By Lee Provost | lprovost@daily-journal.com | 815-937-3364

ST. ANNE — Marley has every reason to be angry.

He was abandoned.

He has a terminal illness.

He has lesions across his body.

He has bald patches on his head.

He will likely die before the end of summer.

But all the 60-pound brindle pit bull can do is smile ... and eat as many treats as his owners dare to give him.

Adopted from the Michiana Humane Society in Michigan City, Ind., on Feb. 8 by Jordan and Jen Chapman, of St. Anne and Bourbonnais, respectively, Marley will be living out the final months of his 14-year life doing things most dogs could only wag their tails about in a dream.

Jordan, executive director of the Kankakee County Humane Society, and Jen, a Hospice of Kankakee Valley massage therapist, developed a “Marley Bucket List” of activities for the final months of life.

Marley suffers from an ailment known as Cutaneous Lymphoma. Basically, it is an extremely rare form of canine cancer which forms lesions on the skin. The lesions can eventually lead to ulcers, lumps, plaques and patches.

The illness eventually can spread inside the dog causing enlargement of the liver and spleen.

The disease usually causes death within eight to 20 months. Marley has been undergoing chemotherapy — one dose every three weeks — to keep the lesions small, which helps prevent them from breaking open and causing more suffering.

The condition, however, did not dissuade this pair from welcoming Marley into their home after they discovered him on Michiana’s website of available dogs. It’s not that the couple needed another dog — they already had four — but some people simply cannot resist, Jordan confessed.

Even after learning of the dog’s medical condition, they moved forward.

And as the new arrival settled into his new home, the couple had an idea. Why not treat Marley to anything which could bring joy and wonder into his life?

BUCKET LIST BORN

They decided to treat Marley to as many activities, adventures and experiences as his health would allow.

They developed a bucket list, which is basically a list of adventures and experiences people do as they near the final years of their active life. Like humans, Marley’s list is wide ranging and continues to grow.

“We walked into this knowing what we were facing. People have asked if we could do it over, would we? The answer is yes,” Jen said. “He’s just like any other dog. He runs around, he chews on his bones and he loves treats.”

And he sleeps plenty.

“I’m a total bleeding heart,” Jordan noted “I would do it again, no question. The [Michigan City] shelter didn’t want him dying in the shelter.”

Neither did Jordan or Jen.

NO COMPLAINTS WITH MARLEY

To someone who hasn’t met Marley, the only things which indicate something might be wrong with him is the fact he wears a sweater (helps prevents scratching the lesions) and he lost some fur because of the cancer.

“We have no complaints with him,” Jen said. “He never stops grinning.”

Marley is extremely gentle. He rarely barks and his favorite pastime is being rubbed while lying on the couch. On his bucket list adventures, he accepts pats on his heads and often returns the love with a tag wag or a sloppy kiss.

Jordan, a 2009 St. Anne Community High School graduate, has four other dogs: Wrigley, a female 8-year-old lab mix; Maddux, a male 6-year-old German shepherd mix; Atlas, a male 6-year-old husky/cattle dog mix; and Rizzo, a female 4-year-old pit bull mix.

Jen, a 1998 graduate of Bishop McNamara Catholic High School, has three cats, thus the reason they maintain two homes. Their dogs and cats do not mix.

That situation existed before Marley arrived in their lives. Both women said Marley is the best-behaved dog they have ever encountered.

When his mood strikes, he will dart around the house reliving his puppy days, but for the most part, he enjoys cuddling on the couch and snacking on treats.

LIVE IN THE MOMENT

Even though Marley’s owners know his life is drawing to a close, they do the best they can to push the thought out of their minds and live in the moment.

“He’s the best-natured dog,” Jen said. She is hoping Marley’s story impacts other potential pet owners and drives them to consider adopting older dogs or even those in need of hospice care.

Despite pushing Marley’s end-of-life scenario to the back of her mind, Jordan admitted it’s often on her mind.

“I’m not prepared. We know we aren’t there yet,” she said.

In the meantime, Marley has things to do. The bucket list has many items which need to be checked off.

On Monday, he will become an honorary member of the Bourbonnais Police Department.

Another item receives a check mark and Marley likely creates more smiles, friends and memories.

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