Friday, February 22, 2013

More Marley memories

When Marley first came home, she was fat, about 15-20 lbs. overweight.  She looked like a potbelly-pig from a distance.  And speaking of distance, at night, out in the yard, she all but disappeared.  Before I got her new collar, I gave her a light pink bandanna to try to make her more visible in the dark.

To help her lose weight, we knew we could not give her cheese like her old mama had requested.  (and no chicken livers either, but that was only because we hardly ever have them ourselves.) But Marley could hear cheese being unwrapped from wherever she was in the house, and she would come and stare, waiting for a bite of cheese.  And it was not a sweetly-sad soulful gaze, either.  It was an impatient, demanding glare, as if to say, "Where's my piece of cheese?  I want my cheese!"

Sometimes, yes, we would give her a tiny bit of cheese.  But what I needed to do was to encourage her to eat fruits and vegetables for treats.  Boomie was already a big fan of bananas, and he basically had the same response to a banana being opened that Marley had to the cheese.  We were surprised to find out that Marley didn't like bananas at first.  When she saw we were feeding bananas to Boomie, she wanted to try a bite, but when she got close enough to smell it (and perhaps realized it was not cheese) she rejected it.  But we kept offering it, and eventually she came to love bananas, apples and carrots.  A healthy diet helped Marley lose 15 lbs.  I wish I had someone who could regulate my diet, and parcel out precise amounts of the appropriate food at the appointed times, and make sure I only eat fruits and veggies for my snacks.  I could probably lose weight too.

Marley's first couple of years with us were plagued with allergies.  She would chew on her feet, scoot on her bottom, rub her chin on the floor, and do something I used to call the "silly walk" after a Monty Python sketch by the same name, but it was more like she was trying to scratch herself with her back leg while she was walking.  After several food changes, and various topical remedies, I stuck with the only thing that really worked:  Ketoconazole.  I just kept her on it all the time.

comfy marley
She loved to lay on the couch.

  Footsie Chewy Marley had a bit of a foot fetish. She loved to carry around dirty socks. And she loved to lick our bare feet. She would lick between each toe. I found a foot-shaped doggie toy, and she destroyed it pretty quick. Of course she had no idea it was a representation of a human foot. It was just something to chew. And thank goodness, she never chewed on our shoes.

Sometime, maybe within the first few months after we got her, Marley clunked heads with Boomer as they were both trying to catch a ball I had thrown up to "see who gets it".  I will never do that again!  She ended up breaking a tooth, and we had to have the rest of the tooth pulled.  She also lost a tooth about a year later, when the doctor found that one was rotten.   Subsequent doggie dental visits were few and far between, because Marley was too nervous to make it through a non-anesthetic cleaning, and if we gave her tranquilizers, it took her literally days to get back to normal.

Marley on the back porch
Marley had this thing on her left elbow.  When I first noticed it, it was about the size of a raisin, only flat.  It was a skin tag, I thought.  But it grew and grew, until it was the size of a walnut, and was no longer flat.  The vet said we could take it off, but it would probably grow back, and since it was not cancerous and it didn't bother her, we just left it there.  She never really even seemed to be aware of it.  We could handle it, even squeeze it a little, and she didn't notice.  It had various nicknames, like "elbow prune" and "testicle".

She hated the vacuum cleaner.  When I brought out the vacuum, she would go hide.  And she especially hated the shop vac.  The funny thing was, when we got rid of our carpet and I was mostly just "swiffering" with a little dust mop, she would hide from that too.

In her later years, Marley lost most of her hearing.  When Boomie was alive, both dogs alerted to the doorbell, or to the sound of a jingling collar as someone walked their dog past the front of the house.  After Boomie died, Marley didn't seem to care about those things, but I think what was really going on was that she had only been following Boomie's lead and in fact she could not really hear them herself.   I know that last summer, when she got some new toys from our vet, I could say to her, "Go get your stuffie," and she would do it, but last month, when a big German Shepherd moved in next door, she could not hear it barking in the yard on the other side of the fence.

Marley waits

From the time we got her, Marley was never very well socialized.  She was happy and well-behaved in her own little comfort zone, but she didn't like strange places or strange dogs.  I tried putting her through basic obedience, but she went through every class on edge, barking at everybody and their dogs.  This same problem made it very difficult to walk her.  So, for most of her life, she was a happy homebody.
Marley and Boomie

She loved having her ears rubbed.  She made a deep growly noise when you massaged her ears, but it was definitely a growl of pleasure.  Her deep voice turned into deep panting, and over the last couple of years, the panting increased, and with it came coughing, and later, wheezing.  The vet suspected laryngeal paralysis, and that it was causing respiratory and heart problems.  Whatever it was, we treated her with palliative care, not wanting to put her through a surgery at her age.  It kept her going for several extra months.

At 13, Marley was officially our oldest dog, even though we only had her for 8 years.  Boomer may have been 13 as well, but because he was a pound dog with no background information, we had to guess at his age.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Marley and Boomer, together again

In early January 2005, when we brought Marley home, she seemed less than thrilled at first.  She was sweet with us, but not towards Boomer.  When he got too close to her she would bark at him.  She had a very loud, deep bark!  Boomer would bark back at her.  It sounded like they were having an argument.  In the house, she would commandeer a section of the couch and bark and even snap at him if he invaded her personal space.  (but she never actually bit him).

This behavior gave way to brief periods of chasing, in which Boomie would chase her around the yard or around the living room.  Sometimes, it would end in humping (Boomie).  Almost always it would end with snapping (Marley).  But after a couple of weeks, Marley decided that Boomie wasn't so bad.  The barking arguments stopped, and soon afterwards, so did the snapping.  Marley and Boomie had become friends. The humping continued, but with diminishing strength over the years as Boomer got older and his hips got worse.  (but he was still humping occasionally with only one hind leg!)

Marley and Boomie First picture of them together, January 2005

Most of the time, they just laid near each other.  Sometimes when one dog had a tennis ball, the other one would creep closer and try to get it.  This was especially fun to watch when Boomie was trying to get the ball out of Marley's mouth.

Here is a little video of Boomie and Marley playing.  This was in May of 2009, a year after Boomie's amputation.

Today is the 2 year anniversary of Boomer's passing.  I would like to imagine that somewhere out there in the universe, Marley's spirit and Boomie's have found each other again.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Remembering Marley

The dog formerly known as Colette

Late in 2004, when our dog Maggie died, Boomer was left grieving.  I began searching rescue sites online for a friend for him, so he wouldn't be so sad and lonely.  Just before Christmas, we saw a certain black lab on Petfinder.   Due to the holidays, we were not able to meet her until after New Year's.    The rescue people had an event set up at a pet store about 20 miles from us.  We brought Boomer along, to see if they would be compatible.  I don't have any pictures from that day.

I had dealt with a few rescue organizations before I found Boomie back in 2002, and none of them had, to my knowledge, the policy that Marley's rescue had.  Her original owner was obliged to bring her to the adoption event at the pet store and stay with her until she was adopted, or take her back home again if she was not adopted, and try again next time.

So here was this lady, Theresa:  Somewhere in the later years of middle-age (maybe about the same age as I am now), sitting on a folding chair, crying at the prospect of giving up her dog.  And here was this dog:  A fat black labrador named Colette, clearly nervous and trying to press herself against her mama's legs.  Or maybe she was trying to hide under that folding chair, now that I think about it.  The first thing we needed to do was take Colette outside where there was a little grassy area, to meet Boomer.  Both dogs were nervous, just being out of their normal circumstances, and I seem to recall that neither dog was thrilled with the other, but they didn't want to kill each other either.  So Jerry looked into Colette's face, and saw that this was a dog that he could love, and we decided to take her home to foster, with the intent to adopt if all went well.

I felt very sad for Theresa.  Clearly she loved her dog.  Something was happening in her life that made her have to give her up, and it was hard to say goodbye.  She asked me to please feed Colette chicken liver and cheddar cheese, her favorite snacks.  She wanted us to let the dog keep the old knotted pair of sweat-socks that was her favorite toy.   She thanked me through her tears for wanting to give her a home.   I felt guilty for taking Colette away from her.  At a table set up by the rescue people, I paid the adoption fee and signed some papers.  Among the paperwork I received that day, one form had a space on which she had written "Likes chicken livers and cheddar cheese."   Obviously, it was an important detail.

I spared Theresa the notion that I wasn't really fond of the name Colette, and that I had already planned to call our new dog Marley.  (incidentally, this was just before the movie Marley and Me came out, and beyond the fact that Marley from the movie was a male yellow lab, she was never intended to be named after that Marley.  I had actually wanted to name her "Marlee", but I was certain it would be constantly misspelled anyway, so I just let her be Marley.)

Friday, February 15, 2013


Happy old girl with new toy Sweet Marley is gone. She was 13. Her health had been failing for the past several months. There was a recommendation for surgery last fall. It would have been expensive, and we would have had to take her to a specialist clinic. And there was no guarantee that it would be successful. We opted for comfort care. The cooler winter weather eased her symptoms a bit, and she seemed to be reasonably comfortable. But over the past few weeks, troubling new symptoms started, and even though she could still eat, walk, and yes, wag her tail, the vet advised us to let her go sooner than later, before she truly started to suffer. So we did.

I wanted Marley to be euthanized at home. Unlike Boomie, who always loved a ride in the car, and was happy to see the doctors and staff even after his amputation, Marley hated going to the vet. She would tremble and pant, and she always tried to hide under the chairs in the waiting room and the exam room. So I decided that my final gift to her would be to allow her die at home. It is a decision that I will never regret.

I think you must have to be a special kind of person to have a job involved with death and dying, and to do that job while also giving comfort to the loved ones. The euthanasia vet was most definitely this kind of special person. She was soft-spoken and gentle. She took time to get acquainted with Marley and to talk to me. She made sure all my questions were answered. She made sure I didn't feel rushed. She brought with her a little kneeling stool and a backpack full of supplies, and she worked quietly beside Marley's bed. Calm, deliberate, unhurried, yet with an efficiency that bespoke an art well practiced. Marley was never afraid. As sad as it was, it was also very peaceful.

So now I am dogless for the first time in about 19 years. There is a sense of freedom, in a way. No more dog poop to pick up. No more worrying about being home by a certain time for her. But there is a cruel side effect that my brain still expects to do those things. I have put away her water bowls, but I still look to see if they need re-filling. I watch the clock for feeding time. I watch the hallway expecting her to come trudging out. I am surprised, after two days, by the sight of food crumbs on the kitchen floor, because there is no dog to come along at regular intervals to vacuum them up.

I do not, however, expect to be dogless for too long. I hope to wait long enough to have our back yard fence replaced. It's 20 years old, and pretty rotten in places. It was adequate for the last few years of having old dogs, but might not hold up against a younger, more active one. And I'd like to take a trip, a weekend getaway at least, without the guilt of leaving a new dog. Those things may happen. Getting another dog, preferably through rescue, will happen, hopefully by summer.