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:

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 6.59.30 PM

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…

Doug is home.

There was a lot of debate about how old Doug was when I rescued him. The shelter that took him in and the rescue that brought him to DC put him at 2 years old (In August of 2016). When I adopted him, based on all this, I thought he was two. That made him the youngest dog I had ever rescued.

Once I got him to my vet, they were not feeling the two-years-old part. After a very thorough looking over, and a few vets weighing in, they felt he was more of the 8-months old.

Rescue photo of Doug.  HOW OLD ARE YOU 2016 Hooty (his rescue name)? IMG_0076

My first photo of Doug. img_0118

It took me a minute to realize what I’d done. I’d adopted a puppy.  (Insert record scratch noise here). Jake had just died six-weeks before, I’d adopted Doug in a desperate attempt to have dog life back in the house. I was grieving so hard, a puppy was the last thing I needed.

Oh, but I was wrong. Doug is exactly the disruption that would see me through.

The only thing that came even remotely close to how painful losing Jake was, was Doug mouthing my feet. It was like he’d see me cry over Jake and say, you want to cry, I’ll show you pain. That mouthing and his insane energy level screamed PUPPY. We trained, we walked, he ran zoomies, he mouthed my feet.

We celebrated his maybe first birthday on his made up birth date, December 1st (2016). Then we went on a not epic journey, to surgery town. Two surgeries and five months of lockdown, with a dog born to zoom.

We then celebrated his maybe 2nd birthday on December 1st (2017).

Over the last few months, Doug has started channeling an inner calm.  It’s not a consistent calm, consistent is not a word that really fits with Doug. Homeboy likes to mix it up. There are still moments when his face gets tight and he looks like he could implode from nuclear energy and running zoomies only exasperates the situation. But, in general, I would say that 75% of the time now, Doug is somewhat chill.

Some of it might be his legs. They are fixed in an as good as it gets way, but they are not perfect. They may be slowing down his body but I don’t think they could be fully responsible for slowing down his soul.

Our current estimate is that Doug is two-and-a-half. But maybe the rescue was right, maybe he’s four.  That would better explain some of his calmer nature.

Here is the thing, Doug is following the same trajectory that Melvin did.  Arrive crazy, be insane for about two  years, find some inner zen.

I think the main contributor to the calm, is that Doug knows he’s home. Both Melvin and Doug were outdoor wanderers before they came here. Melvin had a home but he was more of their outside dog. Doug ran legit stray. Maybe even in a gang.  Living life on high alert, adrenaline pumping. I guess it took about two years for them to know they were home. There is something really magical about a dog snuggling into their forever.

When I was trying to tame wild Melvin, we worked with a behaviorist on a few of his issues. I went in with a list of things that seemed ‘off’ about him. She and I worked through the list and for each item she’d say…what if this is just Melvin?  What if this is who he is? For example, while I wanted him to like other dogs and have playmates, she made me realize that Melvin did not want that. Melvin just wanted to be around me and other humans. What I wanted was what seemed normal, but dogs are anything but. Not all dogs like dogs. Some love cats. Others chew. Some don’t like thunder. I could go on and on but that behaviorist taught me to approach each dog as a unique individual.

I don’t think I’ve ever done that more than I have with Doug. Jakey probably comes closest.

She also taught me the most important approach to loving dogs. And that is…to meet the dog where they are at. Not where you want them to be, how can they meet you where you want them to be when they are clearly where they are at and they don’t speak english or understand your flailing arms. But if you meet a dog where they are at, and you explore the place they are comfortable in, you can slowly, get to the next chapter, together.

Where was Melvin at and what did he need? His body was on fire from allergies and mange and I doubt he’d ever felt true love. He needed me.

I just need you, woman. IMG_1088

Where was Jake and what did he need? Jake had spent five years waiting. Waiting for his owner to return from 12 hour shifts. Waiting for someone, anyone, to make him feel loved or wanted. What did Jake need? He needed a home where his life could begin. He needed love from me and Melvin.

Am I done waiting?photo[1]

Where was Doug and what did he need? I have learned from watching Bob that stray animals are always on high alert. There is no rest. Doug had come from running stray (perhaps his whole life before me was him being stray), part of his crazy was probably him always having one eye open. He needed safety, and rest, and someone who could provide a lookout for him so that he could just be a dog.

Uh, when I asked you to protect me, jail was not what I meant. IMG_6244

Ahhhhhhhhh, this is more like it. IMG_2698

I love Doug’s calm.  In general, it’s just a way better day when he is not trying to be my back pack or climbing on me by using my hair as some sort of rope. But mostly, I see a soulfulness peeking through in him that is very reminiscent of Melvin. And that is good for the universe.

xoxo

The Decade of Melvin.

I rescued Melvin ten years ago. Of course he rescued me ten years, and one week ago (when I drove to Delaware to meet him). I don’t know how it is possible that it is only ten years, because I cannot really recall a time before, or without, Melvin.

Melvin made me believe in fate.  I believe the universe delivered a master plan in us.

Yes, Melvin won in his life with me. He got the vet care he needed. We waged an assault on his allergies. He had the healthiest life he could have, with me. I love him with my whole heart. But the winner of our union will always be, me.

He changed me. He taught me to chase joy. Jake came, because of Melvin. Because we were joy junkies and we needed that little peanut so we could all be more joyful together. I have so much patience for Doug, because Melvin taught me to be understanding of all dogs. To accept that it is not where we’ve been or where we are going, it’s where we are right now.

I worried when he died that he wasn’t able to impart his wisdom on more dogs. Had I know cancer would strike so quickly, I would have brought more dogs into our house so they could soak up Melvin vibes. But now with Doug, I realize that I am his link to all that. I am the connection from Doug to Melvin and Jake. And there are so many things about Doug that remind me of his brothers. My love is the link to them all.

There will be more decades of Melvin, because I carry him in my heart. His love, and life, and light, will always shine brightly in me. Melvin magic lives on.

A few years ago, I wrote a letter to Melvin’s first family. You can find it here.

I have said this before, I have hard time being anything but happy about Melvin. I didn’t spend a ton of time being angry at his life before me. I made a huge effort to not be angry when I was grieving his loss. Melvin personified (dogified?) joy every moment he was alive. I mean his tail got amputated and he came out of that surgery, on the stretcher, wagging his nubbin. He was ALL JOY, all the time. I worked really hard after he died, to not let anger become a part of our story.  There is a peace that has always washed over me when I see Melvin’s face. I hope that stays with me forever.

Ten years of Melvin in my heart. I’m blessed.

5 13 13b

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.

mpj-_mjprojectjoyv3

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

 

 

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.

A lot of my photos of him look like this:img_0318

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.

img_0359

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!

img_0322-1img_0329img_0332