I think everyone knows who Marlan is. He’s an older pit bull (6-8 yrs. old) that we discovered back in the winter on the end of a tow chain and he was blind. The owners didn’t even know he was blind, that’s how little attention and care they paid to him. His doghouse was full of snow. It was very sad and I first blogged about Marlan in February 2011.
We rescued Marlan and brought him to Chain of Hope. He was in pretty bad shape. He was blind (he could see some shadows), heart worm positive, underweight and full of parasites. We began tackling his medical issues, as he learned to adjust to being an indoor dog. When we first moved into our current Chain of Hope house, Marlan stayed in my office with me. He even had a recliner that he laid in. I brought my dog Baxter to work and he and Marlan hung out in my office together. They would even nap together. Everyone who came into Chain of Hope met Marlan and he was a great little ambassador for chained dogs. We even hung his huge tow chain on hooks on my office wall so that people could meet him, hear his story, see his heavy, heavy chain and get educated about what Chain of Hope was trying to do in the inner city. We had a gate up across the doorway to my office (thanks, Wendy!) and Marlan and Baxter just kind of hung out together.
Gradually, over the next few months, Marlan’s disposition started changing. He went after Baxter one day and got him pretty good. I started leaving Baxter at home because it was becoming dangerous for him to be there with Marlan. We tried keeping Marlan in a large, wire kennel, but he broke out of them. He ruined about 3 big kennels that we had. His anxiety level began increasing and he seemed more and more stressed. When people came into Chain of Hope or when other dogs would go by my office, Marlan would stress and just fling himself up on the gate, to the point that eventually he broke it. By then we had a nice dog run put up in the backyard and we tried keeping Marlan out there, of course we let him out to run around the yard several times a day. Eventually, Marlan would get super stressed out in the dog run and he would go back and forth and back and forth and bark and bark.
At this point, I took him back into the vet and explained his behavior and we decided to try him on some Prozac. We had him on it for about 4 weeks, but it only seemed to escalate his issues and make everything worse. We took him off of Prozac and tried keeping him upstairs in one big room where he kind of had his own apartment. He would pace and bark and really freak out sometimes. He literally chewed the door knobs into the size of marbles. We decided to try a Thunder Vest, which is a weighted, velcro vest that you can put on your dog and it’s supposed to help with anxiety. They work well for animals that are freaked out by storms, etc. We ordered Marlan one and tried it with him, yet this didn’t work either.
Marlan became increasingly unhappy and it appeared to me that he had some kind of dementia or something. I mentioned that to several volunteers. I don’t think they really believed me at first, but no one was with Marlan more than me, and I had seen an extreme deterioration in Marlan’s personality. He seemed stressed and anxious most of his waking hours. He would get so “in the zone” when he’d get upset and start going off on another dog that it was like he’d lost his mind. We could not divert his attention and sometimes, as time went on, if we tried to take him by the collar and get him off of the gate, etc., he was so in the zone that he would turn around and snap. This situation was really getting to the point that we needed to do something.
We discussed all of this at a board meeting and believe me it wasn’t an easy meeting. We ALL loved Marlan and had seen him get so much better physically and then start plummeting mentally. The board decided unanimously that Marlan was not happy anymore and that we should go ahead and euthanize him. It was a horrendous decision to make, but when we sat and went over his entire progression and then regression while we’d had him, it was clear that Marlan was not coping well. He seemed always over-stimulated and upset-even with everything that we had tried.
No one was around Marlan more than me and I clearly saw a terrible deterioration in his behavior and thinking. I had watched him slowly go down hill and it was painful to think that he was that tortured in his brain that he was upset the majority of the time. He became horribly dog aggressive as time went on. I firmly believed that it was the right thing to do. We had given Marlan the best 6 mo. of his life, despite his issues at the end. That boy received so much love while he was at Chain of Hope. All of the volunteers would come in and love on him every day, several times a day. He did enjoy his walks and especially walking up the street to his favorite tree.
I decided to call Dr. Knapper, the mobile vet, and have him come to the house to euthanize Marlan. It was just Dr. Knapper, Marlan and me. I pulled Marlan up onto my lap and I loved on him and told him how much we all loved him and what a wonderful, sweet boy he was. He died peacefully in my arms. After he was gone, Dr. Knapper and I sat and talked. He asked me more about Marlan’s blindness, if I’d known how long he’d been blind, etc. I told him I didn’t know-that the people who had him didn’t even know that he was blind. I told him that I felt like Marlan could see shadows, especially in the beginning but that I wasn’t sure now. He asked me more about Marlan’s behavior and I explained everything that I’ve explained here to you. He stood there very thoughtful and then he said, ” Kate, I’m not so sure that Marlan didn’t have a brain tumor.” He said with the loss of vision and then the drastic change in behavior over the past few months, that he easily could’ve had a brain tumor that at first was pressing on the optic nerves and then progressed to the point of causing the erratic, ramped-up behavior that Marlan exhibited. I was stunned! I had never really put those two things together, but now that he was saying this, it did make sense. It would explain a lot, but I guess we’ll never really know.
I loved Marlan with all of my heart and I know many of you did as well. If you were fortunate enough to meet Marlan, you knew what a special dog he was. He was so resilient to survive out there like he did (read the 2-3-11 blog). I am still amazed that we found that boy at all. Thank God we happened to be looking up through the backyards, or God only knows what would’ve happened to Marlan. I thank God that we had the opportunity to help him and love him and to receive his love and kisses back from him. None of us at Chain of Hope will ever forget Marlan.
Marlan-you’re finally free.