Animal Hospital
Radiography
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Dedicated staff
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Hours of Operation:

Monday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tuesday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Wednesday: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thursday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sunday: 9:00 a.m-12 p.m.

The Marley effect: The human-animal bond

I have a confession. I never read the book, "Marley and Me." Never saw the movie in the theatre — not even when it first came out on video. I finally was able to watch the movie recently on cable. I have another confession. I loved it.

Everyone I spoke to about the movie said it was too sad at the end, but I loved everything about it. I loved the way that the filmmakers were able to portray just how destructive a puppy can be. I loved Marley flunking out of obedience school (that woman's leg will never be the same again). I loved the depiction of the change in the family's relationship with Marley as he grew. Finally, I loved watching Steve Grogan (Owen Wilson's character) saying goodbye to a beloved family member.

I do not love watching an animal euthanized but the bond between Steve and his dog was never more evident. I was also impressed by how the veterinarian was portrayed in this scene. Rather than coming across as goofy or cold, I saw her as compassionate and realistic. She gave all the options, offered her opinion on Marley's condition, and supported Steve's final decision. That is something that I know I always try to achieve.

Most importantly to me this movie highlighted the human-animal bond and dispelled the "Lassie" myth. The Lassie myth is a phenomenon that was a side effect of certain popular dog shows and movies such as, "Lassie" or "Rin Tin Tin." The myth states that because dogs are man's best friend that they will arrive in this world "pretrained," or somehow instinctively understand what we want. I have met some dogs that have the temperament and smarts to need little training but they are few and far between.

The human-animal bond describes an actual bond between us and our pets regardless of behavior. It is most evident in the movie when Jenny (Jennifer Aniston's character) has a meltdown. She has two children to deal with and has had it with Marley and his antics. Marley eats everything, barks like crazy at anyone who comes in the yard, and no one will baby-sit the kids because they know that means baby-sitting Marley also. She flat-out orders Steve to get rid of Marley.

Luckily, Steve takes Marley to his close friend's apartment and begs him to watch the dog for a few days to let Jenny "cool off". When Steve returns home that night Jenny is waiting for him and is self-aware enough to realize that the dog has not changed, their lives have. She also realizes that Marley has been a great friend to both of them before they had children and they cannot give up on him now. They keep Marley and he grows to become the best friend their children could ever have.

My family recently welcomed a Labrador retriever puppy named Jasmine into our home and she gets into everything. She's chewed through shoes, underwear, electrical cords (I am still not sure how she is still alive), markers, pens, pencils and crayons (yes, Crayola® does make over 100 colors and yes, these crayons do come out the same color they went in). She uses one of the cats as a chew toy and the other cats won't come down off the top of the refrigerator. She is also my son's best friend and my constant companion. I wouldn't want her anywhere but in my life. To me, this is the human-animal bond at its purest.

I hope, no matter which holiday you faithful readers celebrate this season, that if a pet (especially a dog) is a gift, that bond is immediate and lasts throughout your lives. Let me tell you, there are many more Jasmines, I mean Marleys out there than there are Lassies and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 12 years and is pictured with his son Matthew, as well as the newest member of the family, Jasmine, a Labrador retriever.

Author: 
Matthew Kearns, DVM