12 years ago Sarah and I sat down with my roommate Matt to have a conversation. He thought that we wanted to move in together before we got married, and were asking him to move out. That gave us all a good laugh, because what we really wanted to do was own a dog, and it was going to have to live in my apartment. During a friend’s wedding, Sarah struck up a conversation with her hairstylist, who also happened to be a breeder for lab and poodle mix dogs. We looked at all the details and decided it was time, we wanted to get a dog.
We drove to the breeder’s house and met the puppies one at a time. There were three or four boys, golden in color, and they were quite simply insane. However, their sweet sister, black as the night, came out on the porch and without hesitation curled up in my lap and fell asleep. We had our girl.
The original plan had been to get one of those rasta dogs, the kind with all the dreadlocks. Then we looked at how much those things cost, and how difficult it is to keep those dreads pristine on an animal that routinely rolls around in the mud. But, the name we picked out from those rasta dog days stayed. So we took our sleepy labradoodle home with us, our sweet Marley girl.
I remember a few stories from those early days. There was the day every pet owner knows, when you first leave a puppy alone in an apartment for a few hours and come home to dog droppings and toilet paper and your new groceries strewn about. There was the day we tried to use a travel crate for Marley for our vacations, but it was so flimsy that once she got in it she just rolled the thing end over end in a desperate attempt to get out. I remember how scared she was of busses, but how much she was willing to overcome that fear to walk down the park at the end of our street in the city.
As Marley grew, so did our relationship. Sarah and I got married and moved in to a new house to be closer to the church. Marley moved right in with us as if nothing had changed in her life. I remember how she used to love our stand up shower, because it frequently dripped from the faucet in a way that she could drink from in the morning. I remember coming home from church and finding Marley waiting for me on the couch. We used to nap together, with her curled up in the little space between my knees and the couch, resting her nose on my foot. Those were some of the best naps I’ve ever had.
Sarah eventually decided that because we were spending too much time at work, and Marley had the house to herself, she obviously needed a friend. So we drove to Ohio and paid a sweet $40 for Melvin. The jury is still out as to whether this was a good move for Marley or not. Melvin is a crazy man. He frequently ate her stuff, stole her toys, and climbed on her back. Eventually though, they settled down as a bonded pair. There was even a time when Sarah started a twitter account for Marley, and joked that Melvin was in fact Marley’s dog.
Marley moved with us from house to house, finally landing in the place we own now. Some dog owners really worry about introducing new children to their dogs, to see what kind of reaction she would have. Not us. Marley (and Melvin too) loved the boys right from the start. And while Julian never really opened up to Marley, or animals in general, Joshy really did. He would frequently feed Marley, pet Marley, and play with Marley. As you can see above, they were pretty good friends.
Eventually age started to catch up to Marley. About a year ago we noticed that Marley had an issue with her paw, and discovered that it was in fact cancer. This particular type of cancer is limited to the toe, it doesn’t spread, so we had a surgery for Marley to amputate the toe. She did remarkably well with this first surgery, navigating how best to walk with a missing toe. After a few months of recovery, we saw a Marley like we hadn’t seen in forever. She was peppy, she was excited, she was happy. But then, the cancer found its way to another of her toes. This time, she never really recovered from the surgery. She slowed down more and more every day, and eventually Sunday found Marley laying in the exact same spot for well over 12 hours. She was clearly in pain, and so yesterday we made our way to the vet, and said our goodbyes.
The loss hit me a bit harder than I thought it would hit me, and I thought it would hit me pretty hard. The line that caught me the hardest every time I thought it was that our sweet Marley took Sarah and I from just a couple to the place where we were a family. She will indeed be missed, but those memories aren’t going anywhere. I firmly believe God places these animals in our lives to be enjoyed, to be loved, and to shower us with love, and Marley sure had all of those things. Luckily, God walks with us through ALL of our grief, even the grief over our four legged friends.