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The Yankee Express

Lincoln finds me a puppy

By Amy LeClaire
I’m on the road, driving in my old Honda Pilot. Lincoln sits patiently by the window. He’s staring intently at the scene outside, our latest destination. I park, open the back door and let him out for the latest excursion, one set at a small pond located below a woodsy incline at the edge of a back road. We’re in a dream, one that holds the quiet authenticity of the way things have always been. I know I’m in a dream while I’m in it. I watch him hustle down the hill and find the water. He sinks down into the pond and dog paddles, his head lifted while he bobs to the rhythm of his swim.  
The dream, I sense, is about to end. I soak up the moment and watch my dog revel in what comes naturally. We may be in two different worlds but we’re still together. Like an ocean wave against shoreline, we’ll keep meeting this way. We may exist in two different forms, but we’re still connected. 
I wake up, palm my chest. Lincoln.
The dream floats with me into the kitchen. The hardwood floor is polished, hairless. I pull out a box of Grape Nuts and wait for Lincoln to remind me of where his dish is located, just in case I happened to forget. I wait for him to stare at my banana while it’s unpeeled, then turn his nose up at a brownish wedge. Overripe. I gaze out at the bay window at a back yard too lush. Where are the yellow patches? Why are the bunnies so liberated, the crows cockier than usual? We need Lincoln. Sigh. 
A puppy might help. 
I find myself scrolling through dozens and dozens of websites and Facebook Golden groups. My heart swells while I peruse picture after picture, Golden after Golden. One stands at a dock, another snuggles with a litter mate, one wears a checkered bow tie. My eye catches one that looks just like Lincoln. He sits proudly and smiles, his chesty lion mane puffed out. 
The thought of enduring loss, grief and pain—yet again—borders on the absurd. Happy people choose to be happy, and move away from pain. Besides, my house sparkles, my car is clean, and my freedom—
Freedom is subjective when it comes to owning a dog. On one hand, you are able to pull off a day excursion without worrying about leaving your dog home alone. Ditto for the vacation to Europe. On the flip side, a dog “frees” us from life’s petty stresses Have you ever noticed that a dog, unlike a human, does not sweat the small stuff? Imagine you’ve just dropped a pint of blueberries on your kitchen floor. They scatter and roll beneath the crack where the fridge meets the floor. Blood pressure rises. The entire day has been this way, one disaster after the next. Now imagine that same happening with a dog. Blueberries drop. Whoopsie. Three seconds flat and the mess will be gone. A dog will speed-vacuum one blueberry at a time, press his face against the fridge crack to sniff out the lost berry and, in the process, make you smile. Dogs make the hard things easy. They lighten our loads and help us realize that the small stuff is just that, small stuff. In doing so, they don’t take away our freedom, so much as they do offer a way to live freely. Dogs don’t need yoga to de-stress. They live it.
As natural free-spirits, dogs also allow positive attitudes to overcome negative situations.
Humans can be difficult. They can be defiant, rebellious, obnoxious, cruel, intolerant, rigid, insensitive, or unreasonable. How do humans approach conflict with other humans? They judge, scorn, fight, gossip, or avoid hard situations all together. They grow apart and divide, forever stuck in a stalemate of egos. Have you ever watched how a dog approaches a difficult human? 
“Did you see that woman in the car beside us? She’s waving her hands and wagging her finger at us! I think she wants to play!” If that same woman were in a dog’s presence, he’d lick salty, sweaty anger from her palms and make her laugh. Dogs see the very best in people. They don’t keep score or a record of wrongs. A dog makes it impossible to be angry with the loved one who has just stepped on your last nerve. “Is that a spot of scallop you’re wearing on your shorts?” Dogs sniff out the good parts. They forgive, forget, and approach conflict with compassion.
I try to practice what Lincoln has taught me. He’s still with me. I want to relate to people the way Lincoln would. I want to be a better person. But I’m only human. Dogs are better.
“Either you find me a puppy or I’m getting a rescue.” 
I need a puppy. I blame a husband who, less hasty, chooses to window shop for cute Goldens via smartphone searches. “Look at this guy!” 
My patience for cute on-line Goldens wears thin. I want my own. “We need to get on a puppy list with a quality breeder,” I say. “We will,” he says back. But his lax demeanor fails to convince. Since when is Living Without Dog tolerable? I’m suspicious. 
The search begins. I read, write, network, Google, and collaborate with neighbors and Dog People. I learn that due to the 2020 pandemic, the demand for Goldens soared, causing a puppy shortage, lengthy wait lists, and frustration. Golden Dames can only have so many puppies in the course of a year, and there are several variables which may or may not hinder the birthing process. I imagine Lincoln sitting at my heels at an ice cream counter while I admire the puppy beside us. “Yeah, yeah, he’s cute. But let’s talk about my soft serve.” 
Does Lincoln not want me to get a puppy? 
By mid-June, puppy doors begin to open via friends who know of my situation and are also looking for one. One call led to another, until I’m offered a spot on a list.  A July litter is available! I’m excited but everything is moving along so fast and I need more answers. I want to know more about the parents of my puppy. I seem to have a lot of questions, but not enough answers, and there are too many loopholes in too many changing facts. Something is amiss. One puppy deal falls through, followed by other dead-end leads. That puppy would be perfect, but I can’t travel to Seattle. Gorgeous dogs, but what about health clearances?  
Meanwhile (and somewhat miraculously) my husband reaches Cloverdale Golden Retrievers of CT via his own (more analytical) search. He manages a phone call with the owner, an experienced high-quality breeder who—
—who has collaborated in the past with Twin Beau D Kennel, Lincoln’s birth place! She has seen his pictures, knows of his roots, and, technically, some of her pups may even be distant cousins! 
Sold! We’re getting a puppy next spring! Better than that, the puppy is a part of Lincoln! I couldn’t be happier. 
Lincoln isn’t against getting a puppy. He just needed to be involved in the process. Once again, my dog brings out the best in tough situations. 
“Thank you, Lincoln.”