A very close friend of mine, Mike, approached me and asked if I had read the book Marley and Me. I had not, and a day or two later he handed me a copy of it and told me I would enjoy it very much. But, he told me to make sure I read the ending when I was completely alone. I knew what those foreboding words implied and took the book to start reading. Mike was all too aware of my very tight bond with my 4 year old Golden Retriever, Phoenix. This is not a book review but more so the effect it had on my own feelings in my life and what I experienced through the real life author, John Grogan. I could not put it down.
A puppy observes and contemplates all that is around him or her. Asking of their human companion, “What will our journey be ?” The choice is our’s to make.
John is an aspiring writer and he and his new wife, Jenny, get a yellow Labrador Retriever puppy, Marley. Their marriage is going through it’s same “puppy stages” of newness and growth just as Marley is in his new life being a dog. John and Jenny are of course at first enamoured with this love and joy in their life. His wild-child behavior is often forgiven as just a puppy being a puppy. There is nothing more freeing to me as a human than seeing a puppy being uninhibited in “our” world. We miss the point – and opportunity.
Marley began to quickly grow up into his body – but his behavior had become extremely unpredictable and destructive. He was seen as only as “the world’s worst dog”, but not for his free spirit and independence at this point. I’ve never experienced the destruction to this degree but the need for freedom and independence from my own dog to be himself, I have. Marley flunked out of obedience school miserably. Been there, done that. Just as with Marley and his own hurdles, Phoenix didn’t flunk out – he just would never stop barking – and he isn’t a barker. He just saw the world as “I”m smart, I can do these easy commands – but why not seize the day and go do fun things !” Well, Marley seemed to be restrained spirtitually in his dog world by John and Jenny and he acted out trying to say, “You are missing the best opportunity.”
As I continued to read on I saw Marley wanting to do so much more than what John and Jenny wanted him to do. Right, wrong, or indifferent. Well, over the years children would enter John and Jenny’s life, there would be an immense amount of tension within the family and for a time period the Grogan’s marriage. But, Marley persisted to be – well, Marley.
You don’t even have to be a dog lover if you can sit back and know and appreciate the unconditional love of another soul. That’s what Marley offered everyday, steadfast, without a second thought. When it counted he was there for pregnancies and childbirth, the horrible loss during Jenny’s miscarriage and to always protect in his sweet way. He was always devoted – the truest of friends and display of loyalty. Marley wanted to ride in the vehicle or run at the beach to feel the wind rustling over his face, head and back up through his tail. To feel that freedom in his soul.
The years went on with both failures and many successes. Real life. The Grogan’s marriage grew very strong. Their kids bonded with Marley and they became a family of five.
The inevitable part of the book was coming to the point where I had to make a choice. I chose to read it with my best friend, Phoenix, his head resting in my lap. And it was at this point that John and Marley were able to reflect on this life they lived in, however long or short that they were blessed with. And John came to the realization of not what they had brought to Marley, but how much he had taught him and his family. A mentor with four legs and a tail. He wanted John to know that he passed on his life lessons as best he could and it was going to turn out great for all of them.
That kind of life experience is priceless. I’ve aspired to be a writer all my life. My own dog has taught me so many life lessons through the simplest of gestures. To talk to a stranger and make a new friend from that. To reach outside of that comfort zone we all safely and too often cling to. To love every moment like it’s our last. To see a sunrise as it was the start of best new day ever. To see a sunset as it was the most accomplished day we had ever achieved. Phoenix has introduced me to and presented me with every possible opportunity. The rest is up to me.
Our only limitation in any lifetime is our imagination. Marley always knew this……
The book changed so much about me and therein lies the true gift. Thanks to you my friend, Mike, for the enlightenment.