I apologize in advance. This is one of those posts that I write every once in awhile because I need to clear my head, and not because it has anything to do with the CJC.
Long before the book Marley and Me came out (but, to be fair, after the author of that book had named his dog), I bought a Sheltie puppy at a half-priced discount. She was half-priced because the white collar that goes around most Shelties' necks was just a small tuft of white on hers. It was the end of my first year of law school and I was only 24 years old. To put it in terms more applicable to the reader, I still had most of my hair back then.
I had just started dating the person who would ultimately become my first wife and we were both cigarette smokers. We named our discount dog "Marley," saying it was short for Marlboro. Somewhere along the way, she picked up the middle name of Jane, but I'm not entirely sure how that happened.
She was a very affectionate and very bright puppy. She learned the common tricks of sit, stay, roll over, and play dead, but there was something so keenly intelligent about the dog that I often claimed if I had commanded Do my taxes, she would have gotten out a calculator. By the time she was two years old, she would reluctantly do the tricks commanded of her, only after casting a glance at me, letting me know that she thought silly pet tricks were beneath her.
There was something about her charisma, though, that seemed to shine beyond just my affection for her. For the last two years of law school, it was almost as if she were an honorary mascot. My friends that came to the apartment all knew and loved Marley, and she seemed to enjoy nothing more than interacting with new people. She didn't fetch or do anything that was all that wildly entertaining to watch, but she had some sort of magnetism so that everyone who met her, loved her.
Even my dad, who at the time was not the biggest fan of the multitude of dogs my mom had taken in over my years growing up, adored Marley. Marley's favorite treat in the world when she was younger was ice, and she would sit at Dad's feet whenever he headed to the ice machine. He never let her down in handing her a few pieces when he fixed his drink. She seemed to like the ice even better when it was a cube or two he had pulled from a Scotch.
She was always present, yet seldom underfoot. Over the next fifteen years, she would see me through the end of law school, the entirety of my career at the D.A.'s Office, six different apartments, four different houses, two marriages and the birth of my son. When my boy was born, I wondered if he and Marley would have a bonding moment or if she would exhibit jealousy towards him. In typical Marley fashion, she politely acknowledged his arrival in the house and went on about her business. She gracefully accepted a new center-of-attention and tolerated the years of tail and hair pulling and fingers in the face that toddlers do around dogs.
My friends at the D.A.'s Office all knew Marley as a personality whenever they came over to my house or apartment. Any girl that I ever introduced her to quickly abandoned any interest in talking to me when Marley wanted attention. Can't say that I blamed them; she had more hair and was much more charming.
She weathered many storms with me, including that Christmas Eve in 2008 when I lost my job and had no immediate family to spend the holiday with. Sometimes it seemed like Marley was the most stable relationship I had ever had.
Earlier this year, a routine check-up at the vet's office revealed that she had cancer. She was far too old to attempt any type of surgery or treatment. The extremely kind veterinarian and I agreed that the best course of action was to bring her home with me and treat her like a queen until it became apparent that it was time to let her go.
Not that Marley had ever failed to be treated like a queen in the first place, but she did get an extra serving of dog treats and dog food over the past few months. When I had to go out of town, she would stay with Luci and Charley Davidson, which was like a full-service spa for dogs. Over the past few months, they were both as actively involved in taking care of Marley and helping make decisions about her as I was.
My fiancee (and soon-to-be bride) also was a Godsend in taking care of Marley over the past few months. Without her presence, love, and kindness, I would probably not be able to write this post at the moment.
This morning, unfortunately, it became clear that it was time to let Marley go.
I'm really not trying to turn this post into something overly emotional, but sometimes that's a little hard to avoid. I will just say that between my fiancee and the wonderful veterinarians at Westbury Animal Clinic, I couldn't have been more at peace in saying goodbye.
It is amazing to think back and realize how owning a dog is often a measure of a span of time. I owned her for well over a third of my life. She was always there with a wag of the tail whenever I made eye contact with her. In the wonderful times to the not-so-wonderful times, she was always there. With as much that has changed over the past fifteen years, she remained the one true constant.
I wanted to write this to say thank you to everyone who ever took care of Marley, petted her, babysat her, gave her ice, or called her their own. She loved everybody.
But most of all, I wanted to thank Marley for being the best dog I ever had.