Three years without Wonkalicious.

Jake went to be with Melvin three years ago.

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Putting it in that context has always made it hurt a little less. I was always meant to find Melvin, and so was Jake.

 

Losing Jake was so hard, something this community knows very well. Melvin was gone and Jake’s last year was so difficult. His soulmate had left him and he didn’t know why. His beautiful googly eye formed a hole from an ulcer and after emergency surgery, struggled to heal (never forget hamburger eye!). He went fully paralyzed in his hind legs.  He got MRSP. His body had a much harder time fighting infection and then cancer came knocking again, this time with two different types for Jake.

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I have conflicting feelings about his last year. He was so lost without Melvin and there were moments, where it was just me and him, that I saw how small and lonely he was without his big brother. But he and I got to have that year together, just the two of us, and I really do believe that is how it was meant to be. He got all the love, something he had never gotten from anyone, ever.

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We made the best of that year. Many moments of me holding him in my arms, dancing around the house. Trips to the beach, rolling around the hood in his stroller. Owning the front door watch post like a boss. Him doing all the meatball production and me doing all the meatball clean up.

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A lot has happened in the last three years, and in some ways, nothing has changed. I said goodbye to Jake and hello to Doug; my little family may look different, but Melvin and Jake are still part of it. Jake is still my baby, I don’t think any dog will ever need me as much as he did. Melvin is my co-pilot and Jake is Doug’s. He is the little voice that whispers inside Doug’s head, some are really good ideas and some are really, really, really bad ideas.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jake told me to do it. IMG_2805

Every year around the time of Jake’s death, I try to find a dog in rescue who needs a cart. It started with Oliver, just before Jake died, and this week, we bought our 4th cart in memory of Jakey, paid with love, for a little nugget named Declan. Declan is about to regain his mobility, and every joyful step he takes with his new wheels, will be more of Jake’s beautiful love living on, and one more step closer to Declan finding his forever.

I am so thankful this wonky-googly-eyed ball of comedy rescued me. I’m so happy to have been chosen to watch over both Jake and Melvin and watch their love grew. They brought me more happiness than I could ever explain! If you ever ask my advice on how to navigate all of  life’s beautiful and soul crushing moments, my response is always: Be the joy. So this week, in memory of someone who’s love should live on, be the Jakey joy. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Love. Lives. On.

 

Well that’s new.

Let me give a quick recap of the health issues I have faced with the dogs. An asterisk indicates multiple dogs and/or flare ups:

  • Giardia ******
  • Mange
  • Severe allergies **************
  • Moderate allergies *****
  • Maybe allergies ***
  • Infected anal glands ***
  • Skin infections **********************
  • MRSP
  • Diaper rash **********
  • Severe diaper rash **********
  • Split nail
  • Cracked tooth
  • Missing teeth
  • Colitis ****
  • Happy tail
  • Infected happy tail ****
  • Tail amputation
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Eye growth that needed removal
  • Eye ulcers ***
  • Hole in eye from eye ulcer
  • Emergency surgery to fix hole in eye
  • Blood clot that formed after eye fix (in eyeball)
  • Severe spinal malformations ********
  • Spinal fluid blockage ***
  • Unidentified tick disease ***
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Wonky gait *****
  • Hind limb paralysis *********
  • Sores from dragging paralyzed legs *********
  • Bleeding of any kind ********************
  • Ear infections *******************
  • Liver disease
  • Nares surgery
  • ER visits to remove feathers from throat **
  • ER visits (non feather related) *********************
  • X-rays *********
  • CT scans **********
  • MRI and Spinal taps (3 and counting)
  • Bladder and bowels that needed manual emptying (my life is so damn glamorous)
  • Severe constipation
  • Extreme diarrhea
  • Prolonged diarrhea
  • De-worming
  • Dog attack injuries (Jake from attacking every dog I brought home and other dogs attacking Doug)
  • Aspiration to lung and almost lung lobectomy
  • Liver cysts
  • Liver tumors
  • Lung tumors
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Grief honk crying requiring behaviorist and prozac
  • Nerve sheath tumor
  • Spinal Cancer
  • Radiation

I’m sure I’m leaving out issues that have long ago left my memory. But you get the point.

The surgeon took one look at Doug’s X-rays and said, I know the issue. He then did an extensive inspection of Doug’s leg (Doug did not love this part and I could tell by the movements the doctor was doing that he had for sure narrowed in on the area of pain for Doug). We did a CT to confirm.

I would like to add my recap to the (male) doctor was as follows: every day, it seems more and more that Doug’s leg was put on wrong.  I’m going to guess you didn’t play with Barbie as a child (I wish you could have seen his face at this point), but if you had, you would know that there is a right and wrong way to put Barbie’s leg back on when it falls off. Doug’s Barbie leg is on wrong. 

He nodded (and somehow managed not to laugh since I was coming across as very serious) and told me that in his entire career as a veterinary surgeon, no one had ever used a Barbie analogy.

But then he said, (in a way) I was right.

Doug has a grade 4 luxated patella. While 90% of turned kneecaps go to the inside, Doug’s is of the rarer variety and goes to the outside. Grade 4 is the worst, it means that the kneecap can no longer move back into place without surgical intervention.  It seems as Doug’s leg grew, his bones pushed his kneecap out of the way and continued to grow without it. So the doctors have to go in and shave his bones to make room for the stray kneecap.  (I almost passed out when he said that).  They are building a 3D of Doug’s leg to figure out the best way to repair it.

Doug’s onset of symptoms were right on track. For a few months he would hop at the end of long walks or bursts of intense zoomies. He was limping more over the past few months. Then last week, he went lame on that hind leg.

Doug was supposed to be the dog that showed me what this illusive ‘annual vet visit’ is all about. Doug had other plans and clearly wants to be more like his brothers. So we will rebuild that wonky leg (hence the extra asterisks above) and we will figure out how to keep him still now and after the surgery (I bought more vodka to help strategize on that one). The one thing that Doug has going for him (in addition to me), is extreme body strength.  Doug currently runs on three legs, just as fast as he does on all four.

I saved Jake’s giant stroller and everyone kept asking why are you saving that? Their thinking was that I would likely never have the need for it again.

HAVE THEY NEVER MET MY DOGS????

Here is Doug.  High and drunk from the anesthesia and sedatives and pain meds.  We will keep you posted as the surgery gets scheduled.

So high he does not notice treats. IMG_3847

He 100% thinks I bought these for him. IMG_3882

 

Two months and new urns.

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:

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If you’d like to get your very own, you can learn more about them here. Tell them Oh Melvin sent you!

Meatballs from Heaven.

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 his Melvin’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 pity the fool that gets another dog. IMG_0835

What happened.

I’m not sure how it’s been one week already.

Let me start by saying, this post is sad. And it’s happy. But it’s sad. No matter how hard I try to inject joy or humor (I gave it my all!), the answer to the question that so many of you have reached out to ask, ends with some obvious heartbreak.

I thought Jake and I would have a little more time together. I had also hoped that I’d be able to share with you when his time had come, but as I realized what was before us, my mind and heart and existence only had space for Jake. In our last few days, I gave myself fully to my boy.

You knew Jake’s health plight, oh so well. He had a crappy spine that took his hind legs down. The mobility part, was a lot. But we worked towards solutions and he learned to move forward, literally and heroically.  When strangers would see Jake they would always say, ‘poor thing, he really struggles’ and I’d say, “he’s fine, he’s Jake”. And that was truth. But the secret life of a special-needs pet-parent is that you are constantly evaluating the current state of struggle and being. I was always tracking the balance of joy. Jake always just kept finding a way to move forward in his spunky little way. It was my honor to join him on his journey and share in such an incredible love.

He taught me so, so much.

Jake’s challenges did not end at his legs. If only they ended there. The universe seemed to single him out sometimes, with issues that we tried so hard to overcome and we could almost fix, but not really. He had a strain of MRSP with no compatible treatment. He developed not one, but two eye ulcers at the same time, one that formed a hole in his pupil and while emergency surgery helped keep the eye, his eyesight, his beautiful wall-eyed eyesight, suffered. So he had a hamburger eye. Yet, still he kept going.  He lost control of his pee and meatballs (to be fair, this did not bother Jake!).  Even though diapers helped, they also weighed him down and he battled many diaper rashes.

The spine and leg issues were enough. Add in all the other things and as his mom, I sometimes cursed the universe for unloading on my boy. But for every issue, we worked out a solution. For every single situation that made his eyes look at me with worry, I came back with something that helped it. My goal with Jake was that his balance always went towards joy. He returned my every gesture, with laughter and love.

Teamwork at it’s finest.

We even found our way after we lost Melvin. In the past year, we were each other’s everything. Our little family, was perfection.

Then came spinal cancer and the soft tissue cancer in his hind leg. The universe bearing down on him, again. A cancer that we couldn’t treat and one that would be painful. A battle we were not going to win or solve. My evaluation structure changed. I no longer had to balance the struggles, I just had to monitor the pain.

Or so I thought.

When Jake was diagnosed with cancer, he still had some upright moments in his hind legs. Not many, but he could wobbly stand to eat sometimes, or he’d do a walk-drag (a move that earned him a ‘drunk uncle’ nickname). But the cancer took his left leg down pretty quickly and then his right leg tried hard, but it too lost that fight. The odd part about this chapter was, the hind legs part was always going to happen to him. That was a plight we’d accepted after figuring out his wonky spine. So sometimes, I’d forget he had cancer or that it was actually the cancer doing the current damage. In a way, having had accepted his mobility plight before the cancer, helped us stay strong and closer to joy after he was diagnosed.

Yoga mat runways throughout the house helped a lot too.  He strutted his stuff like a boss.

Over his last few weeks, Jake became less active. Some days much less, but some days were better. When we’d go out back, I’d put him down to go potty and he’d just sit at the end of the ramp and pee there. I’d pick him up and put him in the yard and try to get him to move around but he’d just sit again, looking towards the door to go inside. I’d carry him inside. If it was a mealtime potty break, I’d go in and make his breakfast or dinner. Prior to this time, if I said ‘dinner‘ he’d come ‘running’. But now, Jake would still be sitting in the mudroom. So I’d go and get him and carry him to meals. His pain management was constantly reevaluated and he was, for all we could measure, comfortable. He just wasn’t moving around on his own very much.

He was still so happy though. His face was pure love.

There was also a  change in how he dragged his legs, going from dragging his legs to the side (normal and easier for him as he could use his bum to help push himself forward) to having his legs drag directly behind him (so much harder for him to pull his weight that way). He tired easily. I just loved on him harder.

Normally, through these changes, we’d be at the vet or have the vet to us. But I knew what the decline was about. And like so many things in Jake’s life, I couldn’t fix it. I could only try to make it easier on him. So I carried him a lot more, knowing him so very well and knowing where he liked to be at each hour of every day. When Jake was in my arms, he’d kiss me constantly, as if kisses were the gas pedal that kept me going. And they were.

I’d carry Jake to the end of eternity and back again.

Jake had also been having some very minor seizures. We were not sure why. Part of me thought maybe it was his medication. During his last two weeks he’d also started having little spasms when he was laying down. At first it was two to three a minute. Towards the end, it was 20-30. They were like these zingers, it almost seemed like he had the hiccups. But he didn’t have the hiccups. They seemed to bother me more than they bothered him.

Yet though it all, my bug still knew so much joy.

Then there was the terrible infection that stemmed from his most recent diaper rash. And all our usual tricks that battled diaper rash before, failed. Cancer was being a real jerk. The thought that a diaper area infection would take my ninja warrior down seemed so unacceptable so I fought that rash harder than I think I have ever fought anything. We battled it hours and hours a day. I set a time limit on the infection, if it continued to win, I could not let him continue battle it. It would have infected the joy.

But you know what, as of that last Saturday night, the infection turned a corner, and it was on the mend! And I high-fived the shit out of Jake and we did a ‘we won dance’  and it had been a long time since we got to do a ‘we won dance’ and we went to bed Saturday night renewed in our fight! The time I had given us to beat the infection had not run out.

Time is funny. It doesn’t care who you are or what you want or how hard you fought or how many things you faced down or how much you danced. It doesn’t care that your little guy worked harder to travel through life than most will ever have to.

Time didn’t care that Jake was only eight.

On Sunday morning, the day after our we beat the infection parade, Jake woke up, toppled over and had a seizure. This was not a minor seizure like the others, it was major and it was terrible. His body went so rigid that at first I thought he was having a heart attack. I held him in my arms and I told him that he was going to be ok and that if he saw Melvin he should run towards him with all that he had. I told him over and over and over that I loved him. During the seizure, he pooped (this is normal for a seizure but I think Jake was sending me a ‘I love you, too’). As his body started to relax, he stared up at me…with love and then kisses. And in that moment, in that tiny, giant moment with my little warrior, we were the only two living creatures on earth. In that moment, we won at love.

I called the vets. We briefly discussed the reasons it could have happened.  A conversation that didn’t really require words.

Jake was not himself on Sunday. I know some of that was the seizure. But as he and I traveled through the day, and as I started to paint the picture of our last few weeks and months…I knew.

I know Jake. I know his body better than anyone. I know the exact moment during that day that he let me know he was tired. Tired of challenges. Tired of having to overcome. Aware that his ability to travel though our life together, was becoming too much.

If Jake had a wonky spine and seizures, well I’d clear the calendar and we’d be a regular at the neurologist. If he had the worst diaper rash and wonky legs, we’d tackle it. If he had MRSP and a wonky spine and eye ulcer surgery with months of a cone, well we call that 2015.

Sometimes you can’t outrun reality. Even when you can’t really run at all and your mom is carrying you and she is running as fast as she can. Jake had cancer and all the other crap that the universe dumped on him and now seizures were invading our precious space and I knew, in a way that only I could know, that his joy would only be reigning supreme for a few more days.

I couldn’t let him go through anything more, except love.

The day I let Melvin go, he was not having a bleed. It was an ordinary day with my extraordinary boys, he woke up with joy in his heart. He ate, he walked out back on his own and he snuggled with me and Jake. His tumors hadn’t ruptured yet. There was no collapse. There was only joy.

I wanted the same for Jake.  His life had known such struggle, 100% more struggle than I ever wanted him to have known, and yet my little superman choose love and perseverance every single time. Jake’s end was coming and I would rather die myself than have him feel one more ounce of struggle or confusion as to what was happening now. So Jake had a beautiful Monday. His village came over and loved on him and he gave them the sweetest, gentlest kisses. He had the best meal he could have ever imagined. He and I went on a stroller walk, right down memory lane. To all the places he and Melvin used to walk, on all eight of their legs. We went out back and reminisced about all the things he ate in our yard. We did his last neighborhood watch at the front door.

Then he and I tuned out the entire world and we snuggled. We snuggled so hard and so perfectly. I breathed him in. He kissed away my tears. I told him all the things I wanted to tell him and he looked into my eyes and told me all the things he needed me to know.

We could not have loved each other more. We got each other through the roughest year of our two lives. We chased joy, and we caught it.

I let Jake go at home. In his favorite spot.

I know that as his vision of me faded, Melvin appeared. I know that Jake leapt into Melvin’s face with an unimaginable joy and I know Melvin shared gleefully in that glorious moment. Jake moved forward, cancer free and struggle free, eyes wide and his second leap was likely straight towards Melvin’s butt. There is a part of me that finds such peace in that even as the whole of me grieves. The heartache and sadness I feel, is worth every ounce to know that Jake and Melvin knew my love and that they are reunited in sweet, joyful, odd-couple joy. To know that they have each other, for forever this time.

#loveliveson #findyourjoy

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Formal wear.

I pride myself on finding solutions for Jake. There have certainly been times when those efforts have failed to produce options, but usually just for the minor stuff.

Jake drags his hind legs around now, which means his diaper gives me a big F-you every time I put it on him.  I readjust his diaper, true story, 100 times a day. Ask all the carpets we have waved goodbye too, the system was not working great. I had tried suspenders but Jake is pretty small and since he is on his stomach a lot, having the underside suspender part was not ideal because it would cut into him.  I also tried wrapping a scarf around the diaper (tighter), the scarf also gave me the big F-you. I even tried that mesh wrap the vet uses but I’d have to get a 2nd and 3rd job to afford that for every friggen diaper change.

So  I did what Elsa suggested and I let it go, and I just became the re-adjuster. Then Amazon, who serves up ideas based on my previous searches (guys, my searches would make you full on pee your pants — and we would have a diaper for you!), put the solution in front of me. Sheet binders. The straps you put on your fitted sheet to keep it in place.  They were 8 inches, the EXACT length Jake is from collar to diaper. Same day delivery? Yes, please!

We are only on day two, but my back is already hollering hallelujah! And Jake looks like he just came from a wedding reception. Pretty much the ONLY time you’d see white suspenders.

I mean, try not to laugh!IMG_9448IMG_9441

It took a while to get the sizing right so he was not choking.  Choking is bad. IMG_9425

For the record, dude had just pee’d in this bed and I was taking it up to wash.  He has no shame. He is more like a wedding crasher. IMG_9437

 

Oncology check-up.

Jake got diagnosed with spinal cancer and a nerve sheath tumor four months ago. I cannot decide if it feels like four-months, if it feels longer or if time is flying by.  I guess mostly, it feels like four months.

We had an oncology appointment this week. For the most part, Jake is doing great! He has maintained his weight (thank you home cooked diet and peanut butter!).  His mobility has declined (terminal spinal cancer will do that) but his decline has been slow and steady so he has been able to acclimate. He’s comfortable, our pain management approach is working. That last one, is everything.

Jake was always going to be paralyzed in the back, so that part was already (for lack of any control on our part) accepted. Of course it got accelerated by the cancer, but we had already made peace with his mobility plight. And he’s still perplexing the medical community, which I love doing, as his cancer leg is changing color and no one knows why!

I asked the Oncologist point-blank (as I do each month)…”You said he’d have three to six months, do you still feel that is the case?”. She said…”I think so”.

It’s odd, but I left that appointment happy.  Sure, Jake has a cancer we can’t treat (the reality) but his slow, steady decline has given him a chance to keep his chin up (the blessing). We are controlling the parts that we can. We are doing it all as right as possible.

Focus on the joy.

A lot of loveliness can occur in a few months. Sure it will feel short when the end comes, but that is the case with all ends, there is just never enough time.

A few human months is about one to two dog years — Jake is going to have an AWESOME dog year or two!!

More peanut butter, please! IMG_9184

UPS.

When the decision was made that Jake could no longer use his wheelchair, I had the normal reaction, put it in the corner and suppress the disappointment.

But that wheelchair kept calling out ‘someone needs me, do the right thing’.  So I reached out to Jake’s rescue and I asked if there were any alumni they knew of that REALLY needed a cart.  They had someone in mind and I reached to that little-big cow dog’s mom.  When she asked me how much I wanted for the cart, I explained that we really wanted to her guy to have it. The only thing we asked in return is that they pay it forward one day.

So last week I loaded it up with instruction (when that cart came I had zero idea how to get Jake in it so that instruction step was crucial) and I carried it out the door and put it in my car.  I stopped at UPS, grabbed the cart and walked in.

That is the exact moment that all the oxygen left the world. I was standing in UPS, there was no oxygen and I started hyperventilating, bawling and then out of nowhere came a honking sound from my body. I panicked (or perhaps terrified myself), turned to run out, ran into the man standing behind me (the wheelchair rammed into him) and somehow made it out the door with a bunch of voices yelling behind me ‘ma’am, are you ok?’

Oh sure, I always honk like a donkey, things are great.  Instead I yelled back, ‘I have nothing to mail’.  (HAHAHAHAH, I have nothing to mail, classic response. That totally makes the situation more normal.)

I got into my car, drove to a side street and parked. What the hell had just happened? I made a few calls to people who could talk me back into some realm of sanity.

I looked over at the wheelchair.

Sending the cart made Jake’s cancer too real for a moment. 

It’s OK to be human. Just breathe.

I did a few other errands. At one point I realized that UPS probably had security cameras so I just prayed that I was not currently trending on You Tube. I eventually went back and mailed the wheelchair. The people at UPS could not have been nicer, they took one look at the notes and said ‘seems like this cart is being sent with a lot of love’. It most certainly is. Love will live on in that cart.

The wheelchair is on its way to Oliver and he is going to rock the hell out of that cart and his mom will hopefully breathe some relief when she sees him take off in it. There is something really special that happens when your mobility challenged dog gets his wheels and is suddenly no longer hindered at all.  Jake and Oliver have similar spinal issues and they just happen to be the two biggest Frenchies in the world so the size should be perfect.

We had a great weekend, Jake is snoring in the next room and luckily for him he has a great replacement wheelchair, her name is Tracey. All is good here.

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Why did you honk like a donkey at UPS? I’m embarrassed. IMG_9050

Everything.

When it comes to Jake, most days  I don’t know what I’m doing.  I’ve pretty much felt this way for three and half years.

It started off because he does not react to anything I do. He has no tail to wag, he has wiggled his body maybe ten times since I’ve met him and all of those times were for Melvin. When I dance or sing for him, he sits like a statue, almost pretending like it’s not happening.  When I come home, Jake does not even get up, he looks to see what the noise is about then puts his head back down. I have no gauge of if he likes something or not. Except food, he will 100% eat anything and everything.

I know what to do for Jake, if something happens I take care of it, and there is nothing I won’t do to make his life be the best that it can be. But when it comes to most things about him, and his spine and his paralysis and now the cancer, there are a lot of grey areas and most days I just wing it.  I guess it was the same with Melvin’s allergies but I think it’s different when you are solving problems versus dealing with issues there are no solutions for. (I guess even then, love is a pretty good solution).

I have to carry Jake a lot now. I am never sure I am picking him up correctly.  I’ve read articles, watched videos and asked the vet(s) but there is no set way for every single thing that Jake goes through in a day that would suggest one way is the best way. Wing it.

I cook for him now, a cancer diet.  There are so many theories about what they should eat when they have cancer. Then there is balancing that food brings Jake joy. The nutritionist said ‘no dog treats’, only give him fruit or veggies.  I heard, give him peanut butter.  But to compromise I have his peanut butter freshly ground so that he doesn’t get added sugar.  Winging it.

I am a confident person. When someone compliments me, I almost always agree. If you ask me if I’m confident in my ability to care for Jake I would tell you without pause or thought, I am the best person for this job.  I can know this is my purpose, and still not know what the hell I am doing.

It’s called, hoping for the best.

Although I have complete faith I can and will make Jake’s life decisions, I have no clue what spinal cancer looks like at the end. Every day is different and while I do worry and I am sad, most days we just coast. Sometimes you have to provide the light for the dark corners, even when you have no idea where the flashlight is and you are pretty sure the batteries are dead.

Even when I am hoping for the best, it is impossible to avoid thoughts about all the loss that losing Jake will bring. I’ll lose him and that heartache alone is too much to consider. I’ll lose a connection to Melvin. There will be no dogs in the house, in fact I don’t recall the last time I didn’t have a dog.  I will go from taking care of a special needs dog, which takes up quite a bit of the day, to the dreaded void.  I worry about how I will get through. Not that I don’t have support and love and family and friends. But more about where I will derive strength if I don’t have Melvin or Jake to care for. But those moments are short lived, becasue the moneky is still here wtih me, and our life is beautiful.

“You can’t choose the length of your life, but you can do something about the width and the depth.” (saw this on FB this week).

Melvin reminds me to seek out the joy. Find the joy in the little moments. Be a joy seeker.

In being open to joy, one day, I’m at a party and I spot my dad (who I knew would be at the party) and I go up to say hi and he says ‘wait here, I have something for you’. He returns with an article cut out of the Washington Post about a woman who makes dog diapers for her paralyzed dog.  He is a not a dog person but he is a dog person for me and my boys and this non-dog person regularly cuts articles out about dogs and saves them for me. Upon delivering it to me, he tells the people around us that I am ‘a great dog mom’. He says it so proudly, so truly. And I of course think I am, I know I am, but in that moment with him and hearing him say it, it feels like everything.  Everything. Like someone just served up the whole world to me. I didn’t know that I needed to hear HIM say that at that exact point-in-time but in that joy moment, Jake and I won at this life. I realized that Jake I and have already won at what’s to come.  Little moments, are sometimes, the everything.

In life, it doesn’t matter if you know what you are doing.  It only matters that you keep showing up to try.

#findyourjoy #loveliveson

 

 

Rules are boring.

After Melvin died and Jake’s gang violence escalated territorial monitoring and prey drive increased, we called our dear friend and trainer Nancy to work with him (and me). I explained to her that his favorite thing to do was sit at the door but with every passerby, especially that of the dog variety, Jake would flip and flail and foam at the mouth.

Her advice, shut the blinds and work with him under controlled open-blind circumstances until we could give him the skills to handle the activity of outside.  It was brilliant and we set off on our positive reinforcement clicker training with fake and real dogs (Yes, our trainer would walk down our sidewalk in front of our house with a fake dog on a leash and I would click from inside with Jake the moment he saw them).  It was awesome! I believe in positive reinforcement training – not just for the dog, but for the human too. It’s not ‘all my rules all the time’, it’s ‘how can we both be the best that we can be together’.

Jake didn’t exactly ‘graduate’. We worked real hard but since he was diagnosed with cancer, the clicker got put in the drawer and the peanut butter came out.

There are so few activities that give Jake joy. Partly because there are so few activities that don’t require struggle. But staring out the front door, has always been at the top of his joy list. After his legs started failing even more and we found out about the cancer, he would drag himself to the front door several times a day to see if the blinds had miraculously opened again.  Sort of like in Willy Wonka where the candy factory has been closed but then one day, boom it’s wonkafied and back open!

So I ompa-lumpa’d and opened that blind and let him be the jerk he has always wanted to be! Even on the rainiest day when there is no activity, he watches the world. He naps and gets up to make sure the outside is still out there, then he goes back to napping. When he kids walk by from the bus, he makes sure they pass by our house safely.  If one of them stops to tie their shoe, he barks at them to keep moving. When the brown truck man drops off a package and gently door taps to say ‘hi’ to Jake,  Jake Barry-White-voice barks at him and tells him to scram. When a dog walks by, he flips the F out.

There are moments I think ‘you should be training him’. Then I think ‘just let him have the one activity he can do no matter how many legs work’. I don’t give in or up a lot so there is definitely an internal struggle.

Sometimes, cancer comes a-knocking and you have to lessen your grip. That said, Jake was an ankle biter and now is not an ankle biter and to his last breath, he is not permitted to be an ankle biter again.  I mean it’s not a totally rule-less society over here! And if Jake didn’t have cancer, we’d be clicker training every day.  I’m not giving up on Jake, I’m just giving up on some rules that don’t fully embrace ‘joy now’.

 

Happy weekend!  Go find your joy!

Ordinary.

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.IMG_8475

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.

IMG_8451

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.

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Wishing you joy and gratitude on this lovely Tuesday!

 

 

Vets, ramps and rugs.

In the last week, we have seen the oncologist, our holistic vet (for therapy and a check-in) and our regular vet (to get on the same page and decide what the heck that page is).

Here is what I know.

  • Jake’s cancer leg no longer works. I am a very positive person but I think that leg is probably done. I don’t blame it, I’d quit too.
  • Jake has lost 5 lbs. since February.  I know that cancer requires a lot of calories and I think that for Jake, eventually his body won’t be able to keep up on the eating.  As for now, he eats fine, so that is great. We are increasing his food intake and that makes him very happy!
  • Jake is fairly stoic when it comes to pain. He showed no response to having a cracked tooth or various split nails. We do believe we are starting to see signs of him experiencing pain (and nausea) so we are treating both and will continue to monitor him closely. I want him comfortable.
  • It was time for a few of his vaccinations and to refill his heart guard. We had a realistic conversation about his prognosis, that his cancer is not treatable and that his body is weaker with every passing day. I told our regular vet that I only wanted to do the vaccinations he truly needed. We ended up opting against some. I don’t think that his cancer is from vaccinations or from any preventative (I don’t know that for sure but I do believe some of them are important) but I do feel like there is no need to throw any unnecessary treatments at cancer or his body right now. I am Jake’s voice. I have no veterinary training but I am trained in the art of loving Jake and love makes decisions sometimes and right now, love decided that we won’t be putting some of those treatments into his body. These decisions we face are big, insurmountable, giants. But I believe with all that I am that at the end of our pet’s lives, relying on love is the best guide.
  • He still has joy, and for that, we have everything that we need!

Put more food in my belly.IMG_8359

This weekend I continued my quest to find a ramp that Jake can use to go outside. I can carry him, but lifting him up and setting him down so many times a day is not good for his spine (or mine!) and sometimes it seems to bother cancer leg so the ramp is still the most ideal option. The steps to the outside are brick and Jake gets too scraped up going down them on his own.  I have tried carpet pads, nothing has worked. We are now on ramp four. I found a ramp with a Melvin look-alike on the box and I took that as a sign that it was the one!  Then I went to a sporting goods store to buy some yoga mats (one for the ramp since it’s lined with a sandpaper type gripping and that would just result in Jake dragging his then BLOODY stumps).  I told the salesperson I wanted the cheapest ones they had since at some point, it would be pee’d on. I felt bad for him but welcome to my world sales guy!

The good news is, Jake is using the ramp!  I still hold-guide him but it seems to be the one!  Thank you Melvin-look-alike! And of course the cheapest yoga mats are the light ones. The ones that show black mulch paw prints and pee very clearly.

Since getting Jake, he has ‘gone through’ roughly 15 rugs. I clean them, you have no idea how well I clean them(!), but there comes a point when the rug has taken its last beating and we have to let it go. When we got Jake’s diagnosis I decided that I would keep our current rugs and replace them all at once after he went to ‘see Melvin’. Well, Jake’s body had other plans for one of our rugs so its departure came early. Unfortunately it was a rug that covered a lot of ground. So now, instead of matching rugs, I have matching yoga mats, all throughout my house.  They are MUCH easier on Jake and MUCH easier to clean. It’s odd to have random yoga-mat-walkways, but it’s working so I have let go of the decorating fight and embraced the ‘just make it easier for everyone’ approach.

Follow the yoga-mat road! IMG_8377

Goodbye, fifteen. I remember the very first day I had you and Melvin threw-up pumpkin on you.  It took me three hours to get the stain out. I have a feeling you will be happier at the dump. IMG_8376

Denial – it’s lovely here, come visit.

Sorry for the lack of updates. I was opting to live in some denial, which is difficult to do on the blog.

For example, when anyone asks me how long Jake has, I say six months. I still say six months, even though it’s been a few months since we got that prognosis. February 13th to be exact. Since Melvin’s cancer prognosis was in days, being able to say and hold onto months feels like such a long, short time. And since it is really anyone’s guess, six months is not a lie.

Then, we saw the oncologist again. Jake’s cancer leg is now not working, at all.  In fact, that leg is making his hind right leg look like it could go to the Olympics.  His cancer leg is in the back on the left, yet it drags sideways to the right, so his stronger-weak right leg has to ‘jump’ over it with every step.

Why universe? Why?

When discussing this with the oncologist, that clearly his cancer leg is his weak link, she shared concerns that perhaps the radiation did not benefit Jake as much as they hoped.

Wait. Stop. Pretend like you didn’t hear her.

Is that even a thing? That radiation wouldn’t work. I mean I guess it could be, she’s saying it but I just sort of thought it was a given.

She said if the radiation helped him, his cancer leg should not be weaker, it should in fact be a bit stronger. (I had thought radiation would just do its magic internally and slow the cancer down, his leg being better was not something I expected so this was a surprise to me). If nothing else, she said it should have stayed the same.

Pretend like you never came today.  Go home and continue saying six months. 

I asked what that did to our timeline, if perhaps the stupid radiation did not do its freakin job. She said, let’s wait and see.  That in some humans who have his form of radiation, there is residual swelling of the tumor for as long as 8 weeks (which in theory could make his leg weaker and then it could bounce back).  I sensed she leapt into denial-land when she said that but I was happy to have company and we decided to wait and see.  We are currently at just over six weeks since radiation.

The important thing is that his pain is under control.  He is comfortable, he is still moving around (with the new back leg drag/hop), he is still eating, he still has joy in his eye (hamburger eye does not really show that much emotion!). Those are my metrics.

We could do another scan to see what’s going on but I don’t plan to do that. I don’t need to see his cancer.  Knowing it’s there is enough. We are still resting our fate on love and joy and he is doing just fine in that area, so our infinite six months still stands.

Here is my little monkey, and his wonky, crazy legs.

Taking a break on his way out back. IMG_8291

Sitting pretty in pink. IMG_8283

Notice my expert wrapping job of cancer legs foot.  That paw stays scraped up and bloody.  We have tried every sock and baby booty known to man.  I kid you not, we have hundreds of socks, shoes and booties.  Nothing stays on him. Gauze, vet tape and Animax are our best friends. IMG_8280

Keeping watch from the shade. IMG_8331

 

Update on Jake.

At Jake’s Oncology appointment, the oncologist was deciding how our future visits should go. She suggested that we be seen every three weeks, but alternate between oncology and neurology. Every three weeks took me by surprise, to see either of them. I was extra confused about why we would go to see neurology (at all). They had pretty much said ‘good luck’ (in the best possible way), as there are no treatment options for Jake’s spinal condition. We do laser therapy and electroacupuncture to help his good parts, but from a neuro standpoint, their work is done. So I asked: ‘I was told there was nothing they can do, why would we see them’. Her reason for suggesting we switch off between oncology and neurology is that they (the medical team) might not know for sure what is the cancer spreading and what is his spine when in comes to decline. So I challenged: “his spinal condition is not painful, in fact it helps some with pain since he has limited feeling in some parts. But his cancer is known to be painful, often very painful. So won’t pain be an indication”. She said, it should be.

I then did what I often do when it comes to making hard decisions for the boys, I took the lead: ‘I’m not going to be looking to you or neurology for guidance on when it is the right time to let Jake go. I will know.’ I said it so matter-of-factly, it caused her pause. And then I think it caused (her) relief.

Our regular vet and I have a system. She tells me when we have done all we can medically, and I take that knowledge and add it to what I know. For me, once we have done all that we can, the question is no longer medical. The decision is based on the science of love and joy. From the day I took all three dogs in I made them a promise to do right with the power to make decisions for them. We do this daily for our dogs, but when it comes to this last decision, well nothing feels so insurmountable.

So pain will be an indicator.  Also, Jake’s cancer is at the bottom of his spine and extends down his left hind leg.  So deterioration in that leg only will be a sign.  Also, since it’s a soft tissue cancer, it may invade his bladder or colon so if he stops being able to go potty, that will be a sign.

No one wants to think about these things but for us, in order to not dwell on it 24/7, we have to outline the medical parameters so we can get on with the joyful task of living. It’s definitely a challenge to not mourn them while they are still alive, but with Jake, I’m trying to save all that for later (or at least until the middle of the night once he’s asleep).

The only thing we dwell on right now is how much peanut butter we have left.

Woman, put peanut butter in my belly right now! IMG_8221

The little leg that couldn’t.

Jake has a nerve sheath tumor, basically taking up his entire hind left leg.  On the MRI, his right (healthy) leg showed up as completely black and his chicken (cancer) leg showed up as completely white. He also has a tumor (that caused his leg cancer) at the bottom portion of his spine and add to that his normal spinal challenges and that leg has a lot working against it.

For a while now, even before diagnosis, I have noticed that the left leg never really makes it all the way to where Jake is going.  I usually follow-up behind him and help that leg get to where it needs to go.  What I don’t know is if Jake means to leave it behind, since I think both of us secretly wish it would just fall off (sorta like a Barbie’s leg pops off, not what it would really be like if his leg just fell off!).

We see the oncologist Thursday for our first appointment post radiation.  We’ll keep you posted on wonkier leg!

The wonky report.

In yesterday’s post I said that the update on Jake’s mobility didn’t matter since he had cancer.  And that was obviously the rantings of a crazy person. Of course it matters.

Two years ago, when we had his first MRI done, there were a plethora of spinal issues they saw.  No one issue independently could have been causing his troubles at the time but the collection of them all certainly could be making him wonky.

On this MRI, it was very clear what has been causing his issues (over the past two years and his sudden paralysis that started last week).  I won’t give you the neurologist speak, I’ll just give you the Tracey version. On the first MRI, there was an area of concern in his spinal cord.  It appeared to be some scar tissue (we ruled out infection and cancer back then).  On this MRI, that same area was much  more defined and it was clear as to what was going on with Jake.  There are two areas, on each side of his spine that are compressed. This compression creates a situation where spinal fluid does not flow freely or smoothly.  At the time of this most recent MRI, there was a pretty defined area where you could see his spinal cord being ‘pinched’, which would explain his sudden decline last week.  But the good news is that the compression could/should wax and wane.  So he will have good days and new types of bad days (days with no use of his hind legs) and eventually, as we already knew, he will go paralyzed. The condition is not painful (yay!) and it’s not something we could have avoided, he was born to be wonky.

The great news, yes there is GREAT news, is that the little dude is moving his hind legs again!  He is slowly getting back to upright and you can just see the joy in his face!

Jake is the living version of the little engine that could!  Today, if you are struggling with something, pull a a Jake and kick that issue in the ass (unless it is your boss, or your child, or let’s go with any living creature – do not kick them in the ass)!

Here are some photos from our appointment…

We do not travel light.  Stroller in the back, co-pilot in the middle.IMG_7283

 

Jake in an elevator! IMG_7291

 

The welcome sign, that I smudged with Jake’s diaper bag. IMG_7298

 

Jake in the waiting room, wondering why I ‘forgot’ to feed him. IMG_7296

 

And finally, Jake learning to eat sitting down!  Wooohooooo!!! IMG_7307

Crash course.

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”.IMG_7260

 

The update on wonkalicious.

Jake has been normal wonky legs for some time now.  We got the news about his complicated spine two years ago, and ever since we have been on a steady decline.  A slow, steady decline.  Sure, there are good days and not-so-great days but all in all, he has remained mostly upright (in his drunk uncle sort of way).  Two years ago we were at 25% bad, 75% good and lately we’ve been at about 70% very wonky and 30% less wonky.  I’m very scientific.

There have been no blips, no ‘flare-ups’, just steady decline. Until yesterday morning.

Jake went to bed (as normal as he could be) on Monday.  I did find it odd to wake up at 7am and Jake had not pooped during the night, but that happens every now and then.  I did my normal get-up stuff and went to get Jake out of his condo.  He had not gotten out of bed yet, usually he greets me at the gate. When he came to me, it was only on two legs.  I thought it was odd but like I said, Jake is usually at the gate when I get over there so maybe this normal? He had a look in his eye that said otherwise.  After opening the gate it was clear, Jake was only able to drag his hind legs.  He had no control over them at all.

He and I remained pretty F’ing calm. He rocked the dragging and I carried him downstairs and outside, got his diaper on, got him fed (I had to hold him up so he could eat) and then I invaded his butthole got him to poop.

Then I made four calls and three texts to Jake’s village.

The medical contacts agreed, he would not become fully paralyzed overnight.  That part should remain gradual, so something else must be happening. We set up a Friday appointment to see the neuro (they wanted him to come to their far away office yesterday but I just couldn’t put Jake through such a long trip and they agreed that Friday was OK since our second plan was to have our Holistic/therapy vet come see him that afternoon).

Dr. Krisi does electro-acupuncture and laser therapy on Jake every three weeks.  He was due a visit from her on Wed so we just moved it up a day.  By the time she arrived at 3:30, Jake had shown some improvement.  He was still dragging but I could tell he had some control over his legs.  She did the therapy, did an exam and decided we should see our regular vet to rule out other things before we rule in new spinal issues.

Jake went to bed last night and woke up with little leg strength today.  Not a ton but it was good to know that it was at least coming and going.  We had x-rays done that were inconclusive and by the time our vet visit was over, he had no hind leg control again. Also, they could not rule out stroke.

So currently he has no leg strength but after resting up, I’m hoping we see the same improvement that we saw overnight.  Something new is definitely going on and clearly it’s not great.  There is probably a MRI and spinal tap in Jake’s immediate future.  This will be his 2nd MRI and spinal tap, and my third to pay for (Melvin had one too!). I don’t think I would do the MRI if it was just to gauge progression.  I mean Jake’s story on progression is written, he will be paralyzed in the hind legs ONE day.  End of story.  But if he has something new, like an infection or cancer, well that I would want to know.

So I will keep you posted!  He’s in GREAT hands!  Thanks for all the well wishes, we love you!

Lily pads.

Jake and hardwood floors no longer jive.  Getting the house carpeted is not happening (dude leaks pee 24/7 and even the best diapers in the world fail every now and then and it’s easier to replace area rugs).  So my solution, lily pads.

I mean he eats frogs. Why not be one.

The lily pads help him maneuver at a more upright position.  He may knuckle, his legs may not be at all steady, but he can still stand for a bit on the pads and that helps lesson his frustration and muscle strain.

So if you come to our home (and you are always welcome) you should know that the random floor carpets and yoga mats are supposed to be there. Although many ask ‘did you mean to drop this yoga mat right here, in the foyer?’.  This has been a hard transition for the interior decorator that lives inside my soul.  Love is better than decorating. (I chant that daily).

Jake hops from surface to surface, just like in the game Frogger.  And sometimes, when on the small patch of hardwood, or if he veers off course because he sees food in the kitchen, it is truly as if a car runs him over.  SPLAT! (the good news is that these patches are helping him learn to drag).

Why do you keep calling me a yogi? I’m a frog-dog. IMG_7061

 

The path from foyer to fireplace.IMG_7063

 

The trip to the mudroom (behind the couch option).IMG_7069

 

The trip to the mudroom – shortcut option. IMG_7066

 

We have the same set-up upstairs for my little frogger. IMG_6124