Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marley and Me

We watched Marley and Me last Friday. It was very funny and very close to home in many ways. I think Quigley might give Marley a run for his money on World's Worst Dog, though he's calmed down a lot in recent months. And the only reason Quigley didn't do all the things Marley did was that we never gave him the chance. He is our seventh dog, after all, and Marley was the Grogans's first. We'd be pretty pathetic if we'd learned nothing in all those years of raising dogs.

We'd never let Quigley sit in the front seat of the car with us for one, and never open the window while he was doing it for another. He'd be out an open window at the first opportunity... or at least the first time he spied a dog on the side of the road. And putting him in the garage during a thunderstorm while we go away? I think not. Big enough mistake to leave him in the house while we went out to dinner. At least now he's learned how to be in the crate peaceably, and that's been a huge help. He likes it in there, and goes in on his own accord almost every afternoon.

Another similiarity is that one of our dogs -- Grumpy, the big black and tan/bloodhound cross the dog in Light of Eidon was based on -- also suffered from gastric torsion and almost had to be put down because of it. He was young enough they could do the surgery to turn his stomach back over, but while he was on the operating table, the emergency vet came and told us that the stomach could turn back over again the very next day and it would be better if we just put him to sleep then. Fortunately our vet called the emergency room at that moment and told them she'd recently learned a new technique whereby the stomach could be permanently attached to the side of the abdominal wall to keep it from turning over again. So they sewed him up and within a month she did the surgery and we never had another problem with it. He ended up dying of cancer at 12, I think.

And yes, we've been through the loss of way too many dogs, not to cry streams of crocodile tears at the movie's end. It's funny how my attitude toward that grieving has changed over the years. It's no longer a bad thing to be avoided at all costs, but something deep and significant. The pain is there but so is the appreciation. You grieve precisely because the animal has meant so much to you, has become so interwoven in your life... has been such a tremendous blessing and companion over so many years and in so many small and constant ways -- happy, funny, pleasurable and sometimes intensely annoying. But still, dogs truly do enrich a person's life.
Marley and Me was a tribute to that. It's a funny story, but it's also the story of a dog's life, how he changes his owners, how he shares in so many of their really important life moments, the way he drove them nuts, but was there when the tough times came as well, his unquenchable exuberance for life... I loved the scene toward the end, when Grogan finally lets him off the leash at the beach and he just revels in his freedom, the water, the other dogs. They filmed it really well.

And it made us realize Quigley's not quite as unusual as he seems. My husband is always saying he doesn't think Quig's all dog, so that was another close-to-home part because Grogan said he didn't think Marley was all dog either. Or maybe not even a dog at all, but something entirely different. He actually ate a phone, and lived. Which Quigley has not done.