Yes, I know that "Marley and Me" was a hugely successful movie that came from a book. But as this Christmas approaches, seeing most of the Republican candidates for president desperately ripping each other apart with vicious and cruel statements, I am reminded again of Harry Truman's famous statement, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." That goes for all of politics, where most of the GOP contestants, other than Newt Gingrich, have handed Barack Obama all the early negative ads and press releases he could ever have fathomed.
So, rather than bemoan rotten politicians, I thought it appropriate to reflect on Truman's statement and share a rather personal story that might actually contribute in some small way to a more positive Christmas outlook.
Two years ago, I was going through a very hard time. The family I had supported and loved for nearly 25 years was slowly tearing apart into shreds. I would come home most nights and end up in a massive bedroom (I hated that room until the day I sold the house) that was better suited for an NBA game than a place where a husband and wife could sleep.
I found myself almost every night for what seemed at least a month stretched out on this super-fancy couch, facing some outrageously expensive armoire which housed a huge TV. I was tired of watching political shows and really just wanted something to soothe my soul and numb my brain.
I came upon the movie "Marley and Me," the story of an incorrigible dog that became part of the family of a writer for a South Florida newspaper. All of my life I had owned dogs and loved them. But I had never had a big dog. Mine had always been smaller ones, the type that look like a rat but bark and yap as if they are kings of the jungle. Oddly enough, I became obsessed with this movie, watching it every time it played.
Ironically, in the spring of the next year I came to meet someone who actually owned a dog named Marley. He was just as wild and crazy to watch over and over as the Marley I had seen in the movie. But after some obedience training, this mix of shepherd, Lab and whatever else not only calmed down, but became a miracle for me.
I don't own Marley. He comes to visit me from time to time. His owner, a woman who loves pets and has rescued dogs for years, is Marley's true and rightful owner. And like the many other dogs she saved, Marley was rescued in a parking lot, as his original owner was walking him into the local pound, where his chances of adoption would have been zero.
Through the many months since Marley came into my life, a lot have things have changed. For one thing, I let a big dog who loves to lick me (yes, on my face) fall asleep on my chest and paw me in the morning to tell me it's time to wake up. He loves to watch me cook (something I never did before) because he knows he will get some of whatever it is I'm creating (and he never complains about my culinary abilities).
Marley has big brown eyes that look both sad yet content at the same time. He doesn't bite or fight. He must have adopted Ronald Reagan's "Eleventh Commandment" for dogs because he's never met another dog he doesn't like.
I know I won't have Marley in my life forever. Like so many things we love, he will move on. But as I look at this particular Christmas, with so much hatred and sadness in the world, I know one thing. I'll always have the picture of me asleep in my bed, my arms around Marley as he, too, is sleeping, and his giant paws wrapped around his "baby," one of the many toys he carries around all day.
Life doesn't have to be so cruel. And sometimes God sends us something to remind us that we are all his creatures and that we are all loved. My prayer for all of my readers this Christmas is that you, too, will receive a little gift from God that reminds us of his love and our ability to enjoy it.