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It’s been more than 6 months since Lincoln died. Many, in fact most of you don’t even know his story. Most of you don’t know me. I’ve been away since then; unable to participate. I’m writing now for selfish reasons; to confess, I suppose. To admit my hubris and apologize for not having the courage to stick around. I always did say I wanted to be more like Lincoln. I’m still trying.

I’ve kept a log, as silly or sick as that is. Always knowing how many days have passed since his luminescent spirit flew away from us, swirling and twisting into the ether. Since that day I’ve felt that I cracked in half, and that part of me went with him so neither of us would be alone.

I feel like I have to justify my feelings, although on this site it’s probably not necessary. I have lost other dogs. Many. Including my very first golden who lived to the ripe old age of fifteen. He was a wonder dog, and saying goodbye to him after having him my entire adult life was beyond difficult. He was my link to the past; things now gone, and I felt lost. Lost but not cheated. I now know the difference. I said goodbye to Cuervo knowing he had lived a great and long life. I said goodbye to Lincoln feeling adrift and desperate and treacherous.

After everything he went through at my hand, my judgement, I couldn’t bear that that was how it was going to end. Everything I did to him I did with the truest belief that he would survive. Death was supposed to be afraid of him.

I wish I could say I’ve gained perspective about those choices, but I’ll take a rain check on that. Maybe someday. Today, I’m still missing him, with guilt as the chaser.

After living more than 6 months without Lincoln, I can now admit that I truly didn’t believe he would die of cancer. I thought he was my miracle dog. I believed in something for the first time since my brother was killed over 20 years ago. I want to believe, and perhaps with time I will, that Lincoln paved the way for me to lead a truer life. I want to believe that some of his strength and courage seeped into my marrow and I’ll be a better person. I want to believe that he chipped away at the barrier around my heart and started me down the path of a life without armor.

I want to believe those things, but I’m not quite there. Maybe someday. Maybe even soon. Just not quite yet. Believe it or not, that’s promising. The fact that I can embrace “someday” is only because of Lincoln.

To recapture that feeling, I read Lincoln’s blog, post after post. It’s an attempt to remind myself what it was like to live that way. Each time it brings me to tears, but not so quickly that the sting can overpower the strength and sweetness of my memory. My ghosts walk among me, welcome and warm.

I thought that I was learning from all of the people who went before me. I believed I empathized with their losses. I felt as if I understood. Empathy and understanding are the ugly bookends of arrogance, however, and once it happened to me, I became a member of a club I hadn’t intended to join. I was woefully unprepared despite my pretentious, yet sincere claims that I was learning from those before me. I spouted poetic, but my treacherous heart was in complete control. It convinced my methodical and logical head that it was in charge. My heart whispered, often and convincingly, that Lincoln would be the miracle, and I trusted it. So I offered sympathy that was genuine and heartfelt, but hope had taken over inside of me, and I never truly believed I would be on the receiving end of the same sentiments.

Was that foolish? Probably. But it was nice to live that way, even though it was temporary. I have Lincoln to thank for that reprieve. I have a feeling he knows the importance of that gift. I have a feeling we were brought together because the universe knew I needed it.

Foolish? Probably. But it’s what I choose to embrace.

I tend not to believe in much, but I believe in Lincoln. It may not seem like I’m being positive, but I really am. The fact is this – because of Lincoln, I can say, however briefly, the roots of hope began to grow inside of me. Because of Lincoln, just for a while, I lived life differently. He forced me into it, kicking and screaming, but who could ever resist a golden retriever with such strength and exuberance and courage? Certainly not me.

For now, I still miss him. For now, I still cry when I think about him. For now.  He did his job; it’s up to me to do mine.

But that seed is planted. Maybe someday it will grow.

That is his truest gift to me…the prospect of hope.

“Hope is a waking dream.” – Aristotle

Lincoln

(Written by Lincoln’s Mom, Lincoln’s off living large, too busy to blog!)

It’s here. We made it. The Summer of Lincoln 3.0 has begun. As is normal for me, I approach any new beginning with unwavering trepidation. What begins, must end. On the other hand, I’m completely and totally grateful for the possibility of another summer with Lincoln. Every day with him is a gift. I know that, and I know I must be more Lincoln-like, and live in the moment, but old habits die very hard.

It is far easier to be apprehensive and worried and troubled about what is ahead. It is instinctive for me to seek comfort in what can, at times, be a glorious sense of sadness. I find it simpler to sweep hopes and dreams off to the side, leaving the worst-case scenario front and center, so I am forced to prepare for its arrival, imminent or not. Admittedly, this is an armored approach; a defensive tactic I’ve used successfully for years. When you expect the awful to happen, and it doesn’t, it’s a good day. If you aren’t tactical, you’re vulnerable. Then the enemy can sneak up on you when you’ve let your guard down and blindside you. When that happens, it takes the breath from you and leaves you feeling as though your soul has been snatched from your body. I’ve been there, and I’m not anxious to visit again. It’s innate, now, for me to fortify.

I do make every effort possible to emulate my dog. I’m a work in progress, for sure. I still have a hard time accepting that things could go well for Lincoln. Mostly I worry.

In fact, there are things I’m reticent to speak aloud, just in case they can some how, some way, draw power from my verbal acknowledgement –

Lincoln has cancer. Lincoln’s brain tumor is back. Lincoln’s seizures are becoming harder to control. Lincoln is slowing down. Lincoln is gray. Lincoln is getting old.

Funny thing is, though, nobody told Lincoln the news. He’ll be 11 this year. He’s out-lived two expiration dates; three if you consider he was left at the shelter to be euthanized.

He was his typical, regal self at the Tripawd party, loving up on whomever came close, but most especially Micki, who seems to be his new infatuation.

He swam and drew applause from the boaters last weekend. They hooted and cheered when they saw him jump fearlessly into the water for his official first “Summer of Lincoln 3.0” swim. He basked in his glory. Deservedly so, especially since he was wearing his new harness, thanks to Brett, Fortis, Elizabeth, and Sammy.

He joined us at the winery, and, as always, soaked up the sunshine as well as the attention. He was in his element.

Lincoln doesn’t lament or worry or pout. He just continues to live and love and thrive as he has done since the day I brought him home. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself or refuse to participate because life dealt him some difficult cards. He doesn’t forget to live in the moment because he’s worried about what may come next. He doesn’t hide or become distant or withdraw to protect himself. Instead, he greets each day with an exhuberant wag of his tail and acts as if only good things will come, the first of which will be breakfast!

He is fearless and strong and resilient, this dog of mine.

It’s a challenge, but every day I try to be more like him. It’s not easy, and he’s a tough act to follow, but I’m working on it. Thank you Lincoln, for being wise beyond your years, for having the courage of a warrior, and especially for showing me the right way to live.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

Can any of you believe it? It’s been two entire years since they hacked my leg off. It’s pretty telling that the first two years of my life were way worse than the last two. Don’t get me wrong, the last two have been a challenge, but at least they were full of love (and no brooms, thank goodness). It’s been a fantastic sort of alchemy, really. For all of us. I’ve transformed from a big fat ‘fraidy cat with four legs to a saucy, smiley, swimming, macho dude with only three. I’d way rather be who I am now. My Mom has transformed from somebody who didn’t believe in anything to someone who believes in me. Even my Dad has changed from a tough guy into a big old softy. The other day I heard him say he’d take a bullet for me and he wouldn’t even think twice.

Miracles are wondrous things.

What’s most important in all of this is how none of us ever gave up, even when we were all but promised that it wouldn’t end well. My Mom gave me so many chances only considering my well being, and nothing else. My Dad has been here for me through everything; changing dressings, helping me walk, being that 4th leg when I need it, taking me to the driving range nearly every day, and lifting me into the truck. Don’t forget, I still weigh 115 pounds, so that’s a big gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always known I was here for a bigger purpose than being a dog. For some reason when I got dumped at the pound, it was supposed to be my Mom who adopted me. Have I mentioned that she was second in line, and the first person didn’t want me? If that’s not the definition of “meant to be”, I don’t know what is. For some reason I’ve had all of these health problems and we’ve had to make a lot of tough choices. What if my Mom hadn’t picked me that day? Who knows where I’d be, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be blogging right now.

Even more important, is where would she be? Before me, she didn’t believe in much of anything. But after watching me refuse to quit and seeing me beat the odds again and again, somehow hope and faith got the best of her. She says she’s a better person because of me. Isn’t it incredible what can happen when you act without expectations?

She knows that I’m not going to be around forever, but she’s also grown to understand that forever isn’t defined by years; it’s defined by memories. Memories we wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gotten dumped, and she hadn’t picked me, and if I hadn’t gotten sick, and hurt, and sick again. Memories that wouldn’t exist without chances and hope and love. Memories that have transformed and enlightened and knitted together the broken parts inside of us. 

It’s been two years since my leg got cut off, but it’s been eight years of love and renewal. My leg is the last thing on my mind. I’ve still got lots of teaching to do. My humans aren’t as enlightened as I am. Yet. But I’m working on it.

 
Alchemy. Transformation. Passage. Every day, I can make a difference, no matter how small. Every day I can give something, no matter how slight. In the end, that small thing just may be what saves them.

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” Arthur Ashe

I’ve been trying to get my Mom to understand the concept of time for years. She doesn’t really get it. She has a hard time living in the moment. I think she worries about a lot of things she doesn’t have any control over. She needs to be more dog-like. You know…live in the NOW! I’ve taught her quite a few things, but we’re still working on that one. On top of that, she worries about silly things….things that are far in the past, things she can’t change. And, I have to admit, she worries about me. I wish I could tell her not to. I have everything I need, including a lake and a lot of tennis balls, which I keep next to me at all times.

She’s feeling real bad about Sammy and all the other tripawds we’ve said goodbye to lately. I’ve told you before, she doesn’t wear hope very well, and every time we hear that another friend has crossed the bridge, it hits her real hard. We all understand that I could be next. I think my Mom spends a good part of her life holding her breath, like she’s rationing them, waiting for our luck to run out.

I’m all good, though. No matter what happens. No matter if time is on my side or not. No matter if I live a week or a year. No matter if I die of old age or of this effing cancer. However it turns out, I’m all good.

I’ve had all a dog could ever ask for. I’m ten years old. I’m almost to my two year ampuversary. (My Mom won’t talk about that until it gets here because she’s afraid to jinx it). I got rescued from a real bad place, and ended up in dog paradise. I’m treated like royalty by practically everyone. I swim and run and play pretty much when ever I want.  I ride in a convertible.   I have people who love me.  Think of all the other pound dogs out there who never get the chance at half of that stuff.

I’m happy and I’m going to stay happy for as long as I’m here. I just have to make my Mom understand that it’s okay, no matter what. My life is a dream, and it’s not even over yet. Game on, I say. I’m not quitting now. Let’s go LIVE! And Mom, don’t forget to breathe.

“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox

This is dedicated to Lincoln’s BFF, Sammy, and his Mom, Elizabeth who never gave up hope, and who inspired me with her unwavering belief in her beautiful boy.

I’m ten. A decade. 3652 days. That’s 521 weeks and 5 days. I was born on a Wednesday, which my Mom says is ironic, because evidently there is some poem she read that talks about Wednesday’s child being full of woe.

I don’t know about that, but I do know that currently I am full of WOW!! On November 11th, I was officially 20 months post amputation. On November 27th, we celebrated my birthday (one day early) at the cabin with a SWIM. It wasn’t even cold. My Mom says I’m acting like a much younger dog. Maybe that’s because I don’t see any reason to act a particular way. It’s like this saying by Satchel Paige, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

 

 

I get it, though. I understand why my Mom keeps track. Not only do people who love dogs have to say goodbye over and over, when you love a dog like me, it can be especially tricky. I have definitely kept her on her toes. Plus, I’m constantly reminding her that you can’t control who or what sneaks into your heart. Sometimes it’s there before you know it.

“It is madness says reason. It is what it is says love. It is unhappiness says caution. It is nothing but pain says fear. It has no future says insight. It is what it is says love. It is ridiculous says pride. It is foolish says caution. It is impossible says experience. It is what it is says love.” – Erich Fried (thank you Raina).

Silly rabbit. It is what it is. I am who I am. Tonight I’m just a big, red, three-legged dog with a little bit of gray, who beat the odds and lived for a decade, even when so many didn’t think I would. Life is good.

Happy Birthday to me! Let them eat cake. Or at least let me. I’ve earned it, don’t you agree!

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

 

 

 

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