When I spoke up regarding Marley’s well-being, I did not intend to open the can of worms that resulted. My intent was to end the suffering of a clearly anxious creature that had a very low chance of getting a happy ending. However, I did not take into account the feelings of some classmates who might object to euthanasia. I knew that the fallout would be bad, I just did not realize how out of control it would get.
When Marley’s sentence was passed down, one student, who also cared very deeply about Marley, became very emotional. She had not witnessed Marley’s shocking behavioral changes, his blood lust, therefore she saw no reason to euthanize. She desperately tried to find a last-ditch rescue to take Marley, but it soon became clear to her that Marley would not be going home that night. I went with her to sit with Marley in the lab bathroom they had become his safe place.
Classes were finishing up and finals were fast approaching. I knew I needed to get back to class for the review and I told the girl I was leaving. She told me that I needed to stay in the bathroom with Marley on his last day. Perhaps I am harder than I used to be, maybe I am just more realistic, either way I told the girl that my life would continue even though Marley’s would not. Then with a heavy heart and tear-stained cheeks I returned to class alone.
During the break I went back to the bathroom where the girl and I put a blue camouflage collar around Marley’s neck. I too felt that Marley should spend as much time outside as possible on his last day. So Marley and the girl went to take one last run in the balmy April sun.
When the first year students were told of Marley’s fate, I was there. I wanted them to know that this was nobody’s fault; not the students, not faculty, not Marley. It was just an inevitable part of the job we will sometimes face. When I left, two students thanked me for taking the more difficult stance. When I returned to the lab, I cried openly for the first time that day.
Soon after I made it back to the lab, Marley and the girl arrived as well. She was crying while Marley was getting belly rubs and hugs from 18 other students who loved him just as much as we did. I asked the girl if she wanted to be with Marley during the procedure. She said yes and then it was time.
Marley’s bathroom was a great size for just him but it was a tight squeeze for four adults. We crammed into the bathroom with Marley and the girl and I scratched his ears and told him we loved him. During the procedure it became clear that Marley would require more of the euthanasia solution that was normally required. When things did not go perfectly, as is often the case in already tense situations, the girl became angry and left the room. I then helped the assistant roll Marley over so the final dose could be administered. As we flipped Marley, he opened his mouth and placed his teeth on my arm. In his last moments on Earth, Marley tried to bite me. All of my doubts disappeared that second. The right decision had been made.
Then it was over. He was gone.
I thought that was where the story of Marley would end. Unfortunately I was wrong.