Last night my wife, Lyn, and I decided to relax with some ice cream and a video. Picking out the ice cream was easy, but choosing a video to rent always seems to bring out the stereotypical “chick-flick versus blood & guts” debate. In order to avoid the usual video war, we sometimes rent two films. I suffer through a touchy feely chick flick with her and she hides her eyes through half of an action movie before falling asleep.
This time we decided to compromise and agreed on a film that had been widely touted as family entertainment. We had both been waiting a while to see the movie, “Marley & Me,” because it involves a dog and, in addition, it involves a Labrador retriever, a breed that we both know well, having owned a number of labs ourselves.
While neither of us is a film critic, I have to say that the film was a big disappointment. The plot is not particularly original; A newly married couple acquire a dog. The husband has been warned by friends that his new wife will soon want children and that the gift of a dog may serve to delay her biological clock and provide a few more years of freedom from babies for the newlywed hubby.
The couple visits a home where the owner takes in rescue dogs, and they choose a pup from the litter of an abandoned female lab. What then ensues is like a cinematic recipe for dog disaster in which the young couple breaks nearly every rule of responsible dog ownership. Their irresponsibility and complete ignorance is mitigated only by their unconditional love of “Marley.”
The make-believe world of film is much kinder to errant dogs than the real world. Marley’s training is neglected after one failed attempt in an obedience class in which the instructor is portrayed as an anti-social freak with control issues. The dog then proceeds to dominate the household with his bad habits and destructive misbehavior, all of which are a result of his owner’s irresponsibility. In the real world Marley would most likely wind up in a shelter because of his incorrigibility.
There is no denying the infectious cuteness of this film and the main character, Marley. That is what makes this film dangerous for dogs. We can not, as responsible dog owners, accept the kind of behavior that Marley displays in this movie. Thankfully, the vast majority of dog owners understand this and insure that their puppies grow up to be “good citizens.” Obedience training makes dogs feel more secure. They understand their role in the pack, and that makes them happier than dogs that grow up with no expectations from their owners. A well behaved dog makes friends wherever he or she goes.
“Marley and Me” is a cute movie but it does a disservice to dogs by misrepresenting the important roles obedience and leadership play in a dog’s well being.