Defensive Tactics and Preemptive Strikes

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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.

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Author: credocanis

Lincoln is a huge golden who has had one brain surgery, two ACL surgeries, and one rear leg amputation. Yikes.

8 thoughts on “Defensive Tactics and Preemptive Strikes”

  1. once again, you put words to the feelings of the heart. thanks for showing the importance of just ‘loving’. love never ends.

    charon & gayle

  2. …and, for me – once again – although I’ve been reading your writings for longer than either of us care to remember, I now sit at work with tears in my eyes, wondering just when I will cease to be surprised by your ability to put on “paper” what usually just floats about in other’s minds.

    I think Lincoln knows you just as well as you know him….and once “The Summer of Lincoln version 2.0” starts you’ll all be right back in sync.

  3. Simply amazing! I could never grow tired of reading your writings. Just beautiful and the touch of Thoreau in the end was perfect. I’m with Robyn, I bet Lincoln will be right back by your side when “The Summer of Lincoln II” begins.

    I’m surprised actually, I thought you knew that dogs by their very nature just naturally like men better 🙂

    Kudos to you Kirk for being such a good friend to Lincoln. And to you Rhonda for being the best mom any dog could possibly have.


  4. Lincoln,
    I’ve heard stories of you. None I want to repeat in mixed company that’s for sure!

    However, since Comet didn’t like you, that means I can! (yeah, I know tripawds and monkeydogs don’t mix – it’s that oil/water thing – but…)

    So, let me tell you my take about moms – sometimes they just suck! Nurture, my monkeybutt! They just want to slobber us up with kisses! We are boys, not babies! Thank my lucky monkeystars for my daddy! Left up to my mom, she’d have me in a little pink dot dress! (with monkeys of course, but still!)

    So, play coy with your mom until she gets over her “phase” and stick to daddy’s side!

    Oh no, here comes my mom wanting to give me a kiss on the lips! Geeze, I gotta go…gotta find daddy!


    Oh, and Tripawds suck, too! Bwahahahahaaahhhhaaaaaaa!

  5. Rhonda,

    I love your blog. I love your feelings, it is so beautifully said. Poignant!
    I understand absolutely, it is only natural to want to protect yourself. But, Lincoln is perfect, wonderfully perfect, there is no hiding from love. He and you are meant to be. What a gift loving a dog is!

    Don’t think about tomorrow, I can’t bear the thought either, so just don’t think. No matter what is on the horizon, whether old age, cancer, or any number of things we are all going to have to leave here one day. Don’t think about the “later”, just love the now.
    Sammy says hello, he says he loves you and Lincoln, and can’t wait to tell you about it!

    Elizabeth and Lincolns BFF, Sammy

  6. Lincoln! I have missed you two. I have not been on Tripawds in a long time. Your post reminds me of a poem that a friend has taped to her bathroom mirror. The line that repeats at the end of every stanza is:
    “It is what it is, says love.”
    I’ll get the whole thing from her next time I’m at her house.

    Of course I know what you are talking about when you say Lincoln is your dog first. No matter what, Indi was MY dog. I get it. I also get the relief of not being the sole care taker. I am onto you, Rhonda. You are out to save the world. It sounds like you have mixed feelings when you are not the decider/ the responsible one/ in control. I get it.

    I still think of you and Lincoln every time I see my photo canvas. It is on the wall in our room over Indi’s shrine (which will probably be up ’till we move). Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me cry. Oh, dogs. It is what it is, says love.

    In closing from the longest comment ever, I quote my all time favorite bumper sticker:

    “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.”

    Love, Raina and Spirit Indi

  7. I’ve been reading your (and Lincoln’s) amazing story this evening…. from the beginning. Where others might have given up on Lincoln and had him euthanized at any point in his illness(es), you have stood behind him regardless of his diagnosis and the financial cost. You have given him so much more than just one more chance.

    Rescue dogs run a risk of having genetic and other illnesses, the same as any dog. However, these dogs intuitively seem to know that we have “saved” them, and give back to us exponentially with their smiles, love and general joie de vivre. The honest-to-dog truth is, without our furry friends, we are but a shallow, thin husk of what we are when they are with us.

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