What I Learned from Linus

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Our High Calling Blogs project this month is to write about something we learned from animals. You can read more about this over at Robert Hruzek's blog. When Jeanene and I were 25 and had been married about a couple of years, we got a dog. It's sort of a cliche, but yes, a dog was our first child. Perhaps we needed to practice. And so Linus came into our life. He was a salt and pepper miniature schnauzer, the runt of the litter. I tried to think of fancy words to describe the depth of Linus' love, but fancy words seem to diminish him. Linus loved us as dogs love their people - with complete and utter abandon. He adored us. He was always overjoyed to see us arrive at home. He never wanted anything more than to be where we were. His greatest thrill in life (apart from eating which I'll admit did seem to be his first love) was being allowed to sleep on the foot of our bed, wrapped in odd positions around the lumps in the covers made by our feet. And when three sisters were born, one after the other, Linus patiently accepted them with grace and good humor, though he was always fiercely loyal with his love and gave it completely only to the two who raised him from a pup. He loved us like a dog, which is to say with complete commitment, unwavering faith, and with a constancy that the fickle human mind is incapable of. We can't love like dogs love, nor should we. A dog's love for its human is like no other kind of love. All a dog asks for is that you be there for him, loving him back. A dog's love is a very...fierce and uncompromising thing. There are elements of it that humble me - none more than the certainty it brings to life. If your dog loves you now, you can be certain your dog will love you next week and next month and next year, all the way until he or she dies. And Linus did die, of course. As all dogs and creatures do. If his coming prepared us for the commitment that small children would require, then his passing prepared us for the hard decisions made in love that our adolescent children would need from us. He died in 2003, at the ripe old dog-age of 16. His final lesson to me was a painful one. For Linus trusted and loved me all the way up until the moment they put the needle in his skin and he laid his aged head into my palm for the last time. I wrote about his passing a few days later, back in the early days of my blog. From Real Live Preacher - 2003 We said goodbye to Linus yesterday. He was a great dog, faithful and true for sixteen of the eighteen years we've been married. He helped us raise three girls and only ever wanted love returned in kind. The last three years were hard for the "little boy", as we called him. He had a number of ailments, and the quality of his life diminished greatly. I knew this day was coming; I knew we would have to make that last trip to the vet. A good friend told me I would know when it was time. He was right. Yesterday morning Linus was sleeping at the back door and had something between a seizure and a dream. I tried to wake him, but he didn't respond at first. I moved his head, and it was limp and heavy in my hands, a sad premonition of what was to come. I sat and talked to him for a few minutes. "Little boy, how you doin?" I looked into his eyes, and I knew. I knew it was time. The three sisters came home from school and said their goodbyes. There were many tears and a flurry of little girl hugs. These are the children who grew up on his watch. He was patient with them when they were babies, tolerating the pulled hair and awkward pats. Yesterday they were gentle, just as he trained them to be. Then came the last car trip. He was trusting as always, laying his life in our hands. There was a somber conversation with the vet, and then she brought out a box of tissues and a needle. For sixteen years I've held my left hand under his muzzle and looked into his eyes. I did this one last time while his head grew heavy, heavier, heaviest. I liked feeling the weight of that heavy, shaggy head. It felt like trust in my hand. I didn't want to lay his head on the tabletop and slip my hand out from under it. I didn't want to. Goodbye Linus. God rest you wherever it is that doggies go. God rest your faithful little bones. There always was a wonderful goodness in you. Linus Linus as a puppy in 1987. rlp