Puppy Love

SPOILER ALERT! Don't read this if you haven't yet read or watched "Marley and Me"!

Evan and I finally got around to watching "Marley and Me" over the weekend. Although we knew the basic plot before hitting play -- well, I did, Evan knew the entire story since he read the book last fall before the movie even came out in theaters -- we still found ourselves frequently hitting pause throughout the flick to discuss various aspects of the story developing on screen. Yes, it is just a simple tale (no pun intended!) of a family dog during the first few chapters of a couple's marriage. But Marley's humbled companionship and loyalty, even though spotted with typical "puppy behavior" throughout his adult years, made us think deeper into the role of dogs in Man's life and how much we have to learn from these creatures.

I know it was supposed to be a tear-jerker, but for some reason I couldn't quite get there... probably because I was thinking too philosophically throughout the ending. So when other viewers were drawing parallels to their own lives and pets, conjuring up old memories, and summoning the pool of tears that is apt to follow, I was in my "thinking cloud" pondering WHY it is so sad when it is time to say goodbye to a pet. Beyond the obvious grief that comes when anyone -- pet or person -- leaves our world, in the case of a pet there is something else in play.

Humans communicate through actions and body language just like our furry friends, but we also rely on spoken language to address and dissect issues and confirm and acknowledge feelings. There's a reason "I love you" has become (or perhaps always has been) the three most important words in our language. Yes, at the core actions do speak louder than words and too often these words of affirmation are used as a mask to cover actions that are never there. But can you imagine a world where the words "I love you" didn't exist? We, as humans, cling to these words for reassurance, for confirmation that in case our actions haven't always spoken truly, in case we have injured or faulted another as we are so prone to do, at the core we really do love.

But at the bed of a dying pet our need for verbal communication and affirmation of feelings goes wanting. We can tell our own "Marleys" how sorry we are, how they have become members of the family, and how much they will be missed, but the response and acknowledgement we crave confirming the reception of our words will never come; we never truly know if our message has been received.

Luckily, none of this matters in the eyes of our dogs; to them actions always speak louder than words and the pain of this sad exchange is something only the owner must endure. For dogs, a life well lived, filled with loyalty and respect, always trumps whatever words we throw their way (of course most of them understand a few words and commands, and they do respond to tone of voice). In the end our "Marleys" can teach us to become better humans with strengthened, honest actions accompanying our verbal "I love you"s; the perfect "bilingual" combination. If you don't have your own "Marley" yet, it's time to go shopping; a little "puppy love" sure can go a long way.
MAX, my "Marley"
Photos courtesy of John Pearson

1 comment:

  1. Great one -- just took ol' Max for a bike-run, after feeding him his morning raw chicken drumstick!


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