Yes, I know that has already been a blog title, but Lincoln is taking a writing break, and I’m making a guest appearance. I think that those words apply just as much to me as to they do to Lincoln, so we’re recycling.
We have old dogs at our house. We have those old dogs on purpose. We rescue them when they’ve been dumped or abandoned or traded in. There has been a glorious safety in that process. When you adopt a dog at 14, you know with certainty, that you will lose that dog in the very near future. Even as you are hugging them at the shelter, you are preparing your heart to say goodbye. In our house we have said hello and quickly said goodbye more times than I care to acknowledge. We have decided that where others will walk away when agile becomes arthritic, we will be the family who shepherds the dogs through at the end. It is not easy, at times, but as I said, there is comfort in the surety.
Lincoln was not that dog. He was barely two when I got him from the shelter. He was supposed to be my sure thing. What is it they say about the best laid plans?
When he was diagnosed with the brain tumor, I folded up into my self a little. I was wholly unprepared to say goodbye. Honestly, I don’t live my life with hope and faith oozing from my pores. More often than not, I have to force myself to admit that something may work out. The brain tumor wasn’t one of those times. I accepted, fully and completely, that he was going die, and that it would be both soon and awful. And then, here we are. My canine miracle fanned that dying ember of hope that remained glowing somewhere, previously undiscovered, inside of me.
And then this, the cancer. Making me wonder if there is a higher power who finds more joy in snatching hope from your heart if the ember is full fledged and growing, and not sputtering its final breath. Forcing my hand to make decisions about life and death that I never imagined I would have to make. Resentment and anguish clung to me like a barnacle to a pier. We lie to ourselves, and try to believe that there really isn’t a choice. Of course we will do anything we can, but that in itself is a choice. Will the surgery kill his spirit? Will I regret it? Maybe it would be better to simply let him slide gently in to the night. Maybe this time, it is about letting go without a fight. And in that vein, who’s fight is it anyway? What right do I have to force him into battle, like a gamecock or a pitbull?
But in the end, the possibility of a cure pulls us into its vortex, no means of escape. We do what we can, sometimes it is hopelessly inadequate, sometimes it is everything. We rely on the most minute and infinite chances at a miracle. We hope that whomever is in control sees fit to breathe life into our dog, and that he will be the one to beat the miserable and discouraging odds. We do it because by believing in something, even something rooted in the rocky dirt of impossibility, we are not only trying to keep him alive, we recognize that it is the only way to stay alive ourselves. We realize, that by trying to save them, we are really saving ourselves, and in the end, that is what courage is all about.
It’s like this one saying that Lincoln told me…”It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
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