Learning to Deal with a ‘Marley and Me’ Moment

Several years ago I read the book “Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog Ever” by John Grogan. For those who are not familiar with the book, it’s a story of a young family and their life with a dog named Marley. As the title suggests, sometimes Marley makes life difficult – there is an entire chapter dedicated to things Marley ate. Ironically, my dog, Baxter, ate this book. Baxter could have given Marley a run for his money for the title ‘The Worst Dog Ever.’ Every dog owner should read this book. (There is a movie if you aren’t a reader.) John Grogan paints a picture that reflects the love and loyalty that only a dog can offer – no matter how many times they knock the garbage over, and you find yourself surrounded in a disgusting mess.

Over 11 years ago Baxter was rescued from Guardian Angel Basset Rescue and brought into my home. He was 9 months old and scared. He had been beaten as a puppy and didn’t trust anyone. That all changed with a ‘Baxter burger’ (a hamburger from McDonald’s) in the back of a car. Baxter had been run by his stomach, so it made sense that a burger exchange created love with his new family. I worked nights at the time, so Baxter and I spent many mornings strolling through a neighborhood park. I was determined to make this dog feel comfortable. Yet, it wasn’t that easy.

A beaten dog pees on the floor when you accidentally trip, lunges at strangers, and turns into an anxious mess when his people aren’t present. Baxter wasn’t easy. The dog park became a thing of the past. If a visitor came to the house, Baxter had to be put in a bedroom. But he loved his family, and he found joy in sprinting around the coffee table and knocking over the garbage. He experienced gliding in a canoe, camping in the snow, and hiking on rocky terrain. And with each daughter that entered my life, Baxter had another person to love and be loved by.

But 11 years is a long time for a dog…

One day I knew I’d be sitting in a veterinarian office remembering, crying, and letting go of that furry friend that so wholly became a part of the family. Monday was that day. And I didn’t cry; I sobbed. I remembered every silly little thing that Baxter did and then I cried harder. I said goodbye and cried some more. And, to be honest, the screen is blurry because I’m still crying. Those furry friends sure know how to take your heart.

Goodbye Baxter. You’re already missed. Bark all you want. None of the neighbors will care. Promise.