Six years ago today our lives changed.
Shade was our pride and joy and crazy energetic black lab dog. And at 16 and a half years old she went to Doggie Heaven.
Our loss was insurmountable with only one story being a helping guide through our process of grief and remembrance.
Marley And Me tells the journey of one incredible golden lab and the impact he has on a families existence. This vibrant tale connected so well with us on multiple levels.
We lived this.
Shade graced us with her joy in June of 1989. She exploded all over the house with an energy and verve that made the place shudder. Rules were to be mocked by this puppy and the laws of physics defied. My wife and I were still in high school back then, and whenever I accompanied her home after school we were always greeted by Shade and the ever present saliva filled tongue. Her forceful personality coupled with a slathering of dog spit told us more then any words of how loved we were.
John Grogan, the teller of Marley’s mischief, was a newlywed newspaper writer who procured a puppy (or did Marley procure them?) and quickly learned who really was in charge. Chaos and destruction followed, along with many attempts to reign in his dogginess. As the Grogan family expanded with the birth of their three children, Marley continued on his merry way and infiltrated their hearts. And cause much property damage.
As Shade grew up and became a responsible adult (yeah right), we passed through high school and college and into civilian life. After several years, we moved forward with our lives and started planning our wedding. From the beginning, the inclusion of Shade in the ceremony was mandatory. On a beautiful June day, set in our idyllic backyard, our family and friends witnessed our wedding. And Shade walked me down the aisle, letting out a big yawn right at the start. Even with all her buddies and belly rubbers in attendance, she just acted like it was a normal day on planet Earth. After all everyone was really here to see her.
Age started to take its inevitable toll on Marley and causes much distress to the Grogan family, even as they moved from Florida to Philadelphia. Repeated trips to the vet become more and more required, with Marley having a hard time sometimes even standing. John and Jenny Grogan have to prepare themselves and the children for the hard next step.
A horrible nosebleed afflicted Shade a month after our wedding, derailing our honeymoon plans. After a slow, prolonged recovery, she was never quite the same. The mischievous spark was ever in her character, but the body was growing tired and weary of the escapades. Once in a while a spurt of the young whippersnapper would emerge much to our delight, only to be betrayed by her octogenarian shell.
The coda of Marley’s journey occurred just before New Year’s and left the family devastated. John Grogan turned to his column in the Philadelphia Inquirer to pay tribute to the “world’s worst dog.” After publication on Tuesday January 6, 2004, a flood of responses poured in, giving him impetus to write Marley and Me. It became a bestseller and is viewed by many as the On Death And Dying for pet owners. And rightly so.
The beginning of Shade’s next adventure also happened around New Year’s and brought much sorrow to us. With her body slowly growing weaker, we took her to the vet one last time on Friday, January 13, 2006. Seeking solace with each other, we then discovered Marley, and slowly eased ourselves through our grief.
Massive success lead to more massive success for Marley and Me. A movie version captured the essence and facts of the story and is a worthwhile companion to the book. Various spinoffs rolled out, including a YA novel (Marley, A Dog Like No Other), and a picture book series (Marley and the Kittens, Bad Dog, Marley). A mini-boom of copycat books flooded the Pets section for some time, but Marley emerged as the top dog (groan).
We cleaned out Shade’s belongings days later and started a mini collection of books that reminded us of her craziness. Besides several Marley volumes, we connected with Remembering Farley by Lynn Johnston. Farley was the main dog in the For Better Or For Worse newspaper comic strip who passed away as well. The wonderful poems “Beau” by Jimmy Stewart and “The Rainbow Bridge” were also very enlightening. For young children, the picture book Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant became very touching to us. All of these combined helped transform grief of loss to celebration of life. It is what Shade would have wanted.
Grogan exemplified Marley’s crazy and loving life with his book. Telling tales of knocking over patio tables at cafes or destroying the garage walls during thunderstorms. We felt like Marley and Shade were comrades in arms. One time in the middle of the night she decided that the really loud laughing squeaky toy just had to be played with. Right now. Or the time she snuck into the kitchen and licked my mashed potatoes, just laying on the plate. She gave me a very innocent look when caught. No jury would have convicted. The tales are many and quite legendary to our friends and families. Shade made an undeniable impact on our lives, still felt even today. We still have not gotten another dog because the house, while Shade less, still feels like her in every nook and cranny.
So today we celebrate the life and excitement and joy that was Shade. Thanks to the catharsis of Marley And Me, our healing has been more complete. We can smile not cry now.
Shade and her slobbering saliva kisses would approve.
P.S. Marley And Me is copyright 2005 to John Grogan. It was published by HarperCollins Publishers and the cover is copyright to them as well. It is 306 pages in Deluxe Hardcover. The movie starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston was released in 2008.
P.P.S. Shade had a anthem. One song spoke volumes about her and her character.