Our ‘Marley and Me’ moment was harder than I thought

Dr. David L. Chancey's picture

Did you see the 2008 comedy Marley and Me? Good story about a family and their dog. Lots of laughs, some language, a sad ending.

Our adventure into pet-hood began in early 1996. Someone had a litter of black lab puppies born in December and offered me one.

We loaded the kids up and drove to Jasper. When my youngest daughter asked me where we were going, I teased, “We’re going to look at Christmas lights.”

She thought, “In February?”

When we pulled into the driveway, we shared the surprise: we’re getting a dog!

As the kids debated about which puppy to choose, the owner told me, “Steve Bartkowski’s lab is the pups’ grandfather.” I don’t know if they had a connection to the former Falcon’s quarterback, but they were pretty.

The kids finally picked a female that was totally black. The little dog shook as each child took turns holding the box on the ride back home.

The kids couldn’t decide on a name. They kept negotiating: Cinder, Cindy, Shadow, Cinderella. After two weeks, we put the names in a hat and drew out Cindy.

By that time, she wouldn’t answer to anything except what they had been calling her for two weeks: Puppy. So she was Puppy. She grew to be a 70-pound-Puppy.

Puppy was playful. She’d retrieve the tennis ball, but wouldn’t give it back. We’d pry it out of her mouth, and throw it again. She loved to go on walks, and insisted on holding the leash in her mouth as if she was walking herself. She loved to roll in the grass and enjoyed anyone scratching her belly.

In our previous location, she had room to roam, but always ended up on our back stoop where she could see through the glass door. She liked to be included.

She was quite territorial. No one could pull up our long driveway without Puppy tearing down the steps and meeting them at the car door, barking and acting like she owned the place.

When we cooked out, I’d grill two hot dogs for Puppy. She’d smell that charcoal burning, come around the corner and wait anxiously. When I’d take the food into the house, she’d bark periodically to remind me she was waiting.

The years passed and arthritis developed. She slowed down and began gaining weight. She grew less playful, but she still loved walks. Since Christmas, we’d noticed a steady decline. She lost interest in walks. She didn’t dive into her food at mealtime and often left it there until morning. She developed other issues that revealed deterioration.

On a recent Tuesday morning, I came out for our morning walk, and she had collapsed. The doctor said it was heat stroke. He could treat her, take fluid off of her heart, and see how she did. But his opinion was that she had hit that wall that labs are known to hit at around age thirteen. She was thirteen and a half.

The kind thing to do was to put her to sleep. My son was the only family member in town. The vet was kind enough to wait until he arrived.

At 2:51 p.m. on June 23, she was gone. A chunk of my children’s growing up years was spent with that dog. My son’s lip quivered. I held back tears. My daughters told her goodbye over the cell phone. Even though we saw it coming, it was tougher than I thought.

This episode reminds us that death is part of life, and that we must be ready to go. As Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2 reads, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted.”

Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville. The church family meets at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.

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