Fond memories bring smiles and laughter that wipe away tears — remembering Marley

Devastating news yesterday morning. My daughter called to say she and her husband received the veterinary doctor’s diagnosis on Marley, their 10-year-old German Shepherd. The dog’s pancreatitis had worsened and sepsis had set in. Marley was suffering. With dismal prognosis, there was no other option.

A hard blow. Two months ago, Oliver, their 12-year-old German Shepherd succumbed to cancer. Still recovering from a heartbreak over Oliver, this news was just too much to take. Over the phone, I could hardly make out my daughter’s words. Sobs so deep blurred her speech. But when I heard “Marley has to go”, my heart sank. Hearts are being broken all over again. These dogs are my daughter and her husband’s “kids”, and I’m the grandmamma. How much more pain can one take?

What does this Lola remember about Marley? When she was a newly acquired pup 10 years ago, Marley was very delicate and dark. I wouldn’t have guessed then that she would develop parcels of blond on her body, because she was almost dark as midnight, but very, very cute and shy. Whenever she saw my husband inclined and resting on the couch during our visits, Marley would hop on to rest on his chest and would fall asleep as Lolo gently stroked her fur. Grandpappa’s chest was her self-designated crib.

In later years, Marley became a real pretty lady dog, but with the same dark, almond eyes that seemed to reflect great intelligence. She acquired some social grace and learned to approach newcomers in the house (like grandpappa and grandmamma), and greeted with a soft rub of her nose on our legs. When she got bolder, she’d hop on the couch between grandpappa and grandmamma and claim her place between us, crowding and shoving us a bit to get her comfortable space. And of course, always she waited for that loving stroke on her head and back before she’d exude a contented snort.

During my visit a few months ago, Marley would position herself on the couch behind me and watch as I worked on my laptop. Now and then, she’d perk up her head and wait for me to acknowledge her, or sing to her my made-up skittish Marley-O tune or ‘Jesus loves you’ song – and then, she’d lay her head on her paws, very relaxed and happy, broad smiles on her slender face.

Marley had a feistiness, stubbornness, sassiness that were so endearing. I recall during my visit that when my daughter and son-in-law fed the dogs with grilled chicken meat – Oliver claimed his portion with such dignity. Daisy gently took the piece off her mommy’s fingers, while Marley jerked the meat off her daddy’s hand and happily munched away like it was the best thing in the world; then nuzzled her daddy’s arm for more.

Two months ago, Marley sadly experienced the loss of her big brother Oliver, another German Shepherd. She was observed to be moody and somber soon after that. And now, it is her lil’ sis Daisy, also a German Shepherd, who is bearing the sorrow of losing a dear sister and playmate. I clearly saw the sadness in Daisy’s big hazel eyes when I facetimed with my daughter yesterday. As I recall, before that, Daisy’s eyes were nonchalant but confident, like nothing else mattered in the world but Daisy. Yesterday was different – there was a strange and quiet depth to them. Remarkably, doesn’t that tell you that animals do feel?

Marley was definitely my favorite of the three dog siblings. She was the friendliest to me. Of course, I love them all. I so remember Oliver’s protectiveness, alertly seated on the granite floor watching me as I finished my work in the kitchen at my daughter and son-in-law’s place during my visits. He wouldn’t leave my side until I finished and closed the lights to go upstairs. Then, he’d bound up the steps after me and position himself on the landing like a regular sentinel. Back to Marley – today, I whispered to the wind hoping it would carry my words to her – and said, “Marley, you were my favorite. But Daisy will now be grandmamma’s favorite – and I hope that’s OK with you.” I think Marley is very happy about that. Wouldn’t you think so? She was a loving yet playful older sister to Daisy.

Grief is a very painful experience. In the span of two months, my daughter and her husband had undergone such pain with the loss of Oliver and Marley. I shared with them that my prayers are heavy with tears as I ask for God’s comfort for them (and for lil’ Daisy, too). For now, grief is abyssal and lonely. But light comes over the darkness. Eventually, grief morphs into fond and happy memories that evoke smiles and laughter, or simply, a wistfulness cradled in love and thankfulness.

Thank God for the light. He is the light.

Linda P. Jacob