upset at Jake’s circumstance. Not that he has cancer, I mean geeze, I think it’s a given that I don’t want him to have cancer. But cancer is out of my control. My angst is more centered around the added struggle for Jake. Why does his cancer have to limit his mobility even further? I mean this one is just hurtful. Why does he have an ear AND eye infection AND a diaper rash flair-up on top of it all? No seriously on that last one, WHYYYYYYY? But all in all, I find my moments of frustration are brief and short-lived and we instead focus on the gratitude and joy. And peanut butter, Jake said not to forget to give another shout out to the glorious peanut butter.
AT the start and end of every day, I’m thankful. If cancer was going to be, I’m grateful that this time we get a slow decline, that he gets a chance to acclimate. I’m glad we got three months and I’ll be grateful for each and every day we have together.
Wishing you joy and gratitude on this lovely Tuesday!
The good thing about Jake’s gradual decline over the past two years has been that as new issues pop up, I have time to assess them and come up with a solution. Like the diapers, and the cloth diaper inserts we moved to (so as not to fill up all the landfills). Or how to keep him safe(r) in the car or solutions for nighttime meatball production. While he has gradually declined, I have been able to gradually solve our problems.
Him going fully paralyzed overnight has not been easy. Mostly to watch. Gradual decline is not something you measure or really see, you coast along with it. But with him losing his leg use overnight, I have had avoid ‘poor Jake’ and instead step up my game to make his life as easy as possible.
I have to carry him a lot more. Which means I need to come up with solutions for how he can do some things (like go down steps, especially to the outside) on his own. I’m looking into having some ramps made for him so he can remain independent.
Wonky-but-still-upright Jake needs rugs and lily pads and yoga mats. Dragging Jake needs hardwood floors. While I can pull up all the rugs, Jake is used to targeting them so he is not getting that he needs to drag on non-carpeted areas. Why can’t he understand the words I’m speaking?! I’m flailing my arms around like air traffic control and he just stares at me, laughing in his soul.
Dragging Jake’s diapers come off. Really easily. Like within a minute. I ordered a drag bag to hopefully help with this.
He has been reluctant to eat while sitting down. I have a raised feeder for him so that is not the issue. So far, I have to hold him up while he eats. I am trying to, once he is heavily invested in eating dinner, lower him down so he realizes he can eat while sitting. I may also look for something to support his underside (a pillow of some sort) while he eats.
When meatball production starts, I need to be there to hold him upright. Seriously, I need to be there or clean-up will rob me of my sanity. I ordered a couple harnesses so I can remain standing while assisting him to stand. This morning the factory opened at 2am and it took him 25 min to go. We bonded.
But to be honest, if I was going to go into sudden-hind-leg-paralysis with someone, I’m glad it’s Jake. He is so brave and he tries and works on his new mobility with such intensity. I just love his perseverance. I’m proud to be his mom!
We go to the neurologist tomorrow. We will keep you posted!
“I think if you feed me bacon, my legs will come off strike”.
Benjamin Button’s Jake’s legs continue to fail him. There are good days, but the balance between good and bad has shifted more to bad. This household moves forward, so his bad legs days are now, normal legs days.
I’m trying to teach him to drag his legs. His first inclination when his legs don’t work is to sit and stare at me. I mean, I get it, I’m lovely. Stare away! But we probably need a better plan than that. So I try to entice him with food to come over to me, using whatever means necessary. My next effort might be to try him in a drag bag, to get him more used to his legs dragging behind him.
We are having some changes elsewhere in his life also. We went from having a meatball maker to the plant equipment going on strike. He’s moved from going every day to every three days and it’s likely due to his bottom parts losing their production power. He’s not constipated, more like, his body just forgot it has to work. Luckily, there is a group on the Internet for everyone. Including parents of paralyzed (in any capacity) animals. So I asked this group ‘how can I make Jake poop (in a not-constipated-way)’ (oh the glamour in our every day)? And you know what, it’s one of their most popular questions, and that made it feel completely normal and it empowered me and I breathed relief. I won’t share the details (unless you need the same advice) but I will say that I proved even further that there isn’t anything I won’t do for the boys!
Don’t worry woman, I won’t have to poop for three days so you can sleep in!
In the past week, four things have happened that I would rather had not.
We came in from a morning bathroom break and I went into the loo (for no fewer than about 30 seconds). While I was in there, I could hear Jake ‘swimming’ it’s what happens when he can’t catch his footing and he’s fighting to get his legs upright. This noise is nothing new. I came out of the loo, looked to left where the noise was coming from to find that Jake (in 30 seconds) had poop’d, fallen backwards into it, scooted around for several feet in it in an effort to get upright, stepped in it and did some ‘swimming’ with his poop covered hind legs. He managed to spread poop into a 5 foot by 7 foot area, mostly on rug. HOW? WHY? It took me over an hour to clean up. He gave new meaning to the term ‘shit storm’.
One night, Jake pee’d through two cloth diaper pads, two maxi pads and a waterproof diaper, thus soaking through two bed covers and into the bed. He alerted me to this problem at 2am.
On a night when a migraine was trying to kill me and I was in extreme pain and very stomach sick, Jake decided to spew his full weight in throw-up all over his bed and condo. As I was cleaning it up, mind you, I go blind in one eye during migraines and was VERY stomach sick, I ended up throwing up on Jake (because i could not see him). Low point in our lives folks. I had to crawl with him into the shower at 3am. With a migraine. Each of us blind in one eye. No bueno.