Last night, I watched the film Marley & Me, which is based on the Marley memoirs by John Grogan. It recounts the tale of the “world’s worst dog” and the family whose lives he upended.
I know what you’re thinking: didn’t they already do this one? In fact, it sounds a lot like the entire Beethoven series or My Dog Skip on steroids. However, this one is altogether a different tale; it’s short on the saccharine glurge that usually infuses dog stories.
In short, it follows a pretty typical couple (the author and his wife Jen) through the first decade or so of their marriage. Marley, as you might have guessed from the title, is their Labrador retriever, but he’s also kind of a metaphor for their maturing relationship and family. Oh, there are lots of vignettes where Marley gets into things he shouldn’t, and general mayhem ensues. But at it’s core, this story is about the relationship between the dog and his family, and something of John’s own adult coming-of-age tale (newlywed husband to father of three). I won’t tell you where it ultimately goes, although if you’ve ever seen an animal movie (or read one of those “book” things), you probably have a pretty good idea. Grab a box of Kleenex. Trust me on that.
I’m a pretty stoic guy, but I have to say that this story made me laugh and sniffle all the way through, and by the end, it was an all out sob-fest. Writing this, I’m actually still choking back a few tears.
But this post isn’t really a movie review. Watching Marley started me thinking about my own dog and buddy, Milo, who patiently laid across my lap during the whole movie.
Milo came into my life about 4 years ago, after Petfinder directed me to a rescue a few hours away from my home. According to the people at the rescue, his previous family had abandoned him when they decided to have a baby, so I pledged to give him a “forever home.” He’s a spirited little Jack Russell Terrier (a friend calls him a “Jack Russell Terrorist”), and he’s no slouch in the mayhem department. In the last 4 years, I’ve sort of come of age: I’ve married a wonderful woman, welcomed a beautiful baby boy, and even come to love the two Siamese cats that I inherited along the way. And Milo has been with us throughout the entire journey.
Obviously, I drew lots of parallels between Grogan’s story and my own life. Unfortunately, my wife, Ginny, has never really warmed to Milo, but to me, he’s as much a member of our family as any of us. Where she sees nothing but a pile of shedding fur and barking at the most inopportune moments, I see all of the warmth and richness he adds to our lives. She barely tolerates him (at best), so I’ll admit that I tend to find myself lobbying hard to justify keeping him and probably overlook a number of his little faults along the way. That said, I really look forward to the days when he and my son, Logan, can share adventures and make lifelong memories. To me, having a dog in your life is a rite of passage for every youngster, like learning to ride a bike, and you really do carry those experiences with you forever.
While some people would disagree, I find a dog’s ability to accept you exactly as you are to be one of the best expressions of unconditional love. As Grogan observes near the end of his story:
A dog has no use for fancy cars, or big homes, or designer clothes. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart, and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare, and pure, and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?
Truer words have never been spoken. I think we’d all be a lot happier if we could learn to see the world that way.
7 Replies to “Milo and me”
I can’t wait to see that movie. I’m a big dog lover, my hubby and me, both. You quote at the end reminds me of my favorite old Twilight Zone episode. This guy and his hound dog, Rip, die while racoon hunting, and he finds himself on the road to Heaven, as he is told. But, they say dogs are not allowed, so he says if Rip is not let in, then Heaven is no place for him. Later down the road, he meets St. Peter’s assitant, and finds out the other place was Hell, not Heaven, and that’s why the dog could not come in. Here’s my favorite line: "A man, will walk right into hell with both eyes open, but not even the devil can fool a dog."
Hubby and I rescued a cat a couple of years ago. We had a dog and a cat who both died in the same year. We think it was arthritis that got them but the cat had other complications as well. Strangely enough, we had to take our precious ‘mog’ to her final visit to the vets. (Should never be done on a Saturday. I cried in the passageway at my radio station after coming away from the Vet’s. There’s no privacy at Radio!) Having to run that night straight after losing the cat was very traumatic. When I got home, there had been a message from a neighbour who asked if we could take in a stray cat from Norwich, Norfolk as he’d been dumped from his home after the old man he lived with died. We couldn’t believe our luck. His name is Travis (not our fault!) and he’s the most gorgeous animal. Must find a piccie of him and sling it on my Space.Loved your story, Greg. Be warned; others will come on here and share more animal stories with you. This’un’s gonna be a full page of commentary very soon;-)
How "nice"… you’ve never written a post about your love for or an experience with your son or wife (at least we get a mention here, I guess). But, the DOG… he gets this post? To be sure, this tells something about you. Maybe this will appeal to dog lovers, but it pretty much disappoints your wife. And the quote from the movie? I couldn’t disagree more… a dog doesn’t show "unconditional love" – they just instinctually follow their owners (the "Alpha dogs"), usually no matter how badly they are treated by them (how intelligent is that?). And how sad a person is it that needs another creature to seemingly "worship" and obey them so….just to make their egos feel good? Dog do not have the "ability to accept you exactly as you are"… they act on instinct and, for the most part, have no "choice". To make it have any more meaning is bordering on the ridiculous…
My wife, ladies and gentlemen. Aside from her distain for the dog and her insane jealousy, she’s really quite a delight. Really.
@Ginny. I’m s glad you wrote that bit. I didn’t dare, or have the heart to!@Greg: I’m sure she’s lovely, Greg, and you’re an all right bloke! Nice to chat with you both. Ginny, I still love my cat. Is that allowed?
I am also a huge dog lover and will never see that movie, cause I am a big cry baby, too. I have always had dogs until now and I have two cats, both of which were my daughter’s before she moved out. I never really liked cats as much as dogs, but they do grow on you and have a different outlook than dogs do. They bring a different view of the world into your life. Although many people refer to one of my cats as a dog, I still miss having a dog in my life.
@Ginny: Bravo..lol!@Greg: She’s smart. Enjoyed the way u 2 banter to each other. Made me laugh. I have no pets so can’t really comment on anything else. :)