So I am watching ‘Marley and Me’ on the television the other night, and my daughter comes into the room and asks,”Are you crying?” Real men don’t cry. Of course I wasn’t! Ok, maybe a little.
If you have never seen the movie, it is about a writer who picks out a puppy for his new bride as a gift. It is his way of starting a family without the kids and stuff. The dog ends up being a nightmare, tearing up the furniture, barking whenever it is inappropriate, and overwhelming whoever takes him for a walk with his size and strength. The writer does a column, mostly involving the dog in their lives. The readers love it and the column becomes a huge success. As the dog gets older and is having health issues, the family consisting of the original couple along with three children, look back at the columns and realize that Marley has been a part of every significant event in their lives.
Personally, I cannot remember a time when I did not have a dog as a companion. From German Shepherds, to Red Irish Setters, to Labradors and Golden Retrievers, I grew up around them. Sometimes I did not care much for them, like when I had to clean their pens. Sometimes I could not live without them, like when a girlfriend and I would split up and I needed someone to talk to. I remember as a young child going around the pond to fish and nearly stepping on a snake. My breath escaped me as I tried to scream; just an open mouth full of silence. In a flash, our…my dog Rebel leaped between the snake and me. He backed up into me, slowly pushing me backwards. I do not know if my memory has all the details, or if the details have changed slightly, but that is what I remember.
I have had dogs for hunting and they are invaluable. One thing, you have to keep them under control. A few years ago while dove hunting with my dad and son, my dad’s dog came along. A tall lanky black Lab, Spade was still just a pup, even though he had an adult dog’s body. Spade was anxious to please, and if he saw a bird go down, by gosh, he was on it! The only problem was he had my possession limit before I could fire more than a few times. He was grabbing everyone’s birds and bringing them back to us! You have to love that young go-get-em attitude.
My wife and I adopted a couple of dogs from rescue facilities. One, Riley, is part cocker spaniel, part dashund. I carried Riley duck hunting a couple of seasons ago. I was not really thinking Riley would retrieve my ducks; I was basically taking him as a companion. I wanted to see how he would do around gun shots and make sure he would not freak out sitting in a blind. I put the boat in the water, loaded all the gear, and then sat Riley in the boat. I could tell Riley was uncomfortable, so I rubbed his head and had him lay down on the floor. We were only a couple hundred yards in the water and Riley sprang forward from the front of the vessel. A huge splash followed. I threw the motor in reverse as I put together the scenario and realized Riley was in front of the boat. I heard some banging along the floor of the boat from underneath. “Riley is underwater bouncing off the bottom!” I thought. Out from the back of the boat in what seemed like an eternity, a few bubbles surfaced followed by a rust colored fur ball. I then concurred Riley had never been introduced to swimming as far as I knew. He did not panic, but he over compensated his doggie paddle, kicking his front legs so high in front of him that he would temporarily submerge to where his ears would be the only thing to appear at the surface before slapping the water once again with the next leg. I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and threw him over the side of the boat. He shivered for a bit after shaking. I could tell he was not going to be a fan of duck hunting.
The key to the story is Riley, Spade, and all the others I have had throughout the years would do anything for me or my family. They never would ask why, they would just do. They might be a little hard headed at times, they may do something wrong, but it was not because they meant harm. They just enjoyed being with us. They enjoyed trying to serve us. All they wanted in return was to be with them. And if you watch a movie like ‘Marley and Me’ and don’t think back to one of your best friends that may have made a run for ‘worst dog ever’ and a tear doesn’t find its way to your cheek, then you may not be a real man.