I can’t fly, but swimming is the next best thing…. The water is my sky. ~Author Unknown

My name is Lincoln…and I’m drug free. No more pills hidden in my food. No more narcotics tucked into treats. Drug free! Unless you count chemotherapy (which, by the way, we don’t. My Mom says anything with “therapy” in the name is therapeutic and not a drug”). I am officially done with all of my pain medications, and I am feeling pretty great. I got my sutures out exactly two weeks after my surgery, and just as I suspected, we were no sooner back from the vet, and we all loaded up and headed off to the cabin.  You all remember what’s at the cabin, right? THE LAKE!!
My Mom was a little worried about me riding in the back of the truck (just so you know, it has a canopy and lots of smooshy dog beds) because she was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep my balance since usually I like to stand up and stick my head out the window. Well, she was right about the balance, but she didn’t need to worry. We goldens are one of the smartest breeds, after all, so I figured out pretty quickly that for now anyway, most of my truck rides would be from the seated position. As it turns out, it really wasn’t so bad. I just relaxed and let my Dad do the driving, and pretty soon we were there.
It was getting a little late, so we just went in and ate dinner and then we headed over to the neighbor’s for cocktail hour. My Mom says that I am “amazingly ambulatory” considering the recent surgery and the slippery floor next door.   I took this to mean that I was a total rock star proceeded to go about trying to prove this fact to each and every person in the house. Once I made it through all the people, I just started again at the top of the list. Do you think they’ll figure out that I’m just doing it for the attention? I mean really, how great is it that there are five other dogs here and they are all being COMPLETELY IGNORED because they aren’t “amazingly ambulatory”? And the humans, honestly, they are practically fighting over who gets to pet me. If I play my cards right, this whole tripawd thing may actually work to my benefit.
Unfortunately though, the next morning, I found out some VERY BAD NEWS. Evidently my Mom and Dad have purchased a life jacket for me and they actually expect me to wear it when I go swimming. They seem pretty set on it, in fact. I did my best to convince them that it is really not a good idea. I laid down while they were trying to put in on me. I even walked away when I was instructed to stay (I just pretended like I had to go to the bathroom….works every time). I flipped over and give them my best back-scratching-butt-wiggle-in-the-grass. I rubbed on and leaned against them individually and collectively. All to no avail. They are making me wear the life jacket. Seems as though it’s not negotiable. Crap.
This is payback, I’m certain, for making fun of Fletcher when he had to wear it. Now,I wish more than anything I could take it back. But seriously, he couldn’t even swim, so he deserved a little ribbing, right?  Somebody must see my point….
Anyway, it’s on, and I feel silly and less than magnificent, even though my Mom is repeatedly telling me how incredibly handsome I am. We all make the walk of shame down to the lake, and before you know it, I don’t even care about the stupid thing anymore. All I can think about is the fact that my Dad has a ball which he is obviously going to throw into the lake FOR ME TO RETRIEVE.
I am on the verge of SWIMMING and there is no greater sense of anticipation. Once his arm goes back, I am completely and totally in my happy place because I know what is coming next. It doesn’t matter that I only have three legs; it doesn’t matter that I’m wearing this vest; it doesn’t matter that I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of the water. The only thing that matters is that I am going swimming, and not only that, once I get in, I’m swimming like I haven’t missed a beat.

It’s so much like heaven I just don’t even know how to describe it. Honestly, I don’t have to, because it’s just like this one quote from this guy named Aleksandr Popov…”The water is your friend.  You don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move.”  This seems to be especially true now that I only have three legs. The water and I are one single entity, and it is blissful. It’s just too much for words to describe.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I have some balance issues, and some things to work on. Right now I have to have my Dad help me in and out of the water, but I’m hoping it won’t be so slippery in the summer, and that maybe I’ll be able to do it on my own. Plus, I could hardly believe it, but I heard my Mom and Dad say that the main reason I needed the life jacket was for the handle to make sure I don’t fall, and not because I couldn’t swim. What a complete and total relief!! For a second I was afraid they thought I couldn’t swim any more. Sometimes I need to give them more credit. They really do know me pretty well.

After the swim, I did some posing for pictures on the grass, and then I took a little nap. If I’m being honest, I did get tired a little more quickly than I normally do, and my Mom and Dad are pretty strict about me not over exerting myself.

My Mom has been a little protective lately. I guess she is wondering what could possibly go wrong now, and trust me, I’m sure hoping that we are done with surgeries. I could use a break and I’m sure my Mom and Dad could too. I did over hear them saying that we would be spending basically every weekend at the cabin this summer.  In fact, I heard my Dad say it was the “Summer of Lincoln”, and I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it seems like it’s going to include a lot of lake time. And it’s like I said before…The water is my sky, so I’m going to spend as much time as I can becoming one with the lake.

After all, it’s my happiest happy place.

Last night while I was sleeping…

somebody stole my leg.

After my big night of being the movie star, I slept the sleep of the innocent, and woke up to see that everyone besides me was eating.  Obviously, this isn’t my first rodeo, so by now I know that when everyone else eats and I don’t, there is usually something fishy going on.

This was no exception. After breakfast (for everyone else, that is), I got loaded in the car and before I even knew what was happening, I was back in the same parking lot at the same old hospital. “What now?”, is all I could really think. My Mom seemed extra sad today, and if I’m being honest, my Dad seemed pretty sad too, and he’s usually a pretty tough read. This made me extra concerned considering that he usually doesn’t act worried.

So, we go in to the vet, and after we check in, I see my old friend Dr. Sanders. He’s my neurologist, the one who took out my encapsulated tumor, and basically saved my life. I really like him since he’s been nothing but good to me. Dr. Sanders came over and gave me some scratches, and I did what I usually do, which is flip right over onto my back and put all of my legs up in the air. He stayed with my Mom and Dad for a bit, and then said to me, “Lincoln, it never ceases to amaze me how one single dog could be so unlucky, and yet so lucky, all at the same time.” I took this to mean that I had had some pretty bad things happen to me, which was unlucky, but at least I had my Mom and Dad who kept giving me a chance. Over and over and over.

Trust me, I know that this is lucky, but it just goes back to what I’ve been saying since the beginning. Me and my Mom, we saved each other. Now don’t get me wrong, I know I’m especially lucky to have her, because let’s face it, not many people would put more into their dog than into their 401K, but she keeps doing that, year after year, and she doesn’t even seem to mind. She says she has gotten a bigger return on me than she would have even gotten from the stock market, which really just makes my point.  Here’s the truth as I believe it to be – I give her purpose. I force her to believe in something. I make her love me every day, just by being me. She tells me all the time that I have forgotten more about living and loving than most of us will ever know and if people could emulate me, even a little bit, the world would be a much better place.

It’s sort of like this quote she told me once, “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” That was from some guy named Albert Pines, but my Mom says that it is especially true about me because I bring so much happiness into the world and make so many people smile. She says that I’ll live on forever in all the good things I’ve done and all of the memories I’ve created.

Anyway, back to my latest surgery…same song, different dance, really. I go to sleep, I wake up, and a different body part is gone. “What in the heck is going on?”, is all I can think, but I’m on some crazy strong drugs, so much so that I hardly recognize my Mom, and in fact, as I learn later, I was actually pretty rude to her. Evidently, not only would I not even look at her, I wouldn’t even touch her and I was acting all jiggy and agitated. At first her feelings were really hurt, but then she realized that all of those behaviors are actually common side effects of the pain medicine I was on.

If I’m being honest, I hardly even remember that she was there and in the end, I’m pretty sure she didn’t take it personally. What I do remember is that she sang to me (which, as I’ve told you, she does a lot), and that finally that put me to sleep. She was singing “Death Cab for Cutie” songs, and even though she can’t really sing that well, the gist of the songs were that she would always be there for me. Of course I already knew that, so it wasn’t new information, but it is always nice to have some reconfirmation when you are feeling all drugged out and woozy.

So, I stayed only one night and then got to go home, and if you can believe it, I didn’t feel too bad. My leg had really been hurting, and that pain was gone, but losing the entire leg was a little more than I bargained for. It’s amazing how well we can adapt, though. And I’m proof of that, as my Mom says, because I was up and around pretty much immediately.

In fact, in less than a week, I was rolling around and happy as can be. My leg didn’t hurt at all, which was pretty great. I was walking pretty good, if I do say so myself, and all seemed to be well. Every now and again, I would get a little irritated when my left ear was itchy, and I didn’t have a way to scratch it, but my Dad was paying extra close attention to that, and gave me lots and lots of left side scratches. My Aunt Robyn was super scared that I wouldn’t be able to do my side-to-side-entire-butt-wiggle-tail-wag with only three legs, but I got that balancing act down in a hurry, and I think you can all see from my video that I am GOOD TO GO.

My Mom and Dad kept talking about lab results and bone decalcification, which only mattered to me because it mattered to them. Other than that, things were pretty good. The vet had already told me I could still swim, and I was really starting to look forward to that. I just had to wait until my sutures were out, and once that happens, knowing my Mom and Dad, they’ll have me at the lake without delay.

 One thing I can always count on, is that they will do just about anything to keep a smile on my face and a wag in my tail (here’s hoping that’s not the next body part they remove; I’m pretty attached to my tail and all the attention it brings me when it’s in use). Please, everyone, keep your fingers crossed, and maybe mention to my Mom and Dad that it’s pretty important to me that I get to keep my tail.

Why am I limping if they fixed my knee?

That’s what I really want to know. I did great for about 8 months after the surgery on my left knee. It felt as good as new. In fact, I overheard my Mom saying that she thought that I may be ready to go running again. WHAT?!?!? This was almost too good to be true, because I had heard her say quite a few times that my running days were over. She kept saying that swimming was much better for me because it was low impact, and even though I understand that concept, I still got a little bit irritated when she would put on the running gear and head out alone. Some things just aren’t right, and running without a dog is one of them.

We got to go on walks though, and I definitely took advantage of that. It was nice to be out in the neighborhood again. Smelling all those old familiar smells, and enjoying all of the extra attention a big, handsome dog like myself gets whenever we are out and about. Sometime in February, my left leg started hurting again.  You’ve got to be kidding me, is all I could think. What else could possibly go wrong? My Mom told me I didn’t have any other ACLs to blow out, and that I was as golden as a golden could be.

Also, we got another dog. Her name is Murphy, and she is only five years old. To be honest, it was nice to have another dog to run and romp with. Since my Mom usually rescues the old dogs that are going to be euthanized (I have really grown to hate that word), it was a new thing for me to have a dog around who could out-run me. To be totally accurate, it was new to have a dog that could even run at all, since the others can barely even walk, let alone run and play.

So anyway, Murph and I went for walks and we played in the back yard a lot. That was when I first noticed that my left leg was bothering me.  At first I thought it was just because I was using muscles that I hadn’t used in a while, but it started hurting pretty bad pretty quick. Of course my Mom noticed that right away, and before I knew it, we were headed back to the vet. She made them take x-rays to make sure that my knee surgery had healed up okay, but x-rays are a walk  in the park for me since I know the drill so well. They hardly even have to tell me what to do anymore, I’ve had so many of them. They sent me home with a clean bill of health. They said the plates and screws were perfect, and not to worry one bit. That was a good trip home, let me tell you, and what a relief. Earlier that week, I heard my Mom tell my Aunt Robyn that she was super worried about me. She said that she was real concerned that they were going to say that I had osteosarcoma.  Since that was a word I had never heard before, I really didn’t pay much attention. On top of that, it’s not like she’s clairvoiant, right? How could she possibly diagnose me?

Well, after we got sent home all happy, we got a real bad call the next day. After the x-ray specialist looked at my films, they had some concerns. Wouldn’t you know it, I was right back to the vet in just a couple of days. Honestly, if I had a nickel for every trip I’ve made there, I’d be one rich golden retriever. I had to have a biopsy, which the vet said would feel like a bee sting compared to everything I’d been through, and he was right, it wasn’t so bad, especially when you factor in how much my leg was hurting.

A few more days went by, and we got some pretty sad news. Wouldn’t you know it, my Mom was right (how she knew what was wrong with me, none of us will ever know, but she was exactly correct). It was bone cancer, and I was getting the distinct impression that it was not a good thing at all. Whenever I hear new words, I get pretty apprehensive. There was lots of talk of amputation and “good candidate” and surgery stress. Before you know it, my Mom’s pretty upset again, and spending lots of time on the computer instead of taking me and Murf for walks. I don’t like it when she cries, and there were some serious waterworks this time. I wasn’t getting a good feeling about my situation, but my Mom always says that I am the single most irrepressible creature she has ever known, so I was trying to live up to that and make her feel better by being my cheerful, carefree self.

One night, our friends came over and we had a photo session. Even though lots of people call me Clifford, and think I’m goofy, my Mom says I’m spectacular, and she wanted to memorialize me at every stage of my life. I was getting the idea that something pretty big was happening the next day (that “amputation” word was really flying), but I wasn’t too sure what it was. Anyway, I can be a big ham when it comes right down to it, so I posed for some pictures, and even I have to admit that I’m pretty photogenic.

My Mom tried to stay out of the pictures, but I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t going to sit there and pose without her. Plus, if I’m being honest, I was trying to act pretty goofy again, because it seemed like she needed some cheering up. In fact everyone seemed a little blue that night.  I’m guessing it had something to do with me, because I sure got A LOT of extra attention that night, which I really liked. Unfortunately, I had seen my Mom sad before, and it was becoming pretty obvious that just like before, it was all because of me. A while ago my Mom had told me this saying that really hit home on that particular night…”Let your heart feel for the affliction and distress of everyone” – George Washington. This is something I can really relate to, because I don’t like it when there is a sense of sadness in the air. It’s pretty simple to me, I just want everyone to be as carefree as I am, so I do my best to spread lots happiness around.

Anyway, we had a lot of fun getting our picture taken, and I even ended up in a video, because the guy taking our pictures thought it was pretty funny how I refused to pose unless my Mom was there. I pretty much had to throw myself on her to make her stay, but eventually it worked. At first she wasn’t too thrilled, but in the end she ended up thinking the whole thing was pretty entertaining, and as you can see, I did manage to make her smile.

As I’ve mentioned, I feel that it’s my job to cheer my my Mom up. Frankly, I’m positive it’s one of my main objectives on earth. I think my Mom and I found each other at just the right time for both of us, and part of my purpose in life, is to make her believe in hope, and also, to make her laugh, and not just a little quiet laugh. I’m here to make her laugh OUT LOUD.

Ain’t gonna sting, it ain’t no thing…

is what my Dad says when he is trying to convince us that something is no big deal. My Mom and I are on to him, though. We have both pretty much figured out that contrary to that saying, it probably actually is going to sting some.

So, I had the second knee surgery, and my Mom and Dad kept me on a pretty tight leash, and just I suspected, there was quite a bit of pain. Those first six weeks were hell, but after that, things started feeling pretty good. Plus, right toward the end of July is when things really start heating up at the cabin. And I do mean that literally. It gets HOT.

Do any of you have even the slightest idea how hot a big dog like me can get when the outdoor temperatures are in the hundreds? Especially when you consider this lustrous fur coat that I’m wearing. Plus, it’s right about this time that we start having family weekends, and vacation weeks, and lots and lots of friends coming to stay.

I’m sure you can imagine the type of friends we have, right? It’s pretty true that dog people hang around dog people, so every weekend there was pretty much a new behind to sniff. On top of that, don’t forget that our neighbors have four dogs running around too! By the time my FAVORITE AUNT ROBYN came, I was healed up and ready to roll.

And good thing, because if I’m being honest, this is my favorite time of the year. It’s great swimming weather, and the nights are just beautiful. I’m pretty photogenic, if I do say so myself.

As good as I was feeling, we had some bad times too. I still wasn’t allowed to run with my Mom. She was going without me, and to be honest, even though I understood, I really didn’t like it much.  My brother Fletcher was getting pretty sick, and he was occupying a LOT of my Mom’s time. We had only had him for a few years, because my Mom got him from the shelter. She says “just in the nick of time”, because he was going to be euthanized. That word rings a bell to me, and not in a good way, so I tried to relate to him best I could. He didn’t even know how to swim, though. Seriously, what golden retriever can’t swim? My Mom had to get in and save him once after he jumped in the lake all cocky and sure of himself. Good thing she was there, is all I have to say. Anyway, after that they made him wear a life jacket, and let me tell you, he sure looked silly.

The thing is, we had only had him for a few years, because he was already old when he came to live with us. My Mom and Dad said he was quirky and that we had to be more understanding of his issues (whatever that means…sounds like a big fat excuse to me), because we didn’t know what kind of life he had before he came to live with us.

I’ll tell you one thing, he sure worshipped my Mom. It was a little embarassing really, I mean I love her too, but have a little common sense. There were quite a few times that he wouldn’t even eat unless she was around. And by this time they were feeding him cheeseburgers, so that was just downright silly to me.

Anyway, one morning Fletchie was having a seizure (talk about a flashback for me), and my Mom took him to the vet, and came home without him. I could smell him on her, but I could also smell the hospital, and something else that I didn’t really care for. More than anything, my Mom smelled sad, but I stayed real close to her to remind her that she still had me, and even though she wouldn’t take me running with her anymore, I forgave her, and I’d try to make her feel happy again, even though I knew she was real sad that Fletchie wasn’t coming home.

So, that’s what I did. I swam, and played and goofed around with the neighbor dogs. Frankly, I did things I wouldn’t normally do, things that are a little beneath my dignity, just to make her smile.  It worked, eventually, because she can’t resist me and my golden retriever ways. Even though I had to act a bit silly sometimes, it was worth it to see my Mom happy again. I guess you all know  by now that I would do pretty much anything for the people I love.

Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice,

well you know the rest.  I do have to say that I’m not very pleased that I have to go through this surgery again. At least now I know what to expect. And, on top of that, this time I understand what is going to happen. I’m pretty sure it was Abraham Lincoln (my namesake, on account of my size) who said, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” When you get right down to it, that applies to a dog, too. Let me tell you, I just keep learning.

By now it’s early June, 2009, and my Mom and Dad’s theory is that if we do the surgery as soon as possible, I’ll be back in the water again by late July. They’ve been having a lot of discussions about this, and I’m starting to think that they don’t really understand how much I’m listening. My Mom knows I need the surgery. But I’m starting to get the feeling that for some reason she’s real worried about this one in particular. She said something the other day about “tempting fate”, but then she stopped talking, and just sat there and hugged me. Don’t get me wrong, I love our one on one time, but when she gets worried, I get worried.

I finally put two and two together (yes people, we can add!), and figured out that she is concerned about me being put through so many surgeries in such a short time period. To re-cap: Brain surgery in January of 2008 (big fat hooray on this one though, because I should be dead by now); Right leg TPLO in November 2008 (perfectly healed, according to the docs); Left leg TPLO scheduled for June 2009. This is one of those times I wish I could talk. I really wish I could tell her that I understand she is only doing what is best for me, and that I really love her for it.

Here’s the thing – My Mom always tells everyone that she loves how simple I am. Now don’t go getting all up in arms about that. She doesn’t mean simple, as in stupid. She means simple, as in uncomplicated. She always says that if humans could be more like me, our world would be a much better place. She likes it that I love what I love and that’s that. There are certain people I love. I love her. I love my Dad. I love my Aunt Robyn. There are certain things I love. First on that list, as I’m sure you know, is SWIMMING. That’s pretty much it. I know what and whom I love, and I commit to it unconditionally. Couldn’t be any simpler, really.

According to my Mom, though, human’s lives aren’t that easy. She told me it is hard for her to make the decisions for me that she has to make. She is worried that she isn’t doing the right thing. She says it is the most difficult thing in the world to make choices for the ones you love, because a lot of times you never know if it’s right or wrong until it’s too late. When she said that, though, I just shoved my head right into her hand, and made her rub my soft spot. I was trying really hard to remind her that even though most people told her the brain surgery was a bad idea, that she had made the right choice there.  Sometimes she’s a little slow, but eventually I think she got my message.

The bad side of this, is that once I convinced her she was doing the right thing, I KNEW I’d be heading back to the hospital. I have sort of a love – hate relationship with my vet. On the way in, it’s all good; on the way out, I wonder what I ever did to him. Why else would he keep doing this to me? Sheesh.

So, as I mentioned, here we go again. I’m back at the vet, and before I know it I  wake up and this time, my left knee is ON FIRE. My Mom always leaves a sweatshirt or something that smells like she or my Dad, and I really appreciate that, because I use it as a pillow, and it’s nice to have something to remind me of home. Just like last time, after a couple of days I got to go home, thank goodness, and it was straight to the lake for some R & R.

I’m not supposed to get on the furniture for a while because of all of the plates and screws, but let’s face it, where would you sleep if you had the choice, so while nobody is looking, I get up there, and then I try to get down real quick when my Mom or Dad comes in.

Since I’ve been through this once already, for some reason it doesn’t seem to hurt as bad, but it is pretty irritating to have to sit and look at that lake, knowing that I can’t get into it for a minimum of six weeks. In fact, it’s almost like my Mom and Dad don’t trust me at all, because they won’t even let me outside without a leash on. At first I was a little insulted by this, because you would think they would have a little faith in me by now, but then all I had to do was take a look at that picture of me getting off of the sofa, and I have to admit, they make a good point.

Well, it turns out my Mom’s fears were groundless. I made it through the surgery just fine, and the doctor said it went just as well as the first one. My Mom says that this is one of those times she is really happy to be wrong, and if I’m being honest, I’m pretty happy she was wrong too.

This recovery went pretty much like the last one, too. Lots of laying around and icing, and me gazing out the window at the lake dreaming of days to come. Just thinking of getting back into the water seems to make all of the pain just a bit more tolerable.

Another one of the quotes my Mom shared with me is, “What ever you are, be a good one.”  – Abraham Lincoln…(we really like him, I told you, he’s my namesake…I’m not named after the car,  like some of you probably thought, although my Mom says that would also be appropriate).  When my Mom told me that quote, right away I decided that what I was going to be, was a swimmer, and let me tell you, I was going to be a good one. I’m committed, and pretty soon, I’ll be ready to go!! Oh, and one more thing, since I got adopted I’ve been living in Washington State, and my lake is on the eastern side of the state, in a place just near Chelan. Trust me, I hope I never see Oregon again. It wasn’t so great there, and it’s pretty amazing here, don’t you agree?