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Lincoln’s final swim at Lake Singletary

by Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

The day wasn’t ideal for swimming, despite a humid cling to the air. A typical New Englander, September finds me with a nudge and gentle reminder to lose the flip-flops and lure in routines that have escaped me while stopping to smell the roses all summer long.

Amongst many of their superior qualities, dogs have an advantage that we, the humans (especially New Englanders) don’t seem to possess. They don’t care what season, day of the week, or time it is. They are fully present, living in (and for) the moment. Dogs don’t need to pay fifteen dollars per hour to balance in yoga’s tree pose in order to be present. They just are.

Such knowledge, along with exceptional summer heat (which limited Lincoln’s ball time and exercise) coaxed me to make the decision.

“Lincoln—wanna’ go for a ride?”

Dog owners understand the utter joy experienced when we communicate phrases of our pet’s vocabulary and, consequently, turn on their heart lights. Needless to say, Lincoln’s dull gaze to the hardwood floor broke into an instant, sloppy smile as he snapped up and dashed to the front door, his paws adding a few more scratches to the hardwood - he took the corner at record speed.

We make it to the car.

I slam the doors shut and casually activate my favorite Spotify playlist. Like a parent hiding inconvenient truths to her child, I’ve learned to refrain from telling Lincoln the full extent of our excursion. He knows the phrases we’re going to see the kids (for baseball games), out for an ice cream, and we’re going to see Chelsea (his biological sister) among several others. He is an avid swimmer and knows the word lake, a taboo word causing immediate disaster if and when someone slips and mentions it. 

So I remain chill about the trip, pretending we’re just going through the Dunkin Donuts drive-through line for a munchkin (another slice of his vocabulary) while I man the road and radio.  No big deal. September is too late for the… for the word that rhymes with ‘bake’ anyway.

There was one problem with my white lie. Dogs have a sixth sense. Somewhere between passing sights of the woods and the Sutton Center Store, a light bulb went off in Lincoln’s head. We’re going to a lake. He knew. Without a beach bag, swim tube, or sunscreen bottle in sight, he knew. Even without the “l” word he knew. More strangely, Lincoln has never been to Lake Singletary. The lake dance began, followed by the whining.   

Fortunately, the ride to beautiful Lake Singletary of the Sutton Town Beach is a short one. I arrive in record time, park, and pray that a non-dog person will not bark at me to keep a lake-crazed Lincoln on a leash.

The ruse is over. Lincoln inspects the scene through the driver’s front window and notes the suspected lake below the lower lot. He holds his stare for a split second then invades my Pilot’s passenger door space like a lunch line bully. 

Since it’s September, the town beach is officially closed. There are only a few parked cars in the lot, and construction workers appear tucked away in their big yellow trucks.

Ignition off. Door open. Lincoln springs from the dusty leather seat like a racehorse, speed-sniffs the paved incline hill that leads to a lower lot and, finally, finds the beach. I have no control over my dog at this point. It’s an ugly truth. I can no longer see him, let alone reel him in. In haste, I grab my keys, his leash, my phone, and his poop-bag (just in case) and am about to head down to meet him when, suddenly, he’s back with me, jagged and wet, and facing me with a smile that says– did you know there’s a lake down there!   

He begins the journey back, knowing I’m behind him but the excitement of the moment has stirred a bowel movement. He finds a patch of grass, hunches over to do his business, and trots back to the beach. Sheepishly, I assume the life of a dog owner, pick up the mound, knot the bag, and make my way to the beach. Two women sit at the shoreline and greet me graciously. They are supportive to Lincoln, whose now easy, rhythmic paddling through the water betrays his earlier moments. His swim creates slow movement in the lake. New colors and shapes begin to emerge and dance with the sun’s reflection, creating inexplicable harmony. All seems well, nearly perfect. Wearing jean shorts rolled above my knees, I wade into spectacular shades of gold, green, and paisley squiggles of yellow. The water is breathtakingly warm and comfortable.

I want to drink it up and savor this moment—one given to me by my dog. 

Lincoln will participate in a Meet & Greet session at Quite Fetching, 1 Grafton Common on September 29. Come in to pet him. Allow him to stamp “paw” your favorite Yankee Xpress story!