Man’s Best Friend
Mark Levin shares his family's story of love and loss.


Mark R. Levin says he’s just done “the most important thing I’ve done in my career.” As his friends know, that’s not a line to sell a book with, it’s something he’s been saying for over a year, as he’s worked on, and lived, his new book (released this week).

This new Levin book is one that has the ability to make potential readers look twice: at the byline — you, mean, THAT Mark Levin? He’s written a heartwarming book about a dog? And at politics: While so many of us have opinions, we also have family lives. And though politics may divide us, we ultimately have a lot in common.

It’s that message that makes Mark Levin’s Rescuing Sprite a perfect book for the season we’re entering — a season of thanksgiving and family. To mark the release this week of Rescuing Sprite, Levin took some questions from NRO this weekend. — KJL

Kathryn Jean Lopez: How the heck does a successful talk-show host — who is known for being a cerebral constitutional lawyer and delivering fiery monologues — pitch a heartwarming story about his late dog Sprite to a publisher? If you’re Mark Levin, don’t they want more of the same?

Mark Levin: I wasn’t planning on writing Rescuing Sprite. As much as we try to plan our lives, life is unpredictable. I was thinking about writing a book that was more along the lines you mention — about philosophy and politics. We had actually begun the process of talking to several interested publishers about that project, but then Sprite passed away. It was a crushing blow to me, as I am sure other dog lovers can relate. I put in very long days. My radio show finishes at 8 P.M. ET, after which I eat dinner with my dogs every night; I take long walks with them; I talk with them at length. They give me enormous pleasure and enjoyment. They keep me company. They give me far more than I could ever give them and, in return, they ask for nothing more than something to eat and drink, a warm place to sleep, and some loving attention.

It never occurred to me to adopt a dog from a shelter. It was my wife’s and kids’ idea, and their persistence, that brought this wonderful dog, Sprite, into our family.

You know, I’d never been to a shelter before. I’d never given them a first thought, let alone a second thought. But I have since come to know that there are literally millions of dogs (and cats and other animals) who are living in crates or cages in thousands of shelters across the country who are in desperate need of loving families. They became lost from their families, or were turned in by their owners, or had been abused. When you go to a shelter, it’s a difficult experience — at least it was for me. The people there are truly remarkable. They do something I could never do. They care for an endless stream of needy animals, and their contributions to society are enormous. But to see those dogs and cats in those crates, who have to wonder what happened to their world, and who are surrounded by strangers and strange sounds, is heartbreaking. In most cases, just a few weeks earlier, they were in a loving home.

Anyway, back to your question. It never crossed my mind to write a book like this, until my Sprite passed away. Simon & Schuster and several other publishers wanted me to write a book for them — a political book. Well, this was the book I wanted to write. I had to write it. It was this or nothing.

There are many, many people like me, who have lost a dog and who are deeply affected by it. The day Sprite died, I wrote a short essay to myself and my family about our Sprite and the light he brought into our home. I decided to share the essay with the folks at Simon & Schuster. Obviously, I’m not known for writing about dogs. There are other authors who are experts. But I am a dog lover with emotions and passions, and in this I’m no different than millions of other people — except that I am blessed with the opportunity to write a book about it. Every dog lover has a dog story. This is my family’s story. And apparently a lot of people can identify with it, which is what I’d hoped.

Although they liked my original essay, I’m pretty sure Simon & Schuster wasn’t 100-percent certain what to expect. In March, three-and-a-half months after Sprite passed away, I submitted the manuscript. They loved it.

I wrote the book late at night, after my radio show; I wrote it on the weekends. And there were many occasions when writing it became so emotional that I had to stop. And there were times I didn’t think I could finish. This is the most important thing I’ve done in my career. That may seem odd to some. So be it.

Lopez: You write how Pepsi, a dog you’ve had for over nine years, helped you recover from heart surgery. How so?

Levin: Pepsi is an extraordinary dog. He’s a mix breed — part Border Collie. He is so smart and so attuned to our family’s emotions. We bought him nine years ago after I saw him in our local pet shop’s window. The kids named him Pepsi because he’s mostly black.

I had a heart attack in June 2000, followed by bypass surgery. There were complications after the surgery. I was in and out of hospitals for a few months thereafter. At the time Pepsi was our only dog. He was two years old at the time. Well, open-heart surgery is major surgery. You really have to work at getting better. And you can start feeling a little sorry for yourself. You worry a lot — not so much about yourself, but about what might happen to your family, should you not recover as expected. When I returned home after the operation, Pepsi was always by my side. He was always smiling at me, his tail was wagging at the speed of sound, he wanted attention, and he wanted to play. I couldn’t help but laugh whenever he was with me, even when laughing would cause great pain because my chest had just been strapped back together with titanium wires. And he would loyally stay with me whether I was in bed or sitting up in a chair. As I got a little better, I would take short walks outside with him. I had to get better — for Pepsi! He wouldn’t have had it any other way. And he spurred me on.

Lopez: How’s your heart now?

Levin: It’s beating thank goodness. Thanks for asking.

Lopez: When did your love of dogs start?

Levin: When my parents brought home a dog named Prince. I was about eight years old. He lived to twelve. He was such a terrific family dog. He was part of my family through my teenage years and when I became a young man. I’ll never forget Prince. Prince, like Pepsi and Sprite, was a mix-breed. I never knew which breeds, but that has never mattered to me. We also had three Chihuahuas (not all at once, but in succession), which were great dogs, but were probably more my parents’ dogs.

But I like all dogs, regardless of breed or breeds.

Lopez: Is there something special about dogs? Something that cats and parrots and penguins could never offer?