At times like this it’s difficult to know what to say. So many of you have expressed your condolences and sadness and let me know how much I did for Marshall in the short nine months I had him. But truly, if I am honest, this dog came into my life to bless me with lessons unimaginable.
Marshall had the unique ability to forgive, something most of us struggle with, something I have a monumental problem doing. After so much misery in his life, like most dogs, he was willing to continue living, forget his past as best he could, live in the moment and learn to accept kindness and love from the very species that tortured him for ten years. He was continuously wary, startled by loud noises, terrified of anything new; Lord knows he had the right to that and even more. But he also found great pleasure in following me about the yard, back and forth watering the flowers. I would water with the hose; he would then pee on everything I watered. He finally learned to come forward for a pet and a love. He surmounted the monumental task of coming through the open door. And the last few months of his life he would run in after his morning pee and dance in circles looking for his first treat of the day. He even came to accept strangers and ran to the fence as if to say “Look at me, aren’t I wonderful?” As I watched him blossom from the cowering dog at the back of his crate to barking for his supper as if he had the right, I began to see that as he let go of his hurt, his anger and suffering, his heart opened up to all the gifts around him. Forgiveness was the key. Forgiving without holding a grudge was the golden ticket.
I wanted so much for this little soul. Once anybody looked into the eyes of this small dog, hobbling about on arthritic legs and deformed paws, they couldn’t help but walk away somewhat changed. I wanted him to learn to enjoy being held and cuddled. I wanted him to join Sharkey, Charm and I on the sofa as we watched TV. I longed to see him ride in the car with his nose out the window sniffing the air for whatever it is dogs seem to find on the breeze. These things would never come to fruition, but he was happy all the same. I learned that for Marshall, exactly what he was would have to do, because that was enough for him. Tottering about the yard, eating poo, and enjoying a warm day. Just standing on the grass with his nose in the gentle wind doing nothing for many minutes at a time was all Marshall needed to be happy. He liked to pee on the dog next door through the fence, that was one of his favorites. He enjoyed Kittyhead rubbing against him first thing in the morning. And every evening when I would sit on the floor of the living room, all three dogs and the cat vying for attention, Marshall would plop his little rump down next to me and just sit, happy if I gave him a pat, and happy if I didn’t. He just enjoyed being part of the group. He had learned to run, to jump and to be a little joyful.
What Marshall was seemed to be enough for him, and in finding my way to accept that I gave up the grandiose dreams of him ever being a ‘normal’ dog. And in giving up that dream I learned that acceptance was the second key to finding and keeping love in this world. Accepting people in your life for exactly who they are and not expecting them to change despite your best efforts.
Marshall found the courage to become strong in all his broken places rather than hiding them away from the world. Do I think he really knew that was what he was doing? It's difficult to say. Dogs have a unique ability to live in the moment. They also have a spiritual connection that many of us don't understand. But whether or not doesn’t negate the lesson for me one bit.
I had many more chapters to write about Marshall – they were all outlined and the photos taken. I have been so busy with human matters in life that I neglected to post them to this blog. They will now have to wait for his book. Last night Sharkey kept vigil over Marshall. She guarded his door from all who came near, even when I approached. Both she and Charm howled in absolute grief as I loaded his crate in the car early a.m.
This morning, after a short bout with some sort of debilitating cancer, Marshall died in my arms on a large tree stump in a garden. The vet understood that I couldn’t possibly take him into that clinic to end his life. It was peaceful and quiet, out in the open space and fresh, crisp air. With his head in my hands I watched him go, those big eyes looking up at me much like they did that first day I sat in his kennel at the rescue. He blessed my life with more than I can repay. I blessed him on his way home with words of love and tears of grief. Heaven is all the better for his presence.