My dog of 13 years died this week.

His name was Bosco.

I’ve had many canine companions in my life, but Bosco was something special.

I’m quite sure the chocolate Lab-Doberman mix had been abused before I found him in an animal shelter in California. He was about 6 months old, scrawny, scared and hyper.

He wasn’t much to look at that day, except he had the most soulful eyes. That’s what captured my attention. I couldn’t imagine not taking him home with me when I looked at those eyes.

I had little girls back then and I was worried about his behavior. He was a jumper and didn’t know his own strength.

Though I had a lot of experience training dogs before, this one seemed like he had attention deficit syndrome. I thought maybe he just wasn’t that bright. Before giving up hope, though, I took him to doggie school. He was the star pupil. And ever since then, I realized this dog was not just smart, he understood most of what I said.

Bosco and Baxter

Bosco had the retriever instincts. His favorite sport was chasing after something – a ball, a stick, whatever – and bringing it back to his master. One day, Bosco and I were taking a walk by some baseball fields. We walked between the fields and some pools of water. A foul ball came lofting our way and landed smack dab in one of the pools. Without missing a beat, Bosco dived into the water, swam to the ball, put it in his mouth and swam back to dry ground where he dropped it at my feet.

His action was met with loud applause from the baseball fans and players.

That was Bosco doing his thing.

Games with balls were irresistible to him. Several times when he was young, we couldn’t find Bosco in our yard. I walked around the neighborhood to find him disrupting an organized soccer game. It wasn’t the last time, either. Any time he was not in our yard, I knew a soccer game was going on nearby. It was quite embarrassing pulling him away.

Bosco was also fearless. Once he chased two coyotes his size from our property. He was gone all night. He came back the next day without a scratch.

Many times I saw Bosco face down dogs much larger than him if he thought they represented a threat to his family. He was the perfect watchdog – gentle with those he loved and ruthless with those who did not belong.

The last time I saw Bosco alive was Saturday night. There was something strange in the way he behaved. Bosco had been suffering from the effects of Lyme’s disease and other ailments that ganged up on him to make his last days kind of a struggle. But Saturday night, Bosco was acting like a 6-month-old pup again. He wouldn’t leave my side. He kept gazing up at my eyes adoringly.

I can only assume Bosco knew his time was at hand and was saying goodbye.

I know it sounds crazy. I know it sounds superstitious and mystical. I know it sounds like neo-paganism.

But Bosco acted differently his last night on earth than he had in a long, long time. I don’t know what to make of that.

The next morning, he was stiff as a board, lifeless. I buried him in our back yard. His buddy, Baxter, nine years his junior looked on mournfully, it seemed, or at least bewildered. He sniffed the lifeless body of his friend and playmate. He sat still and watched as I covered Bosco’s body with earth.

I know this sounds silly and anthropomorphic, but each day since, I’ve watched Baxter visit the gravesite of his friend. Now I never saw Baxter visit this part of the yard before – certainly not on a regular basis. But each morning, Baxter goes to the gravesite like he’s expecting to see his buddy again.

Why do I tell you all this about my friend Bosco?

Partly, I guess, because I just need to get it off my chest. And partly because I want to make a bigger point about animals.

As you can see, I love animals. But I do not love them like I love my children. I do not love them like I love other human beings. They are special creatures of God, to be sure, but they are not made in His image. Only human beings are made in God’s image.

It’s so easy to love animals. They’re cute. They don’t talk back. They can be trained to do just what you say. People aren’t like that. Too often, we find, the animal advocates are really people-haters. One reason I loved Bosco so much was that he loved to please people. He loved to be around them.

It’s been five days since Bosco died. Yet, I still keep expecting him to run up at any moment with that face that always appeared to be smiling.

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