Aug 15, 11
Read on August 15, 2011
You will not get through this book with a dry eye!
A truly touching book about a family's devotion to their elderly rescue dog. When looking for a companion for their adult dog, Pepsi, the Levin family found Sprite on an animal shelter website and it was love at first sight. Unfortunately, a veterinary exam detected severe arthritis in Sprite's limbs and it turned out he was twice as old as originally thought. Dog lovers that they were, the Levins knew what would happen if they decided to give Sprite back, though there was never any question that they would not. Instead, they made it their focus to give Sprite the best life he could have, no matter how many years he had left. They knew going in that Sprite was an elderly dog, so learning a few months later that Sprite also had a neurological tumor that would shorten his life even further was sad but also made them even more comitted to this goal.
Sprite and Pepsi became fast friends and it is suspected that Pepsi's influence boosted Sprite's energy level and spirits. The Levin family treated both dogs as equals until it became clear that Sprite's body could no longer keep up with Pepsi, no matter how much his mind willed him to.
Much of the book dealt with basic day-to-day goings on in the Levin household as observed by Mark Levin, a political radio host and chief caregiver for the dogs. Mark's friends, family, and radio colleagues played an important role in the book, as they constantly provided insight into living with older pets and how to cope as their lives come to a close. I sensed a strong feeling of guilt coming from Levin towards the end of Sprite's life, as he wrestled with the conflicting feelings of having rescued Sprite and just two years later deciding to put him down. He fought this up until the day the vet came, especially when Sprite got out of the house the day before and had to be taken out of a ravine because his arthritic body could not get him out on his own. It hit Levin hard to know he'd just saved his dog's life only to end it 24 hours later.
The only issue I had with the book was the way they handled Sprite's final months in respect to their daughter Lauren, who was away at college. I went through the same situation in 2003 with my own dog, but my mom always promised she would be 100% honest with me, and kept her word when she called me on the night they had to put him down. The Levins instead chose to hide everything from Lauren until she came home a week or so after Sprite's death, when they told her he was gone on the car ride home from the airport. Maybe it's just a difference in the way we grieve, but I needed that time to adjust to an empty home, and an hour would not have been near enough.
Sprite's story does have a happy ending though. Because of how much love and joy Sprite brought to their lives in such a short time, the Levins chose to adopt Griffen, another elderly dog from the shelter who would have been difficult to place in a forever home due to his age.