Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lucas: Last Words






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.


Love,

Mike


21 comments:

  1. Well said as always Mike. I particularly like the part about "love is a verb". We all need to be reminded of that from time to time.

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    1. Some reminder are sharper than others, William, but at the same time, some are more needed than others. Life is what it is, and it is, despite the loss and pain, beautiful.

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  2. I love this and like I said on FB, it fits Lucas and his spirit of loving life and living to the fullest. We like to think we love all our animals equally but sometimes there's that one that really burrows so deep in our hearts that the loss of them is a heavy burden to bear. I'm sure Lucas will be this way for you.
    Our little Benji, the peek-a-poo mixed breed we rescued so Sara could have a dog when she was about 9 became that for all three of us. Sara and I were so so broken hearted when he died rather suddenly from kidney cancer that we didn't even know he had until just a week before he passed. He was about 1 and a half when we got him (by the vet's estimate) and almost 13 when he died. I still miss him so much sometimes and I swear I hear his little bark at times..sounding tinny and faraway but I know it's him.
    A couple of days ago a little ceramic plaque the vet sent us when he died fell (out of the blue) from the bookshelf in the dining room and broke into about 6 pieces...I teared up and Sara cried and cried. The grief that we still hold for that little dog is still there...and probably always will be.
    Thinking of you as you move past this and keep your two girls spirits up...I can only imagine how Lilith misses Lucas.

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    1. I have the best vet ever, Rose, and it helps very much that she was there at the end of his life. She was also there for Bert, too. Odd, isn't it, how death unites us sometimes.

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  3. You brought joy and love to Lucas's life. Without you he would have never know this. Beautifully written

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    1. Janet, I could have never done it without people like you.

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  4. Beautifully said Mike. I love the idea of giving a home to a stray however mine will always be cats as long as I am an apartment dweller. I love dogs but a tiny apartment with no yard is no life for a dog. I loved the Loki Mutt as seen through your writing and pictures. He truly did live his love! I can't imagine him wanting you to lose yourself in grief over his loss.

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    1. Thank you, Kat. This hurts more because I expected it less. But no matter if it is cats or dogs, or any other animal who loves life has to go forward. There's more life and more love!

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  5. I just read about Lucas on B&P. So very sorry for your loss.I will hug my two girls a little tighter today. We rescued each other.

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    1. Lizzie,
      I have two little girl dogs too now. Lilith, who was with Lucas the longest, is lost.

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  6. We had to part with our beloved Snoopy two nights ago and your writing helped me put it in perspective. Thank you.

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    1. Jerry,
      It is never easy but if anything I said or wrote helped thank Lucas!!

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  7. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I fell in love with Lucas just by reading your heartfelt words. I lost my 11-year-old dog, Harry, almost 15 years ago, but seldom a day goes by that I don't think of him. We now have two precious miniature Dachshunds. I can't imagine life without a dog...what joy they give us; what love! Take care, Mike. My thoughts are with you during this sad and difficult time.

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    1. Brenda,
      Ask me 100 years from now and I think I will still miss that dog!

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  9. Beautifully written, as always Mike. I have read your musings on Lucas for a long time now and feel like I knew him, I will certainly miss him.
    I will be going to the rescue center on Friday to collect my 25th foster dog. None of my dogs or the fosters could ever replace Luca who was my first dog but they all bring out happy memories of him and create new memories of their own.
    May Lucas live long in your memory and the spirit of him benefit all of your future pooches.

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    1. 25? That is impressive! That's 25 families made whole, 25 lives saved and 25 acts of humanity that might guide others!! Good work!

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    2. I have just found out that my new foster will be a girl called Jolie. Jolie was a street dog rescued from the streets of Brasov in Romania last year, she had smashed up back legs from a car accident. Jolie had surgery and hydrotherapy here in England and is now ready to learn how to live in a home.
      I am really excited that Jolie is ready for this final step before she gets a home of her own.

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