Posts Tagged ‘Marley & Me’

Another thing you need to know about me: I am a pet lover. Dogs and cats are my real weakness, but I have gone so far as to rescue a pet rat from cruel treatment by its frat boy “owners.” Setting out to write this post, I planned on discussing several current issues amongst pet rescuers. But once I put my fingers to the keyboard, I could only think of the start of my family’s pet obsession.

I am in fact my parents first “human” born, but they still refer to Alfalfa (Al), our late, beloved chocolate lab, as their first child. Al was Dad’s wedding present to Mom. Dad was working crazy hours at the hospital while finishing his residency at MUSC, so Mom was often lonely (and a little spooked) in their not-so-safe Charleston neighborhood. Al was meant to be Mom’s companion and watch dog, but he quickly became an integrated member of their young family and was nurtured accordingly. I was a picky eater, and so was Al. I was always impressed to look over at his dog bowl after dinner and see only green peas- how did he manage to spit each one out as he ate? My baby brother Taylor also aspired to be like Al, much to Mom’s embarrassment. It took her quite some time to train Taylor go to the bathroom in the toilet rather than outside on the trees. Growing up, Taylor and I sure thought our hairy, four-legged, drooling older brother was cool (and normal); as we got older, we were surprised to slowly realize that not every kid had one. How’d we get so lucky?

Today my parents still joke that Al was the “Ten Thousand Dollar Asshole” because they spent almost that much money removing cancerous tumors from his anus. They will tell you that it was worth every penny to keep Al around a little bit longer. In his last days, Al was too weak to stand, eat, or drink. I vividly remember Dad lying next to him on the floor, holding orange popsicles for him to lick. He would only eat the orange ones. At ten years old, that was the first time I saw my Dad cry. Al was cremated, and in the following years, my parents spread his ashes over his favorite spots, like around our dock, off our boat in the bay, and on my grandparents’ farm. A framed, poster-size picture of Al still hangs in Dad’s office, and Al’s orange collar still hangs over the corner of the frame.

If you don’t understand this post, I suggest you go rent Marley and Me. When this movie came out, we had a very old yellow lab that sincerely resembled “old Marley,” so my parents warned me that it might be too upsetting to watch. This past fall, I finally rented the movie, and it brought me to wonderful, happy tears. I finally understood how my parents had become so connected to Al- the story was laid out on screen for me. It is so beautiful that pets can become so ingrained in our lives for what later seems like too short of a time. If you take time to love and train your dog, then your dog will put 110% into loving and training you. Isn’t it great (and easy) to love someone who thinks the sun rises and sets around you?

“A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbol means nothing to him. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not. As I wrote that farewell column to Marley, I realized it was all right there in front of us, if only we opened our eyes. Sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners, and pure intentions to help us see.”
— John Grogan

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