by Lindsay Gallagher on 07/23/2011
I love dogs.
When I was a child, we had a cat. Sally. She was not nice. I tried to hold her, snuggle with her under the covers and she scratched the shit out of me every time.
When I was 24, I met a dog named Daisy, my childhood friend’s Staffordshire pit, who had an awesome smile and a tremendous personality. I had never had one of my own, but when I met Daisy, I realized that I’d been a dog person all along.
“Lets get a dog,” I said to Joe that very day. So we went to the pound in Wilmington, NC. There, we met Marley, a 3 month-old black Carolina hound dog. It was love at first sight. We freed her mere hours before she was going to be “put down.”
I knew that I would enjoy having a dog, but the intensity of my love for Marley was still a surprise. She was loyal and joyous, exquisite, stunning — a remarkable athletic creature who pointed and leapt and kissed and cuddled and was always there by my side.
We thought that Marley would force us to settle down, but instead, Marley embarked on an adventure like no other dog, coming with us from NC, where she’d learned to ride waves, to NYC, where she hung out with teamsters on the back of the camera truck. We drove across the country twice during our move to LA, stopping at Taos to play in the snow.
In LA we hiked canyons with her and took her to Mammoth where she again frolicked in the fresh powder and even tracked the scent of a bear. When I windsurfed at Leo Carillo beach, Marley would wait for me on the dunes before chasing the surf.
She slept in the bed; she sat in the front seat. She was a princess — until we had kids.
We’d raised Marley like she was a child, so having an actual child rocked her world. Marley was not one of those dogs that protected the baby — she was jealous and she had good cause. We had Marley greet Ronan in the front yard instead of inside. We made a fuss over Marley as if she was the first-born. But when the truth hit that Marley was not a child and that the arrival of Ronan was a situation that demanded more than two walks a day and a fluffy bed, Marley was reduced to a dog.
Poor Marley. She had some adjusting to do. Turned out Ronan was allergic to her to boot. I wouldn’t get rid of her as many suggested, so when Ronan was a toddler, I spent most of each day vacuuming up her black hairs. There was no time left for her previously fabulous lifestyle. I kept her, but she lost her throne.
When Marley was old and grey a dear friend of mine gave me some advice. The dog that she had had since before kids, died suddenly one day.
“Don’t make the mistake I made,” she warned. “Be as nice to Marley as you can before she’s gone.”
I took it to heart and cared for Marley when she was an old-lady, blind and weak. That friend even welcomed Marley when we traveled so she could make up for the time she missed out on with her beloved dog.
When Marley died, it was a sad sad day, but I knew that I had done right by her in the end. The sorrow I felt was as surprising as that first love. I had no idea that I would dream about her, that I would wake up crying, that I would expect her to greet me at the door.
Now we have these two little dogs: Pepper, who we plucked from an adoption bin; and Flowers who was caught a few weeks ago in the flowers in our yard.
“She looks like Marley zapped with a shrink gun,” another friend said.
It’s true, she does. So am I going to keep her? Of course. I can’t have a big dog because of Ronan’s allergies, so a tea cup Marley is a perfect fit. Even grouchy Pepper has come alive since the arrival of the little black pup.
“What did you do with all of that alone-time?” another friend asked when I told her the kids were at camp.
“I spent some quality time with the dogs.”