Probably the hardest part about being at school is not being able to see my dog every day. Every morning when I was at home, I would wake up, brush my teeth, and then immediately descend the stairs and rush into the kitchen or my father's home office, wherever my dog happened to be sleeping that day. "Nugget!" I would yell (because that's my nickname for him even though it sounds nothing like "Marley") as I kneeled down and he rolled over, pleading for a belly rub. Even though he basically just sleeps and eats all day, he always deserves a belly rub.
My dog represents everything good in the world. Even though he is a little aggressive in terms of food and of defending his territory from the cats, he is very good-natured. One time over Thanksgiving break my mother and I were yelling at each other about I don't even remember what, and Marley was on high alert. It was very movie-like: me in the threshold of the upstairs bathroom door; my mother downstairs in the foyer screaming up at me. Marley was at my mother's side, gazing anxiously up at me from the bottom of the stairs. As the fight escalated, he began whining and shifting his weight, eventually barking to get us to stop. He's a peace maker, my dog.
He's also the kind of dog that thinks he's a lap dog and will jump on top of you, even though he weighs about 70 pounds. My favorite nights are the ones where we put Gilmore Girls on the TV and I sit on the opposite end of the couch as Marley, until he gradually begins inching his way towards me until his head is resting on my knees. He doesn't shy away when I give him hugs or lay on top of him when I'm feeling upset. Even if it annoys him, he always pretends it doesn't.
My dog is also a fashion icon, because he has this orange coat from Land's End that has a hood and everything. My father says it makes him look like a traffic cone, but I don't think so. In addition to that coat, he has one that is reversible, with navy blue nylon material on one side and a light blue flannel on the other. I picked it out from Marshall's. He also has a hat (for around Christmas time) which says "naughty" on one side and "nice" on the other. Marley's more of a naughty-side kind of guy.
Every morning during the summer, Marley and I would take rides to the drive-through Dunkin' Donuts in the town over and I'd buy him an old fashioned donut, because anything else would upset his sensitive stomach. He'd jump obligingly into the backseat and gaze out the window with a look that was both exciting and calm, his ears whipping behind him in the wind. We'd take the long way home, past the corn field and old farm house with the big backyard and pond that froze over in the winter. Mornings with Marley were always a constant, even when nothing else in my life was.
And that's exactly what dogs are for us: constants. They don't get mad when we make mistakes, they don't have good or bad days, and they don't keep a tally of who's right and who's wrong. They are always there and always loyal. No matter how angry we get at them or how long we've left them alone, they will greet us with the same uncontainable excitement. Maybe we could all learn a little bit from our dogs.