The Book of Marnie

Blog post by Laura M.

She didn't have a name when the puppy and her sister were dumped at a construction site, so the ARLP volunteer who found them in June 2008 named her "Katie." Katie was an adorable little black puppy, and it didn't take her long to be adopted.

Kate's new family renamed her "Lexis." Lexis grew up into a lovely dog. She was sweet with all people, but she particularly loved children. She gravitated toward the little ones like pit bulls to peanut butter. She also loved balls, and would play fetch until she fell over, preferably in some sort of water. Her new family taught her important things like sit and shake and to walk nicely on a leash.


But as she got older, Lexis became "aggressive" with other dogs. While she continued to get along well with her family's other dog, she started lunging and barking at other dogs on walks, and her family had difficulty managing her. One day while Lexis and her canine sibling were being walked by a friend of the family, the two of them lunged toward another dog at the same time and pulled their leashes out of the person's hand. The two dogs attacked the other dog, and in the process of separating them, the boy who had been walking the other dog received two punctures - a dog bite.

Animal control was called, and Lexis's family sent her to the impound facility for quarantine. While she was there, her family determined that they were unable to handle Lexis’s issues, so they contacted ARLP as instructed in their adoption contract. They asked us to please find a new home for her.

ARLP doesn't typically take in middle-aged lab mixes with bite histories, but that is what Lexis grew up to be, and we take care of our own. So ARLP’s exceptionally talented intake team went out to animal control to do a temperament evaluation on Lexis in order to better understand what her options would be.


Lexis breezed through her temperament eval with grace and aplomb. She seemed to be a biddable, eager-to-please, well-balanced dog who adored both people and food. The animal control officers who worked with her had come to like her. They hadn't had any trouble with her around the other dogs at the impound facility. They felt, and ARLP’s intake team agreed, that Lexis deserved another chance, even if that chance was just a warm bed, a full belly, and a little love before she was euthanized as a compassion case.

Here's where I come in - because, as Tyrion would say, I have a "tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things." And Lexis came to my house a very broken dog.

She wasn't aggressive or overly anxious or behaviorally challenged; she was lost. She would pace around the house, looking out windows, scanning rooms, looking behind furniture for something - or someone - she could not seem to find. I would call her to me, and she would cheerfully come, receive some scritches, and then trot to the door as if to say, "Okay, can I go home now?" I didn't have a way to tell her that she wouldn't be going home again, and it was one of the most heart breaking experiences I've had in nearly fifteen years of rescue.

But there was more broken than just hearts. It took me about a week to realize that there was just something wrong with the way this dog moved. Her back end wasn't put together like my other dogs; she had an odd, short-strided gait in her rear. So we packed her up and went to the vet where she received a tragic diagnosis: severe hip dysplasia.

So now we have a five-year-old, large, black, mixed-breed dog with a bite history and a severe health problem. On paper, from an ethical standpoint, she is unadoptable. But her statistics do not even come close to describing the dog she is.


We renamed her Marnie, because that is what she told me her new name would be for this next chapter in her life, and I don't know how to argue with that. She has the softest mouth. She loves, loves, loves to play with balls, even though the vet said that a dog with her hips shouldn't be able to stand steadily, let along run and play - no one told Marnie that her body was broken. She can be left alone in the house and not chew stuff up. Her behavior is normal and predictable. Her whole body lights up with joy at meal times. She is more social, better on a leash, and better behaved than the majority of my own personal dogs.

And Marnie is not dog aggressive. For the first few weeks at my house, Marnie completely ignored my dogs - she wouldn't even look at them. Thanks to the Two Week Staycation, Marnie learned that she did not have to interact with the other dogs if she did not want to. You see, Marnie likes other dogs, but she is worried that they will hurt her. While she can still run and jump and play on her own, having her hips bumped and jostled by other dogs hurts her. So she became defensive toward other dogs. Once she figured out that she could interact with dogs on her own terms, both at home and on walks, Marnie began enjoying interacting with the other dogs, and even solicits play.


Marnie in person is a very different dog than Marnie on paper, and her case lies in the hazy grey area between "unadoptable" and "should be euthanized." Is she a good candidate for adoption? Well, no. But it is hard to say, once you meet her in person, that she should be put to sleep for being born black and with bad hips and for behaving like a normal dog during a dog fight.

So ARLP has made the decision to fight for Marnie. Thanks to a grant from the University of Minnesota, she will be having surgery on her hips this month to relieve her pain and get her ready for adoption. Marnie will also attend training classes, go for walks, chase balls, and get to do all the other normal activities that dogs enjoy while she waits for the right family to come along.


Interested in following Marnie’s story as she gets ready for surgery and searches for her own home? You’re in luck! Marnie has her very own Facebook page.


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