'I felt a grief that I had not experienced before, even though I had lost relatives' - mourning the death of a pet
Published 09/09/2016 | 10:12
Marley and Me author John Grogan has spoken about the grief he experienced when his family made the decision to put their dog down.
"Dogs really do have an amazing sense of human empathy," the bestselling author told Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One.
"My wife had a miscarriage and my crazy labrador Marley - who never settled once in his life - as soon as we walked in the door he rested his head on her lap and started whimpering.
"This dog, who was normally as wild as a banshee, he picked up on her sadness and grief within five seconds."
His book Marley and Me went on to become a massive success in the cinema in a film adaptation which saw Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston play a couple who adopted a dog called Marley, based on Grogan's own experience.
"I was getting up at five in the morning and working at it before I went to my newspaper job. I thought it was a small, little story that only a few people would read. I was surprised that it took off in the way that it did," he said of the book's success.
"I stumbled upon this universal human condition in this story... it was a story about a young couple starting out in life. The dog was the catalyst that forced the couple to be serious about becoming grown-ups."
But it was the eventual decline of Marley as he shuffled into old age that brought about some of the biggest emotional lessons for the family, especially in dealing with loss and grief.
"Someone said that every time you bring home a puppy you know on day one you're walking into a tragedy because they live short lives.
Read more: The heartache of searching for a missing pet
"They start slowing down, it's a great human lesson for children and young adults, you see an encapsulation of a life span and you see what's coming for you as a human. It takes us about 70 years or so but it takes them about ten.
"We were watching his decline and we were in denial about it. We knew the kindest and most humane thing for this dog was to put him down... he was suffering."
Grogan said that his family (his wife and two grown up children) took the loss hard.
"I felt a grief that I had really not experienced before, even though I had lost relatives.
"We really grieved as a family together. It surprised me how deep that grief was and how long it was. We didn't talk about it for weeks. It was months before we got a new dog."
As anyone who's ever had a dog understands, you’re making a decision to share your life with another living creature — a creature with its own personality, needs, and quirks, and people go to great lengths to ensure their pet is enjoying a happy home life.
"It's amazing how people alter their human life to accommodate a dog, especially an ageing dog - people put off holidays, spend a lot of money on medication."
But when it comes to sick or ageing dogs the author said it's important to question why you're spending a lot of money on keeping them alive.
Read more: How much would you spend to save your pet?
"I really do respect the individual, you wouldn't think twice if someone put that money into a race car or a boat... but you need to ask 'Am I doing this for the dog and the quality of life for a pet or am I doing it for me?'
"Is it because don't have the moral courage to say goodbye?"
John Grogan is in Dublin this weekend to take part in Doggy Do at Herbert Parkon Sunday, September 11, to raise much-needed funds for Dog's Trust Ireland.
The family day out features the Doggie ‘Doggelganger’ competition, ‘The Do Run- Run off leash area’, and a Doggie & Soul area to relax and chill out with your furry little friend. Grogan will be on hand to sign books, chat to dog-lovers and answer questions.