He always stays

Marlee channels Jack Benny, March 2008

Marlee channels Jack Benny, March 2008

“A good dog never dies. He always stays. He walks besides you on crisp autumn days when frost is on the fields and winter’s drawing near.” Mary Carolyn Davies

However else I remember 2013, I will remember it as the year of saying goodbye to dogs. Within a few weeks of the day we lost our four-legged family member, Pasha, three others who are dear to me grieved parting with beloved canine companions of many years.  One of these unforgettable dogs, Sir Marlee (Marlee to his friends) is pictured above.

Marlee was born on this day seventeen years ago.  Like most dogs, he was typically canine, yet also unique.  He provided joy, comfort, and a stabilizing presence of love to his family through many years of medical crises and uncertainty, along with the countless joys and sorrows of everyday life.  In these ways, he was no different from other dogs.  But I will always remember him for bringing me laughter through a quirky characteristic he shared with a comedian whom readers “of a certain age” will remember: Jack Benny.

If you watched Jack Benny very much, you know that he could provoke laughter simply by turning his head in reaction to what his fellow performers said or did.  It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to describe until you see it.  This dated and politically incorrect but hilarious clip  will give you an idea of what I’m referring to, in case you don’t remember.

The first time I met Marlee his demeanor was familiar to me, but it took me awhile to figure out why.  Marlee was a laid back, low-key type of dog whose adopted younger doggy brother, Max, was anything but.  When the antics of Max or nearby humans would get a bit ridiculous, Marlee would heave a sigh and turn his head, a weary look in his eyes.  I told Marlee’s mom he reminded me of Jack Benny, and she knew immediately why I said that.  It became a private joke to us, and even today, when Marlee is no longer on this earth, we are able to laugh when things get absurd by imagining Marlee looking on, turning his head.  Marlee will always be with us, lightening even the most frustrating situations when we remember his comical resignation.

Among the precious gifts our pets give are abundant occasions to laugh.  What are some of the funniest traits of your pets, past and present?  I hope you will share some funny or touching memories of your animal companions, whose gifts live on even after they leave us.


  1. Sheila

    Julia, isn’t it amazing how a pet’s gestures speak loud and clear? Since Pasha and Salty left us, we have shared how they became our assistants when we cooked. Salty’s signature gesture was “The Sneeze” and it was emotion driven,usually with an attitude! It seems he had so many doggy possessions that I continue to find. Yesterday it was his “thunder vest” in the garage. You’re right…. they stay in our hearts. Happy memories linger! Sheila

    • Sheila, we continue to walk parallel paths…our pets are so “embedded” into our lives that hardly anything we do (accidentally dropping scraps of food on the floor, asking for a “to go” bag at restaurants, walking into the door after being gone a few hours) does not bring back a painful awareness of their absence. Whenever I have such moments I try to replace them with the thought “We are so lucky to have had them in our lives.” Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us! I hope readers know that Salty was one of the four dogs I was referring to. 🙂

      • Sheila

        Julia, although Salty was our fourth Boykin Spaniel, (we love the breed), he came into our life quite unexpectedly. Bill won the wildlife exposition raffle…..the prized puppy!
        We won Salty and he won our hearts! Thank you for remembering him. That clip really captures Jack Benny comedy. So funny! Have a great day! Sheila

        • Sheila, Salty was better than winning the lottery! All four of the dogs I mentioned were meant specifically for the people they blessed. I really do believe that. Thanks for being here!

  2. Lynn

    Ah indeed our dogs can bring a smile…. Often when we most need it.

    I work with animal behaviorist all over the world and one of the ongoing discussions is dogs and (their) humor. Apparently dogs and humans developed workong and friendship relationships easily in part because we are more capable of reading one another’s signals (feelings etc). Or perhaps it’s a chicken and egg issue! For whatever reason…. Animals make so many merry! Older folks live longer…. Hospital patients heal more readily… Often simply because a Jack Benny type dog (loved that video by the way!) made them smile!

    • Lynn, thanks so much for your observations. I have read similar things about dogs and humans, but as you point out, all animals brighten our lives. I was so happy and relieved the first time we toured the chemotherapy clinic before Jeff started treatments, two beautiful therapy dogs (in BDU’s, no less) were making the rounds there. It was almost like a divine signal that said “you will be able to survive this – I will help you.” Thanks for being here!

  3. Marlee sounds like a real special pal, sorry they had to say goodbye. Ms Davies is certainly right about our loved pets never being far away, if only in our hearts and minds. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t mention Buddy in some way. The smallest things will remind you of them at the most surprising times. Like when someone says good morning before you get a chance to brush your teeth, it’s like having ‘Buddy breath’.
    Every pet has their quirks, my old cat Dillion would sit on the bathroom counter and watch me do my makeup, then sneak my make up sponge and run away. We had a little black cat at the lake named Paco. The wood screen door was on a spring and he’d knocked on the screen door with his little paw to come in. Blossum always ensures at least one paw is on Jim when she’s on the sofa with Daddy. It’s her way of saying, “don’t go anywhere” I think. They’ve all got their own little personalities and are each loved so deeply and dearly.

    • Yes, they have so much personality. Pasha did that one paw thing and I always loved it. Last night I was at my parents’ home waiting for our first grandchild to arrive, and my brother’s cat, Mister Kitty, was such fun. My brother’s friend had her dogs there (a min-pin/Jack Russell mix and a 7 month old Siberian Husky) and those three animals were a pure joy to interact with. You should have seen that big dog learning to “SIT!” for those pathetically tiny cat treats I was giving him!! You are right about every little detail in our day bringing back memories of our pets (see my comment to Sheila) and while there will always be a feeling of missing them, I also feel SO thankful for having had them in our lives. Thanks for being here!

  4. My Sophie pug cocking her head sideways, a trait of all pugs, but very cute on her. She was the tiniest of the litter of 3. She would always run in circles as she headed toward the door to go out, making sure we were still behind her and coming along. She loved licking our ears and giving us “baths.” She used to lick her paws and clean herself like a cat does.
    Thanks for sharing, and I hope you are healing well.

    • I just LOVE pugs – they would be on my top 4 list of “most adorable breeds” as I have never seen one that wasn’t a total sweetheart. Thanks for sharing your memories of her. It makes me smile just to read about it. I appreciate your comment and yes, I am gradually getting a little bit less sad, although it still hits me at unexpected times, as Boomdee described. The new grandson I hope to see today might give me a very happy distraction!

  5. I will remember 2013 the same way. Marlee had a good run – 16 years – oh how I wish my guy had stayed around that long. Always sad – sorry for everyone’s loss

    • Oh E, I am so sad to learn that you are in our number who said a very difficult good-bye this year. I keep telling myself that Pasha (who also died at 16) was with us long past his life expectancy. It softens the blow a little, but there is NEVER a good time for saying goodbye to a beloved pet. I hope that you will be comforted by memories of your special friend. Feel free to share more about him if you’d like. Thanks for being here.

      • Too sad really – thanks. We were lucky to enjoy their company during their short and loving stay on this earth – heartache is a small price to pay for that gift.

        • I agree! I have heard people say that they didn’t want their children to have the heartbreak of losing a pet, but I think never having one would be much, much worse. I’ll be thinking of you this year as I keep missing Pasha.

  6. Eric

    As this day wears on, I find myself becoming more anxious; so I will turn my thoughts to comedy in the media. I know Jack Benny only from b&w TV. But I think you got the dog photo in this blog from the set of “As Good as it Gets”, starring Jack Nicholson. In that movie a cute dog, like the one pictured, belonged to the character played by Greg Kinnear.

    • Hey, I loved that movie, but I had forgotten about the dog. Don’t be too anxious about Grady; he’s his father’s son already (not coming out until he is GOOD AND READY). Yesterday at ATL I enjoyed the new display on Atlanta’s history, and when I came to the part about Henry Grady (who inspired this kid’s name) I just had to stop and snap a few photos.

  7. Beth

    We have four cats and one dog – all rescues. Zoe, Iris, Poppy and Dexter, and our dog Keeper. An ironic name considering her previous owner was willing to give her away. We got her just before her trip to the pound. Keeper knows when I smile at her that it’s time to go outside, and all 85 pounds performs a goofy twisting dance to the back door. Keeper was eight-years-old when she joined the family, and at age 10 she’s still going strong. It gives me great joy to see her enjoying a comfy life. 🙂

    • Beth, I feel such gratitude for people who rescue animals. If you remember the “Nixon water” you might remember that one of my early ambitions was to have a giant spread of land with lots of buildings to house animals, and I wanted to take in every stray I saw. Some of my saddest childhood memories are of seeing stray cats and dogs, and wondering if anyone would feed them. I am so happy to hear that your kitties and Keeper (a great name, I think) have found a loving home! Give them an extra treat for me. Thanks for telling me about them.


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