“If you don’t laugh at 5am when your dog has pooped on himself, you’re going to cry.” These words of wisdom were my introduction to Tracey Holupka who as a special needs dog mom keeps her sense of humor. Tracey is the creator of the well-known blog, Oh Melvin which shares the funny side of life with specially-abled dogs Melvin and Jake. She started blogging five years ago to reassure pet parents that, “If I could take care of a disabled dog, they could too.”
Oh Melvin, is named after the yellow Labrador retriever Tracey adopted from a rescue group. Melvin passed away in April 2015, but the legacy of his battle with extreme allergies, continues on the blog.
“Melvin was allergic to the Earth,” said Tracey. “Everything bothered him. He was nearly euthanized before I adopted him because of the cost to treat his allergies. Even our vet said he had the worst case he ever saw. I started the blog because there are so many dogs that have allergies and I wanted to let people learn what we went through. The blog got its title because after every health issue that came up I would say, ‘Oh Melvin we’re going to fix it.’”
Jake, a French bulldog, joined the family three years ago. Tracey said she originally wanted to adopt another big dog, but Melvin and Jake fit together so perfectly she knew she had to take him home. It didn’t take long for Tracey to fall under Jake’s charms too.
While Jake’s funny personality was a typical Frenchie, Tracey noticed her new dog’s body wasn’t quite normal. Jake had a strange gait and his back legs stayed a little too straight when he walked. Tracey brought Jake for a veterinary visit to check out his “wonky gait.”
The vet was concerned, but both he and Tracey decided to see if the walk developed into something more serious. Jake was fine for the rest of his first year in Tracey’s home, but by the time his second anniversary rolled in January the little dog had lost his ability to walk.
Tracey explained that her dog’s condition deteriorated quickly one day and Jake had to be rushed to an emergency appointment with a veterinary neurologist who performed an MRI and a spinal tap.
“The results were complicated,” said Tracey.
Jake had Hemivertebrae, the congenital spine deformity seen in many flat-faced dogs, plus he suffered from cysts on his spine and dark fluid in spinal column. Tracey got the news that her little guy wasn’t going to get better and he would gradually get worse.
But in her typical upbeat style, Tracey said, “When a challenge comes up, you seek a solution or you will get overwhelmed.” So Tracey got started learning all she could about life with a paralyzed dog.
Jake started laser therapy, got a wheelchair for exercise and a stroller for long outings. Tracey even learned to wet down the lawn at her home so Jake wouldn’t get a grass burn when he dragged his body outside. Tracey said the activity of running and dragging himself outdoors keeps his front legs strong.
During the past year Jake has developed several other medical conditions. His eyes became ulcerated after receiving a medicated bath to relieve environmental allergies. The problem had to be fixed with corneal grafts that left one eye better and one eye worse, but Tracey thinks both look spectacular.
“We saved his eyes and I love looking at them,” said Tracey.
In addition, Jake became incontinent due to his paralysis and recently he’s been losing the ability move his bowels. Tracey learned how to handle each of these situations. She found a wonderful company that makes custom diapers and she is using techniques to get Jake’s body to poop on command.
All of these stories are shared every week on Oh Melvin and Tracey continues to have a sunny outlook about Jake’s future.
“I love Jake and I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Tracey. We celebrate Jake’s life and he is happy. Nothing holds him back.”
Melvin’s Project Joy
Tracey also started Melvin’s Project Joy in honor of her two special fur kids. Each month she holds a Giveaway celebrating one of the health problems her dogs have been through. So far the project has helped: dogs with anxiety, dogs with less than four legs, visually challenged dogs and hearing impaired dogs.
This month Melvin’s Project Joy has generously offered a great Giveaway to readers of Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog. One lucky winner will get a Custom Belly Band for a male incontinent dog from Sirius Republic. This is the same belly band Jake wears.
All you have to do to enter the Giveaway is leave a comment in the section below this story. (You must live in the contiguous United States)
One winner will be announced on Friday, January 15, 2016.
We will contact you via the email left in the comment section. Entries will be accepted through Thursday, January 14 at 9pm Pacific time.
Sirius Republic is a family based business located in the San Francisco Bay area. The company donates a portion of their proceeds every month to rescue groups and shelters.
Our thanks go to Tracey and Jake for this Giveaway and for taking time to share their story. I hope you’ll check out Oh Melvin to see for yourself how this special needs dog mom keeps her sense of humor.