This is what I did on my man-ternity vacation. I watched as my wife had more pain in an hour than I’ve ever had in my life. I listened to music. I slept, rather I attempted to sleep. I changed some diapers filled with tar and fountains. I introduced my new son to his big brother. I bribed the entire nursing staff with donuts. I read.
The book that I grabbed off my nightstand and tossed into my overnight (2 nights) bag was Marley & Me. It could easily be called Harley & Me. It could be you and your dog. In the case of the non-fiction bestseller it is author John Grogan and his Lab, the incorrigible Marley.
Mr. Grogan’s book covers a period in his life that spans from the bliss of newlywed passion to reigning alpha-male (in theory) of a family of five. Throughout this time runs the real leader of the pack- Marley.
The book itself is very well written. Grogan’s prose is comfortable and approachable, creating the sense that you are sitting across the table from him as he spins his tales and anecdotes. You feel welcome and, assuming you have ever loved a dog, you relate. In fact, Marley’s being a dog could be considered pure happenstance. What is really important is the underlying theme- the unbreakable bond of unadulterated friendship.
I have had dogs my entire life. Some cling a little harder to the heartstrings than others, but they were all well loved. Currently we have something of a farm, two small boys, some rocks, 2.5 cats, and the greatest pair of dogs I have ever known. Perhaps this is why Mr. Grogan’s book hit home, many of his pages could have been penned by my own hand.
Harley, the quintessential good dog, was once the worlds worst puppy. She ate toothbrushes and lawnmowers, she escaped from an impenetrable yard with remarkable regularity and terrorized the neighborhood- often being caught in ponds or houses before being round up and left tied to the tree in my front yard with various notes of concern and interest (all unfit to be reprinted here). She was bad. Of course, she was also having a blast, and my anger was often overshadowed by my own longings and begrudging respect.
Then one day she was good. Really good. Granted she still dug holes and ate like ten men, but she was smart and gentle and despite the occasional lapse, she appeared much more dignified than myself or any of my housemates.
After Tricia and I married we decided (also known as Tricia decided) that Harley required companionship beyond the constant love we were giving her. Eventually we wound up with Valentine, who took notes from the master and destroyed all things expensive, from rocking chairs to mattresses.
Valentine too turned a corner, and while she remains slightly more elusive than Harley, she has garnered a sweetness that is all her own.
She, for all intents, is still fairly young. Harley on the other hand is not. She has lost more than a step from her once record-breaking jump, unable to get into the car or on the bed without much assistance. Her hips hurt. She is nearly deaf. Yet she allows Atticus to pull her ears, bury her in leaves and ride her around the yard like she is a lifetime younger. Someday, hopefully, I know she would love nothing more than to endure the same from Zane.
While she has luckily steered clear of any life-threatening ailments she is still over ninety in dog years, and the sad fact is that her time left with us will be all too short. It is our job to make sure that it is also sweet.