Dear Mr. Levin,

I just wanted to write you a letter to thank you for writing “Rescuing Sprite.” It was a beautifully written book and, although difficult at times, a pleasure to read.

I was given the book this past July after my family dog, Max, passed away. A friend of mine from work, who is a listener of your radio show, thought of your book after I told him my sad news. He left it in my desk drawer for me. When I saw the book, I wanted to return it to him. I thought it would be too painful to read. My friend told me to take my time and hang on to the book. It was only recently that I felt ready to read it. I cried most of the way through, as all I could do was think about Max. I could relate to some of Sprite’s conditions with Max. Even so, as I was reading…I could feel a real connection with a fellow dog lover. I felt like you were writing my own thoughts. I’m sure everyone who has read this book feels the same way.

My heart goes out to you and your family over the loss of Sprite. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Max. This past Christmas was hard without him. I’m sure the same goes for Sprite. I hope that Pepsi and Griffen are doing well.

For some reason I feel like giving you a little background about Max. I know you are a busy man, so I will try not to take up too much of your time.

Max originally was my grandma’s dog. She lived in Florida with her husband and one day they just decided that they wanted a pet. She actually wanted a cat, but when Nick, her husband, saw Max…that was it. He was coming home with them. Max was a Maltese and very cute, affectionate and playful. He was raised my loving retired people who adored him. He was a constant companion and brought great joy to their lives. I was very jealous that they got him. I wanted a dog too. I was about 14 and living in California (I am currently 27). I’d wanted a dog for as long as I could remember and used to put it at the top of every Birthday and Christmas List. My parents had a dog, Cassie that passed away when I was 4. I still remember her. She was a Border Collie and Aussie Shepard mix. My brother and I were her little lambs and she looked out for us and protected us. She was my mom’s dog before she met my dad. Well, after Cassie passed my dad was so grief stricken he did not want to ever have another dog again. So no matter how much begging, pleading, wining and trying to convince my parents I would be completely responsible I could not have a dog. So when my grandma got Max I could sort of vicariously have a dog. I enjoyed going out to Florida every few years. Playing and cuddling and snuggling with Max when I was there was so fun! He was a lap dog and he knew his role very well. He was a lover. He loved to be close to everyone and give kisses.

In 2004 my brother and I were visiting our grandma in Florida and were hit by Hurricane Francis. We were there for 11 days without power. Their house is brick and held up well, but the roof had major damage. My brother and I did most of the clean-up around the house. We were there for that visit for a few weeks. We stayed in the house during the hurricane because at the time, animals were not allowed at the shelters and there was no way we were going to go without Max! So we stuck it out and it wasn’t so bad. However, after my brother and I returned to California, another hurricane struck their home. This time it really shook up my grandma. About six moths after the second hurricane my grandma started showing some signs of PTSD. She was hiding in the closets thinking a hurricane would come. My parents had to go out to Florida and help her get the medical and mental help she needed. Her husband was suffering from dementia and had been placed in a facility to be looked after. So since no one was around to care for Max, my parents brought him back to California with them.

At first my dad wanted Max to live with me. I was living in an apartment at the time and was at work most of the day. My dad had a home office and was there most of the time. When my parents returned from Florida Max was never more than 6 inches away. He had met my parents on a few occasions before and had just spent a whole week with them. He was now somewhere totally new, away from the only home and parents he ever knew. I convinced my dad to let Max stay with them. He was so attached to them already and they would be around more often and they had a yard he could play in. He never had that freedom in Florida because there are no fences and there were gators sometimes. At my parents he could roll on his back in the grass. He loved doing that. He was so cute when he did it too. He also liked to stand there and take in a breeze, just as you described Sprite doing. My parents became very attached to him and him to them. He would often sit on my dad’s lap and rest his head on his desk as he worked. At night time he liked to curl up next to them as they watched tv. He always had to have his “bum” touching part of you. Sometimes it was sitting along side someone, on a lap or if early in the morning and if he was in bed with you…he would walk up by your head and lie there with his bum resting on your shoulder, with the rest of him wrapped around your head. I loved that!

I definitely enjoyed going home to visit my parents more once they got Max. I completely identified with the last two sentences of the first chapter of your book, “Goldfish, turtles, and hamsters are pets. Dogs are family.” So very true! Max was family now. Not only to me, my parents and my brother; he became family to my other grandparents as well. They were in their mid-to-late 80s when Max came to California. They were very happy to have him over to visit and to take care of him sometimes when my parents would take vacation. My grandparents lived in Sacramento, CA. I live in Sacramento as well. So I would go visit Max after work and take him for walks and have play time with him when they were caring for him. They enjoyed him so much. My grandpa passed away in 2006. He was 90 years old, almost 91. He and my grandma had been married for 61 years. After he passed Max stayed with my grandma that week and brought her great comfort. By that time Max was almost 11. He had a heart murmur and was developing congenative heart failure as some small dogs do.

He was very playful and spunky in his later years, but he started coughing. His lungs were getting filled with fluid because his heart could not pump as well anymore. I know that is not the scientific way of putting it, but that is how it was explained to me. He began medications, but it made me worry. My little love bug was ill and I could not fix him. I know that was how you felt about Sprite and how many other dog lovers feel. It is worse that our dogs can’t tell us how they are feeling either. The last year of Max’s life he was coughing a whole lot more. It was painful to witness. There was nothing we could really do. Sometime my mom would take him to the vet and he’d get some sort of shot that would make him feel better for a bit. Even though he was ill and his heart was slowly giving out, he remained upbeat and loving and playful. We limited his play time a bit though because he would get overly excited and then have a coughing fit. We tried to avoid that.

I was home at my parents for Easter weekend when something awful happened to Max. We had just returned from going out to dinner and he was so excited! My mom walked to the kitchen and my dad to the bathroom in their bedroom. I was still in the entryway with Max. All of a sudden his little body did one big violent shake and he collapsed on his chest with all his little legs pointing back. He was just lying there motionless. I screamed for my mom to call the vet and she came running towards me. Didn’t she hear me to call the vet?!?!? As this was happening Max turned to the side and convulsed a bit. I was about to give him mouth-to-mouth, but then he kind of “came to.” My parents picked him up and took him in the backyard. I was still screaming at them to rush him to the vet, but they thought he was okay. It was the freakiest thing and most scary situation I’d ever experienced. I hope to never experience anything like that again. Be it with a dog or human. After that incident I made an effort to visit Max almost every other weekend. I just wanted to be with him as much as possible because I was not sure how much longer he had. At the time of Max’s collapse he had been living with my parents for almost 3 years. My grandma who lived in Florida had moved to wear my parents live in Modesto, CA and had been there for about a year in an apartment of her own. She moved after her husband passed. Even though she was in California, we all thought it was best if Max staid with my parents. She saw him all the time and she loved him very much. She would watch Max when my parents would go away for the weekend. My other grandma from Sacramento had passed away earlier in 2008. My family is very small and is just me, my brother, my parents, my grandma and Max.

On July 13, 2008 the worst happened. My parents had returned home from Lake Tahoe, CA to receive a frantic call from my grandma. I had visited my parents up in Lake Tahoe and had been home in Sacramento for about an hour before they made it home to Modesto. My mom called and as soon as I heard her voice I knew either my grandma or Max had passed. My mom was hysterical and barely breathing. I told her I was coming home, I wanted to say goodbye. I did not even know the details, only that my beloved dog that I had waited so long for had passed away. I could barley see the road through my tears as I drove to my parents’ house. They whole way there I kept screaming, “Why God? Why?” Why did my baby get taken away? He was like my little four-legged furry baby. When I was almost at my exit my mom called to say they were leaving the Emergency Pet hospital. I told her that I wanted to say goodbye to Max still. She told me to meet her at my grandma’s apartment and that she would go with me. My mom, dad and grandma were there all crying heavily. I was too. I learned that Max had a similar collapsing situation with convulsions. My grandma gave him CPR, but he did not come-to. As soon as my parents were there they rushed him to the emergency clinic. Although they knew he was gone, they paid the huge fee to try and have him revived. He was family and they had to do all that they could even if it was no use. At least they’d know they tried their best to save him.

When I got to the clinic to say goodbye to Max my mom was a complete wreck. I was crying too, but trying to be strong for her. They put Max in a room so we could say our goodbyes. I guess my mom and dad had been there for a long time before. They warned us that they had already stuck Max in the freezer. “The freezer! My poor baby.” When I walked in the room he was wrapped in a blanket, but in a plastic trash bag too. Like a Hefty bag, it was white. It was horrible to see. He was not cold yet, but was stiff. I just hugged and kissed him and kept saying to him over and over how much I loved him. My mom got completely hysterical again and leaned over him so much I could barely touch him. We were there for about 10 minutes and then they said they needed to put him back. I was very painful to leave him. I cried myself to sleep for a week.

The pain of losing Max has been very hard. Especially in such a tragic way. I wish he could have gone more peacefully. We had Max cremated individually. My parents have his ashes. I’ve not seen the box. One day he will be buried in the coffin with my grandma. We do not want his ashes to be alone somewhere. I know that his sprit lives on. I think right now he is with all my grandparents that have passed and playing with other doggies in Heaven.

He was one of the greatest joys in my life. Reading your book was like reading what was in my heart about Max. Your book was therapeutic for me to read; as has been writing this letter. It turned out way longer than I intended. I guess I just feel like you are a kindred spirit for all of us dog lovers. There are people who like dogs and have dogs, but then there are those that really, really truly with all our hearts love dogs! You are one of those people and so am I, as are many others. I think when dog lovers read your book it is helpful. It makes us remember and cherish our dogs that have passed and be thankful for the dogs currently in our lives.

If you have read my whole rambling letter, or even part of it, I thank you.


Julie from CA