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.