Readers Write on Gratitude #1

In November, we are featuring three guest writers who have submitted pieces on “Gratitude”. We will post these throughout the month. Next month’s subject is “Holidays” and everyone is welcome to submit a non-fiction piece. Send your essays to by November 30, 2022.

What I Learn from Marley Boy by Melissa S.

“What have you learned from your dog?”

I was asked this question on the first day of training to become a Pet Partner. Marley and I started training together to become an Animal Assisted Therapy Team.  Tears came to my eyes as I pondered the question, which was rather embarrassing in the room full of strangers. 

Marley was the first dog that was really mine (I should say ours)!  My husband Jeff and I adopted him when he was 6 months of age in 2007. He had been transported to a New Jersey shelter from a North Carolina kill shelter. He and his sister were left at the Carolina shelter because the owner said they would not live outside chained to a fence.  Sad for the sweet pups, lucky for us!

One of the first things I learned from this little pooch was acceptance and openness.  This little furry fellow wanted to greet anyone and anything at anytime.  We humans are so hesitant to do that; we have become so fearful of opening ourselves up to simply say “hello” to one another. 

Since those first few months of getting to know Marley, I was touched and amazed by the nature of this beautiful creature.  Marley was not like other dogs I have known.  Maybe that sounds cliché and every dog owner thinks the same of THEIR dog, but from the beginning, my Marley’s laid-back nature has often took others by surprise.  So many would say, “There is something wrong with him, for his age and breed, he should be much more active than that.”  But they were wrong.  It was just the way Marley was.  Not to say, he wasn’t active and crazy at times, but his basic nature was always calm, sweet and gentle.  Watching him interact with children at a store or on a walk by the river become one of my favorite things.  Seeing that little stub of a tail start to wiggle and wag and how he softly nudged a child’s belly, then plopped himself down at their feet and wouldn’t budge, tickled my heart.  The image of Marley waiting by the bathroom door when my little niece was ill still lingers.  He sat in the hallway just outside the room waiting so patiently. As soon as she opened the door and scooted over to him, he laid his paw on her lap and sat there with her, calmly and sweetly until she felt better.  Marley taught me how to treat children by being excited to see them, approaching them gently and letting them know that they mattered.  

Persistence was another quality I observed in my boy.  There were three cats in our household who had no desire to engage with the big furry intruder.  Marley never stopped trying.  Every morning he looked for them, greeted them eagerly, often whining, begging for play time.  Sad to say, his efforts usually lead to a hiss a paw smack upside his head, but he never gave up! 

As time marched on however, the most important insight this animal brought to my life was how to live in the moment and for a lack of a better phrase, smell the flowers!  Countless times as we stroll down the street, at a moment’s notice and for no apparent reason, Marley would come to a complete hault.  He looked about purposefully wiggling his snout as he began to sniff the air, and I am certain, was waiting to hear the birds chirp!  Often he would turn his face to the wind as his eyes began to close as if he was reveling in the feeling of a soft breeze sliding across his brow.  OR, he would choose to throw himself in the grass and roll gleefully from side to side in sheer delight.  There he would lie, flat on his back, appendages dangling looking at me as if to say, “It’s so cool to see the world upside down, Mom!”  Maybe he was onto something!  


The lessons and gratitude continued until my sweet boy reached 15 years and 2 months. Marley had several medical issues, none of which stopped him.  My dear furry son kept going with that little wiggle in his derriere and the twinkle in his eyes.  However, on March 3, 2022, the twinkle turned to fatigue, the wiggle was gone. I knew the time had come, he was ready.  He let me know as I always prayed he would.  Saying goodbye was of course gut wrenching.  My heart still aches and the tears still flow. But knowing and caring for him was the most amazing gift, for which I will be eternally grateful.  How blessed I am for having shared the many years of loving and learning with the fluffy, black and white Zen dog, My Marley boy!

Feeling the need to be in your grief a bit more? Please check out Scott’s song, “Leave Your Heart Open” by clicking here


  1. Scott MacDonald

    What a lovely expression of this wonderful dog’s heart, and your
    awareness and appreciation of him. We can all try to find ways to be more like Marley.

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