January 17, 2019

Marjorie is walking into the New Year with her heart aching.


By John Guy LaPlante

Morro Bay, CA — Walking down the hill from my daughter Monique’s on this bright sunny morning, I ran into  little old Marjorie

I wanted to enter the New Year with a new look...my new chin whiskers! To complement my long-time mustache! I think I grew it as an act of adolescent senility, plain and simple...and I'm not sure I'll keep it all 12 months. But what do you think?

I wanted to enter the New Year with a new look…my new chin whiskers! To complement my long-time mustache! I think I grew it as an act of adolescent senility, plain and simple…and I’m not sure I’ll keep it all 12 months. But what do you think?

again.  I was heading down the few blocks to Spencer’s Market for the exercise and a cup of coffee.

Marjorie is a little wisp of a lady, old like me.   Again she was walking up and down the sidewalk outside her subsidized apartment. This was the third time I was running into her.  And again she was cuddling her cute little dog in her arms…holding it right up against her bosom.

“Hi,” she said to me  warmly as I came close.  “Your name is John, right?”

“Yes! And you are Marjorie! And he,” I said pointing to her little dog, “is Alabaster! And you told me that you called him Alabaster because he’s very light in color like alabaster.”

“Perfect!”  And she smiled.  But quickly her smile faded.  Her happiness of a moment ago just went poof.  She looked down at Alabaster.  Tenderly she brushed his head.  Brushed it again. And again.

“Marjorie, it looks like Alabaster is not doing very well this morning.”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “Yes, that’s true.  Oh, this is so, so hard….”  And stopped talking right there.

“I’ll bet you  spend a lot of time with Alabaster in your arms.”

She nodded. “Yes. Sometimes in the night, too.”

The last time we met, Marjorie had told me a thing or two about Alabaster.  He was 16–which, as dogs go, made him very old like Marjorie and me. She had taken him in 14 years ago and he had become her whole family now. Well, here in Morro Bay anyway.  It happens so often for old people who find themselves living alone. Their bet becomes everything to them.

She had been married, and for many years.  She had told me about it.  “Oh, he was a good man. But he started drinking, and much too much.  He became a bum. Yep!  Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had a brother here, so I moved here.  And he”–she clutched Alabaster even tighter–“entered my life.”  She smiled again, but just a bit.

Yes, Alabaster was very old.  That was clear to me.  And he was obviously contented in Marjorie’s loving arms. In a way, Alabaster was so, so fortunate.

“I can see you are troubled this morning, Marjorie.”

Slowly she nodded.  Was silent.  Then spoke. “Alabaster is sick.  I’m so worried. And I have to renew his license.  And can you imagine–a license costs $25 now!” A heavy sigh.  “And I can’t keep him with me  in my apartment if he is not licensed!” She paused.

“And I should take him to the vet.  Really should. He needs the doctor’s help. And…  and maybe… maybe…” now her words came hard, ” I should have him put down….”  She clasped Alabaster even closer to her heart. Stared down at him.  I could see how she was aching.

“I know, Marjorie.  I understand.  Yes, I do. You love Alabaster.  And I can see Alabaster loves you. That’s for sure.  And I see how he is such a wonderful, wonderful pet…and such a huge blessing in your life.”

She nodded.  She held him. Rocked him a little.  I kept mum.  Put my hand on his head and brushed his soft fur a little.  I remained quiet.  She was quiet.  We both understood the sad situation.

“You know,” she said, “I tell my children, When my time comes, all I want is to be kept comfortable.  Take care of my pain if at all possible, of course.  And stay close to me if you can, please. Stay right by my side. But let me go.  Just let me go.”

“Gosh, Marjorie. I think that way, too.  And know what?  Maybe that’s how Alabaster feels.  Who knows?  It’s possible.  I’m sure he loves you the way you love him.  For sure you are the most important person in his life, too.  Maybe he just wants you to let him go. To just let him go….”

“Maybe so… maybe so….” She looked up at me.  Gave me a little smile.  It was weak, but she smiled.

I smiled back.  Patted Alabaster again. Gave Marjorie a pat on the shoulder. Looked into her eyes and smiled.  And resumed  my walk down to Spencer’s Market.

Well, I haven’t been able to do that little walk of mine for a couple of days now.  But I hope I’ll run into Marjorie again my next time down.  I wonder whether she’ll still be cradling Alabaster if I do.


I changed my friend’s name.  Her dog’s, too. Changed another little thing or two.  I’m sure you understand. I thought of taking a picture of her and her pet for this. But that would give them away, of course.



  1. Connie Fusco says:

    What a beautiful but sad story.

  2. Nancy Simonds says:

    You certainly know how to write a heart-breaker. Due to old age and other health-related issues, I’ve had to put my dogs down so I, along with millions, know the feeling well. Hopefully, Marjorie will know when the time is right, wait awhile, and then find another pet she can love.

    Meanwhile, seems like you’re doing very well. Let me take this opportunity to wish you a very healthy and joyous new 2014.

    Kind regards,
    ~ Nancy

  3. Elizabeth Walker says:


    Such a tender, well-told story.

    Wishing you all the best in 2014!

    I vote for the goatee. It suits you well.


  4. Keep your chin whiskers. You look great!

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