Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Marley The Rescue

By Kristy McCaffrey

Happy 2019! One year ago today, my family and I rescued an older dog named Marley. I thought I'd share my story with you all.


I’ve always been a dog person. My heart is forged with memories of my canine companions throughout my life: Rommell, Raquel, Buckwheat, Chaco, Shiva, Sparky. Gone but never forgotten. One thing I had never done, however, was rescue a dog in jeopardy. I’d thought about it, of course. Like many of you, I’m an empathic person, which is probably why I like to write stories, but it was that very trait that always filled me with anxiety just thinking about visiting the pound or a rescue shelter. The suffering of so many is a crushing reality that is difficult to bear some days.


Buckwheat and Rommell

In October 2017, we lost our beloved chocolate Labrador, Ranger. Although he’d had health issues for a number of years, his loss was still sudden and devastating. One week after his 13th birthday, we were forced to put him down from a broken leg due to bone cancer. I wasn’t prepared for the grief that hit me. I had lost dogs before; I knew how it went. But Ranger had been different. I had promised him I would take care of him. In the end, though, I couldn’t. Something happens in your soul when you must break a promise—a terrible schism of guilt.


My husband and I had long talked of rescuing older dogs, knowing how difficult it was for these animals to find a loving home, but it’s a bittersweet goal—just when you bond with them you’re likely to lose them. But if I’ve learned anything while raising four children, it’s this: you must do what is best for them, not what’s best for you. I knew this was also true when it came to helping a dog in need.

Last January, my husband traveled to Finland to help our oldest daughter move to Helsinki for a semester abroad. While I was home on my own, I watched the news one evening, and a very brief story about several dogs needing a home caught my eye. The owner was about to be evicted and the animals would be sent to the pound. The prospects for an older male Labrador mutt weren’t good. The next morning, I called the man trying to help re-home the dogs. He ran a local animal rescue in the Phoenix area, but this wasn’t a normal rescue situation. If I could come immediately to pick up the dog, he would give him to me. I jumped into the car and went, feeling trepidation at driving alone into an unknown neighborhood in downtown Phoenix, but something compelled me.

When I met Marley, I knew he had a strong will to live. The woman who had previously owned him had died ten months prior, and it was her daughter who was desperately trying to find a home for him. Her mother had had such a soft spot for animals that she’d regularly picked up strays off the streets. Marley had been such a stray, born somewhere on the streets of Phoenix, so his age was unknown (the estimate was between 9-12 years old). The daughter had had 24 canines to find homes for, and Marley was one of the last. She’d been doing the best she could to care for him, but Marley was undernourished with overgrown toenails and hadn’t been to the veterinarian in years. I put him in my car and drove him home.

Marley right after I put him in my car. He really
took it all in stride, I have to say.

That first week was tough. Marley was sweet and quite affectionate, but it was a new home with a new routine and I had to work diligently with him. I got him to the vet immediately and we addressed the most pressing issues (the toenails, bloodwork, vaccinations, etc.). But he was too weak for a tooth cleaning. He also wasn’t neutered, although at his advanced age I wasn’t certain I would proceed with it anyway. I also sobbed frequently because bringing Marley home had triggered a new wave of despair over losing Ranger. It took me a bit to work through that. I also sent my husband—still in Finland—a long and heartfelt email explaining what I’d done and begging him not to be upset with me. His response was so supportive that I wept over that, too. I married the right guy.

Initially, I fed Marley three times a day.

Eventually, he gained weight and embraced his new life of freedom (he’d been crated for much of the year before he was rescued, and possibly longer). We have a dog door, so he quickly mastered going into the backyard whenever he wanted. He has arthritis, but he’s gained stamina with frequent short walks, and later I put him on a low dose of pain medication to manage his discomfort. He enjoys treats and toys, and although he initially had little interest in playing with our other dog, Lily, they have slowly become buddies. But Marley generally prefers us to be nearby if he plays with her. His bouts of anxiety have, thankfully, lessened over time (we discovered that he really likes to chew slippers when he's stressed, so Santa brought him a new pair in his stocking for Christmas - he loved them!).

Marley and me on Christmas morning.

I don’t know how much time we’ll have with Marley, but I’m content knowing that we’re giving him a peaceful and secure life in his twilight years, filled with fresh air, sunshine, plenty of food, snuggles and kisses.

Follow Marley's adventures  on Instagram at @marley_therescue.

Marley and Lily


  1. Kristy,

    Although I knew most of Marley's story, I didn't know all of the details. It was nice to read all of the pieces put in order at the same time. You and Kevin are special people who have heart that are bigger than life! It was you with whom Marley was meant to spend his golden years!

    1. Aww, thanks Marianne! I think we're the fortunate ones. It's been a blessing to have him in our life. Thanks for stopping by!!