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Marley and Me

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 12:08 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 12:16 p.m. CST
(Nicole Wiegand/Daily News)
Laurie VanWyngarden sits with her dog, Andy, at her home on Tuesday while recalling the fatal encounter with a pair of vicious dogs that took her second poodle, Marley. The attack was just one of many that have occured within Newton over the course of the past year.

No — this isn’t about the movie, but it does have a sad ending. On Jan. 4, Laurie VanWyngarden lost her beloved poodle, Marley, in a pit bull attack.

“I was standing out in front of the apartment with Andy (her other dog) and Marley,” VanWyngarden said. “I saw one pit bull come up, and Andy was trying to being protective, as normal. So I picked him up. I had him in my arms, and two others (pit bulls) came from another direction, and Andy starting growling. They were trying to fight. They dragged me across the alley (by her arm). They dragged us down to the ground.”

VanWyngarden said the pit bulls did not show any signs of aggression: They did not growl or show their teeth — they just attacked. She said pit bulls do not know their own strength and that she still has nightmares about the incident.

“If I was a kid, I would be dead,” VanWyngarden said. “After I got Andy back in the house, I went back out to see about Marley.”

The pit bulls had attacked Marley. He died soon after.

Last week, the Newton City Council passed an ordinance requiring owners of vicious dogs to be insured for at least $50,000. For VanWyngarden, it is not enough.

“I was upset because it was giving them (pit bulls) another chance to attack somebody, and that is what I was trying to avoid,” VanWyngarden said. “The next time, it could be a child.”

VanWyngarden said she liked the fact that the council is requiring owners of vicious dogs to have insurance, but she also thought vicious dogs should be required to wear muzzles. If it meant that owners could keep their pets, VanWyngarden believes that responsible owners would not mind.

“I like pit bulls.” VanWyngarden said. “I have several friends that have them, and they don’t ever bite. One bite for them is too many.”

Shortly after the attack, she saw the owner of the pit bulls walk out to check on the dogs. She was angered by the incident but decided not to take legal action because it would not bring back Marley.

“Anybody who has pit bulls that don’t bite are responsible owners,” VanWyngarden said.

VanWyngarden received Marley from a friend. Marley had been accustomed to spending his days in a kennel because the previous owner worked a lot, and she said he was timid and scared but warmed up to her.

VanWyngarden is against keeping dogs in kennels all day while the owners are away.

“I think it is unfair to the dog,” VanWyngarden said. “Why would you want a dog if you have to do that to them? What kind of a life is that? If they are going to have a dog, it is part of the family.”

VanWyngarden is grateful that she can at least hold Andy in her arms but said there will always be a void in her heart, since she never got to see Marley, who was not even 2 years old, grow up.

Her favorite memory of Marley happened every morning.

“Each morning, when he wanted your attention, he would just tap you,” VanWyngarden said.

She also will never forget Marley’s favorite activity — chasing squirrels.

“The squirrels would antagonize him, and he would just bark at them,” VanWyngarden said with a smile. “The same squirrels teased him. He would race outside to try to take them by surprise.”

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at mshepard@newtondailynews.com.

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