Saw a bit of Marley and Me over the holidays, and it makes me sad + mad. Sad for obvious reasons – I always hate it when (spoiler alert) the dog dies. And mad because I didn’t listen to my dear friend Charlotte back in the early 80’s when she urged me to write a book about my firstborn son who just so happened to be a Golden Retriever. My Timber was equally if not more interesting and a lot less messed up mentally than that Marley critter. I could be the rich author raking it in instead of John Grogan (plus isn’t he busy enough singing “You Raise Me Up”?), and Jennifer Aniston could have played me in the movie, since she’s basically my Doppelganger. My book would have been called Me ‘n Timber, because grammar wasn’t my strong suit in the ‘80s.
We got him as a pup in June of 1981, and we did that obnoxious thing that people who love dogs do, of going to see the puppies at 3 weeks of age at the breeders, and picking one out and then going to visit him until it was time we could take him home. I remember picking him up and putting him in the back part of our “Scout” truck, but he didn’t like it there so I had to stop and get out and put him on my lap, where he rode the rest of the way standing up on my lap looking out the side window. That set the stage for how he was going to be brought up.
The first day that we left him alone while we went to work, he didn’t really like that either. So every day after that, he came along to work with me. I worked at a vet clinic and he basically became the clinic greeter. He would sit by my desk in the back, or hover outside the surgery, depending on where the action was. He would run out to the reception area whenever anyone came in and wag and look behind him as if to assure them that somebody would be right out. Sometimes he slept out in the reception area, and would be too lazy to bother greeting anyone but would just lie there thumping his tail instead.
We used him at the clinic shamelessly. He was in charge of keeping yappy dogs quiet who didn’t like to be left alone. We would put him in the kennel room and he would lie there like an annoyed babysitter. He was our in-a-pinch blood donor. If a dog came in that had been hit by a car and was dangerously close to death, we would borrow some blood from Timber, tapping right into his vein in his neck and he would sit there still as a statue as we let gravity help us gather. (Apparently matching blood types isn’t a must do if it’s only happening once.) He would let us place orphaned kittens or cotton-tail bunnies on him for warmth, in between the times when we would feed them with tiny bottles. He would let them snuggle in to his furry belly, and he seemed to quite enjoy it, although if you made a fuss he always looked embarrassed like he wanted to stress that it wasn’t his idea.
He was a seasoned commuter, and our family of 3 would set out together each morning. I had to drop hubby off at work and then Timber and I had another 20 min. drive to the clinic. We drove a big old 1967 Ford Galaxie, and he had the whole long bench backseat to himself. He would sit leaning super-casually against the door, gazing out the window – he never did that dog thing of sticking his head out. I expect he thought that was way too unsophisticated and dog-ish. Occasionally he even used the armrest.
Not that he was perfect. He got into trouble sometimes. One day hubby was driving us along in the a.m. and I was having my usual breakfast of a banana, when we both smelled something horrific. We could barely breathe, and then looked in the back seat and a rather sheepish looking Timber had just yacked up an impressively sizeable cat turd, still coated in litter. It was disgusting.
Another time he helped himself at home in the morning to an entire pound of butter. Strangely, it didn’t agree with him, and though he held off his nausea until we got to work, he hurled up a pale yellow oil slick about 15 feet wide right beside my desk. I couldn’t even clean it up, it was far too gross – the paper towels just slid around on it. My co-workers cleaned it up while I gagged helpfully in the corner. In spite of mopping, people were slippity-sliding past my desk (which held an abacus and a lot of carbon paper, because it was the 80’s) the whole rest of the day.
PLUS he once consumed an entire cheeseball that I had slaved over. It was Christmas Eve, and we were entertaining and we went to the door to see our guests out, and he joined us a few minutes later, but couldn’t stop licking his lips. We discovered that the coffee table now held crackers only, with a big gaping hole where the beautiful crushed-pecan coated cheeseball used to be. (In his defense, he may have mistaken it for a giant round cat turd coated in litter.)
Timber loved every person he ever met, with the exception of one man, who unfortunately was someone we had to see regularly. He turned into a whole different canine when the dead stock guy came to clean out the freezer of all the dead animals. As the guy would go up and down the stairs to the basement, carrying out the dearly departed “petcicles”, Timber would growl and back up, as if to say “You’ll never take me!”. The guy was kind of a creepy ghoulish character – I mean who does that for a job, especially in the 80’s when the economy was booming? He could have been doing something awesome like pumping gas or renting out beta movies. But I digress …
Timber was a remarkable boy and enjoyed all the privileges that went with being an only child, at least until we got some offspring of the two-legged variety. Then there was a bit of a power shift and he begrudgingly took on the role of family pet. I always knew he was acting though.