**Warning! Marley & Me spoilers ahead. But come on, like you don't already know what's going to happen.
Last week I dumped Garrett on my friend, Allison, and the six of us went to the movies. I briefly considered taking my son but he would have yapped constantly,"What Marley doing?" or "No no, Marley!" or, at the end of the movie, "Where Marley go?" And that one would have made my silent tears turn into audible choke-on-the-giant-lump-in-my-throat bawling.
I hate you, John Grogan. I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! I hate you for making me and every other woman I know cry in the movie theatre. I hate you for making me think about my dead childhood golden retriever and I hate you because now I'm spoiling my dog much more than usual. I hate you for ripping out my heart strings and feeding them to your unruly labrador.
And I love you. I love you for making me think about my dead dog and I love you for making me spoil my hairy beast of a golden retriever and I love you for making me adore your otherwise heinous and untrainable Clearance Puppy.
I could never write about my dead dog, Candy, and make anyone else fall in love with her. And she was a good dog. They wouldn't make a movie about her thyroid disorder or her ability to think herself hidden when her head was stuck under my bed but her big ole butt was still in the middle of the room. But as I watched Marley, blinking in his old age as he watched his owner for the very last time, I couldn't help but feel myself transported back to that cold, white room where we left our dog. I couldn't help but remember my brother crying into his shirt or my dad trying to be stoic but failing, miserably. I was shoved ten years into the past and the dog I grew up with was dead, with her head on my lap. And eleven years of memories looked like they were merely sleeping on my leg--but she was gone, forever. I used to tell her I'll love you forever. I still do. I always will. You don't forget the dog you grew up with. You don't stop loving her just because she's been gone for almost as long as she was here.
I could never write about my parents dog, Sierra, and make anyone else fall in love with her. And she is an excellent dog. They wouldn't make a movie about what a mischievous little puppy she was. No one would care that she missed me so much when I went away to college that she was heartsick. But as Marley aged as gracefully as possible, I couldn't help but think of Sierra. As John and Marley sat and stared at the water on his 40th birthday, the gray around the muzzle of the dog reminded me of Sierra's gray...and of her age.
I could never write about my own dog, Beck, and make anyone else fall in love with him. And he is my baby. My first born. The first thing my husband and I tried to raise, together. They wouldn't make a movie about huge puppy ears or his violent puppy hiccups or his many suicide attempts. But as Marley ate the couch I thought of my own dog shredding the ruffle on my own furniture. As Marley destroyed the house because of his fear of thunder I thought of Beck's panic stricken face whenever he, himself, hears thunder. Or fireworks. Or loud trucks. His eyes are a window into an old soul and a puppy, all at once. His ears are still slightly too big for his body and he still wishes he was a lap dog. But, just as Marley loved the Grogan children, Beck adores my boy. And, as I watched the Grogan kids put their beloved dog to rest, I thought of my own boy. Beck is five. I hope he lives a long golden retriever life but, whenever he goes, it will break my son's heart.
And I will be a weepy, hysterical mess. He was my very first baby. Just as Marley went from being Jenny's baby to the family dog, so did Beck transition when Garrett joined our family. But a better, more loyal, more lovable, sweeter dispositioned family dog I challenge you to find. I came to love Marley for what he meant to the Grogan family. I love Beck for being that sweet little puppy who picked us. I love him for being persistent when I was looking more closely at his brother. I've loved him every day for five years with the possible exception of the couch eating fiasco. Well, no. I think I loved him even then.
Indeed, I did.