Aug 10

My version of Marley and Me

Deepest thanks to my friend Robin Broadway Tuttle, who shares below the story of her special  boy.....Marley.

On March 28,2009, my heart was shattered into a million pieces. After losing Dad in January of that year, we felt, we hoped, that the worst for that year was over. Dad was 92 and had fought through many diseases in his last years. It was his time,...yet you are still never ready for that final moment.

We should have also been prepared when Marley left for a better place. When a dog is over 16 years old, you know, in your head at least, that soon they will no longer be in your life. But sometimes your heart just cannot let go.

Marley, like my Dad, had hung on to life...despite heart problems, painful arthritis in his hips and the fact that he could no longer see or hear very well. Yes, I had to help him up every morning to he could go outside to do his business, but I considered caring for him a labor of love.

On February 2nd, exactly one week after we lost my Dad, Marley bloated. He had to have part of his stomach removed during the emergency surgery, at 3 am in the morning, at the cost of about $3,000. Things went downhill from there.  Why, many ask, did we do extensive surgery to try to save a 16 1/2 year old dog?  

                                  Here is Marley's story...

Let me first confess that the 16 1/2 years with Marley were not easy years. Not knowing any better, we purchased him from a backyard breeder. After seeing a newspaper ad, we arrived to see the litter, and were told that we could not see the mother, because she had gotten out of the fence and been hit by a car and had to be put down. As soon as I heard this, my heart grieved for the little pups, six weeks old, maybe a tad younger, with no mother. Best I can remember, there were three pups. Marley was the runt of the litter. We immediately fell for him. To this day I remember the feeling of that little ball of fur I held in the palm of my hands on the way home.  Such joy and delight I felt that day!

After only one week Marley began to have health issues. He came down with parvo and almost died. He also developed badly infected sores all over his tail, paws and back. These were so painful he could not stand to be touched. I believed this is where the fear biting originated.

In his first year and a half, I think Marley actually hated us and hated life. He bit three people, not to mention the numerous times he bit me when I was trying to brush him, give him a bath or put medication on his sores. Trimming his nails was impossible, and there wasn't even a thought about going near him when he was eating.

Let me stop here and interject that he never "attacked" or "charged" at anyone. The problems arose when we tried to do something to him, or when he thought someone was going to do something to him. It was a good day, bad day sort of thing. He was good most of the time, but we never really knew when something might set him off.

We tried everything, even correction with a rolled up newspaper, to pop him on his rear end. That definitely did not work, just made him angry enough to come back at us. Jon started becoming somewhat afraid of Marley and stopped having much to do with him. One day he actually started talking about the possibility of having to put him down, because he had bit a friend of ours. NOT AN OPTION! This dog already had my heart...I was in love with him, how could euthanization be an option? Jon would have to go before Marley!

I began doing research, reading many, any different training books, dog psychology and dog behavior books, anything I could get my  hands on. I had him neutered. I took him to vet after vet office for blood work and other tests, hoping the behavior issue might be an easily solvable medical problem. But no one was able to offer any help.

That is when I decided that only love would help this dog. So I poured everything, I mean every ounce of energy and love I had, into this boy. I was determined. This is when our bond truly began. An unbreakable, uncondtional bond.

Jon and I argued a lot during that time. The more Marley bit me, the angrier Jon would become. We couldn't take Marley out  to public parks for walks. I had to find more remote trails, and body block him if anyone tried to come close enough to try to pet him. When we invited guests over, we had to lock him up in the bedroom, which led to scratching, clawing and barking at the door to get out. He just could not understand why he couldn't come out and visit too.

 We rarely went on vacation, unless we were able to find a place that accepted pets (we all know how hard that is). I was afraid to board Marley for fear that he might bite someone and we would be forced to put him down. The very few times I did give in and board him, I was very surprised to find that he never tried to bite anyone, however he always came home a total basket case. After boarding, he would be severely depressed, because he would not have slept or eaten the whole time we were gone. It had gotten to the point where I was the only person that could handle him.

I began my journey, the journey of loving Marley for his healing, by hugging him. He hated it. The more he growled and snapped at me ,the more insistent I became. He would bite and snap at me when I brushed him, but I persisted. The more he bit, the harder I brushed. I can remember one or two instances of brushing with one hand while my other hand was in his mouth. I tried using chew bones to occupy his teeth, but that only worked briefly.

Finally, as the months passed, I started seeing my work and persistence paying off.  Marley was beginning to love us. Around this time, I discovered that the most effective punishment for him was to hurt his feelings. When he did something bad, I would yell "get away from me!"  It would completely devastate him.

As our bond grew thicker, I would rush home from work every day and there, staring out the window would be Marley...waiting patiently to greet me or Jon at the door so joyfully, with love in his eyes and happiness in his wagging tail. Some of my fondest memories were of our daily conversations, which I called my "Mommy/Marley time".  We would lay on the bed and "talk".  I would ask questions, he would proudly answer in the most adorable "wooing" way.  This went on for an hour some days. He even learned to sing a very loud and proud "Happy Birthday" and "Row, Row, Row your Boat" when prompted.

We were fortunate one year to have a friend invite us to bring Marley when we stayed with them at their beach house. They were dedicated dog lovers, with two of their own and they knew our entire history with Marley. During that stay, our friend immediately saw the bond Marley and I shared. This inspired her to show a photo of me and Marley to an artist friend, who painted an artwork piece of a person and dog and named it "Bonded for Life". It was our Christmas present from them that year.

As years passed, we were able to allow our visitors into the same room with Marley, but always with the stern warning "please, just don't touch him." He actually got to the point that he would solicit petting from other people, by going up and promptly nosing their hand. Things were fine when affection was on his own terms, but when I allowed it, it was always with a word of caution and under my close watchful eyes.

This all took many, many years to accomplish. In fact, it was basically 16 1/2 years of continously reminding him to behave, to trust. I actually got the point of almost reading his mind and anticipating his moves. Some might not call this a victory, but if you had been there from the beginning, you would know it truly was a glorious victory. Taming of the wild, Jon and I called it. Marley's nickname was "Wiley Coyote". I considered him my special needs child.

Some think of me as crazy. After all, they would have never tolerated that behavior from a dog. But you see, God had sent Marley to me. He sent Marley to teach me. To teach me how to love. Love deeply and love unconditionally, but most of all, God taught me that whatever happens, whatever may "bite" you, don't ever, ever give up.

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Comments (2)
  • Joni  - Robin's Marley

    What a LUCKY dog!!

    And I love the "lesson" learned:

    "Love deeply and love unconditionally, but most of all, God taught me that whatever happens, whatever may "bite" you, don't ever, ever give up."


  • Kevi  - Marley

    How wonderful that Marley had someone like Robin to love him. He certainly was a very pretty dog, loved the photo of him and Robin.

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