Marley touches a nerve with PPH clients

Dr. Burns and I took some time out over the weekend to see Marley and Me, which hit theaters over the holidays. I enjoyed reading the book shortly after its debut, but hadn’t intended to see the big-screen adaptation until after it was released on DVD. However, several clients have brought up the movie—particularly the ending—over the last few weeks, and I thought we should see it for ourselves so we could answer the questions it raised from a more-informed perspective. I’ll pause here for a spoiler alert, as much of what follows will discuss the movie’s climax; keep reading if you’d like to know what we thought of it.From Old Yeller to My Dog Skip, the human protagonists of most dog movies are left bidding farewell to their favorite canine at some point during the film. Marley is no different, as John and Jennifer are faced with the difficult decision to euthanize the dog they had to come to love as their first child despite his (many) flaws. Marley separates itself from other dog movies by inviting viewers into the veterinary hospital as John says his final goodbyes and Marley’s life is ended with an injection. This scene has had considerable impact on the clients who have discussed it with Dr. B; PPH’s Natasha was taken aback by this intimate view of euthanasia as well.By and large, both Dr. Burns and I felt the movie portrayed this event tastefully and accurately, and Marley’s peaceful passing was an example of what veterinarians strive for during this procedure. Some of my veterinary friends have mentioned that the movie did a poor job in illustrating the finer points of gastric dilitation and volvulus, or bloat, the life-threatening illness that ultimately led to Marley’s death. While I’d agree that a more accurate depiction of the symptoms of this disease (restlessness, abdominal distention, non-productive attempts to vomit) would’ve been a great public-education opportunity, these certainly aren’t the type of thing you could train even the best dog to demonstrate on cue.If I was disappointed with any portion of the movie, it was the terrible prognosis that the veterinarian provided for a dog suffering from bloat.  Survivorship–particularly with emergency surgery–far exceeds the 10% mentioned in the movie, a figure I suspect was exaggerated in order to make the Grogan’s decision to euthanize Marley more palatable to viewers. While this may have made it easier for moviegoers to accept the family’s decision, I fear it will ultimately factor into the decisions of pet owners faced with a similar situation.Regardless of prognosis, Marley had a disease that left the Grogans with only two humane options: performing a major abdominal surgery on a dog approaching the upper limits of his life expectancy, or letting him go peacefully and with dignity. Standing across an exam room table in the ER, I have always told clients facing the very same choice that both answers are “right” for the pet, but it’s up to them to decide what is right for their family. I guess the movie’s director didn’t think the general public would see it that way.Because I knew the Grogans made an appropriate choice, I could remain emotionally removed from “the big scene.” My favorite moments, those that left tears welling in my eyes, were the touching scenes that illustrated what being owned by a pet really means. From John’s romantic notions of a boy and his dog that opens the film, to Marley’s innate sense that Jenn needed support during a difficult time, to the kid’s drawings and notes that went to rest with their beloved “big brother,” Marley and Me is full of moments that inspired PPH’s mission of celebrating, nurturing, and preserving the bond shared between pets and people.