More than just a book about a dog

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - David Lim­baugh

Agood friend of mine, who died sev­eral years ago from di­a­betes-re­lated com­pli­ca­tions, once said to me, “Show me a dog lover, and I’ll show you a good per­son.” I’m sure there are many ex­cep­tions to this adage, but the prin­ci­ple it ex­presses couldn’t be more ap­pli­ca­ble to my close friend Mark Levin, whose new book, “Res­cu­ing Sprite,” makes poignantly clear.

Mark was about to write a com­pletely dif­fer­ent book when the death of his dog, Sprite, turned his world up­side down. Mark was dev­as­tated by Sprite’s death and was forced to switch gears.

He said, “You’ll prob­a­bly think I’m crazy, but I feel com­pelled to write a book about Sprite now and need to put the other book on hold.”

At first, I was stunned be­cause I be­lieved his other book needed to be writ­ten. I also couldn’t imag­ine how he could fill a book’s worth of pages with sto­ries about a dog — no mat­ter how much I shared his love for ca­nines.

It didn’t take more than a few con­ver­sa­tions with Mark to re­al­ize how im­por­tant it was that he write this book, and I be­came im­me­di­ately en­thu­si­as­tic about the project. Given the depth and range of Mark’s feel­ings and his im­mense pop­u­lar­ity with his ra­dio au­di­ence, I knew the book would be a huge suc­cess. Lit­tle did I know at the time just how pow­er­ful it would be.

The book is deeply mov­ing on a num­ber of lev­els and will en­rich the lives of all who read it. Ev­ery dog lover in the world should have a copy of it. That said, I must tell you that the book is about so much more than one man’s lov­ing re­la­tion­ship with his dogs. Don’t get me wrong. It’s the best pet book I’ve ever read. But its themes are tran­scen­dent.

It is a pri­mar­ily a love story be­tween man and dog, but also be­tween hus­band and wife, par­ents and chil­dren, fam­ily and neigh­bors, dog own­ers and care­givers, peo­ple and their com­mu­ni­ties, and dogs and other dogs in the fam­ily. It con­tains more life lessons in each chap­ter than any hand­ful of sim­i­lar books.

As you pre­pare to read it, un­der­stand that it will tap into your deep­est emo­tions, stir your soul and pro­voke thought­ful re­flec­tion about the things — and be­ings — that mat­ter most.

It is a story about joy and suf- fer­ing, en­rich­ment and loss, be­wil­der­ment and thanks­giv­ing and self­less love. It is about af­fec­tion, loy­alty, em­pa­thy, com­pan­ion­ship, in­tense re­flec­tion, self-doubt, tor­ment­ing guilt and find­ing peace with life’s most dif­fi­cult and ag­o­niz­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and de­ci­sions.

I am con­vinced that one of the main things that drew Mark so close to Sprite was their par­al­lel paths: Mark had re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced and was still plagued by a life-threat­en­ing heart con­di­tion when Sprite en­tered his and his fam­ily’s life. Un­be­knownst to the Levins, Sprite was much older than they had thought and be­gan man­i­fest­ing ma­jor health prob­lems al­most from day one.

The Levins’ heart wrench­ing re­al­iza­tion that Sprite wouldn’t have much more time on Earth, I be­lieve, quick­ened their feel­ings for him and made them ap­pre­ci­ate him and their other dog, Pepsi, that much more. This, cou­pled with Mark’s own prob­lems, caused Mark to deal more with his own mor­tal­ity and to re­ar­range his own pri­or­i­ties, plac­ing his fam­ily and friends above all other things. “No time on Earth is long enough to share with those we love or to pre­pare our hearts for good-bye.” And, “Ca­reer and fi­nan­cial goals are im­por­tant, ma­te­rial ac­qui­si­tions are nec­es­sary, but tak­ing stock in life’s lit­tle plea­sures is the most sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of all.”

Sprite touched Mark in a way he’d never been touched be­fore, and taught him more about life they he could ad­e­quately ex­press. “Sprite touched my heart and opened my soul. I would swear he was an an­gel.”

Mark de­scribes how Sprite’s han­dling of his own suf­fer­ing — his buoy­ant and un­flag­ging spirit — was in­spi­ra­tional and in­struc­tive to him. “He had such grace and dig­nity, de­spite all he had been through. I learned so much from him: about my­self, about life, and about class.” As much heart­break as Mark and his fam­ily en­dured over Sprite for such a short 26 months, they wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Mark em­pha­sizes through­out the book his con­vic­tion that as much as hu­man be­ings do for their dogs they get much more in re­turn. “There is noth­ing like the loy­alty and love dogs have for their fam­i­lies. Noth­ing.” Brush­ing aside the sug­ges­tion that we are God’s gift to dogs, he says, “In the end, we hu­mans are the lucky ones.”

David Lim­baugh, the brother of talk ra­dio host Rush Lim­baugh, is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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