I gotcha, Doug.

Dear Doug,

A year ago I was broken. I was overwhelmed with grief and I was paralyzed under the weight of there being no dogs here. Jakey had not been gone that long and the void in my heart and in the house was crushing me. I’d met dogs and all of them made me have breakdowns. None of them were the dog I wanted.

The dog(s) I wanted had died.

So I gave up. My exact words were: it will just have to be shitty until it isn’t.

Then I saw you. I was scrolling on Facebook and I saw you and went past you and then scrolled back up and then back down and then back up. What was it about you? I didn’t think: you’re not Jake. I didn’t say: it feels too soon. In you, I saw the love-child of my delicious duo. More so, I saw a tomorrow that you could be in. I brought you home (one year ago today) and there were no breakdowns, at least none that were grief driven.

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In the first weeks that followed, my feet bled.  This is not some sort of poetic rhetoric, they literally bled because you were insane and tried to eat my feet with every step I took.  Every step.  I remember running and hiding in the bathroom.  I googled steel toed shoes.  Steel toed footwear in the heat of summer = not cute. During those torturous weeks, you made me miss Jake more.  I won’t lie, I did not love you. I regularly asked myself and you out loud, what was I thinking?

In addition to my bloody stumps, you had more energy than all the dogs combined times infinity. We walked non stop and still you were wound up and running zoomies. Still trying to leave me footless. How was I going to walk you with no feet?

I cried. A lot. About you. You were not at all what I wanted.

But then it was October. Then November. And we’d worked on you chewing toys and not feet and although I was still sad about Jake, I was not as unsure about you. December came and I still cried myself to sleep missing Jake, but I woke up smiling that you were here.

You saw me through almost all the firsts I had to go through without Jake. You were fairly insensitive about my sadness, in fact most times when I would cry you would jump on my back and chew my hair.

In hindsight,  you were everything that I needed.

I didn’t need a hug. That was Melvin’s job. Melvin’s collars were too big for you. I didn’t need you to make me laugh, Jake had that covered.  Jake’s jackets were too small for you. What I needed was a disruption to the structure of grief. I needed to go a little crazy.  Who better to show me that than you? You are my boy in the middle. Sandwiched between your brothers. Sort of like that circle on the top of your head.IMG_1852

You crept slowly into my heart.

I didn’t love all the walks, but the fresh air healed me. I was not excited about how much training you needed, but it helped pass time that would have otherwise been spent wishing Jake was still laying on the couch next to me. I didn’t love that you were such a terror, but every night I went to bed, I was almost too exhausted to be sad.

You were not the dog I wanted at first. But no dog was.  Today, I know with certainty that we were meant to be. Not just because you are addicted to surgery and I love going broke, but because when you look at me, my heart squeals. You are so much like Melvin, and so much like Jake, and nothing like them at all.  Even though you never met them, I still feel like you are brothers, that you are connected to them, and I do not think I would have felt that way with any other dog but you.

Your story is the opposite of mine.  You never had a family to lose. You never had someone committed to your health or well-being. You never had a home, or beds or peanut butter. If there is one thing I know, it’s that the universe will send me the dogs that others would not be able to go the distance with. I will travel this crazy life with you and your wonky Barbie legs, always.

I know you know you’re home.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of joy.  You are a strong force in this army. You bring the joy AND the funk.

You own my heart. Sure, some days I am still worried you will chew it up like one of your beds or swing it around like one of your Jolly Balls, but as all unconditional loves go, I’m willing to take that risk.

Happy Gotcha Day, bud.  I love you.  Forever.

 

 

Doug and the big bed.

One of the hardest things to get used to after Melvin died was his absence in the bed night. He was always there, every night. Some nights, he took up the whole bed, and for a dog that was not loved in his previous life, that was how it was meant to be. Him living like a king.  Jake was always uneasy sleeping in the big bed for the full night.  He’d snuggle for a while but he’d eventually want to get down and sleep in his bed. I think it was lack of control of being able to get down from the bed.  He was just always uneasy up there for more than an hour or so, even when Melvin was alive.

When I first got Doug, I let him into the big bed at night. It was pure torture. I honestly thought about lending him out to the military to use a tool to get enemies to talk. It took him a full 20 minutes to stop bouncing around the bed and off of my face and body and when he finally did lay down, it was a constant state of temporary.  If I took a deep breath or moved an inch, he took it as an invite to play.  He did this all night long. If I rolled over, he’d jump on my back in a lets-get-ready-to-rumble way.

Enter his ‘condo’. On night two or three, I dragged out one of the soft crates I had and Doug went right in and slept for ten hours. Ok, so that was a huge blessing and a note-to-self that he was obviously crate trained.  Good to know. So he has been sleeping in Big Red at night since then.

Recently, during the shocking realization that Doug snuggles now, I thought I’d try in him in the big bed again.  He was still pretty bouncy at first but he quickly calmed down, took a position on the bed and went to sleep.  I was shocked.  I moved and coughed and rolled over and he just kept sleeping. The only minor issue is that his chosen position on the bed IS LAYING ACROSS MY PILLOW. And it has to be on the pillow I’m on. If I move to another pillow, he moves with me. Doug is small in comparison to Melvin but he is not small in comparison to pillows. Here and there I let him sleep with me but it’s not the best night sleep when you are wearing your dog as a helmet.

Isn’t this awesome, Mom, its like I’m your pillow.  You’re welcome for that. img_2678

The net net of this post is that as we are working on Doug sleeping in the big bed, I hate looking at the giant red crate in the room.  It’s all part of my decorating illness brain, I need things to be visually pleasing and in their place.  I know it’s a little cray but there are worse obsessions to have!

So this weekend I dragged out Jake’s teepee to see if Doug would entertain sleeping in it.  I left Big Red just in case it didn’t work out.  But much like Jake, Doug likes caves and cozy spaces.  He took right to it and slept all night. I’ll trial it out one or two more nights and then move the teepee over to where the crate is and all will be glorious in my visual field again!  Win, win!

There is a cover on his bed because if there is not a cover on his bed, he tries to eat his bed. Apparently the cover is not as delicious. img_2694

Doug is still in search of a sibling.

We are looking to add a dog to the household!  Doug loves meeting new dogs which makes it all very fun and easy, except for the part where I give a lot  of thought (probably too much for my own good!) to how each dog will fit.

As for my part in the search, the last dog I looked for was Doug and I met so many dogs and had so many breakdowns that each dog was not Jake. My last search was in the bubble of the deepest grief. That time when the house was so empty and my heart was broken and every dog I met made me even more sad (good times!).  Until I saw Doug’s face. The dog search before that, was wrought with so much stress because Jake hated every dog that was not Melvin. The dog search before that, was Jake.

I was the last winner of the dog search. img_2531

This go around is so fun! I am loving watching Doug meet potential new siblings. Sometimes he overwhelms them with his exuberance, sometimes they underwhelm him with not wanting to play with him. There are a few things I feel very strongly about this go around:

  • I obviously would like the two dogs to like each other. Basic like, they don’t have to love each other but hey, that would be great too!
  • Doug is still very young and has a lot of training left in his journey to breed ambassador. That means that unlike Max, who schooled Melvin, or Melvin who schooled Jake, this next dog is going to need to be part of Doug’s schooling. Doug can bring the funk, but this next dog is going to have to bring some of their own soulfulness.
  • I don’t want another Doug. That sounds harsh, but it’s really just honesty. I love Doug, I love that he is who he is. But when it comes to the next dog, I don’t want a dog a of equal energy. Not because I want to do less walks, Doug still needs walks so that is not going away. I just don’t want two dogs in the house, bouncing off each other. I want a dog that will play with Doug but also one who can school Doug on the other aspects of being a dog that don’t require constant zooming.
  • I think the age range that would work best for Doug and for me is 5-8 years old.
  • The ultimate goal is to have three dogs, the third of which is a super senior (10 or older)!

We have not found the dog yet but we have met some great dogs on our journey.

Is my new brother or sister in here? img_2507

We met Angel (here), who was lovely! She is a little older than Doug and she’s deaf. She made the most awesome noises. I was a little worried how Doug would respond to her Chewbaca talk but he did fine.  Doug and her got along pretty well, but they never stopped chasing each other. Inside, outside, inside, outside, chase me, no you chase me, ok I’ll chase you, hey jump off the back of the couch with me. No, please don’t. Just when I thought Doug could not get more energetic, enter Angel! Now before you worry that I don’t want Doug to play, I DO! I so want him to have a playmate and a life-partner-in-crime.  But I can sense when we meet a dog that plays into Doug’s need for anarchy and when we meet ones who have a better balance between mayhem and peace.

We met Wendy (here), who is the sweetest Pittie and who if  I had met her before Doug I would have swooped her up and called it a day. Wendy is adorable and lovely. Wendy is also very young, like Doug, and is coming into her exuberance (which she should!). Wendy and Doug would make for a tornado and while it would be so fun for them, mamma wants a more stable weather pattern. I know, I know, I’m a party pooper. I do trust my instinct to know when it’s right though.

I have prescreened about ten dogs for Doug. A few have gotten adopted because I am unable to walk into an adoption event and walk out with a dog. I NEED TIME! I NEED TO MAKE LISTS! I NEED MY LISTS TO GIVE BIRTH TO NEW LISTS. I am who I am! A few were not a good fit (the dog does not like other dogs in their space or they are dog selective). I have found when a dog is selective, Doug rarely makes the cut, even though he tries too so hard.

We are meeting  a dog this weekend that I actually met after Jake’s death, before I got Doug. She was one that was perfect, but at the time, was just not Jake. I go back and visit her often and this weekend, Doug is going with me.  We’ll keep you posted!

She lies, I’m always calm and wonderful and I never misbehave or chew feet or pillows, like this pillow which I destroyed yesterday but I only did it because I know she secretly wanted me to. img_2477

 

He has a home now.

I can see the transition in Doug from ‘am I a guest here’ to ‘I’m home’. It started with his ability to stop backpacking me lay down and snuggle and it continues in other ways. Every day with him, I’m reminded of the same exact settling-in trajectory that Melvin had.

Doug knows the dance. He knows the waltz of the morning, he knows the jam that I go into the office most of the day and he can do what he wants. He knows how to boogie to the different doors for ‘walk’ or ‘potty’. He comes when called.

In the past couple of weeks, when I go into the office, he heads up to the big bed and naps. Exactly what Melvin used to do.

What? I’m working too. img_2232

He is also more aware of what is going on outside.  He now goes from window to window protecting the house.  Exactly what Melvin used to do.

I will protect you mother. 

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You know that hypothetical we often talk about, whether our dogs would protect us if someone broke in (or am I the only one who does that?). I always knew, 100% that Jake would lay on the couch and watch the break-in unfold. I’m sure part of that was his mobility and that he had for the most part, accepted his limitations. In his mind, he had faith that if I was abducted or knocked unconscious, I would have had a back-up plan for him to be fed (I did). As for Melvin, I was never really sure.  I mostly thought that he would be excited to see anyone and that even if I was afraid, he would just wiggle and wag.  From time to time, there were indications he might react if I was in true danger.

Doug is every bit as friendly as Melvin. When people come over, even if he has never met them, he loves them already. Everyone that comes over, he wiggles away for. Even when new dog walkers come and I’m not home, he acts like he has known them forever.  He has yet to meet a stranger. On walks, he is the mayor of our zip code. I don’t want to meet everyone on our walks, but Doug does.

I have defintiely noticed that when it comes to being home, he is becoming more protective of all the comforts he now enjoys. If I know the doorbell is going to ring and respond knowingly to it, Doug runs to the door and gets ready to be greeter extraordinaire.  If I am not expecting the doorbell and it takes me by surprise, Doug stands at attention and barks. He will move in front of me, as if he is protecting me from the ding donging. Doug can read me well. If I get scared (hear a noise at night or during a movie or even waking up from a nightmare), Doug’s response is to immediately take a protective stance.  The one exceptioin to all of this is rustling leaves: wind + leaves = I am on my own. When we are in the backyard, if the neighborhood dogs are barking on the other side of the fence or if I’m perfectly calm, Doug does not bark back or even really notice them. But if I hear a noise beyond the fence other than scary leaves, and my heartbeat picks up, Doug assumes a guarding position in front of me and issues a few barks (Melvin would have run inside and Jake would have run to the noise/fence to hunt).

What? I hunted. Don’t judge. IMG_6002

That Doug is protective does not bother me (strangers hearing barking from our house is not a terrible thing), but I am aware that my reaction plays a role in his reaction so I need to be sure that he always knows that everything is OK. I want to be sure he knows that he does not need to be protective. The doors have locks, we have a security system, we have security cameras, we love our neighbors. It’s important to me as he goes through this phase of realizing how great his life is now that he not worry about anything. I have been working with him a lot and now if something causes him to go into protect mode, all I have to say is, it’s okay, and he gets back to wiggling.

You will still protect me from the rustling leaves though, right?img_2347

 

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

 

A Christmas Miracle.

We had a relatively quiet New Years.  I had a migraine (fun!).  Oh, and miracle or two occurred.

Things like, DOUG SNUGGLES NOW!

I’m not sure how it happened.  I was talking to Melvin and Jake one night, saying how it’s ok that I don’t see them in my dreams, that maybe it would be too hard to see them and then wake up.  It’s ok, because I feel them and that matters more to me than dreams.  I did throw out there to them that they should, COULD, WOULD need to help guide Doug. I specifically asked that they help him learn to snuggle (or at least let me sit on the couch without being playfully mauled).

The next day, this started.  I assumed it was a fluke. That’s my head, he’s not sitting on it!img_1723

And that is my leg, he’s not standing on it. img_1873img_1886

When he let me put the blanket over him, I assumed he was dying.

Snugglefest has continued for a week now!  img_1955img_1966img_1990img_2025img_2033

I forgot what it is like to watch TV and not have every muscle in my body tensed-up because Doug is hanging off my back or climbing my hair or standing in my lap trying to lick my face.

I reward snuggle-Doug with belly rubs and calm face massages to encourage him to always want to be calm on the couch.  The miracles continued as he slept in the bed ONE NIGHT!  He was pretty good from 10pm to about 4am and then he decided it was time to rave so we are taking that one slower. Mama needs her sleep!

Snuggle on!

 

Our very first foster day.

Where to start…

Our foster, Athena, was supposed to come a few weeks ago. There was a delay in her arrival from the shelter due to her having a rough spay operation and also that they had to remove a mammary tumor (it turned out to be benign).  They had a hard time getting her incisions to heal and she was at the vet for over a week. I wasn’t for sure if we were even going to get her.

This did not stop me from planning.  I bought bigger crates, I bought baby gates and I drove 40 minutes to buy the food she was currently eating so that we could slowly transition her to better food. It also gave me a chance to train Doug away from he mudroom.

When I went to pick her up on Saturday, she still had sutures (which I knew would be the case).  Upon looking at her underside, it was obvious it didn’t look like it was supposed to.  The area where the mammary tumor was removed should have been flat, instead it was raised up like a tennis ball.

We got her in the car. She was timid but sweet. Her sad eyes told her story.

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The meet and greet with Doug did not go very well.  They lunged at each other pretty early on (on the walk on leash). There was snarling. I was worried about this since Doug has never ever reacted this way but I was more worried about the state of her incisions.

The vet that the rescue uses got us in right away.  When we got into the exam room, I noticed that she has a heart-shape-spot on the side of her body.

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It took two vets and two vet techs to remove the mangled staples that were buried in her swollen incision areas.  They flushed the areas out. They opted to not do new sutures because of the infection, they wanted to see if they would close better on their own, without the staples. They cleaned out her ears, they may never have been cleaned out before, and we left an hour-and-a-half later with her antibiotic and instruction that she should not be outside too much, or lay down outside at all.  Her incisions were susceptible to more infection.

She remained sweet as could be.

I got her home and into the mudroom.  Doug was hyper aware she was there and kept trying to jump up on the gate (I had three gates separating them, I am nothing if not efficient). She was extremely uneasy in the mudroom. She did not like being in the crate our outside of the crate near the gate.  Even when I was in there with her, she was uneasy.  I don’t know if she had ever been in a house before. If I left the mudroom, she tried to jump the gates, not a good idea in general or with her incisions.

I tried everything. Leaving her in the mudroom with a visual of me to see if she’d calm down. I went into the mudroom with her. I gave her a frozen peanut butter Kong, then a bully stick, then cheese.  She wouldn’t eat. I put Doug in his crate in the office and brought her into the house to see if she would calm down. She didn’t.

It was only outside that she was relaxed.  She had lived an outside existence for many of her years. After a few minutes outside, she would prance around, sniffing, occasionally coming up to me.  It was a gorgeous day on Saturday so I would have stayed outside with her all day had it not been for her incisions.

Every time I brought her back into the house, she panicked. Her and Doug growled at each other from afar, although Doug did start to relax a little.  He had no problem eating his Kong or bully stick. But she just barked and whimpered and paced.

I tried to get her more comfortable in the house.  The rescue group’s trainer called me and we chatted about her anxiety. Was it Doug? Was it me? Was it the house? Was it how she felt? I had a had a plan for if her and Doug hit it off and for if they didn’t.  I however did not have a plan for her being uneasy in the crate, mudroom or house in general.

The trainer asked me to send her photos of the incisions, that maybe the vet was being overly cautious.  Once they saw them I think they agreed that she needed to stay as clean as possible to hopefully avoid more surgery.  We chatted about options and decided to take her to the 24 hour vet (it was evening) so they could get her calm and get her some pain medication (something we had not gotten at the first vet appointment, even though I asked for them).  It was painful to look at her incisions, it had to be painful for her to have them that way.

This vet was about 40 minutes away.  She calmed down dramatically in the car. She was timid going into the next vet but I went with her into the back room and got her settled into a cage in the back treatment room.  She was perfectly calm in that cage. She sat down and then laid down as I sat with her. She was much more comfortable in this setting over being in my house.

I went over everything with the techs, said my good byes to her and went home.  The plan was for her to stay there until they decided if she needed surgery to clean up the incisions.

I went home and felt defeated, mostly for her.  I had not thought that day one would be easy or great, I only thought it would be as good as it could be. But with the state of her incisions and her anxiety level, I felt like she had a much rougher time than anyone ever deserved. I’m not sure knowing about her health issue would have made me plan differently.

Doug rounded out the first day of fostering with marking all areas she touched. Luckily for him, I love him and I was way too tired to care.