Let me tell you about what made my dog so special.
This is Marley. I called him my Little Guy.
I was lucky to be Marley’s human. David and I adopted him when he was just a few months old. We named him for Bob Marley, one of David’s favorite artists.
We used to say that Marley was our first baby. And as you can see, he was adorable.
Marley was a black and tan Shiba Inu. He was born in Bend, Oregon, to a family that breeds Shiba Inu show dogs. When David and I adopted him, we didn’t have a lot of awareness around the importance of adopting from animal shelters, and in later years, we felt guilty about adopting a purebred dog. But Marley made our lives beautiful.
However, things didn’t start out being beautiful. In fact, our first few weeks of living with Marley were pretty gross. We were living in an old apartment building in Hollywood. It had a shared yard, so we were potty training Marley using these giant diaper pads you put on the floor.
Things were going OK until we discovered that Marley liked to eat his own poop. In an effort to get him to stop doing that, we started putting hot sauce on his poop.
May you live a full life and never know the smell of dog poop + hot sauce.
Marley didn’t like David at first. David used to joke that Marley was obsessed with establishing hierarchy in our home — I was top dog, and then Marley and David were locked in a battle for second place. It took about a year for David and Marley to bond and become friends.
Marley believed he was a big dog. We lived in Hollywood, in a little neighborhood called Larchmont Village. This was back when David was working on commercials and music videos and I was working at a startup. When both of us were at work, Marley would go to LA Dogworks, a doggie daycare facility in Hollywood. Even though Marley weighed 25 pounds and was 14 inches tall, he believed he was a big dog, so he always wanted to play/tussle with the big dogs. His favorite frenemy at daycare was a german shepherd named Atticus (whose human was actor Jake Gyllenhaal).
Our lives revolved around Marley. David and I didn’t have kids yet, so our weekends and evenings were filled with taking Marley for walks or to one of the many dog parks in the LA area. Los Angeles restaurants were dog-friendly and the sun was always shining; we would go out to eat and take Marley with us, eating on the patios of our favorite restaurants. He was a huge part of our lives.
We were constantly buying Marley new dog toys. One toy — a squeaky taco — became one of his favorites, and we called it “Taco Time” when he played with it. Our neighbors hated Taco Time.
One time, we decided to take a bunch of Marley’s old toys with us to the dog park, thinking we’d leave them there for other dogs to play with. We probably should have cleared this plan with Marley first. He spent that entire visit to the dog park hoarding all of his old toys and trying to keep them away from the other dogs.
Marley helped me see the city I loved in brand new ways. Thanks to my walks with Marley, I knew every block in our neighborhood, and every house on every block. With Marley at my side, we ventured to parks across Los Angeles, from the Silverlake Reservoir to Lake Balboa. We went up Runyon Canyon more times than I can count. Marley helped me stay in shape.
I was less thrilled with Marley’s habit of requesting late night walks. He would scratch on our door at midnight, 1am, 2am, and insist on going out for a walk. On the nights David was working late, I would take Marley out myself. Marley always seemed oblivious to the late (or early) hour. He would want to take his usual 30–45 minute walk, smelling every tree along the way. I spent those walks half terrified that someone would attack me and half pissed at him for not getting down to business.
But on some nights, I’d look up at the sky and be surprised to discover a full moon. Or I’d see Orion’s belt and realize it was November. I’d remember in those moments why I moved to Los Angeles in the first place. I’d remember how beautiful the world is, and how lucky I was to live where I could see the stars at night.
Marley was beautiful. Like the kind of beautiful that would cause strangers to stop their cars to get a better look at him. They’d roll down their windows and want to know what kind of dog he was and whether or not he was a puppy; in fact, people assumed he was a puppy throughout his 14 years of life, up until the month he died. He always looked young.
I called the act of walking Marley “the smile parade” because he brought joy to everyone he met. I would take him down the busy sidewalks in Larchmont Village and everyone would smile at him. It would be a constant chorus of people saying, “Oh, what a cute dog!” His markings on his face made it look like he was smiling all the time, and he didn’t walk — he pranced.
Marley’s face inspired many artists over the years. His portrait still hangs in an LA pet boutique. He’s been on Christmas ornaments, paintings, and drawings. We have four paintings of Marley in our house.
Marley loved our daughter. Marley was about 5 years old when Ava was born, and it was love at first sight for both of them. She adored him and he was enamored with her. She immediately climbed to the top of Marley’s “who’s in charge” list for our family.
Marley let Ava paint his nails and dress him up in clothes. He let her hug him and cuddle him. He loved to have her hold the leash and take him for walks. He would do anything for her.
When Ava was about a year old, we moved in with David’s family. We stayed with them for a couple of years. But David’s family didn’t want a dog living in their house. So we asked my parents if they would let Marley stay with them, at their home in Northern Arizona. They were excited — they loved Marley. This was the beginning of a brand new chapter for Marley — and for us.
Marley loved living with my parents. They fed him these incredible, homemade organic meals and snacks. They took him for long walks in their local park. They let him have free rein of their 2 acres of land. It was like he was on vacation every day. My mom took thousands of photos of him, and she’d send me these amazing memes she’d make featuring Marley.
The first winter Marley was living at my parents house, they made an amazing discovery. Marley loved the snow! All those years living in warm Southern California with that thick double coat, when he was suited for the snow all along.
A few years ago, I wanted Marley back. We had moved to the bay area and we had a house with a yard. But by then, Marley was approaching 10 years old. He was settled and happy with my folks. And my folks were happy with him. It seemed selfish to take him back, when they were so content being together.
So we’d come for visits and spend time with my parents and with Marley. Ava and Marley would go on tractor rides together. We’d see how happy Marley was living in the country, and we’d be happy for him.
Over the years, on our visits, I watched as Marley started to show signs of aging. He struggled to stand up and walk, and took longer and longer naps. He would stumble a bit here and there. And he had a few scares, including one last year where he was put under to get his teeth cleaned, and he almost didn’t wake back up again. I knew he was getting older. I guess I was in denial about the whole thing.
Five days ago, my mom texted me. She had written, “It’s Marley. It’s urgent.” I called right away. She was crying.
Marley had suffered a serious injury. The diagnosis was late-onset degenerative disc disorder in his neck. This disorder can be effectively treated with surgery for dogs around age 7, and in some cases up to age 10, but at age 14, Marley was not a candidate for surgery. He had barely survived his last round of anesthesia for that dental visit, and his doctors didn’t think the surgery would be effective for his particular injury.
Marley was in constant pain following the injury and was on heavy duty pain medication. He no longer had control of his bowels and was requiring around the clock care. His doctors had started talking about Marley’s “quality of life” and saying we should “prepare ourselves.”
We laid Marley to rest at 2:10pm PST on Monday, April 22, 2019. Marley was 14 1/2 years old. He went peacefully, surrounded by humans who love him. We have plans to bury his remains in my parents backyard, and we hope to plant a tree in his honor when we come for a visit this summer.
I want to tell you one last story about Marley. In 2009, after many tries, I had finally gotten pregnant with our daughter, Ava. I had a tough first trimester — I was tired all the time — and when I wasn’t working, I was often asleep on the couch in our apartment. One such Sunday, I was asleep on the couch while David was out — it was super bowl Sunday, and he was at a party. And for some reason, Marley would not let me sleep.
Marley would come over and scratch the couch to wake me up. I would sigh, get up, and take him out for a walk. We’d come back home and I’d fall back asleep — only to have Marley wake me up again. After the third time, I got so mad at him I started yelling at him and telling him what a bad dog he was, while begrudgingly taking him out for yet another walk.
After about 2 hours of this I called David and asked him to come home — I just didn’t have the energy to keep doing it. David was of course annoyed, too. He had driven all the way to Orange County for a super bowl party, and he was not pleased to leave it. When he came home, he was grouchy, and he made sure to tell Marley what a bad dog he was, too.
Just then, our building manager knocked on our door. As it turned out, there was a gas leak in the basement.
Marley had smelled it, of course, and that’s why he kept pestering me to go outside. He was trying to warn me. He was trying to save me and my baby. He was trying to protect his family.
He was a good dog. The very best dog.
I’ll always love you, my Little Guy. May you rest in peace.
Thanks for reading.