I finally read Marley & Me, and while I would hardly call it a great book–or even a good one–I will say that it was a nice read with a touching ending. It ended as I knew it would from the moment I saw that goofy looking lab on the front cover, but the point was not the ending, it was everything prior to that, everything that everyone who's lived with a dog has experienced. Marley was hardly unique, and hardly the terror the author and publisher would like us to believe, but he was a good dog who found his way into a good family. There could be a million books just like this one, but this was the one I read.
And this was the one which left me in tears, cuddled up next to Duncan repeating over and over, "You're a good boy, Dunc. You're Papa's good boy. I love you." And it was this book which made me get dressed and take Duncan over to the park for a late night round of chase and fetch and chase and wrestle and chase and love. I'm a good dog person, but when you hear stories about people losing their animal loved ones it makes you feel bad that you're not better; hell, that you're not perfect.
So it was with a healthy dose of guilt that I let Duncan drag me across Bowles to the fields. He grabbed the leash and led me there himself, his head high, his tail sticking up and out. And once we were there I let him off leash and threw the ball for 30 minutes or so, rolling him onto his back and rubbing his belly, grabbing at his big wet paws, pulling gently on his tail. He loved every minute of it, basking in the warm glow of my guilt.
But he gave back, he didn't just take. As we ran back and forth across the soccer field Duncan found a stick to play with. I should clarify, stick is misleading; Duncan found a branch from one of the Aspens. It was about 5 feet long and with several smaller branches on it, all still adorned with yellowing leaves. I watched him wrestle for several minutes, trying to get his mouth around the thing without getting stabbed. When he finally succeeded he held it up proudly, his head back as he marched it across the grass trying desperately to manage the weight and balance of it, blinking as the leaves rustled in his face. He must've carried it a hundred feet before it snapped in half. He puzzled for a minute, deciding which half looked better, finally settled on the one with the leaves, scooped it up and carried it until it, too, broke. By the time we reached the parking lot that branch was little more than a twig, a soggy thing no more than six inches across. But he still carried it proudly.