I love animals. I often say they’re better than humans. After all, they provide us with unconditional love and they don’t have all of the faults and issues that humans do. Especially now, when many of us are at home because of COVID, our pets provide us with a level of joy and love that is irreplaceable. I also believe that until you live with a pet, you don’t fully understand just how profound that connection can be. They truly are wonderful beings. Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I hope everyone reading this had a fabulous holiday. Mine consisted of a bounty of food and watching two movies with my wife: The Break-Up and Marley & Me, both starring Jennifer Aniston. If you’ve never seen Marley & Me and don’t want me to spoil it, stop reading here. If not, let’s dive in.
Marley & Me was very hard for me to watch. It was a compelling story with plenty of humor and relatable situations, especially since it focused on two characters who wrote for a living. However, as I kept watching the movie and saw the dog, Marley, grow older in different scenes, I knew where the film was headed. The dog was eventually going to die.
As Marley & Me progresses, we see the dog struggling to walk, having stomach issues, and eventually hiding from the family because he’s trying to die alone. When Owen Wilson’s character carried the dog and placed it in the back of the car to drive him to his final trip to the vet, I lost it. Trying to hold back the tears wasn’t working. I started to full-on funeral cry. I’m pretty sure we had to pause the movie at one point because my wife wasn’t sure why I was so upset. Here’s why.
As these scenes unfolded and the inevitable played out, memories overcame me. I started to think about when I said goodbye to my Aunt’s dog, Sandy, back in June of 2015. My Dad told me, “They’re going to put Sandy down tomorrow.” I asked him for his car keys and I drove that night to my Aunt’s house because there was no way I wasn’t going to say goodbye to this special dog. For 17 years she would flip out every time I came over. First by running in place and then flying across the floor to greet me with her energetic kisses and hugs. Spending summers down the shore with her in Ocean City, walking her to the park, were wonderful memories too. She’s the first dog I fell in love with, and I’m sure she won’t be the last.
We currently have two cats: Pepper and Penny. Pepper is 10 and potentially on the cusp of needing medication for short-term or long-term health issues, who knows. So, the intense emotions I felt while watching Marley & Me were born out of my grieving for a pet I never had — my Aunt’s dog, Sandy — and one I care for every single day — Pepper. Imagining the kind of grief and sadness I’ll feel when Pepper eventually passes away, hopefully many years from now, was overwhelming because of how much I love him. Compounding this by thinking of Sandy at the same time made watching Marley & Me very difficult to do. I imagine as I have to say goodbye to more pets, watching this movie will be an impossibility. However, it is a very good film because it illustrates how death is a part of life and something we have to face head on. If you’re up for it or you can smile through the tears, then Marley & Me is definitely worth watching. And if you don’t have a pet, adopt one today. They provide us with more love than we ever could give, and that’s something the entire world needs right now, more than ever.