This is Lincoln. He's a complete pain in the ass, and I love him dearly.
He may go down in history as the only pit bull to make it out of St.Paul Animal Control alive. Probably due to the fact that as the malnourished runt that he was as a puppy, he looked more like a chihuahua than a pit bull.
It was the summer of 2000. We were helping out with an animal rescue organization at the time, fostering adorable pit bull puppies for a few days each until they were adopted, which is how we ended up with our first dog, Lydia a year earlier. A steady stream of cute passed in and out of the house, chewing on furniture, peeing on the floor, and breaking our hearts. Homeless pit bulls have a hard lot in life.
And then along came this mangy runt, with nubs for teeth, a nasty rash, bald patches, half starved. Named Maple of all things. And he stayed. Chris would take him, faithfully, to the pet stores each weekend, where rotten little Maple would curl up in a ball in the kennel and stubbornly refuse to be the goofy affectionate cheese ball we knew him to be. Weeks went by. A month. He weaseled his way into our hearts and our lives. And then it was Chris's birthday, and all he claimed to want was to keep the wacky, toothless little monster. I agreed with one caveat, that we change his name.
And so he became our Lincoln. And then my Lincoln.
Nearly ten years have passed. His hair grew back; his teeth did not. He has charmed me with his kool-aid smile, and his marching dance that he will faithfully perform for anyone who will scratch his rear end. He has annoyed me with his penchant for peeing on all vertical surfaces - indoor and out, his endless joy at barking through the fence, taunting Harley, the neighbor dog. He has milked sympathy from me with his fear of folding laundry, thunderstorms and the vet.
And he took care of me, worrying about me throughout my pregnancy, sticking with me through the divorce, eager to lick away tears and sit patiently by the bathtub as I tried to soak away the pain. He has slept next to me in my bed, always under the blanket, stretched down my left side. Tolerated children who climb, and pull, and try to stick their fingers in his nose. Explored the diaper pail and chewed countless pacifiers. Dutifully cleaned up all stray cheerios from under the highchair and rinsed all plates before they were loaded into the dishwasher. He is a couch licker. A pillow humper. A hole digger.
He has jubilantly celebrated every spring with an insane, frantic rush through the muddy back yard, like he's tracing the path of a spirograph or a chain of DNA. Joyously chasing his tail to wish it a happy summer. Then collapsing onto the patio, seemingly lifeless, to absorb the early summer sun.
And now, it is nearly over. My little weasel has a tumor in his spleen. I am watching him wasting away and my heart is breaking for him, and for me. I agonized over the decision of whether or not to try surgery. But considering his age and his fragile psyche and his terror of the vet, I’ve decided to let him go peacefully. He still sleeps with me; he will still march for me, a little. But now, the tears that he licks away are for him.
I hold my breath every day when I come home from work, praying that he’s there to greet me. I am hoping against hope that he will hold on till the spring. I want him to lie on the patio soaking up the sun one last time. And when he’s gone, I want to bury him next to the fence, one last taunt for Harley, the neighbor dog.