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The Yankee Express

A visit from Lincoln


By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire
A month has passed since the day I lost Lincoln. I’ve come to realize that there’s no “getting over it” so much as there is finding a way to “get on with it.” I know it’s what Lincoln wants for me. He had the remarkable ability to allow joy to overcome pain and move forward. Life offers so many unexpected thrills. Why be melancholic when you can stick your head out the car window and watch a movie play out at double speed? Dogs naturally pay attention. They study, learn and appreciate simple pleasures. Consequently, they know stuff before we do. Dogs sense the threat of a storm, a burglar, a seizure, or even the sorry scent of a non-dog person. “If my dog doesn’t like you, there’s going to be a problem” is a saying, perhaps, not far from the truth.
Do dogs sense heaven?
I believe they do. I believe Lincoln has. 
He was about six years old, the hair on his face still a dark blonde. He sensed the Tufts University Dog Park before we arrived. The field! The rolling hills! The parking lot! The routine continued per usual: open car door, jump out, nose to ground, and hustle to the gate. Dogs of all shapes and sizes awaited him with stiff curiosity. “Look at this big guy. He has a ball in his mouth!” Lincoln remained aloof. He preferred humans and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. “Lincoln – look at that dog with the spots!” I built up the Dalmatians. “Look at the dog with the pushed in face! He’s ugly-cute!” I complimented the Boxers. But Lincoln, non-compliant, chose to sit at the heels of humans and drop ball after ball by their toes, an unsubtle suggestion to play. “Toss up a quick one and I’ll bring it back!”  
I let him participate in a few rounds of fetch before we’d take part in a favorite routine, a hike through a woodsy trail located behind the park. The dog-hike, I must confess, is a superior mood elevator, far better than any pill I’m aware of. “Look at this rock! Oh my gosh, do you smell that chipmunk! What’s up ahead? Look – a secret cave. Let’s explore. You coming?” Dogs are fantastically grateful for simple, unexpected pleasures.
About a half mile into the hike, a rocky incline led us to the border of the woods, where the dark of the wilderness meets the light of the sky. As though passing from one world to the next, we climbed over a stone wall and entered. A breathtaking green meadow stretched for miles below a clear blue sky. The landscape appeared as bright and crisp as the shiny page of a hardcover fairy tale book. “Go ahead, Lincoln! Go take a run. I’ll be right here.” I wanted Lincoln to experience the breadth of the green meadow, and take a break from human rules. I wanted him to enjoy some free time. 
The problem was, Lincoln knew something.
“Not yet. Not now.” 
He lifted his chin to the air, absorbed the scene with his nose, then made an abrupt to decision to turn around and come sit by my side. Heaven. “You don’t want to go?”  I pet his head. He broke into his easy smile. Not yet. Something stirred in my heart while we sat in the quiet of the meadow that day. Small and humble, we both knew. There was something greater awaiting us. 
I have faith, but I’m human. Since Lincoln’s passing on April 16th, I’ve prayed for him to show me a sign that he’s okay. My husband had already received one, the rare and relentless chirping of a bird (on the night of his death) by the window in our family room where the two used to sit before bed.  
“Show me a sign, too, Lincoln,” I prayed.
My sign(s) came to me in dreams, both of which reflected the same distinct quality. The dreams were not hazy, scattered, and confusing. Instead, they were crystal clear and made complete sense. They were so—
Lincoln!
So real. 
During the first, I was behind the closed door of a crowded beach resort. People with no voice roamed everywhere. A large concession stand sat at the front of the crowd. I sensed Lincoln on the other side of the door. I just knew he was there waiting, so opened the door. “I knew you were here! I’ve missed you so much, Lincoln!” I kneeled beside him and gave him a hug. He lifted his head as he usually does and smiled. Then I looped a leash (the same style as the one needed on the day he was euthanized) around his neck and, together, we weaved through the crowd. Lincoln was leading me to the ocean. I knew it. That’s when I woke up, struck by a revelation. An ocean visit had been on our bucket list. It was the one thing I wanted to accomplish with him this summer. 
The next dream, which occurred a few days later, had a completely different tone. Lincoln was sleeping with his head on a pillow. His coat was ungroomed and slightly stinky. I knew viscerally that I wasn’t supposed to wake him. He needed to sleep. We needed to be apart. But Lincoln knew something more. He sensed me and jostled. Then he nudged my arm with his snout in an affirmative, very deliberate way. He wanted to be close. I kept moving back to let him sleep, but he kept moving closer. Finally, I let him rest his head on my lap. I pet his head softly, just as I had the day he died. 
Lincoln may have passed, but we are still together. My dog knows.
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Dear Reader - Thank you for your heartfelt condolences during the past month, and for sharing your stories with me via [email protected].com.  Losing a dog is never easy, but having each other to lean on sure does makes a difference.  Stay tuned for more on Living with Lincoln!