I was just a middle-aged man with a betraying hairline, standing half-naked on his front step with his heart torn open, unable to rest. My brindle-coated friend, brimming with tenacity and courage and eagerness and fervency and devotion, suddenly was gone. The void was so large that whole facets of me seemed to vanish within it.

After what felt like weeks, we got the "I have your dog" call the next afternoon. We jumped into our Suburban like Marines on a special op. Haggis was home within a half hour and received more hugs and kisses than he ever could have wanted.

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Haggis continues to enliven and inspire us to go boldly forward throughout our days. We have grown to appreciate his courage even when it costs us rest, like when he hears a real or imagined bump in the night and fires off a series of semiautomatic warning barks. He is our sixteen-pound sentinel on the watchtower. He monitors our borders while we enjoy blessed REM sleep. He's our happy fighter, our dancing warrior of Celtic lore.

The martial spirit of Haggis affects us the way Vietnam veteran Tom Mitchell was affected by his unit's war dogs:

“When we were sick, they would comfort us, and when we were injured, they protected us. They didn't care how much money we had or what color our skin was. Heck, they didn't even care if we were good soldiers. They loved us unconditionally. And we loved them. Still do.”

Haggis's pugnacious nature takes its toll on him. When our children frolic in the pool, he's there, ever watching, his small, Canadian bacon pink-like tongue hanging out. "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown," wrote Shakespeare, and Haggis is plenty worried when our kids are exposed and vulnerable. Our cats have never guarded or worried about our children.

Recently I visited one of my best friends in his home as he was recovering from an accidental gunshot wound that almost took his life. His dog, Stella, made sure to keep her body between us. She didn't leave his side—no one trained her to be that way, but still there was visible strain on her dogged, worn face. What makes dogs do that?

Before Haggis there was Conrad Lewis, our German shepherd. When Elliot was just a toddler, Conrad put his body between him and two adult Chow Chows in our front yard.

Those were tough dogs—we later found out that the Chows had chewed the testicles off a Rottweiler weeks earlier. And Conrad was still a puppy. He literally put his life on the line for my son. What trait possessed him then?

Masculinity: Unwanted

I thoroughly enjoy Haggis's companionship while hiking, snowshoeing, and fishing, even though his fur only protects against so much—if we're in nature's raw winter elements long enough, he needs extra covering so he won't freeze to death. Have you tried lately to buy a jacket for a dog? It's a real education. Try it, and you'll see how we're even trying to drive the manliness right out of canines.

When we were going fly-fishing on the Klamath River for winter steelhead, I went to Petco and asked the clerk for directions to the dog jackets. She took me to an assortment that mostly were either fake leopard skin or (I kid you not) adorned with colored boas. "Do you have any jackets for dogs that are heterosexual?" I asked. Good night, I'd rather eat my own hair mixed with mayonnaise than put one of those things on Haggis.

And Haggis is a dog. We've gone mad, mad, mad at expecting little boys to behave like little girls. Boys are being gunned down by manliness gone bad and by those who do not accept or appreciate it. Our culture tells young boys that traditional masculinity is bad, that men are stupid and deserve to be the object of disdain, contempt, and ridicule. Then we expect them to grow up and exemplify honor, integrity, and valor.

Boys are vulnerable, and gutting a boy's manly courage is easy. Put him in the care of men or women who don't understand what creates a courageous soul, the kind of people who mistake manners for morals. Give him a Sunday school teacher or pastor who indoctrinates him into worshiping a false god, a gentle Jesus meek and mild.