On the Loss of My dog and My Best Friend Marley – A Story of Love and Loss
This is Marley. He was my best friend. A year has now passed since we said goodbye and my heart aches every day that I will never be able to see my best friend again, for the long walks, to be able to stroke his soft fur and look at his beautiful brown eyes.
You see Marley has been such a big part of my life, and I hope that I have been an equally big part of his. We first met back in July 2003. It was a funny old time for me. I was happy with my boyfriend, now husband. We had moved in together, I had a good job and we lived somewhere that had a nice garden and good walks nearby. It was a strange time because I was in a new place and was seen to be a bit “different”. Maybe because I was still a bit of a free spirit, probably dressed a bit different, passionate about my music and not from the “in crowd”.
We decided we needed a dog. From the day I met Marley at the local rescue centre I felt it was good to be different, for at the same time he had been rejected by his previous owners and probably wasn’t in the in crowd either. The Centre said people had come to walk him with a view to taking him home, but for whatever reason, he never went home with them, which is a good thing because he came home with me.
My now hubby came to the rescue centre to meet him and instantly warmed to him too. He was about 10 months old, we think. He was a cross breed yellow labrador -staffie, we think. His coat was too big for him so he had lots of extra furry skin that used to hang down like an oversized jumper. I fell in love with him straight away.
I remember walking him the first time and having that childlike pride of wanting to say – ” Look at me. This is Marley. He’s Ours”
From then on in Marley was part of us. It wasn’t just me and Andy anymore, we had to think about Marley and his needs. We went away to Somerset that first Christmas we had him. We’d set off for wild wintry walks at ten in the morning and come back at sunset. Then load up the log burner and have that feeling of utter contentment knowing that our Marley was content. His snores were the best indication. On the drive back from that first holiday he managed to creepy silently, centimetre by centiemetre from the back seat to the front to lie across Andy’s knee as he drove. If there was ever a more obvious way to say thankyou then this was it.
The early years with Marley weren’t without hiccups. He ate the wooden window blinds, he ate the wallpaper. He ate my flipflops. He ate his way into my heart. We bought a new house which needed huge amounts of work on it. We worked all week then worked on the house all weekend, all the time Marley was with us.
We moved into said house and loved it. It is still our home today, 12 years on. We’d walk for miles with Marley, we climbed Snowdon and Ben Nevis with him. He was a part of everything we did.
In 2007, we got married in the Church right near where we lived, Marley was with us. It wouldn’t have been right him not being there.
Then came the birth of our first daughter and Marley would lie next to her bouncy chair as if it say its ok, I’m looking after her too. Each time I was in labour with my two daughters, he wouldn’t leave my side. Putting his paws on both of my shoulders, he was such an intelligent dog. When the night feeds and sleepless nights came, those nights where I felt like I’d literally had about 10 minutes sleep, I would come down in the morning feeling almost too tired to face the day. He would just look at me as if to say “I know”. I would bury my face in his extra fur and just sob. He made me feel like everything was ok again.
As the girls started to walk they would use him to steady themselves. on holidays in Devon he would sit infront of the beach tent and watch them as they tottered off. I sometimes felt it was like they had a big protective brother. Always watching out for them.
Marley was, well just always there for us and we were always there for him. We could communicate in a way that didn’t need words. We just knew each others feelings. We had so many happy times with him and we found a great place to stay in Devon which was to become our family holiday destination. Here’s me and Marley on the beach in Devon.
Quite suddenly in early 2015, he started slipping when he was eating his dinner. I bought him a non slip mat and that seemed to work. He was almost 12 so I thought his unsteadiness must just be a sign of him ageing, even though I didn’t like to admit he was getting older. He still went for fairly long walks, but he’d also be happy to sleep (ahem on the settee) with the girls playing around him. It got to the February school holidays and one day as we were all watching a film, he got down off the settee and was hideously sick. He also was really off his food and I booked him into the vets to get him checked.
I took him on my own and had to slide him in as I always did. He was not keen. I’m sure the vet was just going to prescribe something to make him better but as she felt all round his tummy, her face fell. ” “He has mass, some kind of blockage” She said. ” It doesn’t look good” . My heart started to beat out of my chest. They scanned him and confirmed he had a tumour in his spleen. That same week they removed his spleen but it was also in his liver. The vet said he would be with us for 4-6 weeks. I couldn’t get my head round it. They had to be wrong. That said, the Vet was so lovely, I trusted her and Marley had always seen her and at the back of my mind I knew she was probably right. It was such an aggressive form of cancer that the survival rate was virtually zero, and Marley was 12. Then out of the blue the vets rang us and said Marley could have chemotherapy tablets. They wouldn’t cure him but could let him have a good quality of life for a few months longer. That sick feeling in my stomach changed and I had a bit of hope.
I looked at my gorgeous Marley, stroked his soft fur and looked into his beautiful brown eyes. ” I’ll always look after you boy, ” I whispered. I just wanted him to come on holiday with us one more time. I wanted him to lie on the patio and feel the sun on his fur again. He slept in our room, on my daughter’s old cot mattress. I’d sometimes wake up in the night and hear his gentle breathing, which reassured me. Over the next few weeks he seemed to be ok. Went on little walks and had lots of snuggles. I reassured him and hugged him, burying my head in his extra fur but trying not to show him anything was wrong. The chemotherapy tablets were ready for collection on the Friday. I woke up on the Thursday morning ( 5 weeks after his diagnosis) and he wasn’t in the room. Sudden panic then I wandered into my eldest daughter’s room to find him in there. Sleeping next to her bed. He looked so content – even though he would go into the girls’ rooms he never slept there all night. Friday Morning the same happened, he’d spent the night in my youngest daughter’s room. I didn’t know it yet but he was saying goodbye.
That day he rapidly deteriorated, he lay down but couldn’t get up. It was like he had no energy and it had all left in his body. He couldn’t move. I’d asked the vets the signs to look for. They said if his gums were white, he could have an internal bleed from the tumour. I had a look and my heart sank. They were white. I rang the vets and choked back the tears. They asked me to take him in and it took two of us to lift him into the car. Once there the vets checked him and he had a scan and they confirmed that he had had a bleed and they could try and stem it but the end result would be the same. He probably wouldn’t survive the day. “How will he be feeling?” I asked. They confirmed he would just feel very light headed at the moment but to stop it becoming really quite awful and painful it would be the best option to avoid pain for him to be put to sleep.
I rang Andy in tears. We had always agreed that we wanted it to happen at home. We wanted him to be comfortable and not suffer, and go to sleep peacefully in a place he loved. The girls had said goodbye to him that morning not knowing what could possibly happen. They hugged and kissed him as they always would. Andy met me back at home where we both lay on the floor with him, stroking him and reassuring him. Thanking him for all he’d taught us and what a loving boy he’d been. Telling him that he would be ok and that he’d be able to run free again. The vets came and it was all so peaceful. He lay in the sun drenched room where we’d had so many happy times with us. I lay with and stroked him and told him that we all loved him. Then he was gone.
I have never cried so many tears. We buried him peacefully in the garden and lay a headstone with his pawprints and his name on, which we all made together as a family when we knew he’d not go long.
The next few days were a blur. I had never experienced such grief, such absence. I once thought I’d caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. But no. I thought about him ALL the time. I would never be able to see him again, feel his soft fur, smell his lovely paws. My heart felt like it had been ripped out and I was dragging it along beside me in a hessian sack. I once said to Andy. ” I don’t understand why the whole World isn’t sad”. That’s what it felt like. I slowly understood that because I loved him so much this is why I felt so sad. I used to wake jolt upright every night. Every night for a whole year. I think its because I felt like because he had gone 5 weeks after we had found out he had cancer, it was so quick and I’d wanted to be able to do more for him. I worried that other things would go wrong too. That I had no control over such things.
This last year has been the hardest, and saddest year of my whole life. I fully understand that he was a dog, not a person, and the tragedy of losing a person is definitely worse and more intense than this. I used to say this to Andy, and he has lost people, but he never ever belittled my grief. He said it doesn’t matter that he was a dog, you loved him so much and that is why you are so sad.
As the Anniversary of his death approached I started to look at the World in a different way. I knew Marley wouldn’t want me to be sad. The thing that I have learnt is that because dogs have a much shorter average life than the average human, they seem to appreciate things more. Maybe that’s why when I just popped out to the dustbin that when I came back he’d give me such a welcome. He was so gentle that he would turn children that were scared of dogs into dog lovers. Yes we are (hopefully) on his earth for longer than our furry friends, but I think if we took a leaf out of their book more often our lives would be happier and more fulfilled. Think less about the material and more about the emotional. Love with a big happy open heart…… Drink in the sunshine and show your happiness.
Marley was such a big part of our family and our lives, it felt that when he left us, a piece of our family went too. However, he will always be part of our story. That will never change. I have love in my heart for our new pup too. He has enormous paws to fill but a new chapter is beginning and I’m sure Marley will be looking down and telling us to enjoy the ride.