It was December of 2002 when our house phone rang sometime before dinner. I answered and listened as a woman on the other end asked to speak to a parent about a puppy. With Christmas around the corner, I knew what was up. 12-year-old me crept down the stairs Christmas morning expecting to see a puppy perched in a basket. Instead, a VHS rested on the side panel of our living room. It was the last gift to be opened. I sat on my knees inches from the TV and watched as the opening scene showed our Christmas tree with the typical sans serif white camcorder font reading “Merry Christmas Kids.” Next was Marley.
When we first met I thought he was going to throw up on me. We were in the
backseat of my mom’s Oldsmobile Bravada, on our way home from the breeder, when he began to gag. These ferocious little gags one after the other. Marley was carsick. We pulled into the driveway of his new home where I jumped out as fast as I could, puppy in tow and plopped him on the front lawn where he threw up. Good boy. That’s my first memory of him. 13 years of memories followed.
Marley was my best friend. He greeted me after the confusing days of middle school. He stayed put in my arms the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh time my first boyfriend broke my heart. He kissed me goodbye before I left for college. He helped me move out of my Junior Year condo even though I forgot his leash. He carried my pool towel up the stairs every single time. He gave me kisses and only me kisses. He opened my door every night to check on me as I slept. He joined me on every post-run cool down. He led me home safely on every trail we mindlessly hiked. He ate my crust. He finished my ice cream cone.
He picked up his toys from the lawn when I asked. He watched TV with me day in and out. He blew my cover when I’d sneak back in the house. He protected my home from miniature horses and neighborhood dogs by barking directly into his stuffed animals. He carried his leash the last quarter mile of his walks. He listened when I told him no. He left a plate of food at eye level untouched because I told him so. He waited for me no matter how far ahead on the trail he wanted to go.
That memory of Marley is my most cherished. A memory that happened many times over and I made a point to never forget. I’d be making my way around a bend through the woods to find Marley some 100 feet ahead. Ears perked, head cocked, stance strong, tongue out, smile on waiting to see his sister before barreling around another bend.
Marley was the first pet I knew from beginning to end. He was also the first living thing to teach me what it meant to love unconditionally. I’ll be honest Tupac was the first to introduce me to the idea of unconditional love, but Marley proved it to me. Not because of my unconditional love towards him, but his towards me.
Forever in my heart baby.