How many of us remember a favorite pet from our childhood? Or have enjoyed visiting the zoo? Or relish in walking in the woods and hearing birdsong, or seeing a deer leap away through the brush? How many of us have been thrilled by a soaring eagle? How often have we sought the comfort of a dog or cat, or wept tears of loss when forced to say good-bye to a furred friend? We are surrounded by our fellow creatures and often our lives are enriched by their presence, whether it be sharing our homes with them or simply being blessed to see them in passing. This week you are asked to share books (fiction or nonfiction) and/or movies which center around an animal or animals.
- Which are your favorites?
- Which touched your heart the most?
- Which have found their way onto your wish lists or TBR stacks?
- Is there a childhood favorite?
- Have you ever named a pet after an animal from a book or movie?
At the risk of suggesting the same book as half the country right now, I simply must discuss the book, Marley and Me. This book has a very special place in my heart.
I have always been a dog person: almost any size, any shape, any breed (or mutt) I LOVE dogs. The problem for me is that I have allergies – not the occasional sniffle and sneeze allergies – but asthmatic allergies. Before I was born my parents had a cat, Mindy, who mysteriously ran away when I was about 3 years old. It was not until about a decade ago that I discovered the truth: my parents had to give Mindy to another family because of my health issues. The doctors kept saying that very often children outgrow their allergies — but such is not my case.
When Geoff and I first got married we (well, I) desperately wanted a dog. I did the research and discovered that the Bichon Frisee breed was a great choice for those with allergies. We found a breeder, selected a puppy (her official name was “Bonne Chance” – which means “good luck” in French as she was born on our wedding day – but we called her Bonnie). I lasted 10 days. I was willing to stick it out, but when my boss told me that I had to get rid of the dog, I realized that I was trying to realize the impossible dream. It absolutely broke my heart to return Bonnie to the breeder.
While my allergies would allow us to have an outside dog, I don’t feel that I can bond with an outdoor dog the same way that I can bond with a dog that lives indoors with me all the time. So, we gave up on the idea of having pets, and went on to have 3 children instead.
Fast forward to 2004. My youngest child was in 5th grade and terrified of dogs! Imagine my surprise when she spot a For Sale sign for Yellow Lab puppies and begged me to stop. After spending nearly 45 minutes with nine 7 week old yellow and black lab puppies, Mandy finally gained the courage to pick one up and hold him. It was love at first sight and needless to say, two days later we were bringing Ralfie home. Now the deal was — Ralf was going to be an outdoor dog because of my allergies. I knew that the first two nights would be difficult sleeping for us — but I did not think that it was fair to keep the entire neighborhood awake while Ralf grew accustomed to his new home. So we decided to keep Ralf in a crate in the family room — where he has remained for the past 5 years.
I have chosen to manage my allergies with inhalers. Probably not the most healthy decision, but I would never give up the cherished time I have shared with Ralf — Mia — Jude – and now Bella, for anything. Yes, we are dog people. (we have actually had 3 litters of a total of 20 puppies in our house as well. The above picture is the first litter of puppies welcoming me home).
OK, Molly — so how does the book fit in already?! (sorry, I get a little passionate when talking about my dogs). Marley and Me was released in October (as I recall) after we brought Ralf home in May. I rarely buy books spontaneously. Rather, I do my research, hem and haw, drive everyone crazy with my “should I or shouldn’t I” – before I finally decide to try it at the library first. With Marley and Me, however, I saw the cover – picked up the book, walked directly to the front end, and paid for it. I came home and began reading the book immediately. The only problem was —- I could only read 2 chapters at a time. I would find myself laughing SO hard that I was crying and simply could not see the words on the page. John Grogan has an absolutely amazing writing style!! He can capture the love, warmth and true friendship that humans share with their pets, while at the same time capturing the frustration we sometimes feel towards our pets with compassionate humor.
I must admit, however, that I did not finish the book. Not because I just “couldn’t get into it” but because I knew how the book would end. It was inevitable, and I simply could not bring myself to face that essential part of life. For me, Marley is still the lovable lab that continues to bring joy and happiness to the Grogan family.
Unfortunately, I could not prevent the untimely death of one of my own beloved pets simply by closing the book before the last chapter and putting it back on the shelf. Last year, while I was studying for my Master’s Degree in Santa Fe, NM, my dear, sweet Mia died in her sleep at home. She was barely 3 years old and I still to this day miss her terribly. I wasn’t there to tell her good-bye, but I did journal my thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. It was the hardest thing I have ever written – but I am glad that I took the time to do so. I have my tribute to Mia posted for eternity, and if I ever want to try and recall her wonderful memory, all I have to do is revisit the post. My writing is not nearly as eloquent as John Grogan, but it is heartfelt and if you would be interested in reading my eulogy, feel free to visit here.