Sunday, November 06, 2005

You could learn a lot from a lab

Annie the labrador

My illict connections to the publishing biz netted me an advance copy of Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog, one man's memoir of life with a big ass labrador retriever. It's a heckuva book, crampacked with humor, sharp storytelling, and, in the end, a poignancy that'll shake you to your very core.

This intense resonance may correlate to the fact that I too once shared a home with a yellow lab named Annie. Behind that sweet All-American girl's name lay 75 lbs. of intensity that could knock an aunt to the ground with the mere ring of a doorbell. Who, when set free from the chains that bind her (namely, a fraying red leash), could outrun the NCAA athlete in the family. Whose appetite could be not sated by mere dog food, forcing her to snack on the TV remote control and our Brutus Beefcake action figure.

And yet the enthusiasm that awaited me every trip home, with a tail wagging hard enough to clear a coffee table and a tongue falling out of her mouth, always made her indiscretions seem trivial. You can't buy love like that, at least since Guiliani cleaned up Times Square, and you genuinely wanted to protect her during the thunderstorms that sent her under the coffee table cowering in irrational fear.

Would life be better if we were more like dogs? At the end of Marley and Me, the author reflects on lessons learned from his labrador:

Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things - a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity.

Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.

Not such a bad dog after all.

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