Until last weekend, I had my wife right where I wanted her...thinking I was a heartless robot, unable to show emotion. As all men know, showing emotion is a sign of weakness in a spousal relationship except when presented with a gift of a new power tool. "Oh, honey, you bought me the DeWalt DWM120 Heavy Duty Deep Cut Band Saw with the dual bearing blade guides??? Sweetie, you're the greatest! I love you SO MUCH." But then John Grogan had to enter the scene and screw up all my plans.
Who is this meddling Mr. Grogan, you ask? He's the "Me" behind Marley And Me. Grogan started off as a writer/columnist for a Florida newspaper, and gained fame when he and his wife decided to purchase the world's worst dog. This yellow lab, named Marley, quickly proved to be a holy terror, destroying every piece of the family home it could get its jaws around, humping the legs of innocent obedience trainers, and tackling UPS drivers on a daily basis. Grogan's life with Marley became the subject of his regular column, which eventually turned into a book and then a movie with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson.
And why do I have a problem with this man? Well, for the simple reason that his story was the first movie to bring tears to my eyes since watching Old Yeller back in my childhood days. And now my wife knows my weak spot. Yellow dogs.
I should first explain that I grew up with dogs. First there was Ogelthorpe, a beagle that was around when I came into the picture. All that I remember about him was he loved eating toilet paper and eventually went blind (two things that were in no way connected). Then there was Dusty, a violent dog that loved to eat children. More on Dusty momentarily. After Dusty we had a brief stint with an Airedale named Sheeba, a hand-me-down from a relative that for some reason didn't last very long. And finally, there was Magnum. Magnum was MY dog. Sure, my parents originally picked her up as a pet for my sister, but from the moment Magnum arrived at the house she was MY dog. Magnum was THE dog. The one you grew up with, the one you had all the fond memories of. And while we don't currently have a dog, it's likely next on the list after I find myself gainful employment. But for now I have to envy other peoples' dogs.
Okay, if you haven't seen the movie Marley And Me or read the book yet, stop reading now and go out and rent the movie before continuing. I don't want to be blamed for spoiling it for you. I'll wait.
Take your time.
Really, I'll be right here.
Okay, good you're back.
The story chronicles the life of Marley and, more importantly, his death as well. As the movie progresses, Marley grows up but changes very little, always leaving a path of disaster in its wake. But that also makes the dog endearing to its owners and to the audience, and in the end when the dog dies (of old age), it's sad. Really sad.
There were a couple of scenes in this movie that brought out some seriously repressed feelings in me. In one scene, Marley falls ill and is loaded into the back of the van, wrapped in a blanket, headed to the veterinary hospital. Jennifer Aniston believes this is the end for Marley, and says her goodbyes to him before the van pulls away. That scene instantly reminded me of Dusty. Back in seventh grade, an hour before leaving to present my findings on the Space Shuttle's human waste treatment facility at the school Science Fair, Dusty got loose and met up with the underside of a Pontiac. My sister witnessed it, and I still recall her scream a block away. The last time I saw Dusty, I said goodbye to her as she was lay still a blanket in the back of our monkey-puke green Buick Century Station wagon. Yeah, that scene hit a little close to home. Granted I'm no Jennifer Aniston, but still.
The other painful scene was when Marley's time finally comes, and Owen Wilson has to say goodbye. Marley lay on the vet's table, obviously aware of his own fate. This reminded me of Magnum, to whom I never had a chance to say goodbye because I had moved to Pittsburgh. But I remember my mom telling me about her demise and definitely hurting later.
At the end of the movie, my wife glanced in my direction. I attempted to say something thoughtful and poignant, but all that came out was some sort of a blubbering sound.
"Are you crying???" she exclaimed.
"pphhhhpphhh...nnnn..no.." I believe I said while slobbering on my shirt sleeve and averting my teary eyes.
"Sweety! You are!! Oh my gosh! You ARE human and have feelings! I knew there was a reason I loved you!"
Suddenly, she was all huggy and kissy and crap. Jeez, it sucked. Now she's going to want me to watch chick flicks and shop for clothing with her. Next thing you know she's going to want me to help host a Pampered chef party or something. Damn you John Grogan! I need to get my butt to Home Depot and buy ten bags of cement immediately before it's too late.
P.S. In case you don't believe that I we ACTUALLY had a monkey-puke green Buick Century Station Wagon, I've attached a video with a somewhat embarrassing voice-over done by an 18-year-old me as I follow my dog around the room. The car is there too. And yes, that's the Alan Parsons Project playing in the background.