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The Yankee Express

Lincoln’s good vibes

By Amy LeClaire
Losing Lincoln has made me pause, as in, how did this happen? Is he really gone? My gaze falls on the border of my back yard, where he’d find a wedge of shade, prop his head up, and smile up at me. “Can you believe how extraordinary this day is? By the way, you are looking fantastic in those old pajamas.”   
I miss him terribly. The honeymoon phase just never ended with us. We got along so well. My backyard suggests the unease (and adaptation) that goes along with unwanted change. Lincoln’s favorite (and least favorite) animals are ever-present, blissfully ignorant in their natural tendencies to go on and just be. The bunnies, unwatched, hop freely about while the squirrels skitter and stare, forever suspicious. The crows, unrattled, cluster like a group of smokers. I let them be. It was Lincoln’s job. He would have showed them who’s boss. Now he’s gone. Uninvited, they make themselves comfortable in an unwatched yard.
Life without Lincoln is certainly different. A sense of unease settles in my chest with a tired sigh. My dog, my partner in crime, had an amazing life. His pictures, along with his story, live on to remind me of all that he was. and all that he gave. The camera’s eye captured his exuberance and love for life. I peruse his pictures and relive moments captured as they were and are. The two tenses, past and present, entangle foolishly. Lincoln was robust, hiking and swimming only a month before his passing. What the heck happened? Why hadn’t he been able to hobble on to the ripe age of fifteen, to then curl up to sleep on his favorite shag? Dogs give us everything we need. Why must their lives be so short? 
A short video clip (taken only weeks following his diagnosis) finds me. The clip captures a joyous moment for both of us. I had devised a new plan of action for his health and the weight of the news (one to three months to live - tops) had been lifted. I was going to stop obsessing on an ultra-sound report and start celebrating, instead, Lincoln’s behavior. He was not a doom-and-gloom-type of a dog. He was an athletic, happy-go-lucky Golden with good vibes. I had made a conscious decision to live like Lincoln, and honor each day as though it would be the last. I would keep dancing—and with Lincoln by my side. 
I’ll never forget the day I had brought him to Pappas Recreation Complex, Auburn, home of my Outdoor Zumba class. It wasn’t the first time he had come, but it ended up being his last. I push play and there he is, resurrected on the screen of my iPhone. Lincoln, I miss you!  I choke up watching him gallop from the car and straight into the arms of Joanne, his beloved Zumba Auntie. She hugs him. He receives her love by grabbing her pocketbook and parading about the pavilion with a happy wiggle. “I’m back! Let’s get this party started!”  I remember watching him and thinking to myself, he’s untouched and blissfully ignorant. I may be in pain, but he is not. Lincoln is the same. He is going to go on and on. He’s going to be okay. 
The pocketbook memory dangles ruefully in my mind’s eye. My plan had bought him an extra six months of happiness. I could have used a lifetime. My melancholic dip makes me even sadder. The gloom and self-absorption are un-Lincoln-like. He did not dwell in struggle, but thrived in the joy of living life to the fullest. His legacy has left a mark more obvious than a muddy paw print. It’s not what we lose, but how much we give while alive that matters in the end.
“You are blessed, Mom. The grass is greenest where you water it. Pay attention to good vibes.” I picture him facing me as he always did. Every day spent together was his best day. It didn’t matter if we were on vacation or watching a ball game. His contentment was as big as his head.  
Lincoln treasured every aspect of suburban life, especially (and incidentally) its prevalent green grass. He would gallop around the house while my husband mowed the lawn. He loved to be a part of someone else’s chores. “You are so good with the tractor. This calls for some ball chewing. Hold on.” Snow blowing sessions were equally as gratifying to Lincoln. He’d force his way through the doorway entrance upon sight of winter hats and gloves. A snow storm called for epic measures of elation. He had to be first in line. “IT’S SNOWING OUT! EXCUSE ME!” 
Lincoln was born amid a snowstorm, on December 26th, 2010.  He adored every aspect of snowfall.  He’d come to the deck door after hours of play, costumed as a Christmas tree, snow bulbs hanging from the long Golden fur at his belly and paws I’d do my best to gently tear the snow balls from his body, but doing so was like pulling hair from someone’s scalp. Occasionally, he’d look at me and show his teeth. “I’m sorry, Lincoln. Almost done.” He’d soften to my voice. “I know you’re only trying to help.” (Bitterness was not who he was). Then he’d lie down on a linen, forest green tablecloth repurposed for his needs, and groom himself like a cat while I poured him a bowl of goat’s milk. 
Lincoln possessed perpetual good vibes (as dogs do) and was rarely in a bad mood. I think about the puppies I’ve yet to meet and wonder if they’ll ever fill Lincoln’s big shoes. Will they retrieve socks, shoes, and pocketbooks as he did? Will they create games in the snow, play defense in a game of football, and fetch countless balls? Will they remind me to live each day as though it’s my last, and be fully present? The puppies, I’m thinking, will have their own personalities. 
In any event, I plan to share with them all that Lincoln left behind, especially his good vibes. 
Tell me your dog story. 
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