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F. P. Dorchak

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Marley & Me
1/10/2009 9:25:16 PM

My wife and I recently went to see Marley & Me (SPOILERS PRESENT THROUGHOUT!), and though I have not read the book, this movie moved me. We sat in a sparsely populated mid-week theater, and as we sat my writer mind began to think... okay, here I am all “good” with myself--yeah, no crying, here. Gee, I wonder how a director (and writers) can get an emotion on-screen to actually make people public. Grown adults. Wonder how they do that--will it make ME cry? I mean it’s just a movie, for cryin out loud....

I sat there thinking about our black lab, Mac, who died five-and-a-half years ago.

Will it bring back his death? How, when he finally died, I felt his essence--yes, his soul--actually leave his body. It was literally like a light switch had gone moment he’s awake and head up...and the next he lay down his sweet, soft, beautiful head of his...and that was it. And I bawled like a baby. It just exploded out of me--there was no controlling it, not even time to think about it. I didn’t care that the vet--a non-family member--was standing right there...or that my wife had observed me behave this way--losing my cool. You see, I never lose my cool. Never. I’m very collected. Controlled. Well, most times. According to my version of me. That’s not to say I don’t emote--I do--but it’s usually when some gnats get into my eye--or allergens.

But all this went through my head as my wife and I sat in that dim theater before the show. I looked to this young, twenty-something couple (most likely on a date) in the row directly before us. Yeah, I’m bettin she’ll lose it...would her guy? Be interesting to see as they left the theater. I continued to casually look around (were others doing the same?) about the group of people down toward the front--would they? The older people up behind us?

So (I continued to ponder), would *I* cry? I didn’t feel like I would...right at that moment. I felt good. In control. I...was a man. Me Man. We’re trained to not cry. It’s genetic. My wife and I were out on a date, midweek. I was feeling great. But, still, how did directors....

So, as we’re watching this movie (and it was great--hilarious--though I could see right at the onset that nether John nor Jennifer Grogan had ever had a dog and had not the strong mindset needed to control one, neither...), I appreciated all the puppy “money shots,” the cute ones, you know, two or three-month-old puppies looking up to ya from inside their pen? Tearing things up, then looking up at you as if to say “Did I do good?” How can you not wanna hug them? As my wife said, “little growing things” (my words) like babies and animals have to look cute to keep adults from killing them when they did all kinds of bad. But I knew where this movie was headed even without reading the book. It was going to show an unflinching view of one dog’s life...from beginning to end...wrapped around and within the structure of this couple’s life.

I was still thinking I was “good”....

And slowly, subtly, as Marley “aged” (even before they overtly pointed it out in the film) I noticed the signs of it on him...the white, wizening face...the thinner body. Not as active as he used to be. The baleful eyes.

Then it began.


I was thinking, dang, must have gotten hand lotion near my eyes again. It’s so dry in Colorado, you know....

Quickly I wiped at them, and all was good again. Don’t think anyone noticed.

Then it happened again.

Must’ve have gotten some cat hair...again wiped dry. Quickly. There were some “bright” screen scenes lighting up our seats...don’t think anyone was watching me....

A third time.


Then they showed the classic “farting dog” scene, only this time it really was the dog. And when Marley ran outside--I knew what was happening. Damn it, but I KNEW it. And once again, the tears flowed, and this time, nothing stopped them--and you know what? I quit trying to pretend and let them flow down the side of my face, hoping there were no “bright scenes” coming up after this set of scenes that would highlight my inability to control my emotions.

Sure enough, it was as I knew, and from then on, the water works blew, and blew good. But guess what?


You betcha, there were sniffles there, blowing of noses over there...outright sobbing in a couple places. Oh, yeah, those damned writers--that damned director--they did it! They frigging made us all bawl like babies out in public!

And yes, it did bring back the time we had to let our Mac little buddy who followed me everywhere--outside for yard work and chores...our walks...listened to some eleven years of me reading my manuscripts out loud. Those big brown, emotionally deep eyes. How can animals not have a soul, I ask? Have you ever lived with one, loved one--looked into its deeply unconditionally devoted and adoring eyes? I could never stay in a bad mood when I came home from work and saw Mac’s inquisitive head poking around the corner at my entrance...his powerful wagging tail, his excitement to see me--and hey, let’s play! It’s more than food and a warm place to sleep. It’s love. And to physically lose that love hurts--and it should.

But, oh, how good and cathartic it felt, watching Marley & Me! It was such a pure, pure unabashed joy of emotion to watch Marley and all his antics and to remember what it was like with our black know that Mac and us spent some really important time together on this earth with each other. We both learned a lot. I even found myself wondering if I could ever get another dog in our lifetime...could I stand going through that pain again, of seeing him die. I know there is life beyond life, but it surprisingly didn’t keep me from exploding into bawling child at the very moment I felt the life in my little buddy depart us on that table. But that’s okay. It means there was an attachment there, between us, and I was sad to see him go--though I understood the necessity of it. It’s part of being Human. It’s part of living. We all gotta die sometime of something. But in the meantime, we live. Live and learn. And that’s what Marley & Me (at least the movie) was about--about living and learning. Growing, and how Marley was directly instrumental in that process. He was so much more than “just a dog.”

Go see Marley & Me--you’ll cry out in public like a newborn--but you’ll love it. And by the way, that young twenty-something couple? My wife says she heard the girl weeping. As I looked to the guy’s face on the way out, though, it appeared stone-faced (as in “expressionless”). I’d like to think he shed a tear or two silently to himself, but who knows, maybe he was made a stronger stuff then me....

Happy 2009!

Comments (1)

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Henry Hudson, Doomed Navigator and Explorer by Anthony Dalton

Captain Henry Hudson's four Arctic voyages are recounted here, along with tales of survival, Arctic winters and mutiny at sea...  
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