He came bounding through the kitchen doorway, rushing past me to make a sharp turn in the dining room and then abruptly stopping, his head slightly lowered, staring at the floor.
Ah, well I know that pause: “Why did I come in here? What was it I wanted to do, to find?”
This was a common occurrence for we who have passed into that realm where stiff joints and moments of forgetfulness abide and one finds the meaning of dotage.
The pause? Just old age shifting gears.
Marley is now 11 years old. We celebrated his birthday last Friday. He didn’t seem too conceited, displaying his at-home-aplomb, though it was something of milestone for a dog of his size and heritage, 90 pounds of muscle encompassing a great heart. Moreover, certainly a feat of endurance and the grace of Providence.
He has survived the loving mauling of our grandchildren, a few long road trips across hot deserts and the thin air of high mountain passes. And, 18 months ago, while leaping around at play, to reach a thrown ball, he landed badly, breaking his right femur. The vet initially thought the break was at a spot where a cancer dwelt.
Near the end of his convalescence x-rays disproved that diagnosis. Through it all Marley just “was,” that wonderful state of being wherein animals seem to accept whatever life hands them.
He was constantly playful and exceedingly loving, his usual characteristics. He maintained his highly honed canine senses, far more refined than any human, alerting him to such happenings as dreaded rivals walking by the house and the imminent arrival of “his” squirrel.
For all his adventures, Marley remains an important member of our family.
Marley is the latest in a long line of beloved beasts to live with us. If most children could have their way every family would be enlarged by the addition of a member of such species as dogs, cats, rabbits, gerbils or even a reptile or amphibian. Parental timidity is put aside as children, lacking most prejudices and misconceptions about what bites or indiscriminately pees, can even be attracted by a snake’s slithering sensuality and plead to have one as a pet.
My youngest lad kept a large brown and white domestic rat as a companion, bringing him even to high school to the horror of the vice principal and the subject of a few parent/teacher conferences. We all survived that bump.
The passing parade of animals in our household as our three boys grew began with Jenny, a gorgeous golden retriever and the only dog not a rescue. Her life was shortened after being struck by a hit and run driver on Robertson.
Incidentally, a bystander scooped her up and took her to Doc Miller – now VCA – who repaired what he could and gave Jenny a few more years with the boys…and our initial encounter with the modern-day expenses of maintaining the health of our beloved beasts.
Two rabbits, Flopsy and Mr. Ed, who lived in a hutch I made where they ate lots of green, paid for their keep by producing copious amounts of soil amendments in the form of little round pellets. During the same period of several years, we enjoyed the continuing company of Daisy, a 15-pound protector of our young boys and a dog with a sense of humor. Yes.
Several cats: Piper, who came with us from NYC in 1969 and another who lived nearly 26 years.
There is no doubt in my mind that dogs were put on Earth to be a daily reminder to we humans that life is always much more than it seems, much better, much more fun. They are the most consummate con artists, able magicians and furry healing influences we could hope to find.
The number and variety of dog companions in West Hollywood is supporting evidence of those claims. Large and small — some very small, as two chihuahuas I see taking 20 minutes to traverse one block — and some large, as our neighbor’s standard poodles. It is said that, in time, dog companions begin to resemble their human partners.
That Marley and I both have a limp on the right side is as far into that idea I’m willing to go — except to be as alive and aware as Marley.