Marley, Our Mastiff, the King of the Maternity Center, has Died

Posted: January 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

ImageWhen I arrived in the morning he was down, his legs had betrayed him, the lioness figure that he was, could no longer prowl about the property in stealth.  He lay on his side, swollen from inactivity, body worn out, age had caught up.  He lifted his paw, used it like a hand as only mastiffs can do, and reached out to me.  Recognition.  Love,

His goodbye was grand.  The women of Heartline, surrounded him, caressed him, spilled tears on him and each other as he slipped into that mystery of death.  He died in our birth room, a fitting place for a dog who watched over many women in labor and observed many a child’s entrance into the world.  He often stretched out in the doorway causing us to step over him when we went for coffee or a supply. Laying in the way but still on the job.  The sounds of birth never disturbed him but the sound of a man at the gate or an unknown sound would wake the sleeping giant and he could be fierce.  God help the man Marley did not like.

He ruled, he dominated, he loved and he won over our Haitian staff.  This is no small thing in a world where poverty has robbed the population of pet love.  Our precious cook, Gran Rosemon, had tears streaming down her face as she bid him farewell.  Cherline and Guerda spent the day full of sorrow.  This animal had won them over with his protection and love.  He spent many hours under their feet, protecting their turf, eating meat scraps from their dishes.

Books are written and movies are made about the wonders of dog and human relationships.  Once in while a dog is extraordinary and touches our lives and teaches us to love better.  Marley was a dominant male who had a knowlege of who should be at the maternity center and who should not be there.   A hundred women could step over his sleeping form and he would not move.  One unknown male at the gate and he would rise up, the years instantly shed, and he would bound toward the gate terrorizing the man who was ringing the bell.   He knew his purpose, he was not confused, he did his job well.

Finally the years caught up, his muscles wasted away, his beard grew gray and his legs gave out.   Thirteen is really old for a mastiff.  We said good bye.  A veterinarian,  a pediatrician, midwives, a nurse, a photographer, a cook and a housekeeper all gathered round to witness a canine life well lived and to support each other as Marley ended his days.

Even emaciated he was heavy so Tara suggested we use our stretcher to take his body from the house to the pick up truck.  The stretcher was too long for the bed of the truck so we used our ambulance to transport him to his burial spot next to our other mastiffs, Maguire and Larry.   This all seemed quite normal and fitting to us who loved him.  Cherline said “li merite” “he merits this”.  Indeed he did.

Our dog graves are on our land called the Okay.  There are several men working there building the foundation of our new maternity center.  The bakery is also there as well as our school.

It wasn’t until John called me, that I thought through the strangeness of a dog’s body in an ambulance.  He said the workers at the maternity site were astounded when an ambulance pulled up and a giant dog on a stretcher was rolled out.   They talked about it all day long!

He did indeed merit a memorable send off.  I am profoundly moved by all those who loved him.   I am so grateful to those who sat in a circle of love to say good bye.  Kelly, the most faithful and loving vet on the planet, Tara, Jen, Beth KJ, Jenny, Wini, Cherline and Gran.  You made yesterday’s pain so sweet.  And lastly Marley,  I thank you.

Beth McHoul

Click here to learn more about Heartline

  1. Nancy Songas says:

    So very sorry for your loss…….

  2. Thank you for this wonderful tribute. I had a Mastiff growing up. You’ve described them perfectly. I’m sorry for your loss. The tears are proof he made a difference.

    “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” – Mark Twain

  3. Kathy says:

    Awww. I hate losing pets.

  4. Michelle Ruebke says:

    His faithful presence will be missed. Grateful to the Lord to have had those last 2 weeks to enjoy his protection & company. Won’t be the same without him.

  5. So sorry for you all Beth. I know how devastating such a passing can be.

  6. Deanna Bortner says:

    I am sorry I never met him but I love him anyway…thank you for sharing your lives with so many—tears of sadness and gratefulness simultaneously.

  7. Sara says:

    The unconditional love of a dog can only be bettered by the love God has for us. Always thought it was ironic that the words each spell the other backwards. 13 is a VERY old age for his breed – you did well by him. (((hugs)))

  8. Oh Beth, I don’t know you but my heart aches for your loss. Dogs are so special, it’s sad they go well before we do.

  9. linda leonard says:

    Beth I’m not on email often but just saw your tribute to your Marley…….so well written in that I can picture him and his work without a photo…..I sleep with 5 dogs at our house……the terriers and chihuahua being better than the golden retriever and German short hair for prowlers…..but a Mastiff would make everyone think more than twice. I know pets like this can never be replaced……….perhaps in God’s heaven they will romp with us again as in Eden. I surely hope so. The girls and I send you our love. The youngest two….Medjine and Stacy….turn 18 just now and are receiving the cash settlements from the I 35 Bridge collapse. The five of us long to visit you and bless somehow in your work there…..perhaps we need to call the board chair in Eden Prairie to check on the possibility………I don’t know if you can get a puppy perhaps that is a Marley descendant……..I hope so. love and hugs…….Linda in Minneapolis

  10. Beverly Bontrager says:

    What a beautiful tribute! Is it not amazing how the Father uses his created creature the dog to demonstrate his unconditional love… I know Jesus is The Unconditional Love, but I think he made dogs to give us that little reminder of how he adores us, protects us, and will love us even though we forget him. May He comfort you all as you grieve this love.

  11. […] 2: Another favorite friend from time gone by is Marley. When I first went to Haiti in 2006, he was my best buddy. Marley went – I’m hoping – to heaven earlier this week. He was the Heartline Ministries guard dog, the Monster Mastiff whose picture graces this blog. His owners, and the directors of Heartline wrote a wonderful blog about Marley you can read here. […]

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