Book Excerpt: When Marlee Met Sweetie

Exerpt from “In Stroke’s Shadow: My Caregiver Story”

One of our most interesting times together was the day Marci brought her therapy dog for what started as a normal visit. We all sat in the livingroom area chatting while Marley, her gorgeous English Cream golden retriever, wandered about. Suddenly Mommy’s eyes lit up. She had an idea. She began pointing down the hall in the direction of the birdcage which was on the 2nd floor. “You want to take Marley to meet Sweetie?” I asked.

I’m not sure on what to blame my lack of good judgment. Maybe I was too distracted by Marci’s and my conversation to think through what Mommy was asking.

So Marci, Mommy, Marley and I took the elevator to the 2nd floor to visit Sweetie. As we approached the cage, Sweetie began chirping wildly at the 70-pound predator that was marching toward her. Marley was on a leash, so Marci and I both assumed that would be enough to control Marley. But Marley pulled Marci hard and didn’t stop until she was standing with both paws up on the wire bird cage, her hot breath panting into Sweetie’s safe space. Instantly Marci and I knew this was a huge mistake. She tried to pull Marley back, but the dog was winning the tug-of-war. Marley’s single mindedness gave her the brute strength needed to overcome Marci’s 5’2” frame as a small group of residents watched, barely reacting as if they were having trouble registering what was going on.

I let go of Mommy’s wheelchair and ran to Marci’s aide. We both had a hold of Marley’s leash. Pulling with all our might, we fell to the floor still holding on tight. Mommy sat in her wheelchair laughing hysterically. Her piercing laugh cut through the silence of the room, paralyzing the residents who looked like they’d been hit by stun guns. Finally, Marci and I were able to stand back up and coordinate our bodies enough to pull Marley away.

I took Mommy back to her room hoping that no one had reported us. She was still enjoying a good laugh. Maybe that was her evil, bird-hating plan all along. Befriend Sweetie, and then get revenge on all bird-kind by having Marley eat Sweetie. I know that’s not true – or at least I don’t think it is. But her laugh was as diabolical as a super villain.

I guess I’ll never know.