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Submitted by Lincoln’s Mom, not for the faint of heart.

I was gone a lot during November and December. Lots of work travel, some family time away from home, and lots of busy work in between trips. It’s been crazy at work ever since then. Long hours, day after day. It’s dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home.

During that time, Lincoln took advantage of all the extra time with his Dad. Much of it was one on one, since Quinlay wasn’t with us yet. They’re pretty much inseparable now, Lincoln and his Dad, I mean. They go to the driving range nearly every day. Lincoln goes with Kirk pretty much when ever he gets in the car. Kirk has taken over both feedings, since I’m not often home in time for dinner.

I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t sting. Lincoln had always been my dog. You all know what I mean, right? We’re a family, of course, but Lincoln came to me first. I found him at the pound and rescued him. It was up to me to make the final surgery decisions, so I have held his his fate in my hand far too many times. He was my dog, even as he was ours. He was my responsibility. It was an awesome and profound and bottomless commitment.

At some point during the month of December, I realized that Lincoln seemed to be relying more and more on Kirk. Lincoln went to him first for attention and looked to him for both love and rough-housing. I frequently felt a bit superfluous.

I didn’t fight it. Not one bit.  In fact, not only did I not fight it, I even encouraged it.  Somewhere deep inside me, in the awful, toxic, gnarled places that I try to deny even exist, in those places, I was relieved. I was being abdicated of my responsibility to him. Never one to shirk my duty, it was a relief that Lincoln had made the decision on his own. I hadn’t even had to put up any defenses or push him away as I had done to many a boyfriend. It had happened in spite of my love, or perhaps because of it. But either way, to Lincoln, the sun no longer rose and set on my shoulders. Kirk had become the person upon whom Lincoln relied.

Love is a tricky thing, as we all know. Loving a dog, especially one with cancer, can be an especially intricate conundrum. When Lincoln, in all of his dog simplicity, was drawn to the available and present person, I saw the chance to save myself. Without even a moment’s regret, I withdrew from contention. I had been given a chance at an emotional preemptive strike, and I was ready to take advantage of it.

Still struggling with all of the December losses; January’s one-two punch of Fortis and Comet has left me on the mat. Being a logical creature, I reasoned that each day that Lincoln lived, brought him one day closer to his death. Maybe my distance, often physical, but certainly emotional, would save me. Maybe if I stopped loving him so much, I would avoid the obvious personal devastation which would follow his death.  Intellectually, I reasoned that my remoteness would be my salvation.

And yet instead of being liberated and emancipated, I was lost. I felt weightless and hollow and light as a feather. I didn’t have anything to anchor me to my life. My emotional side fought back. Despite my purported intellectual clarity, it was dismal and murky and conflicted in my heart.
 
One night I was watching Lincoln revelling in his Lincoln-ness. He bounded after his ball, and squeaked his juju toy while simultaneously throwing it across the room so he could chase it. I had the sudden realization that love cannot be dictated or controlled or rationalized.  Real love will not betray you, even if you try to betray it. Love like Lincoln’s is uncomplicated and easy and true; it is as pure as the sea, and it isn’t predicated on absence or presence. It just is.
 
Love can deliver you from just about anything, even when its physical presence is gone. Love, even if it breaks your heart, will save you in the end.  It is honest and uncalculated and amazingly uncomplicated, especially when offered to you by a dog. Canine love isn’t motivated by money or things; it is only motivated by love. With a dog, love begets love.
 
In the end, the promise of death is a small thing when you compare it to a life lived very, very, large. In the end, love doesn’t bind you or enslave you; instead, love sets us free by giving us the strength and the courage to rejoice and remember.
 
There is no remedy for love, but to love more, said Henry David Thoreau. I think that guy really knew what he was talking about.
 

A lot has happened since you all last heard from me. Both good things and bad things.

We got a new dog. At first I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but if I’m being honest, I sort of like having her around. She’s a real calming presence, so my Mom says. Initially I was a little concerned about sharing all of the attention I get, but it turns out that in our house, there is more than enough love to go around. Plus, I’m told pretty often just how special I am, and I believe it. I mean, after all, nobody has a better party trick than I do. No way any new dog could ever top that!

Meet Quinlay!

We’re at the lake for the holiday. It’s cold and clear and the eagle is out hunting. My Mom’s not too happy about the killing, but she knows it’s that whole circle of life thing. She did get a picture of that crazy bird surveying my kingdom.

I was really sorry to hear that some of my favorite tripawds crossed the bridge. According to my Mom, it’s a very sad time when that happens, because it forces her to acknowledge the club we are all in, and she knows that eventually every member, including her, will have to go through it. She says it’s a reminder that we have to live each and every day with purpose and laughter and love and that we absolutely must take nothing for granted.

I’m feeling pretty good, so that’s pretty easy for me right now. I’m even enjoying the snow. It hasn’t slowed me down too much, but I really do hate those miniature snowballs that I get between my toes. Pretty soon though, the lake will warm up and the flowers will bloom, and the whole cycle will start anew. I’ll swim and run and roll in the grass and my Mom will smile and laugh at me and all of my antics. I can’t do all of the fun stuff while it’s cold and snowy outside, but I am making the best of if.  It’s like this saying my Mom told me once, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”~Albert Camus

The other day she told me that never in a million years would she have guessed I’d be around to see 2011. That was one of her sad days, though, and I’m pretty sure she was thinking about all the dogs who didn’t make it to the new year. I understand why that makes her blue, but I’m going to do my best to celebrate, not just for her, but for all the tripawds. I’m going to celebrate for those who fought and those who had courage and for those who bravely continue to do battle. I’m going to rejoice in the memory of those who died and be triumphant for those who live. I’m going to forget sickness and surgeries and remember only the sun and the snow and the water and the waves. I’m going to celebrate life, both for those still with us and for those who are gone.

My Mom says that love never goes away if you always remember it. That’s what I’m going be toasting to tonight at midnight, for sure. Despite everything, I’m lucky in a lot of ways. I have lots to be thankful for, but tonight it’s all about love.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. ~ Albert Einstein

Update: Faces and places have been blurred to protect the innocent…and I’m not talking about Barney.
Our visit started so well, as many do. Barney arrived, and was immediately released from his cardboard coffin. Lincoln was ecstatic. Honestly, he went straight to the box, grabbed Barney, and kept him close for the next few days. They cuddled. They laughed. They lounged around and enjoyed each other’s company.

Barney hiding from Lincoln

That was a silly hiding place. Snow is so much fun!

Lincoln even took Barney outside to play hide and seek in the snow. It was the first snow of the year, and Lincoln was excited. Barney, not so much. All he did was whine about how he wanted to go out and party and drink some shots. 

Evidently Barney got a bit of cabin fever, and decided it was time to start drinking, even though it wasn’t even 12:00 p.m. He said, “Well, it’s noon somewhere, so let’s start the party!”

So, we got tired of the complaining and brought him in to warm up. Wouldn’t you know, we left him alone for a second, and he had already raided the Patron and made himself a margarita. Not to mention the straight shots and the beers. Sheesh.

Somebody seems to have an little "problem".

You know, it was all fun and games until my perfect little angel dog was involved. Were it not for the horrible influence of the purple one, I’m certain that Lincoln would still be amongst the innocent. As it turns out, though, Lincoln seems to be a “pleaser” who succumbs easily to purple peer pressure. Sad, but true, I’m sorry to say. 

Somehow perfect Lincoln got involved in the debauchery...hmmm.

Now let’s be clear: We enjoy adult beverages around here. Why else would there be Patron at our bar, right? Not to mention the red wine that I drink on a regular basis (purely for health reasons, of course). I’m just sayin’…we’re not teetotalers. At all.  But we do not drink and drive. It’s not just frowned upon, it’s dangerous. Little did we know that the purple bugger was going to jump behind the wheel of my car, throw my dog in the back seat, and take off. As soon as that happened, we knew nothing good could come of it. Sure enough, whoop, whoop…that’s the sound of the police.

Before we could shake a purple dinosaur tail, somebody was in custody. As you’ll see from the photo journal, it did not go well for Barney. Rumor has it he was insulting, insolent, recalcitrant, and full on non-compliant.

He was swerving all over the road. He tried to blame the dog in the back, saying he was distracted.

Everyone is afraid of the blue lights in the rear view - even Barney!

Somebody had an attitude from the get-go...and it wasn't the person dressed in blue.

Barney didn't do well on his field sobriety tests. He exhibited all six clues on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. That is VERY BAD.

I think they call this cuffed...

...and stuffed"!

Being in holding is never fun, but he just can't seem to wipe that smirk off of his face.

The breath test process did not go well for Barney. The report says he was "insolent, non-compliant, verbally abusive, and fully combative throughout the encounter".

As you can see, things went from bad to worse in a hurry. It's never smart to resist arrest.

 

After being booked, Barney has to wait in the holding cell before he gets to plead his case to the judge. I hope he has a better attitude there.

It didn't go too well in front of the judge, either. Somebody has a real bad attitude. Who is going to post his bail? Unless somebody will, it's off to jail.

It's off to jail for Barney. Escape is unlikely, my friend. Do the crime, do the time.

Barney doesn't act like this is his first rodeo. Makes me wonder if he's been booked before?

Just when it looked like Barney might spend the night in jail, somebody bailed him out. We suspect our beloved yet gullible three-legged red had something to do with it. Rumor is that his heartfelt plea did not fall on deaf ears, and all of his many doctors chipped in to help him out in his time of need. They can obviously afford it.

Wouldn’t you know it though, Mr. Purple decided he had enough of it here. I told him that he was not free to leave because he was under the conditions of the court, and that if he absconded, he would not only be in violation of that but he would also be a BAIL JUMPER.  He didn’t seem to care that the doctors would lose their money (oddly, that may be the one thing we agreed on during his entire stay), and yelled, “I’m outta here, Lincoln. Stay outta trouble!!”

Lincoln grew very attached to Barney, as you can see.

Sadly, Lincoln had a hard time saying goodbye and tried to follow him as he headed down the road. Alas, the purple one had to walk that road alone, as Lincoln, the three-legged red couldn’t make the journey.

Saying goodbye can be so hard...

It's a long and winding road...I wonder where he'll end up next?

This whole unfortunate incident reminds me of this saying I heard once…”There is plenty of law at the end of a nightstick.  ~Grover Whalen

Today is my 8 month life-saving anniversary, and I found out yesterday, there isn’t a lung met in sight. I had to have a CT, not just x-rays, because of my “history”, whatever that means. I’ll tell you one thing, it means you don’t get fed in the morning, and by now, I’m on to that trick. If I don’t get breakfast, I just head straight out to the car, because I surely know what’s coming – back to the people with too many letters after their names.

Here is what my discharge papers say regarding my lungs, “The metastasis check was clear so there is no evidence at this time of osteosarcoma. Or of other neoplasia that has spread to his lungs.” We were all pretty happy to hear that no mets showed up at my party. (We got that line from Sammy and think it’s pretty funny)! Plus, since the CT is like an x-ray on crack, it means I don’t have to go back for a while. Whew.

Now, onto the uninvited party crasher. While I was knocked out, part of what they did was an MRI on my brain (I couldn’t let Ginger’s Mom have all the fun…I never did find out if they took her skull too, hmmm).  Evidently the MRI showed that my brain tumor was starting to grow again. Here is what they had to say about that, “Following the administration of contrast, there are three distinct areas of contrast enhancement of the left forebrain and contrast enhancement of the flax cerebri. The largest portion of the contrast enhancing areas of the brain is approximately 1 cm in diameter”.

In dog terms and not doc terms, that means it’s really, really small. I heard my Mom ask about surgery, and the vet said that we should be more worried about the cancer than the tumor. WHAT? That seems odd to me since they didn’t find any cancer, but my Mom says that just a great indicator as to how small that stupid tumor is and it’s a positive comment on how slowly it’s growing. The vet said I could just as easily die of old age than from any of my diseases.

P.S. I have a birthday coming up this month, just so everyone knows. I’ll be nine. The vet says I’m officially a “senior” dog. SERIOUSLY? My Mom says you’re only as old as you feel, and I still feel great, so I’m going to ignore the geriatric jokes that are coming my way all of a sudden.

Even though my tumor is back, my Mom says we’ll keep living life to the fullest and make sure that we make the most of every single day. I’m glad to hear her talk like that, for sure, because before I came along, there is no way she would have been so positive. I’m telling you, my Mom and I were brought together for a reason, and I’m sure glad she is the one who rescued me from the pound that day. Even with all the bad things that have gone on in my life, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Everything that is happening to me sort of reminds me of this one saying, “Living is strife and torment, disappointment and love and sacrifice, golden sunsets and black storms. I said that some time ago, and today I do not think I would add one word.” – Sir Laurence Olivier

As Lincoln snoozes after his long and exhausting day, I’ll fill everyone in about our Tripawds Soiree. First off, despite all of the typical weather concerns that abound around here, we ended up with a beautiful, sunny, incredible day in the PNW. The Washington contingent was present in full force complimented by Rene, Jim, and Wyatt, our respected, revered, and beloved Tripawd leaders.

Yes, that is, in fact, Lincoln’s paw over his head. He obviously feels strongly we turn the lights out at, um, yes, it’s 5:09 p.m.

Anyway, we had a great time and have the photographic proof to prove it. Check it out. Of course we wish there could a tripawds party where everyone from everywhere could be together, but for now, we’ll have to live with this. Today was pretty great though, despite everyone who couldn’t be there.

Captain Jack made it, courtesy of his Mom

Here is Sammy...one of my favorite subjects. He's so photogenic.

Handsome, isn't he?!

Julian is pretty handsome too, I think!

Wyatt...he's pretty handsome too. They made it easy on the photographer!

Captain Jack's Mom says hello to James.

Lincoln gets his Tripawds bandanna from Rene.

James and his Mom, Nancy, before they had to run off to the agility competition.

We had a great time seeing everyone again and especially meeting Rene, Jim, and Wyatt. We were so glad to meet Laura and are so sorry that we didn’t get to meet Jack before he left (he was still there, though, in more than spirit).  Spirit JD’s Mom was with us too, thank goodness. She is such an amazing person and we’re happy to hear that she may be looking for a new canine family member. Yippee for some lucky dog.

So, this is pretty much how our night has ended. I did confess that I’m pretty sure this wine is no longer available at the local Fred Meyer because of my family. This is it. Our last bottle of the Three-Legged Red. Fortunately, we have our own version of a “three-legged red”…he’s just not available for consumption. And this, see, below, this is how our three-legged red closed out his night.

Goodnight everyone…thanks for the super fantastic day!

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