Politics & Policy

Rescuing Us

Take a Sprite break from politics.

R.L.: “…[E]ven Sprite leaves a legacy.”

M.L.: “I have thought about writing a book about him, but nobody will care.”

R.L.: “Sprite no doubt taught you much — about the way he lived his life with the cards he was dealt and your family’s genuine compassion to love him and help him.”

M.L.: Well nobody would want to read about my dog.

R.L.: Sure they would . . . and your family’s life with him. It would touch millions of hearts.

Mark Levin took his friend Rush Limbaugh’s advice and became the author of a book called Rescuing Sprite, which began as a letter to his family. This weekend, Rescuing Sprite: A Dog Lover’s Story of Joy and Anguish is in its ninth week on the New York Times best-seller list.

Sprite — whom the Levins had to have put to sleep only about a year ago, because of his age and severely declining health — left a legacy all right, thanks to the love of a grateful man with access to a publisher.

Rescuing Sprite is both a testament to Mark’s bargaining skills and the depth of his ailing heart. The book is the honest and beautiful story of a man and his family and the dog they rescued — a dog who brought them great joy during his two years with them.

His publisher wanted Mark, a successful nationally syndicated conservative radio talk-show host and lawyer, former Reagan Justice Department official, and NRO contributor, to do another book, a political book, a book more along the lines of his 2005 bestseller Men in Black, on judicial activism. Only if I can write about Sprite, he said. And so he did — his memorial is a hit in England, and soon to be published in Italy, Brazil, and the Czech Republic as well.

And don’t let the fact that Mark’s a conservative keep you from picking up a copy of the book for your liberal brother. In Rescuing Sprite, Mark offers a gift that crosses party lines — a tribute to man’s best friend and an appreciation for the gift of unconditional love and protection of innocents.

And it’s not just about one dog. Mark insists that his dog Pepsi — who is still with him — “was a great motivating factor” in his recovery from heart bypass surgery. “There is no question that Pepsi helped me get through the greatest challenge of my life. He was determined to get me back on my feet.”

But to say that Rescuing Sprite is a “dog book,” is to not get the book. It’s obviously about a man and his dog. But it’s also about family. It’s about disease and suffering.

It’s about why we wake up and do it all again day after day. And it’s about the importance of love and friendship and God’s gifts to us in helping us do what we’re called to do.

It’s a reminder that — in Mark’s words — “your family is the most important part of your life. It is your legacy and your immortality.”

It’s about good people — whether they be doctors, neighbors, or colleagues — and how they can all transform your life, and keep you going — and how it can tear you apart when they’re gone. Rescuing Sprite is a look at the softer side of Rush and Sean Hannity, the side Harry Reid and Ron Paul supporters don’t know; next time either is tempted to lie about Rush on the Senate floor or chase Sean down the street, screaming obscenities, an honest reading of Rescuing Sprite ought to deter them.

It’s a short, touching book that is oddly perfect for the political season we’re in. As Romney vs. McCain vs. Giuliani vs. Thompson vs. Clinton vs. Obama is all any political hand, reporter, or primary stater can focus on, Rescuing Sprite is a reminder that there is life beyond the next poll and Super Tuesday. And that life may be waiting for you at home right now — or waiting for you to take him home.

Mark shares a conversation he had with Rush when he was struggling with the pain of having to let Sprite go — overwhelmed with the normal but painful emotions associated with mortality, he talked to his good friend about how he was rethinking things, wondering “if I should be doing something else.”

Rush recalled meeting a soldier at National Review’s 50th-anniversary dinner in Washington, D.C. Rush was embarrassed because the soldier — who had lost an eye and arm in Iraq — was praising Rush. Rush told Mark: “He pooh-poohed me and said, ‘We all have our roles.’ I think you have creeping guilt, Mark. Fight that. We are all who we are. It takes all of us to make a country.”

And that’s an important message whether you’re on Team Romney or McCain, Clinton or Obama, or you don’t even watch the Luntz focus groups . . . And that’s not just my opinion. I recently saw Sprite on display, up front and prominent, at a New York Barnes and Noble as a “staff recommendation” — usually an honor reserved for, say, The Communist Manifesto. It did, however have, the disclaimer “dogs don’t discuss politics.”

Nor does Rescuing Sprite. At this time of hyper-partisanship, consider it your civic duty.

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