Scott Pilgrim’s Progress and Farewell to Marcel

Boy, do things really change from when y ou get an idea for a post, and when you have the opportunity to post.  I had planned on this posting to be a follow-up to my Christmas posting (sort of an Xmas II), but yesterday, one of our pugs, Marcel, took a turn for the worse and we’ll be heading to the vet in a few hours to put him to sleep.  Carla and I cried a lot last night, and will likely cry a bit throughout this holiday season as we remember our loyal defender, Marcel.

But Marcel’s day yesterday fits with the upbeat message I had intended after I finished watching the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. And so I plan on doing a post on both.

First the film — if you haven’t seen the film, based on a graphic novel series, do yourself a favor.  It contains all the joy of movie-making and storytelling you’d hope for in an artistic endeavor.  One way to view the film is as life and love as video-game.  Video-games, as you likely know, are based on conflict — you, controlling some avatar who is the good guy, who is pitted in combat against some evil guy.  To that end, our hero, Scott Pilgrim, who has just fallen for a newcomer to town, Ramona Flowers, must face her 7 Evil Exes and defeat them to win the girl.  Each, after a video-game inspired battle, is vanquished and disappears, while point values for the victory flash on the screen.  To win final victory, Scott must overcome an evil version of himself, and he must rely on the help of a couple of his own exes, both of whom prove more generous and heroic than Ramona’s exes.  I don’t want to spoil the experience — go see the film and have a good time.  There is one scene, though, I’d like to comment on.  At some point in the film, Scott wonders what his future with Ramona could be — after all, she has these vengeful exes, which seems to indicate that any relationship with Ramona is likely to be short and end badly.  Scott, himself, has dumped some girlfriends, and so, like Ramona, has cut off relations with someone who cared and saw a future.  Despite that doubt, and the doubt seemed very real to me — doubt often has a power over me — they decide to embark on a relationship, taking and enjoying each day as it comes.  Here too the video-game (arcade game at any rate) world provides an analogy — when many of the games come to an end, there is a moment when you are invited to add more coins to continue.  The word “Continue?” comes onto the screen, and you have 10 seconds in which to pick up the game where you left off, rather than start anew.  In this world of sudden changes and shifts, where, at any moment we are asked whether we want to continue with the game, or reset it, I found it refreshing that Scott and Ramona decided to continue.  There is no guarantee of “happily ever after,” but if we try, there is a chance at happy (or fulfilling) now.  It is a moment of faith in ourselves, and in those around us, and in the universe, when we choose to invest more time and press “Continue.”  There’s something very Anglo-Saxon about all that, and it’s very satisfying. 

When I first envisioned this posting, I thought of Christmas, and what it, and the story of Christmas might mean to someone who doesn’t believe in a personal god, nor in Jesus Christ as a personal savior.  And I think that the story of Christ, and maybe even more, of Mary (Mary is very big in Catholic circles) — the 5 Joyful Mysteries ( one of the themes meditated on while saying the Rosary) are Mary’s moment — they are all Joyful and are connected to the joys of motherhood.  These joyful mysteries, though, are set against a background of great sorrow.  And some of them (“Annunciation” and “Finding Jesus in the Temple”) are filled with anxiety as well.  And yet, Mary said yes. 

That brings me to Marcel, our 11 or 12 year old pug who came into our lives about 8 years ago.  When we first got Marcel, he was supposed to be a foster pug — we would take care of him for a few months until a suitable home was found for him.  I remember working at the library the day that Carla was going to take him to the vet to be neutered.  Carla called after the procedure was over and announced that we were keeping Marcel.  It seems that when Carla was to hand him over to the assistants at the vet, Marcel reached out with both paws and hugged her head as if he would never let go.  She knew at that moment that Marcel would be spending the rest of his days with us.  I got the news soon after. 

From that day on, Marcel was definitely Carla’s dog, and often would go to her rather than for the food dish, or some treat.  He was as loyal a dog as I’ve seen, and fiercely so in Carla’s case.  In his own mind, I think he was also a brave big guy, often responding to dogs barking in a movie or TV show with his own challenge.  Of course, whenever there’d be a storm, and we’ve had some doozies over the years, Marcel would bark at the storm, often barking from a place on the chair safely behind Carla. 

For about a year or so, Marcel has had increasing difficulty with his back legs.  The likely cause was some form of arthritis.  Still, he was able to get around on his own, sometimes working himself up to a trot, depending mostly on his front legs to propel him.  And then this Saturday, Marcel was unable to mount the ramp which he would take to get into the house.  On level ground, he was fine.  Yesterday, while I had gone to the garage to sort some stuff out and put it away, I noticed he was in the yard moving about  as usual.  It was a beautiful day — very mild, and I think all the dogs were happy to be out for an extended playtime.  When I came back to the house to get dinner ready, I noticed that he had made it to the top of the ramp, where he was sitting, striking his best Lion King pose.  As he knew it was dinner time, he made it into the house and to his dish.  Following dinner, he went out with all the dogs and seemed to be at play, but when I went to get him, he was flat on the ground.  It appeared that all of his legs now failed him.  As the problem is likely neurological, Carla and I will likely be taking him to the vet today to be put to sleep. 

Between lots of tears and trading off at holding Marcel, I think back on our time together.  Though something of a cowardly lion, he was fierce in his devotion to Carla, and a good big brother to the other dogs.  He knew what he wanted in life — lots of contact with other dogs and with people, and he got that.  He was not a dog to complain, and, my guess is, he had a lot to complain about in the time before he came into our lives.  As a dog who did not receive loving care early in his life, he knew what he had these past 9 years, and carefully guarded it (if sometimes from the protective cover of mummy.   He didn’t complain, but played the game as best he could, bringing his own talents to the contest day after day. 

I think that will be one lesson I take away from my life with Marcel.  Given his name, Carla and I used to speak French to him, which he seemed to understand as well as he understood English.  So, now on our final day — one last time:  adieu, mon vieux, cher Marcel!

1 Response to “Scott Pilgrim’s Progress and Farewell to Marcel”

  1. January 1, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss of Marcel. He sounds like he was a great dog and he definitely found a wonderful mom and dad in you and Carla.

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