Happy Birthday, Linus.

linus1

Of the many strengths of the human mind, gauging the passage of time just isn’t one of them. Sure, we do well enough sometimes with minutes and hours, but things seem to get progressively sketchier when we scale up to weeks, then months, then years. It isn’t a coincidence that every time New Year’s rolls around, we experience a collective sense of wonder——my god, another one, already? I’ve come to think we’re just wired with this deficiency, an adaptation of sorts, because if we realized how swiftly everything truly goes by, we’d feel so hopeless.

So, I know people always preface with this kind of thing, but I can’t believe it’s been a year since we went out for a walk with one dog and, long story short, came home with two. I mean, when I really think back——about the weeks of trying to figure out where he’d live, of finding him a foster home, of eventually deciding he could just stay with us, and then of the subsequent weeks of potty training and trying to get him to eat decent food, and now the months of forgetting what it was like not to have him around——I guess I can believe it’s been a year. But it still sounds like such an awfully long time.

When we first found Linus, the vet thought he was between 9 and 11, so we went with 10. So I guess now he’s between 10 and 12? So we’ll go with 11? Happy birthday, Linus. You’re old. Or as the vet put it recently when discussing an upcoming blood test, “geriatric.”

I don’t say “old” as a derogatory term. I love old things. I love old houses, and old furniture, and I especially love old people. And as it turns out, I love old dogs, too. Linus’s past is full of mystery and intrigue, a whole universe of stories we’ll never get to the bottom of. In a way, that’s frustrating——the not knowing——but it’s also kind of romantic. While I know he’d been horribly, inhumanely neglected when he came to us, I don’t like to think that his whole life was spent that way. I prefer to believe that was just some weird pit-stop he made in the land of Bad Luck, that maybe fortunes changed and he fell on some hard times and decided to pack up his knapsack and hit the road in search of greener pastures. And when he finally found them, he was all perfectly weathered, world-weary and ready to settle down.

I think it takes a certain type of person to decide to adopt an old dog, and I won’t pretend I’m one of those people. It means knowingly missing out on stinky puppy breath (which is my favorite smell in the whole world), and silly doggy adolescence. It means never seeing a full set of teeth, or watching your energetic puppy calm down into some version of itself that’s calmer, more dignified, and wiser, somehow. And, the unpleasant truth of the matter, is that it means you just might not have your dog for very long, which is a particular point that nobody seems altogether comfortable talking or thinking about.  But I’m not really one of those sunny people who walks around ignoring stuff like that. And despite my deepest admiration and respect for people who make the choice to adopt old dogs, I can’t really imagine signing up for it. The way we saw it was that we didn’t really have a choice——he fumbled his way into our lives, and we either had to accept that graciously or risk that nobody else would decide to love him, ever. And that just wouldn’t do.

Who knows how long Linus will live——maybe he’ll be one of those wonder dogs who lives until he’s 25, or maybe he’ll be a normal dog who lives until he’s 13 or 14. Either way is OK. That’s always been one of those unspoken understandings between Mister Linus and I. I’ll take care of you as long as you stick around, little guy, and all you have to do is love me. That’s your only job. I won’t try to put you through the mental hurdles of sit or stay or learning your name. You’ll have everything you need, and you just have to hold up your end of the bargain.

Max’s mom, Sue, once commented offhandedly that all Linus really wants is a warm body to cuddle up to. In some senses, I think that’s basically true. Linus likes everybody and everything, and nearly anyone who sits still for more than a few minutes on our sofa will find a dog sprawling peacefully across their lap. But I think Linus and I have a special thing between us—a type of love that I can’t really convey to most people, or even expect other dog owners to understand. When I was little, I read Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass because I liked the cover when I saw it at Borders. I don’t recall enjoying the book, but one of the ideas in it really appealed to me——that everybody got a little spirit animal called a dæmon, a dedicated creature metaphysically attached to them through, like, magic n’ stuff. And that’s how I feel about Linus. Mekko is my beautiful, perfect baby——my lovable problem child——but Linus? He’s my dæmon.

People often think it’s weird that we have Linus and Mekko, a high-spirited Pit Bull, in the same house. I do, too. Mekko is the dog I always wanted——beyond intelligent, sharply focused, energetic, overly friendly, and as neurotic as her dads (which is to say, extraordinarily neurotic). Mekko is the sort of dog who could probably learn all sorts of exceptional things if we put her up to them, like sign language and math and how to rescue babies from burning buildings. She’s the type who wants to get where she’s going, who’s always looking ahead for the next challenge or exciting thing. People say dogs live in the present and don’t think consciously about the past or future, but I don’t think that’s really true. Mekko probably doesn’t think about what her life will look like when she’s 30, but I know she’s always thinking about somewhere just a little ahead of the present, just beyond it enough that we don’t know what it looks like yet.

But Linus lives thoroughly in the moment. He moves quickly when he feels excited, but most of the time he moves at a pace not much faster than a crawl. Fresh flowers, discarded food scraps on the sidewalk, the fragrant aroma of someone else’s pee——these are all things Linus feels obligated to stop and appreciate fully, with every ounce of his attention. He greets each discovery anew, as if it’s the most fascinating and enticing thing he’s ever encountered. Absent any schedule to keep or goals to fulfill, Linus is left only with what’s in front of him, here and now. He’s the one that literally makes us slow down, take long pauses, and remember that maybe everything doesn’t have to happen so fast. Maybe time will just wait for us a little longer than we thought it could. Maybe we have all the time we need.

Life
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87 Comments

  1. That was beautiful. *tear*

  2. Don’t make me cry so late at night!!! SNIFFLE, SOB.

    You know how I feel about Linus, and you know that I know exactly how you feel about him too. He’s such a special dog, and I’m so thankful that he came into your life — and my life, and my mother’s life, and all of the other people’s lives he’s touched in such a short period of time. We all need him.

    xoxox

    • p.s. Bruno and Linus are about the same age, so let’s please not talk about them being old. They’re just puppies.

  3. you need to read Linus and Mekko this post … it’s so touching. They will love it. Happy Birthday Linus!

  4. Amazing post. My boyfriend and I rescued a dog a few years ago – one we thought was 4 and turned out to be at least 7 or 8. When we found out we were so sad. Like she had one foot in the grave or something. Since then we’ve had an amazing three years with our little bearded grandma Gertie. She’s challenging and quirky and funny and awesome. Anyway – I’ve never commented before but have had a few beers and this post really struck a cord. Linus is a lucky boy. HBD old man!

  5. You’re right, it does take a special kind of person to adopt a senior dog. Puppies always find homes. I never really understood the people who get the puppy and decide when it becomes a geriatric dog it’s suddenly no longer worth their time, no longer their family, and they just dump them at a shelter or the side of the road. But I suppose that happens to a lot of elderly humans too. Tragic. Linus is so lucky to have found you.

  6. Happy birthday, Linus! I remember reading your original post, when you took him in, and I sent you a big virtual hug then. Here’s another. :)

  7. Daniel, what a lovely post. Old dogs are special creatures indeed, and I’m glad you are appreciating Linus with all his foibles. You really managed to capture some of their uniqueness in your post. I miss my old dog dearly.

  8. Wow! What a beautiful thing to read. If Linus could read I know he’d love everything you said… Maybe you should read the post {and the comments} to Linus so that he knows just how much he is loved. Although I suspect he already does.

    Happy birthday Linus!

  9. 1) I think Linus is seriously one of the cutest dogs I have ever seen, and I want to put him all over my face. He’s so lucky to have found you guys and you write beautifully about him. 2) The Golden Compass (and the two other books that comprise the trilogy) are surprisingly complex. Little you might have had a hard time connecting with it but adult you might love it! Disregard the terrible movie, obvs obvs.

  10. That was really lovely.

  11. That was a very nice post, Daniel. Your love for Linus is greatly evident.

  12. The reality is that Linus probably would not have made it to between 9 and 11 if he had been been that horribly neglected and mistreated his whole life. You are probably correct in assuming that it was most likely a bad spell in an otherwise good life. My boss always tells me that my dogs won the doggie lotto, and I know Linus did as well. And Mekko too!

  13. you are just such a good writer. thanks for sharing :)

  14. Lovely post. Linus is wise doggie. And I see he’s passed his wisdom on to you :)

  15. I’m so happy for Linus that he has such sweet, thoughtful & kind owners. Linus must be having a very Happy Birthday & many happy days to come. Beautiful post!

  16. Beautifully written.

  17. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever read such a thoughtful, eloquent “happy birthday dog” post. Happy Birthday Linus!

  18. I myself adopted an older dog recently and am so glad I did! He is 10 years old and the most wonderful boy. Like you, I spent a fortune at the vet, especially where his teeth were concerned. Thank you so much to the both of you for taking him in!

  19. As if I didn’t already know before, this post sums up all the reason I think you are the coolest and why Amy and I know Max made the best choice ever ;)

    xo
    Grace

  20. Geeze, way to make me tear up while reading this on my phone at the gym. We adopted our little guy in November, and he’s anywhere between 6-8. Little songs like Linus can easily get to 16 or 17 no problem though! Also, you should submit this/all of Linus’s story to whywerescue.com and you will totally get featured for NY. :)

  21. You are such an extraordinary writer. Happy birthday to Linus indeed.

  22. Oh, now I’m tearing up at work and trying to cover it up. Beautifully written. HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINUS!! (sing it:) And many mooooore :)

  23. A beautiful ode, Daniel. You’ve pretty much summed up the pure magic between owner and dog. Beautifully written. I know Linus is one lucky pup.

  24. You’re the best. You and that little family of yours. Thanks for sharing :-)

  25. That was a lovely tribute to your little friend. And a really wonderful piece of writing. Thank you for taking the time to share with us readers. :)

  26. Team Linus4ever. <3

  27. Great piece of writing!!! Made me think of my old furry gal! Happy Birthday Linus! :)

  28. Happy birthday, little man.

  29. I used to write for the SPCA in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. When we really needed to raise money for a particular dog, I’d write something that would make people cry, because that’s when the funds would roll in. Now I know what it feels like to be in the audience, tears welling up in my eyes. Nicely done.

  30. What a sweet tribute. Happy birthday, Linus!!

  31. Happy Birthday Linus. Big hugs to the old guy. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel bad about being one of those people who had a chance to have you and said no. I didn’t want that old of a dog, I didn’t want a male dog, I didn’t want to rescue Daniel from one of the choices he made in life that I thought would teach him some good life lesson. Well, now I see the error of my ways and the life lessons Daniel learned weren’t at all what I expected them to be. They were so much better. He is much wiser than his old mom, and a much better writer. I hate how easily he can make me cry. Am I his litmus test for his writing?

    • Linus was meant for Daniel and things worked out the way they should. Don’t worry that you couldnt keep Linus yourself – Your his nana after all! :)

    • Beautiful proud Mamma.

  32. Daniel, thanks for a wonderful post that brought to mind my own daemon Penny who has been gone for 25 years now. No one gives you that unconditional love like your dog. I still miss those doggy looks!I think Linus was just down on his luck and not mistreated his whole life-otherwise I don’t think he would have fit in so well!

  33. Just. so. beautiful. You put into words something so hard to convey. Seems like Linus found you guys for the same reasons you found him. I finally got a puppy after 20+ years of waiting/wanting/dreaming (here’s a similarly honest post of dogs and their owners: http://mysocaldlife.com/what-a-dog-means-to-me/) and the puppy stage is mighty crazy. I’m so thrilled to get to the point you’re at now, but at this stage, I’m happy to smell the puppy breath and watch him ogle at moving cars.

    Thank you for writing this!

  34. Really, really beautifully written. Posts like this make me happy that I added you to my feed.

  35. What a fantastic piece of writing! I love how you said that you don’t like to think about how Linus’ life was before you found each other…we adopted 2 cats (who were only 6 months old, but the one, the girl, had been adopted and returned at least twice since they were brought to the shelter). She was also horribly sick. It turns out its because she couldn’t live without the other cat, who is her brother! We didn’t plan on adopting any pets, never mind cats! But we (randomly) saw these two and that was it, home they both came with us. Sometimes the universe knows what we all need (humans and animals alike) even when we don’t! Happy birthday Linus! :)

  36. Happy Happy Birthday little Linus! You’re a lucky pup to have awesome parents and a cutie sister!!

  37. happy birthday linus !!!!!! you lucky lucky boy….you get to be loved by mekko daniel and max!

  38. This was a really lovely read.

    HBD, Linus!

  39. OMG happy birthday, Linus!!!!! This is the greatest post. Love this guy and love Mekko.

  40. We adopted our dogs when they were both 5, and I just realised a few days ago that they will be turning 10 in a couple of months. It’s really hit me suddenly how old they are. I love old dogs, but it is hard to not worry about their age. This post was lovely though and reminded me to just enjoy their company. Thank you!

  41. What a sweet, poetic essay, Daniel. Thanks for writing it.

  42. Beautiful! The way you write about Linus’s unknown past makes me think you’d really enjoy the novel Timbuktu by Paul Auster.

  43. Linus is so lucky to have you boys! I adopted a second and senior dog (Taggy) last year, influenced in part by reading your love story about Mr. Linus. You’re right, there is something wonderful about having these geriatric canines in one’s life! Happy Birthday, Linus!

  44. What a lovely post, it made me laugh and tear up at the same time. I love reading your blog!

  45. I love it when you talk about Linus. I don’t think I would choose an old dog either, but it’s really touching how you’ve decided to make Linus’s life as happy as it can be. He’s such a cute little guy.

  46. What a wonderfully written post! Love the themes you weaved together. Cute Linus photo too :)

  47. Daniel, you are such a beautiful writer. I look forward to a memoir someday in good old=fashioned hardcover.

  48. Happy birthday Linus!
    Love and virtual hugs from Europe!
    Daniel,I can’t wait to read your first book of short stories!

  49. Linus is making you an even more beautiful writer. I enjoy all your posts but Linus seems to evoke the most moving reflections originally expressed. Happy Birthday, Linus!

  50. We adopted an old dog (11years old) after our old old dog died. He is funny and cute like Linus I guess. (He is a long hair Jack Russell Terrier) I was a bit wary of getting a male dog. But there is not really anything wrong with him and he listens just great and he is so cute and joyfull. His elderlyness mellowed the “alfa-male” aspects off of his feisty personality.
    The story about how you ended up with Linus is beautiful. Thank you.
    Got the following quote in the mail this week. It seemed appropriate to share it here.

    “…that time stays long enough for those who use it.
    Leonardo Da Vinci said that, and he was right.
    There are those who say that “time flies,” but they are
    those who do not use every minute of it. Time is actually
    your greatest gift. It is better than money. Invest it, therefore, wisely.”
    Love is always the way to go. Have a nice day.

  51. Happy Birthday Linus – may you always have a warm spot to snuggle in!
    xoxo

  52. Love this post and love that you felt in your soul to keep Linus and
    give him a happy home to finish his days in. Your good people!

    Happy Birthday/adoption day Linus!!

  53. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words the way I feel about my dog. I rescued him at 8 and sometimes cry thinking about how he won’t live forever, but I love my snoring old man dog more than I can say.

    Happy birthday Sweet Linus!

  54. I love your beautiful story with Linus. He is a lucky guy. Happy birthday sweet and lovely Linus! Kisses from Spain.

  55. This made me happy-cry. Happy Birthday, Linus!

  56. I am new to your blog…your post on taking in & loving an older dog…touched my heart. I live on the East Coast of Canada & have been involved in small breed dog rescue for 11 years or so. We are dachshund luvers by choice…having adopted Schatzi (now 11) as a pup, followed by Oskar (now 12) when he was 2.
    We had no plans to welcome a third dog, two…we could manage just fine. And I had fostered 5-6 dachshunds & happily sent them on to their adoptive forever homes….until a certain 8 year old wire dachshund came into rescue. The minute her four little paws passed the threshold….I knew I was in trouble….I physically heard my heart crack. But I was convinced, once “Xena” was thoroughly vetted….a wonderful, new home would be waiting for her. And there was….I just didn’t plan it to be our wonderful home.
    For 7 days….I fought with myself…chiding internally that I was being a fool….of course I could adopt her out….hadn’t I done it time & time again? But as each day passed, the fear of letting her go became greater and greater. So….I sat down to type an email….yes…an email to my hubby. It it I explained my deep love for Xena & her for me….she bonded immediately to me…I adored her. So, hubby & I came to an understanding….Xena was ours…..but my days of fostering were over. I had lost my objectivity….I had finally failed Fostering 101.
    When Xena was 12…she developed doggie dimentia….just as humans do. And if you think a dog cannot suffer with dimentia….you are wrong. It began with crying & waking at night, getting lost in the house, or stuck behind a piece of furniture. Potty training was all but forgotten & the days of snuggling were over…she no longer wanted to be touched or held. We treated her for two years…and in January 2012 we laid her gently to rest, relieving her from her torment. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her…her smell….her soft teddy bear body. We only had 5 years with her….but I wouldn’t trade those years for 15 with another. She was and still is tucked in the corner of my heart.

  57. I didn’t realize how much I love Linus from afar until now. Your post about finding him in the street was what brought me to your blog – and I can’t believe it’s been a whole year either! I wish him all the love and snuggles and fancy haircuts in the world. It’s always a pleasure to read your posts!

  58. Happy Birthday Linus! I miss you. Your comment “maybe everything doesn’t have to happen so fast” is something Linus made me realize as well. During that short time when we were dog sitting for Linus, I found myself impatiently waiting for him to thoroughly sniff at everything. What a lucky dog he is to have found a home with you.

  59. Loooved your sink post, but this one really moved me. I wish you and Linus many beautiful years together :)

  60. Even my 16 year old stoic Scottie was moved by the perceptiveness in this post. Lovely. May Linus and his owners continue to “live thoroughly in the moment” for a long time to come!

  61. You really are such a gifted writer, Daniel! (…with a beautiful soul too)

  62. PS. Happy birthday, Linus!

  63. I ended up with a senior Doberman in a similar way you got Linus. At the end of the day, we had to decide if we were going to leave him outside or take him inside to the garage which became the couch and the bed before the night was over. He was only with us for four years before old age took him, but for those four years, I learned exactly what it meant to have a bff. It was hard when he left us, but spending four years with Rommel was worth every moment of sadness we had.

  64. This is among the most moving and beautiful love letters I’ve ever read.

  65. this is so touching. you are becoming a poet!

  66. I love the way you write, your are very gifted!!!!!! Please write a book, greetings from Norway :-)

  67. Who could not love that cute little face? Happy Birthday Linus! How amazing that you found him and decided to keep him. He seems very happy to have found such a loving home. And I loved the Golden Compass and the rest of the series. The daemons were one of my favorite aspects of the book too, and so happy you found yours!

  68. Wow. Beautiful post.

    Happy Bday Linus!

  69. Seriously beautiful writing, and of course HBD Linus! He’s so adorable, and I agree that his (hopefully very short) hard times were just a pit-stop on his road of life… enjoy him, as I know he’s got the very best doggie-life right now!

  70. Wow wow wow! You sure can write! So much love. Beautiful. So. Beautiful.

  71. Dear Daniel,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and celebrated you adopting both Mekko and Linus for at the same time, Leo had entered my life. He’s a Spanish greyhound. This breed is used for hunting and also racing in Spain. There’s usually a sad story behind each one of them for when they are useless, they are left to suffer hunger, abandon or even get hung. I’m not getting into detail (I’ll spare you that).
    I had wanted to rescue a Spanish greyhound for years and when the time was right (I finished school and found a job) decided to go for it. And there was Leo. He was said to be 4 or 5 years old. He’s over 10, though we’ll never know. I don’t care. He’s my puppy. He’s the best thing ever. I love him to pieces though he doesn’t play, he limps, he cries,… Well, he’s Leo and he is so special I would need a lifetime to give him back all that I have received. You can read more about our lives on Leo’s blog.
    All the best.
    Marta.

  72. it makes me happy to think of Linus lapping at his bowl of water, filled via that shiny new faucet. happy birthday Linus!

  73. Happy Belated Birthday Linus and thank you, Daniel and Max, for saving his life and giving him a second chance. I think that’s the most important point I’ve taken away from this post—the fact that you guys didn’t look away from where you found him and decided to help him and ultimately adopt him regardless of his age or conditions! It’s unfortunate that older dogs are looked upon as the most undesirable and neglected when it comes to adoption (especially dogs found in Linus’s condition) but Linus’ story should serve as inspiration of just how rewarding such an act could be! xoxo The Biscuits

  74. Aw, Daniel, you are such an amazing writer. Your posts are touching and entertaining.. but this one, so very touching. I’m so glad Linus and you found each other. :’)

  75. Love this post! Love your writing, your insight, your willingness to share yourself. Well done!

  76. So very sweet!

  77. I read this aloud to our adopted rescue Mabel, who is either 11 or 12…she hasn’t told us exactly. She has had two ACL surgeries because, though elderly, she still loves to jump and chase squirrels and run with her younger buddy, Daisy. She is getting a bit slower and her sight and hearing are slipping just a bit, but she’s eternally grateful and cheerful and loving – like someone said, maybe she rescued us. She and I wish Linus a HBD and many more. Cheers to older, wise, irreplaceable dogs. Your post was beautiful.

  78. Sorry to be so behind in catching up with your blog posts, but had to comment on this one. You’re a very thoughtful person and exceptional writer; in fact I have a hard time expressing how much I admire your writing skill. On top of that, your love for your dogs is most endearing and I relate to so much of what you say! Thanks for sharing —

  79. This has to be one of my favorite blog posts ever written. Ever.

    So there’s that… then there’s a Happy (late) Birthday to Linus.

  80. Happy Belated Birthday Linus. He’s like my Penelope… She takes her time to smell the roses, cactus, grass, weeds, just about anything… Lol

  81. Is Linus a Maltipoo? He looks so much like my beautiful puppy. My puppy is 5 years old and is full of energy. She loves sleeping with us even though she has 2 beds of her own. We bought her when she was 6 weeks old. She follows me every where I go. I can’t imagine life without her.

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