The end was clear for every dog I have ever lost. The fosters went to new homes, Bert was crippled by age and infirmary and the day after I spoke with my vet about putting Sam down he slipped away in his sleep. I’ve never lost a dog to tragedy or to sudden illness. When Lucas was bitten by a venomous Cotton mouth snake I was afraid I was going to lose him. When he came down with cancer I fought to save him. A vet told me I might get four or five more years out of Lucas after that surgery and I believed that with my heart and soul. I never knew that in fifteen months I would be writing this.
A human being can’t live to be fifty without knowing loss. There’s grandparents who die, classmates who are killed in car wrecks, cancer strikes at us all throughout life, and random stupidity takes those from us when we aren’t expecting death at all. Children die young and hearts break over it. The old die and there is guilty relief. There isn’t any way to escape the fact that we are going to die and those we love are going to die, and living is the only real way to…live.
There for a short time, after Bert’s death, all I could think of writing was things about Bert and his life and his death, and what it meant. I realized it wasn’t going to change anything and most of all, I had said it all before the day before, the day before that, and it was time to move forward. The other dogs still needed me. Life still needed me. And writing demands more and more from a writer each day or it ceases to be real and fresh and original and art.
Lucas, for everything that he was, was alive. He would charge out of the back door like he was really going somewhere and leap up in the air once his feet hit the ground. He ran hard. He played hard. Lucas loved being alive and he never truly lost all of his puppyhood. Just a few days out from the end of his physical life I find myself dwelling in the past, again, just as I did when Bert died. I’m not done with grief yet nor should I be, but I can see the end of it. It’s time to begin the process of living again. It’s time to move the things I have not moved because that was where Lucas was sleeping last. It is time to write this, to put into words that I am wounded deeply by the loss of a loved one, but I am still alive.
If there was any way to grieve forever and still live I would do it. But there isn’t.
More than any other dog I have ever shared my life with, I shared Lucas with the people of the Internet. It was the people of the Internet who rose up and helped me smite cancer when it reached for Lucas. The friends and family I have discovered in faraway places called and wrote me when they discovered Lucas was dead. The reaction was swift and compassionate. Tears were shed with me all over the world. Lucas was my dog, but Lucas was your dog, too.
Three days after he was bitten by the Cottonmouth Lucas was playing with Sam. Less than a week after the surgery that removed six of his teeth and part of his upper jaw, I had to keep Lucas isolated from Lilith to stop them from playing, and playing hard, with one another. Death was the only event that kept that dog from living. There’s a lesson in this for us all.
This won’t be the last time I write about Lucas but this is the last time I’m writing about his death for a while. I’m not done with grief but I am going to begin the process of leaving it behind. Lucas wouldn’t have wanted me to be sad. He would have done anything to keep me from being depressed. Lucas would want me to go out and play, and play hard.
If this means anything to you, if Lucas meant anything to you, if the idea that love, unconditional love, has real meaning and real value, intrinsic to the Universe and to you, then honor the life of The Loki Mutt and look past his death. Lucas began his journey to know you as a stray, thrown away and left to die, or left to be discovered by me and by you. You can make this happen again. Volunteer at a shelter, adopt a rescue dog, donate to those organizations dedicated to saving the lives of animals, or simply find some lost stray and let him ride to his new home in your lap. But you have to know that it isn’t enough to feel the loss; you have to fill the need. You have to go out and actually do something. Love isn’t a noun. Love is a verb. It’s action. It’s work. It's loss. It's sorrow. It's pain. It's grief. It’s what we do, what we have to live through, to create a home for dogs like Lucas. Accpet it. Accpet the price you'll pay and you'll never regret a single moment of it. I'm speaking from expeience here.
I lost Lucas but long before I lost him I took that chance and saved a life. We, you, I, and Lucas, had one hell of a good ride even if it was a short one. Lucas never said a word about how much he loved me or how much he enjoyed living with me, or how much he cared about his family. All he could do was live it, and live it as best he knew how, the only way he knew how, and he lived it every damn second of his very short life.
That’s what I’m going do too. Lucas would have wanted that for me, and he would want it for you, too.