Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekly Geeks - Lovable Labs

Well, just when I wasn't sure what to write about today I happened upon the weekly geek meme and all decisions were made for me. The prompt asks:
How many of us remember a favorite pet from our childhood? Or have enjoyed visiting the zoo? Or relish in walking in the woods and hearing birdsong, or seeing a deer leap away through the brush? How many of us have been thrilled by a soaring eagle? How often have we sought the comfort of a dog or cat, or wept tears of loss when forced to say good-bye to a furred friend? We are surrounded by our fellow creatures and often our lives are enriched by their presence, whether it be sharing our homes with them or simply being blessed to see them in passing. This week you are asked to share books (fiction or nonfiction) and/or movies which center around an animal or animals.
  • Which are your favorites?
  • Which touched your heart the most?
  • Which have found their way onto your wish lists or TBR stacks?
  • Is there a childhood favorite?
  • Have you ever named a pet after an animal from a book or movie?
At the risk of suggesting the same book as half the country right now, I simply must discuss the book, Marley and Me. This book has a very special place in my heart.
I have always been a dog person: almost any size, any shape, any breed (or mutt) I LOVE dogs. The problem for me is that I have allergies - not the occasional sniffle and sneeze allergies - but asthmatic allergies. Before I was born my parents had a cat, Mindy, who mysteriously ran away when I was about 3 years old. It was not until about a decade ago that I discovered the truth: my parents had to give Mindy to another family because of my health issues. The doctors kept saying that very often children outgrow their allergies -- but such is not my case.

When Geoff and I first got married we (well, I) desperately wanted a dog. I did the research and discovered that the Bichon Frisee breed was a great choice for those with allergies. We found a breeder, selected a puppy (her official name was "Bonne Chance" - which means "good luck" in French as she was born on our wedding day - but we called her Bonnie). I lasted 10 days. I was willing to stick it out, but when my boss told me that I had to get rid of the dog, I realized that I was trying to realize the impossible dream. It absolutely broke my heart to return Bonnie to the breeder.

While my allergies would allow us to have an outside dog, I don't feel that I can bond with an outdoor dog the same way that I can bond with a dog that lives indoors with me all the time. So, we gave up on the idea of having pets, and went on to have 3 children instead.

Fast forward to 2004. My youngest child was in 5th grade and terrified of dogs! Imagine my surprise when she spot a For Sale sign for Yellow Lab puppies and begged me to stop. After spending nearly 45 minutes with nine 7 week old yellow and black lab puppies, Mandy finally gained the courage to pick one up and hold him. It was love at first sight and needless to say, two days later we were bringing Ralfie home. Now the deal was --- Ralf was going to be an outdoor dog because of my allergies. I knew that the first two nights would be difficult sleeping for us -- but I did not think that it was fair to keep the entire neighborhood awake while Ralf grew accustomed to his new home. So we decided to keep Ralf in a crate in the family room --- where he has remained for the past 5 years.

I have chosen to manage my allergies with inhalers. Probably not the most healthy decision, but I would never give up the cherished time I have shared with Ralf -- Mia --- Jude - and now Bella, for anything. Yes, we are dog people. (we have actually had 3 litters of a total of 20 puppies in our house as well. The above picture is the first litter of puppies welcoming me home).

OK, Molly -- so how does the book fit in already?! (sorry, I get a little passionate when talking about my dogs). Marley and Me was released in October (as I recall) after we brought Ralf home in May. I rarely buy books spontaneously. Rather, I do my research, hem and haw, drive everyone crazy with my "should I or shouldn't I" - before I finally decide to try it at the library first. With Marley and Me, however, I saw the cover - picked up the book, walked directly to the front end, and paid for it. I came home and began reading the book immediately. The only problem was ---- I could only read 2 chapters at a time. I would find myself laughing SO hard that I was crying and simply could not see the words on the page. John Grogan has an absolutely amazing writing style!! He can capture the love, warmth and true friendship that humans share with their pets, while at the same time capturing the frustration we sometimes feel towards our pets with compassionate humor.

I must admit, however, that I did not finish the book. Not because I just "couldn't get into it" but because I knew how the book would end. It was inevitable, and I simply could not bring myself to face that essential part of life. For me, Marley is still the lovable lab that continues to bring joy and happiness to the Grogan family.

Unfortunately, I could not prevent the untimely death of one of my own beloved pets simply by closing the book before the last chapter and putting it back on the shelf. Last year, while I was studying for my Master's Degree in Santa Fe, NM, my dear, sweet Mia died in her sleep at home. She was barely 3 years old and I still to this day miss her terribly. I wasn't there to tell her good-bye, but I did journal my thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. It was the hardest thing I have ever written - but I am glad that I took the time to do so. I have my tribute to Mia posted for eternity, and if I ever want to try and recall her wonderful memory, all I have to do is revisit the post. My writing is not nearly as eloquent as John Grogan, but it is heartfelt and if you would be interested in reading my eulogy, feel free to visit here.


  1. My first baby was a yellow lab; we named her Louise, Lou for short. She has a special place in my heart as she is now chasing squirrels in that happy hunting grounds of the sky (or wherever good dogs go when they leave the physical realm.)

  2. This is a beautiful post, Molly. I went over and read your eulogy and it made me cry. Our beloved dog is 13 now and we can see old age taking hold of her. She's gone gray and sleeps a lot. Her hearing's not what it used to be and she limps from arthritis at times. She never complains, though and gives us complete devotion. Marley & Me is in my bookcase and I want to read it because I love John Grogan's work, too, but I'm just not sure I can face it right now.

  3. What a beautiful love story Molly. A heartwarming tale worth writing about - maybe you have a Marley & Me inside you.

  4. Molly,
    I really enjoyed your post, though it really hit home for me. My best friend Bubba past away in January. He was diagnosed with bone cancer in October. Needless to say Marley and Me is one book (and movie) I have avoided.
    Maybe someday I will pick up the book, but like you I may not finish it.

  5. I must say this is exactly why I absolutely love this book. If you are a dog person you can relate to it in such a personal way!

    bkclubcare: I totally agree. I can just envision Mia chasing the squirrelies up in doggie heaven and having such a fun time.

    Bermudaionion: I am SO sorry that you are experiencing this particular cycle in pet ownership. I know of no words to say to take away the pain, but please know that I totally understand.

    SariJ: I know the pain does not pass in just a few months. It has been nearly a year since I lost Mia and I still cannot read my eulogy without crying. OH...but how grateful I am that I have such wonderful memories of a beloved pet. I learned more about unconditional love from Mia than I have at any other time in my life.

  6. Molly what a wonderful post. I have left you an award here!

  7. Hi Molly, while the book Marley & Me never appealed to me, as my friend who loved it kept pushing for me to borrow her book but I wouldn't, I do love dogs very much. And have endured many times the death of a beloved dog. I read your eulogy and it's lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  8. We just don't have the room for a dog but we do have a cat.

  9. Sweet post. I have the Marley and Me book, but haven't read it yet. I did see the movie and cried and cried.

  10. Thanks for a wonderful post, Molly. I loved your tribute to your girl.

    I have Marley and Me on my TBR stack but I have not been able to read it is still too soon after losing Caribou (and unfortunately I have two close friends who have also just lost their dogs). But one of these days I will pick it up!

  11. Thank you for this post. It brought back great memories. My family had the same problem, Mom was allergic to dogs, we were frantic for a pet and the solution was a yellow lab! Taffy was an amazing dog (aren't they all) and a great friend to all of us. I have Marley and Me on my TBR pile.

  12. Molly: I, too, chose not to finish Marley & Me because of the same reason. Yet, I still read a lot of these types of books because I love them so much...I just keep a big box of kleenex around. For those of us who have loved and lost our dear furry friends, have had to endure guilt and sadness of not being there to say goodbye, for coming home each day without our companions being there to greet us, these books will always hold special places in our hearts. On a side note, I didn't keep Marley & Me...I knew that I would never be able to read it a second time. I now have Dewey: A Small Town Library Cat in my TBR stack. I haven't felt strong enough emotionally to read it as of yet. :)

  13. Wonderful post! I read Marley and Me two months after our yellow lab, Bailey, died (2007) and it helped to laugh and cry!

  14. Lovely post. I don't know what I wold do if I were allergic to cats.
    Happy Weekly Geeks :)

  15. My mother in law has a yellow lab a boy named Dain. He's a handful as Marley was. He was actually arrested by the cops once for stopping a train by standing in the middle of the tracks.

    Those puppies are adorable!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing such a special story. Your post is especially lovely because it is so personal.

  17. I loved this post, Molly. It's amazing the connection we get to our little furbabies and it sounds like Mia was a particularly special dog. We have a chocolate lab named Lexi and even though the cat, Maggie, gets more love time on my blog, I love love love our dog. (The cat is mine and the dog is my husbands and we brought them together when we moved in).

  18. Your blog about Mia still hurts my heart. I still miss her too!

  19. I loved Marley and Me. I did manage to read the whole thing, but not without about an entire box of tissues! I've never owned a lab, but I still saw traits from all our dogs in Marley. When we had our 1st basset hound, Sadie, she used to drag all of our stuff-toilet brush, pantyhose, you name it-out into the yard through her doggy door. We never knew what we (along with all of our neighbors) would see when we came home! Our 2nd basset hound is in the same stage of life as Bermudaonion's dog, same age and all. Our other dog, a mutt, is just crazy I think. LOL.

    Your post about Mia was beautiful. Sadie was only 5 when we had to put her to sleep, but it was an unexpected situation and I wasn't able to be there with her either. I'm sure Mia knew that she was in a good place and felt safe enough to fall asleep and drift away.


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