Ryan (my youngest son...) has been in town this entire week. Since he attends dental school in New Orleans and this is Mardi Gras week, they let them out of school for the entire week, due to the high volume of visitors to the city. I always look forward to this week that I get to spend with my "Baby Boy". When Ryan is around the house, we just do whatever fun thing comes our way and one of the things we really enjoy doing is watching movies. We have visited the theater and the other day we actually spent the whole afternoon watching three movies, back to back. The first two were lighthearted, the third was one I had never intended on viewing again; "Marley & Me".
After seeing "Marley & Me" when it originally came out at the theatre was enough for me, however, Ryan told me that he had never seen it before and I insisted that it was one he could not miss. You see, we also had a yellow lab when the children were growing up; a yellow lab who very much reminded me of Marley...his name was Simba.
I can still remember the day Robby brought Simba home. I'm not sure I even knew he was buying a dog that day since I already had a little poodle at the time. But from the moment he sat that little puppie's feet on the floor and he barreled across it full force, sliding around, Simba was an intricate part of our family. I was given the task of naming him and quickly chose the name Simba with ease. "The Lion King" had recently come out and that yellow, chubby little ball of energy resembled the star of that show so much, that the name stuck.
Simba was not unlike Marley at all; tearing up any and everything that lay in his path. At first, we put him in our backyard, where he promptly ate all of the screens off of the windows, chewed the swimming pool rope in half and dug up most of my flower beds. Standing with hands on hips, tapping my foot, I declared, "Robby! This dog MUST have his own space...BUILD ONE!" Instead, he decided that he needed school. I must say that Simba was the most well-educated dog there has probably ever been. He was Robby's duck hunting dog and he excelled in his doggy studies, staying with the trainer for weeks at a time. However, his path of destruction continued...
It wasn't long before we moved to another house and Robby did just that. Simba had his own house, enclosed in a large pen. Oh, it was a pen where he could see everything that was going and that just made him more determined to escape. It can only be called "escape" since I have never known a dog who could actually dig a three foot tunnel UNDER a fence to...well, "escape"! It was difficult keeping him in there and many days, I would just relent and allow him to run free. The only problem with that was the fact that we lived on a golf course. Let's just say, the golfers knew him by name. Simba would patiently sit on the green just in front of our house, wagging his tail while the golfers swung away. And as their balls would slowly approach the hole...Simba would snatch them up and take off running! Other than scream his name as they attempted to salvage a golf ball, I never got many knocks on my door; with one exception, however. One day I DID receive a knock and peeking out the window saw that it was indeed a golfer, I held my breath for the chewing out I was surely about to get. Opening the door, I found something else. The man started out by telling me that Simba had once again lay in wait on the green, snatched a ball and THEN...he was afraid he swallowed it! I was thankful that he seemed more concerned about Simba than his golf ball and thanked him for telling me about the incident. After calling the vet, he determined that we should do an x-ray to see if there was a golf ball rolling around inside our lab's tummy. When the vet came out to let us know what he found, he began the conversation like this: "I don't think that one golf ball would hurt him too bad, but since I also found another glowing one sitting in there beside that one, I suggest we just go in and remove both of them." WOW, Simba...Way to go!
The years passed and as the kids grew older, Simba grew older right along with them. He swam in the pool with us in the summer and David was known to sneak him upstairs to his room during the cold winter nights. They would bring him giant sized doggie breath mints, cave men sized bones to chew on and on occasion a new bed...which would be destroyed in less than 60 seconds. Simba continued to have that "roaming spirit" and when he decided to let it overtake him, it usually cost us more than a verbal thrashing from the neighbors. Once, there was a female dog across the entire golf course in the adjoining neighborhood who was in heat. Simba made his way right to her kennel and sat there barking and pawing the ground. They called us to come pick up their dog's unwanted suitor, but simply putting the "Escape Artist" back in his own pen did not work. After the second call, we decided that we would just tie a small boat anchor to the end of his leash so if (when...) he got out again, he would never be able to make it to the other neighborhood again. WRONG ANSWER...We found the anchor in the middle of the golf cart path the next morning right around the time we got the call that Simba had chewed up all of their water hoses and knocked more things over trying to get to that female dog's attention! (sigh...) We paid the bill.
We moved once again. Two of the children had gone off to college and although Simba was getting older, we decided he needed his own space. We put the sturdy old house out back and built him another pen. It wasn't long, however, that Robby decided that he had settled down enough to just allow him to wander around the property; we lived further out in the country, after all...what could he hurt? To our surprise, he actually stayed around the carport, front stoop and Robby's workshop. In his old age, I noticed the he no long got around as well, limping as he walked. The only exception to that was when he heard the UPS or Fed-Ex trucks coming down the road. He would jump up barking and chase them across our front yard. Most nights found him snuggled up sleeping with our cat, Clementine.
As Simba aged, so did his once virile body. His eyesight became poor as did his hearing. He became a fixture at my carport door. He was the guard that I knew would be there when I went to sleep at night and awoke in the morning. During his last year, he was no longer able to get into the pool and swim around with us on hot summer days, but we would put him on the steps to cool off. In the evenings when Robby and I would be in the hot tub, his hearing was acute enough to meander around and sit beside it, waiting on us to get out. Simba was 14 years old and I knew that the day would soon arrive when he would no longer be with us, but in my usual manner, I chose "Not to think about that right then". When we went to see the movie, "Marley and Me", there was not a dry eye in the theatre. Sniffling was the only sound that could be heard. I glanced over at my big old (teddy) bear of a husband and he was in tears as well. Looking straight at me he said, "When the time comes to put Simba down, you will have to do it; I will never be able to."
I remember the day it happened. We came home and Simba was not laying at the carport door. Robby walked out to his shop and found the old boy. He couldn't get up on his feet. Coming back to the house, Robby asked me to look at his leg. The summer before he had survived a snake bite that I had treated him for. I took a look at the leg and thought that could possibly be the problem, so Robby and Ryan picked that 80 pound yellow-grayed grand daddy up and loaded him in the truck for a trip to the Animal Emergency Care Center. When the young veterinarian came out, I knew the new was going to be grim. Simba had a broken leg. He suggested putting him down since he was so old and his arthritis was so bad. All eyes turned to me as I said, "NO!...NOT TONIGHT!" Ryan was the only reasonable one, stating that Simba had, had a good life and I wouldn't want him to suffer. Of course, I didn't want him to suffer, but I wasn't ready to give him up yet, either! In the end, they put him on an IV for the night and I told them I would take him to our vet in the morning; I would do whatever he suggested I do.
Our vet took one look at Simba and told us that his bones were not strong enough for the procedure they would have to do on the hip and leg. He also said he wasn't sure that he could even survive the surgery at his age. He had known Simba since we got him and been a friend of ours for many years. "Simba has lived a long, good life; it's just his time." My heart sunk. Robby instructed them to keep him comfortable until everybody who wanted to, could make a trip down there to say their good-byes. I had said mine the night before and could not bear to look into his eyes again. David was in town and decided to go down there. Preparing to be a physician, himself, he found himself sobbing at the thought of losing this family pet. He called his dad and asked, "How can you look in his eyes and do this?!" It was a very sad and tearful day for all.
When I eventually emerged from the house, red-eyed, long enough to get the mail that day, I was stopped by a neighbor I did not even know. She ask, "Where is Marley? I haven't seen him in a while. Oh, I know his name isn't Marley, but he sure looks like him." My eyes began to well up as I told her what had happened. This lady, whom I didn't even know also began to cry. As the weeks and months passed, each person who visited my house on any regular basis at all, asked the same question; the UPS driver, who told the story of making friends with him by bringing him treats, the lawn service people, whom he followed around to make sure they were doing their job properly, even the guy from the cleaners, who was accompanied by Simba to pick up and deliver our laundry each week. It seemed as though Simba had made many friends while here on this earth. People who aren't animal lovers don't understand us. They do not understand how these little creatures can wiggle and squirm their ways into our hearts, lives and families. But I know this one thing...Simba WAS "our" Marley. He was a free-spirited, vivacious member of this family. I still miss hearing him breathe deeply as I step over his napping body on my carport door step. We loved Simba...OUR "Marley".