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January 26, 2018

When We Care For Our Dogs We Care For Ourselves

Just before we brought Lincoln home from the hospital I took Penny and Zero to the beach. The dogs soared joyfully over the fence and I jumped the rail in their wake. A familiar routine in an unfamiliar time.For each of us, there is something restorative about crossing that boundary. We leave behind the things that leash us to the world and run unencumbered. It is meditation in motion. A calamitous communion of teeth and peace. A raucous, panting tranquility in which we inhale love and exhale everything else.
DSC01212.JPGJust before we brought Lincoln home from the hospital I took Penny and Zero to the beach. The dogs soared joyfully over the fence and I jumped the rail in their wake. A familiar routine in an unfamiliar time.For each of us, there is something restorative about crossing that boundary. We leave behind the things that leash us to the world and run unencumbered. It is meditation in motion. A calamitous communion of teeth and peace. A raucous, panting tranquility in which we inhale love and exhale everything else.DSC01302.JPGThis is how I carried my son home unafraid.  Not because there was nothing to fear, but because my trip to the beach – both that day and all the days before – left no room in my heart for anything but love.Of course, the transformation was not permanent.I gave my love to Lincoln, Emily, the dogs and the world. Doubt, difficulty and (sleep deprivation induced) delirium took its place. None of these things are as powerful as love but they are attracted to empty spaces and fill them with insidious speed.That’s why it is not going to the dog beach which is important to me. It’s going back. Because each trip we take, the dogs carry my heart with them into the water and cleanse it of life’s corrosive grime.DSC04662.JPGAfter Lincoln’s birth most of my friends and family assumed trips to the dog beach would be put on hold. Emily didn’t even bother asking if I would take Lincoln to the beach with me. She was more curious about how I’d pull it off.“I promise I won’t jump over the fence with him,” I assured her.20170831_151725.jpgOn a warm summer morning I dressed Lincoln in a sunsuit and hat, strapped him to my chest and brought him to the beach for the first time. The dogs flew over the fence, while I kept my promise and gingerly stepped over the rail at its lowest point.The dogs dove into the lake and I waded in after them, rocking Lincoln. Penny and Zero danced a wild orbit around us, and at the center of this jubilant solar system was my son, sleeping peacefully against my heart.I stepped from the water, leaving my worries for the tide to wash away, and we crossed back over the fence. As we left the beach a woman laughed and said, “Well…I used to think bringing my one dog here was a lot of work, but I see I’m mistaken.”Though I had Lincoln on my chest, a camera on my back and a dog in each hand I couldn’t have felt less burdened.Since then, I’ve visited the beach three or four times a week with Lincoln. The summer crowds faded and we traded Lincoln’s sunsuit for a bright red snowsuit that covers everything but his face. Many mornings we walk the frozen shore alone. A man, his dogs, and what appears to be a large starfish riding on his jacket.DSC09887.JPGLincoln is a content passenger, but there will come a day when he walks ahead of me in search of his own identity. I can give so much to my child. I cannot give him that. He will have to wander and stumble like the rest of us in order to find himself.It’s taken me the better part of a decade to realize that what we do for our dogs we do for ourselves. When we feed them, we nourish our souls. When we let them run unleashed, we let our hearts run with them. And when I find my dogs racing around Lincoln and me on an empty beach, I find myself.I cannot give this inextricable gift to Lincoln, but I can show him where to look in his own heart. When it is time for him to begin that journey into the inner darkness of himself I hope these trips together will help light the way.There is so much I do not know about being a father (roughly, everything). But I’m certain that to be the best parent I can be, I must be the best person I can be. To be the best person I can be, I need my dogs and our trips to the beach.Getting to the beach is not as easy as it once was, which is why it has never been more important we go.DSC09864.JPG

Comments for When We Care For Our Dogs We Care For Ourselves

  1. that was a pleasure to read… and yes, I’m glad you didn’t jump over a fence with Lincoln, the camera and the dogs ;O)))

  2. Tracie McGuire says:

    Thank you for always putting things into perspective Will. Sometimes it feels really difficult to get myself, my girlfriend and our two Ridgebacks to the park. Almost an impossible mission some days. But once we’re there and the dogs are running free in the sun, it’s all worth it.

  3. VICTORIA COLEMAN says:

    you are such a poet – an old soul for sure – i really enjoy reading your posts and keeping up with you, Emily, Lincoln, Penny and Zero (almost wrote Eko – see he never leaves my heart either – you and Eko both touch many hearts with your posts). Have a great weekend.

  4. Emmadog says:

    We are so glad the dogs still have their place in the family. Most we know put the dogs aside as soon as the baby comes home. They rarely get walks, are always left behind and become a burden. It is wonderful for you to share how it is so great to stick to the routines and add in the little one.

  5. Connie Taylor says:

    The best things in life aren’t always the easiest to obtain, but I see you are learning to persevere and are enjoying the outcomes. p.s. Like easyweimarner, I’m glad you opted out of jumping the fence with Lincoln, camera and dogs

  6. Cynthia Marquez says:

    Watching my ridgebacks run full speed in an open field is a zen moment. Clears all the cobwebs of the day away, leaving sheer joy. Thanks for the reminder to focus on the joyful moments. Love your photos and your prose!

  7. Piglove says:

    aaww so wonderful my sweet friend. Lincoln has a lot of love and a lot of love to give. He is as beautiful as your words to him in the future <3 XOXO – Bacon

  8. Those trips may seem like a small thing, but as a parent, I can guarantee they will mean the world to your son down the road as much as they do for you and the dogs. Way to parent, Will!

  9. Ellen Quilty says:

    I never thought you would give up your trips to the beach once Lincoln was born.What is it they say about putting on your own oxygen mask first?In this way both you and the dogs can be at your best for Lincoln.

  10. So beautifully written and photographed. As usual. Keep up the good work.

  11. stef luciano says:

    You are such a phenomenal writer and photographer. And I just ADORE the photo at the bottom of today’s post. THANK YOU for allowing me and us into your life.

  12. coastingnz says:

    You not going to the beach never crossed my mind. But if going to the beach helps clear your mind and cleanse your soul – reading your blogs does the same for me 🙂

  13. Maureen says:

    Your thoughts and the last photo took my breath away.

  14. Jo Rhodes says:

    Happy birthday (Feb 4?) !!!
    Eat ice cream and give treats!!
    Jo, Sam, and Dean!

  15. Candice says:

    That last photo made my sad and tired heart sing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  16. Phyllis Weekes says:

    You have an old wise soul….

  17. Kismet says:

    Yes, you will have to let Lincoln go his own way some day. What you do now and in the near future will determine what “his own way” will be.

  18. Such a wonderful post. Thank you!

  19. Eve says:

    So true as we can only guide our boys (I have 3) onto the right path – they are the ones that must make the decision to follow it on their life path laid out before them! I can only hope they all do great things and make the right choices in all that comes to them! HUGS to you all!!

  20. cafall says:

    Beautiful!

  21. Sheila Murphy says:

    I am verklempt.

    XXOO,
    Mom

  22. Sharon Roerty says:

    Truly beautiful; your composition in prose and photos.

  23. Yes, indeed — it is through the caring for others and giving to others that we find what fulfills us!

  24. UrbanCollieChick says:

    You have a beach. I have a wooded park full of trails. I bring my dog there and just breathe. I’m an atheist, but it’s as close to a church as I can ever get. Tucker canters along and sniffs among the leaves, hoping for chipmunks to chase ( he never takes it seriously and no munks are harmed), and I smile and beam at his natural fluid canine motion.

    We need those moments in an ever more chaotic world. So much to love in the tiny spot on the planet that each of us occupies….

    like grains of sand on a beach.

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