Sunday, April 22, 2012

Me and Marley

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.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Murray. It is really hard to lose a beloved pet. I'm glad you got to enjoy her all those years.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss. It's always a blessing to have the opportunity to have experienced love so unconditionally, pets tend to do that. They are more of a family member than our own blood family. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet soul. I'm sure that dog was loved and had a great life.

Shirley cornelius said...

Murray, we are dealing with this issue right now with our 12 year old mutt Chester the world's greatest dog. (from the movie The Kid). He is currently at Gulf Coast Veterinary Hospital where they are trying to figure out which of the three terminal condition possibilities he has. Hopefully it is the one that can be treated symptomatically to give him a little extra quality time so he can come home for awhile. If not he won't be coming home. Not really looking forward to the vet's call tomorrow .....

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that you loved Marley very much. Dogs are such generous creatures; they give so such much more to us than we ever give to them. The companionship, the loyalty, and yes the love they provide forms a bond that when dissolved creates a void or emptiness as much as the loss of a human loved one. I suspect that is because we all ultimately think of them as human. Thank you; your "tribute" to Marley was moving.
Calvin A. Hartmann

Ron Knotts said...

Murray, we have two Shelties and I couldn't agree more. They are the most intelligent dogs we have ever had; more like people than dogs. I know how much Marley was like family and I am hurting for
you now. Love ya Man!

Anonymous said...

Murray: I received this recently; hopefully it is helpful:

A Dog's Last Will and Testament....

Before humans die, they write their Last Will and Testament, give their home and all they have, to those they leave behind.
If, with my paws, I could do the same, this is what I'd ask...
To a poor and lonely stray, I'd give my happy home, my bowl and cozy bed, soft pillows, and all my toys.
The lap, which I loved so much; the tender loving touch.
The hand that stroked my fur and sweet voice which called my name.
To the sad, scared shelter dog, I'd will the place I had in my human's loving heart of which there seemed no bounds.
So, when I have died, please do not say,"I will never have a pet again, for the loss and pain is more than I can stand." Instead, go find an unloved dog -- one who's life has held no hope or joy, and give MY place to him.
This is the only thing that I can give... The love I left behind. This is my inheritance , my will
and testament. This works, I know.
Calvin A. Hartmann

Murray Newman said...

Thank you to everyone. I really appreciate it.

Calvin, the Last Will and Testament is something that I appreciate more than I could ever express. Thank you for posting that.

Jay said...


You know we loved Marley at least as much as we love you. I'm sad that she is gone, but know she'll be waiting for us with Guinness (Who names their dogs after beer and cigarettes?) on the other side. Marley, like Leroy before her was always one of my favorites. I am sorry for all our loss but I am so happy she was a part of your life. Marley was a good girl. We'll miss her.


Shirley Cornelius said...

Well Calvin, you made me cry.

Sid Crowley said...

My condolences Murray, I know how tough it is. I lost my cat, Stony, who I had for 16 years back in 2010. He was special too, since the mother of the victim of a murder case I prosecuted with the Fort Bend DAs office found him for me when he was a kitten in 1994. It's hard to lose one of our furry friends. You might want to check out this site to set up a memorial.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tough guy (me) - or so I thought.

Boy can I relate and my heart goes out to you and your family Murray. I had a Chocolate Labrador for only 7 years (1997 – 2004). When things got too “hot” in the kitchen or court, “Chocolate” was always there to walk me. Then came politics – Could always count of that friend of all friends to be there waiting – to be my comforter and pull me through the hot, humid, and yes cold air of this town. Like Marley, mine too was there for the kids as well – then it happened. She couldn’t get enough water. Lethargic and thirsty – ALL THE TIME – for about a week. Quick, check her nose – all is well it’s cold as an ice cube. Curse the old wives tale – didn’t matter.
To the vet I go and am quickly referred to a “specialist”….what…for dogs? Wait a minute, my grandfather had an old mutt for about 18 years that lived off table scraps, had grey ticks, slept under the old farm house and could hunt and keep up with his old truck without skipping a beat. These are snake oil salesmen I mumbled. Jeesh, I just finished over three years with a CHILD having cancer; Just bought a new house, blending a new family, I have do nip this in the bud and tell these charlatans they aren’t getting any money from me and besides “I think” she will heal on her own. How naive. How afraid I didn’t know I was. Drop her off then I get the call. We think it is cancer of the liver. For $1,200.00 we can do a biopsy to make sure. What did Mr. Tough guy do? He rushed to the Credit Union.
Results – positive for cancer and for about ten times the biopsy amount they could probably keep her alive for a year and a half. I had to fold. I felt guilty for looking at all the elderly people sitting in the waiting room – spending who knows how much - to save what was to them no doubt their only true family member left in their life who gave a damn.
The last visit. On my home from work I stopped off and saw Chocolate one last time in a room right out of an adult funeral home. No less than 15 boxes of Kleenex. Paintings of animals running in open fields – heaven I guess. They rolled her in on that cold shiny medical table, but had her wrapped in the original blanket I had left her in. I hugged Chocolate one last time and slowly pulled her collar off her neck. Kissed her “cold nose” goodbye and left for my truck. I cried for two days. By the third I was in Santa Fe paying $500.00 for Honnee – my now 9 year old Yellow Labrador. God bless everyone’s furry little and big family members. They truly ARE – part of the Family!

Larry Standley

Franklin Bynum said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing that.

I met her at the very end of her life, only weeks ago. Even yesterday, the day before she died, she was a very happy dog. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

She looks just like the 1st dog I'd ever met that had its vocal cords clipped so it couldn't bark. I'm sorry you lost her but take heart in the fact that you loved her and treated her like it. Some people don't.

Anonymous said...

Believe this Brother, even tho we dont see to eye to eye in our politics, my heart goes out to you. They are family and it hurts so much. Been there and I pray for you, so that the day you and I can see our friend and family member again.

Anonymous said...

From the late, great cartoonist genius Walt Kelly, an ode to "Man's Best Friend".

"What gentler eye,
What nobler heart,
Doth warm the winter's day;
Than the true-blue orb
And the oaken core
Of beloved Old Dog Tray?"

— Walt Kelly

BLACK INK said...

Most dogs are better than most people..........their love, affection, and loyalty is unmatched.

My prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

Murray I am so sorry for your loss. It is truly hard to say goodbye to our best friends. I will pray for comfort for you, your family and friends that loved her so very much. You gave her a wonderful life, remember the good times and take comfort from the thought that she will be waiting for you at the rainbow bridge. The highest compliment you gan give Marley is to share all of your love with another pup when the time is right.


Anonymous said...

Murray I am so sorry for you. We recently lost our dog 2 months ago and it took a large hunk of my heart. Dogs are there for you when no one else is. It is unconditional love like no other. I believe that the bond we have them is not broken by death. I looked into my poor boys eyes before he passed and told him I will see you again someday. After all I think it was Roy Rogers that said If dogs dont go to heaven I want to go where they go or something to that effect. My prayers and thoughts are with you.

Alex Bunin said...

Sorry for your loss. We lost Scout last year and it really is like losing a family member.

Anonymous said...

Murray, I am so sorry. I, too, have a Marley who predates the book (how many times I bet you also uttered the words, "no I didn't name him [her] after that.....") But mine is a homage to Bob, not cigarettes. My Marley is also rather geriatric, so your post just melted my heart. All the unconditional love they give us, and the joy they bring us, makes it worth the inevitable pain. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Lisa Tanner

Kris Moore said...

I am so sorry you lost your beautiful friend. Our pets are a gift from God. They don't live as long as we do, so we have to suffer losing them. But I always comfort myself that we will someday meet again in heaven. They will be waiting for us there and we will be together again. Marley's waiting for you.
Kris Moore

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sorry to hear that, Murray, my condolences.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are with you. So glad I got to meet Marley a few weeks ago.


Anonymous said...

All these posts had me in tears. My former husband didn't like dogs (shouldn't that have clued me in?), so after the divorce, practically the first thing I did was adopt my mutt Nick. He was my buddy and sidekick, licked away my tears when my children were with their dad, and snuggled up with me when I felt alone in the world... I couldn't have asked for a better companion. He also set the bar very high for a new man in my life; when I arrived home from work, Nick would be incredibly excited--jumping up and down--and sharing kisses by the dozens.

Nick saw us through teenage angst, some serious illness, and the loss of a loved one. Eventually, he got to share the happiness of a new blended family. Through those years, he was a constant--a source of laughter and love.

One night when I arrived home from work, I saw Nick sleeping on the back door matt. I remember smiling and calling to him, even teasing him for his lethargy. But there was no response. My beautiful, faithful pup--who had jumped around and chased a ball that morning--had died.

I remember the kindness of my neighbor who saw my tears and had her son help me get Nick into the car, another who met me at the vet's office, and the incredible vet who offered to see what had caused his death--"no charge--just to give you some peace." I remember calling my daughters with the horrible news, and I sobbed all through the phone call to my husband. Our house was gloomy. We hated to return home at night--still expecting Nick to come running up to us.

Within a few weeks, against the advice of many, we adopted two new mutts from a rescue organization and a animal shelter. They have since added so much joy, love and laughter to our lives. Although they will never replace Nick, they have given us a new "leash" on life.

Murray, do what feels right for you. But we have found that it is never to soon to welcome a new pup into your life.

I am so truly sorry for your loss.

Linda Geffin said...

Hey Murray,Have checked in on your blog from time to time having hung out in this HC community for some 20 odd (very) years but just wanted to say that's a lovely tribute to a very special soul. She clearly had a sweet life with you- really the main gift we can give to our four legged soul mates. Sorry to hear of your loss.