Some friends lost their pup of 14 years yesterday.

One evening, around 1979, I scrambled to answer the Band-Aid pink phone in our kitchen. Every call is critical when you’re fourteen.

“Hello?” No response. “Hello?”

Finally, “David?”

I recognized my brother’s voice. “Hey, Bobby. How’s it going?” Silence. “Bobby?”

“Can I talk to Daddy?” he asked, clearly struggling to talk. In retrospect, I’m not sure I had ever heard him cry. I yelled back to Daddy that Bobby was on the phone and waited until he picked up the receiver. I have many flaws, but I’m not nosey. I really did plan to hang up the phone.

“Hey, Mr. Big.” That’s what Daddy has always called Bobby.

“Daddy…,” the pause so long, I wondered if he’d hung up the phone. “Maggie died.”

Maggie was a fine Irish Setter that Bobby had raised from a pup. No one greets you like a dog and Maggie was no exception. Day after day, year after year, Bobby came home from work, and Maggie responded to his whistle, bounding out of the woods, running, leaping, circling, licking, leaping. If you’d seen it, you might have been in doubt about who was happier.

I don’t think Bobby said anything else in his conversation with Daddy. I’m not sure he could. He’d called the right person. Daddy had lost some good canine friends over the years, and I was struck by how he affirmed Bobby’s grief. I will never forget what he said just before I quit snooping: “Oh mercy, Mr. Big, I’m so sorry. We sure do fall in love with’m don’t we?”

Yes we do. Until we’ve had one, we might be skeptical about that. I was. He’s a dog, after all, not my wife, parent, sibling, or child. Or so I thought. I agreed to invite a dog into our house reluctantly and with many rules and stipulations, only to become redunkulous: allowing the dog on the couch, using baby-talk, carefully vetting pet-sitters.

Few people love like a dog. As to forgiveness, we are not their equal. Step on your dog, stumble over her in the dark, wait too long to put food out, come home late, and she still wags, longs to please and love you. To their own detriment—even in the face of cruelty by wicked individuals—they express the most incomparable, incomprehensible loyalty.

Have you ever wondered about the name “Fido”? According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia:
Fido (1941 – June 9, 1958) was an Italian street dog that came to public attention in 1943 because of his demonstration of unwavering loyalty to his dead master, Carlos Soriani (Soriani named the dog Fido, a derivation of the Latin word for faithful). Fido was written about in many Italian and international magazines and newspapers, appeared in newsreels throughout Italy, and was bestowed several honors, including a public statue erected in his honor.”

My Clyde is a Fido. He lives to love. Like a 70 pound lapdog, he wants to be in perpetual contact with me, his 40 pound head in my lap, blinking at me with complete adoration. I can return from the mailbox and he greets me like I’ve been in Iraq for five years. He is my shadow, following me on the most mundane journeys to nowhere. Sure, like every dog, he loves a treat, but I’m fairly certain he doesn’t care if there’s a point to my pointless trips up and down the stairs, into the backyard, or if we’re there yet, or what’s in it for him. The relationship IS THE TREAT. When my Clyde is gone, I’m going to curl up under a blanket for a while and cry.

Some friends lost their pup of 14 years yesterday, and I can only imagine how heartbroken they must feel. I want to express my sympathy to them. When people die, we send flowers, but that did seem exactly right. Thankfulness seems a better tribute. In light of another family’s loss, I’m more mindful of these noble, faithful friends, and I need to express how awesome they are. C.S. Lewis said that we do not express gratitude solely for the sake of the other person, but gratitude is something we need.

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” -C.S. Lewis

Ainsley, Shelley, and Keith, I’m so sorry that you’ve lost your “old girl”. Praying for you all.


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