Archive for January, 2007

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

Friday, January 19th, 2007

One of the wonderful gifts my book has given me is the worldwide community of dog lovers who have shared their stories with me. Many of them are funny, recounting the goofy antics of their Marley-like pooches. And then there are those stories from the heart in which owners describe the difficult parting with a beloved pet. This farewell to a good dog arrived in my email box tonight, and I thought it was worth sharing. It reads:

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of our wonderful friend
and companion, our yellow Labrador, Taylor. Taylor died peacefully today,
without assistance, at the grand old age of 12. Kim and I were with her when she
died, and the kids all were able to say their good-byes. Taylor gave us a
scare one week ago, but rebounded to give us one more improbable week, prompting
us to call her the “miracle dog.”

Taylor was a gift to us as a one-year old, literally and with her gentle
spirit. Taylor was the most gentle and friendly dog ever known (except when
Airedales were around). She rarely barked, was never aggressive and was a
child’s delight in visits to our elementary school or the baseball field.

Taylor was also know for her insatiable appetite and ability to hear a thin
slice of ham hit the kitchen floor from the other side of the house. But as
much as Taylor loved snacks, she craved human attention and affection. No
visitor to our home escaped a nudge from Taylor’s snout as she sought a pat on the
head or a rub of her ears — and, thus, no visitor left without a full coating
of yellow lab hair.

Taylor was a “furniture” dog who hated laying on the floor when a comfy coach
or bed was available. In her earlier years, Taylor would be found most
mornings on the living room couch. She would slink off in shame when adults arose
for the day, but in later years the shame subsided, and she would just raise
her eyebrows in a questioning manner as you walked in the room, “You don’t
really want me to get off, do you? It’s cold on the floor, you know.” Her other
favorite overnight resting places were either Megan’s or James’ beds, where
she had very welcoming hosts. Taylor was also James’ close companion and
playmate in the hours before and after school. The rumble of a tennis ball being
thrown and chased and tackled in the upstairs hallway is a sound that will be
missed, and a cherished chaos that will not be replicated.

Taylor loved her walks in the fields of Iowa and Minnesota in search of
pheasants or quail. Like me, she wasn’t very skilled at the sport, but the walks
were always fun and exciting, especially finding all the great things a dog can
eat in a corn field. I was very blessed to have one last, great hunting day
with Taylor in the Spicer area of Minnesota just last month, hosted by Jacob’s
wrestling coaches. Thanks, gentlemen, you’ll
never know how special that day will always be.

Kim commented this evening that Taylor never acted like an old dog, always
bright in eyes, and spirit, and eager for a snack and a belly rub. Even during
her miracle week, knowing how fragile Taylor was, we marveled at her youthful
attitude, expressive face and eyes, and uncanny ability to catch a peanut
tossed across the kitchen.

Like Presidents, I suppose, our dogs help define the times of our lives.
Taylor now joins her beloved step sister, Lucy, who passed away just a year ago.
And I am filled with a great melancholy knowing that an exciting and
youthful-feeling era has come to a full close — of two labs romping in pheasant
fields together, wrestling in the backyard, turning heads on walks in the
neighborhood and resting peacefully together, cheek to jowl. They were a special pair.

Taylor will be greatly missed by us all and forever remembered with great
love. Goodbye, sweet girl.

Bob McFarlin

Some random musings…

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Hi all. I just wanted to stop in to say hello, and let you know I’ve been enjoying your notes over on the message boards. It’s very fun to see the mix of nationalities and cultures there now that Marley is out, or coming out, in 30 different languages. Brazilians and Koreans and Italians and Swedes and Australians and more are all coming together to share their stories. I marvel at how universal the human-canine bond can be.

I just returned from a brief one-night trip to the lovely city of Columbus, Georgia, right on the Alabama border. I was there to give a talk and sign books at a function for St. Francis Hospital. The folks in town really turned on the southern charm. If people were any nicer I would have thought they were trying to sell me insurance policies or something. There really is something to that “Southern Hospitality” stereotype. My only regret is that my inbound plane was delayed and I missed a lunch date to sample the city’s best barbecue. Darn!

This was my first out-of-town trip since before Thanksgiving. Having the quiet time at home has been nice after the wildly hectic fall, in which it seemed I was on the road more than I was with my family. And my calendar remains quiet until March when Jenny and I head to Palm Beach for an appearance I’m making for a literacy group. We’ll be staying at The Brazilian Court hotel, one of the most charming places on earth. When we lived in West Palm Beach, I used to reguarly ride my bicycle across the Intracoastal Waterway and ride around Palm Beach, always loving the lush foliage, shady bike trails and glimpses into the backyards of the rich and famous. The Brazilian Court was a favorite place to stop for lunch or a drink. So it will be fun to be back, even if only for a couple days. Some book trips are sweeter than others, and Palm Beach in March? That’s pretty sweet.

We’re hunkered in for winter here in Pennsylvania. I’ve been enjoying big fires in the fireplace, but am ready for a white blanket to freshen the joint up. It’s the second half of January and still no snow. In Marley & Me, I described the kids and dog sitting in the window watching the slate-gray skies for any sign of snowfall. Some things don’t change much. The kids are older and bigger now — Patrick is 14, Conor 13 and Colleen 10 — but they still are fretting about the lack of snow. We got the faintest dusting of white stuff this morning, and Gracie our Lab went bonkers, scooting her butt down and racing through the frozen yard like an insane-asylum escapee. And we say she’s the calm one. I can’t wait for the first big dumping to really get out there and have some fun.

Our whole family got a huge charge out of being featured on National Geographic Channel’s “The Animal Whisperer” with Cesar Millan earlier this month. We all gathered around the television for the episode and were impressed at how seamlessly the producers and editors stitched together the story from hours of footage shot over two days. Colleen was thrilled to be featured so prominently. Thank you, Cesar, for your interest, and for being such a good guy!

From Clean to Muddy

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

Paul B. of London, England, sent this photo of his Lab, Louis, which he points out is pronounced “Lewis” not “Louie.”

Of Louis, Paul writes:

“He came to us via a rescue centre in london – as a seemingly well-looked-after 8-month-old pup. This is him soon after we got him to our home in the country after enjoying the local muddy ponds. His other hobbies are chasing rabbits, escaping for long unoffical walks and of course food (ours, not his).”

A Lab loving water and mud? And chasing rabbits? And, most of all, stealing people food? Why does this sound oddly familiar?