The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Western Tribune Column January 7 2009

One of the things about posting these column online is that I can add pictures or links, which I can't do in the paper.

Picture from

Marley and Me

In need of levity after all the gunfire that welcomed the New Year in Bessemer, we went to see a movie, Marley and Me, that we thought would be funny. Part of the humor in this is that Marley is supposedly the world’s worst dog, when many in Bessemer know that the title is currently held by my daughter’s dog. Or dogs. Sometimes they team up; it seems, to do their mischief.

That’s not the only similarity, however, as Marley’s owner is a newspaper columnist.

But I had an even greater interest in seeing the film. As a retired veterinarian I was interested in a story that explores the human – animal bond, which for many, is as strong as other family ties.

Whereas dogs and cats used to be thought of as disposable, to use a crude term, now most pet owners see these pets as irreplaceable. And we have learned in recent years that pet ownership has health benefits, especially for those who live alone, or are elderly.

Pets (with the exception of a couple) have a calming effect, and studies have shown that petting your dog or cat can actually cause a reduction in blood pressure and that ownership reduces cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease.

We are also learning that pet ownership can improve mental health and that symptoms of depression and other diseases can be reduced by owning and caring for a pet.

There are, of course, responsibilities that come with owning a pet. In the movie the owners, while being somewhat negligent where early training is concerned, remained responsible as their family grew with the birth of their three children, and the family benefited from having him.

There is a major difference between the dog in the movie and the dogs in this house. Marley provided enough material for his real life owner, John Grogan, to write years of columns and eventually the memoir that the movie is based on.

In other words, Marley brought big bucks to his owner. I’m fairly confident these dogs won’t bring in any money; in fact just the opposite seems to the case.

But it could be worse.

You might have to see the movie or read the book to understand, but at least we don’t have mangos growing in the yard.



Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the movie, but the book was wonderful. As I recall, the book portrays lots of attempts at training, none of which took very well.

Your babies are gorgeous! I can't imagine a world without pets. Even neurotic ones like mine. :)

Anonymous said...

We saw the movie on its opening night in Birmingham. I too read the book last year and enjoyed it. We have two yellow labs, a male and a female. They are seven and six years old respectively and I cannot imagine my life without them.

They are such an integral part of our lives for many of the same reasons that Marley demonstrates in the movie. They sense our feelings and adapt their behavior accordingly. Not a day has passed in the last seven years that I have not been given a smile, a chuckle, or a hearty laugh as a result of their presence in our lives. They love unconditionally. I have always loved the sentiment that my life will have been a success as long as I am able to be the person my dog thinks I am.

When the time comes when I must say goodbye to them I hope I will find comfort in the following thought paraphrased from Stephenie Meyer's book, Twilight: When life has given me gifts beyond all imaginable possibility, what right do I have to be sad when they come to an end.