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About a Boy and His Dog

2011 April 12
by MushBrain

There are many things that I learned from my parents growing up. Among those things is a true appreciation and love for animals. I learned this from both my parents, but probably most from my dad, who like me has great empathy for all animals, especially dogs.

I grew up with several dogs. One miniature schnauzer, in particular, was my best friend for the full thirteen years of his life; and was mourned for many years after that life ended. So there was never any question in my mind about whether or not I would get a dog when I moved out on my own and raised my own family.

Elliott and I wasted little time on this front. Five months after moving in together we set out to find our puppy. We came home to our tiny Manhattan apartment with the infamous, food-stealing, trouble-making, but utterly gentle and lovable Hazel.

Hazel – now affectionately known as The Nut – has been a part of this family almost as long as it has existed. And despite her frequent adventures into our refrigerator and other food sources, which has caused great frustration, she is appreciated on an (almost) daily basis for how wonderfully, though reluctantly, she embraced her role as big furry sister to Lilly. You can not find a more kid-friendly animal than Hazel.

I’d tell you the rest of this charming story about how Hazel has gone through the ups and downs of our lives together and accompanied us on our many moves around the country, except I don’t need to type it all out. They made a movie about it.

I’ll come back to that.

So speaking of movies, there’s this other thing about my parents, who are generally very nice human beings, who care a great deal for their children and grandchildren. For some inexplicable reason, since childhood, they seem to have always taken great joy in tricking me into watching movies that would traumatize me in some way.

I’m sure my mother had good intentions when she would ask me to sit down and watch some “fun Afterschool Special about kids going to a party.” But to this day I am terrified of crossing train tracks because that “fun, party movie” just so happened to be about how that party could turn you into a quadriplegic if the friend who drives you home has too many drinks and breaks down on the train tracks. Oh yeah, and the train is coming.

Don’t even get me started on what happens when there’s angel dust at the party.

And then there is my dad. Good intentions can not explain why he would routinely trick me into watching Alfred Hitchcock movies and terrifying episodes of Amazing Stories by telling me they were “about a boy and his dog.” I have no idea why he did this to me.  (Or why my mom never stopped him.) But I have many vivid memories of running from our family room screaming and crying when a movie “about a boy and his dog” turned out to have a gruesome corpse or killer birds in a lead role.

Between my traumatic experiences with boy-and-dog movies and my perhaps overly sensitive love for dogs, I do my best to avoid most animal movies because, more often than not, they end tragically and with me in tears. So despite rave reviews and lots of hype, I never had any interest in seeing Marley & Me.

I admit I would be interested in watching Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston chase a fun-loving yellow lab around; but I know what that’s all about. They just want to make you fall in love with the dog so they can break your heart. It’s so mean. And I wasn’t falling for it — even after it came out on DVD and I could cry in the privacy of my own home. Nope, not going there.

Then a few weeks ago my parents randomly referred to Marley & Me in conversation. I reminded them of my childhood torment about movies with dogs and told them I don’t like movies where the dog dies in the end. To which they responded, “He doesn’t! No, it’s a comedy! It’s a great movie about how a dog becomes part of the family. You’ll love it.”

I was doubtful, given our history. I must have asked, “Really? You’re sure he doesn’t die at the end?” about a dozen times. They assured me: “No. Absolutely not. You’ll like it.” So, I added it to my Netflix queue.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Marley and Me and don’t want to read a spoiler. Stop reading now. But I think we both know that this is NOT a movie about a boy and his dog.

When we received the movie, my wise husband questioned whether I really wanted to watch this, but I told him of my parents reassurances and we jumped in with blind trust. Needless to say, about halfway into the movie, Elliott looked at me and said, “Your parents lied.”

Ok, so Marley & Me is not technically a movie about Hazel and our family. But it might as well be. The similarities are eerily striking.  Even though — thank goodness — Hazel is still with us, the forty minutes of Marley dying at the end of the movie struck a serious chord in this home. Yeah, you caught that right? Forty minutes of a dying dog that I was duped into loving. That’s how I spent my Saturday night.

By the way, the rest of my night was spent bawling and petting Hazel.

The next day, I called my parents to ask why on earth they torture me this way. My mom acted perplexed and when I told her I watched Marley & Me and that it was NOT a comedy. She quickly said, “Oh yeah! That’s a really sad movie!”

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’m as stupid as George W. Bush.

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The About a Boy and His Dog by MushBrain, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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