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Manatee’s Marley essay contest winners announced

Marley’s hysterics in the 2008 movie “Marley & Me,” based on John Grogan’s book, earned the Labrador retriever the moniker “worst dog in the world.”

Yet he was capable of melting even the coldest of hearts in the way that dogs always do — through cuddly eyes and simple loyalty, ready to deliver affection. We asked readers to share their love/hate tales with essays, photos and videos in our Manatee’s Marley contest. Below are the winners, judged by Manatee County Animal Services and announced at the Manatee County Animal Services Open House and Adoption event Saturday in Palmetto. You can view the videos and photos at

Winners will receive a $50 PetSmart gift card, one basic pet obedience group class and a trophy.

Winner age 6-12:

Garbage all over the bathroom floor, cotton coming out of stuffed animals and cat litter all over the floors. This is what I come home to on a daily basis. My busy, sweet 8-month-old chocolate lab puppy, Bailey, causes all of this destruction. But she’s not all that bad. She’ll lick your tears if you’re crying, then she’ll jump on your bed and let you lay on her. She does have some weaknesses, however. Baths — she hates water. You can hold a treat in front of her, but she’ll still sit down. Treats — she won’t sit, she won’t shake, but she expects a treat. She’s just spoiled. Going outside — “Na, na, you can’t get me!” And you never will. She is fast! Leashes — She’ll chew, chew and chew until it breaks. We’ve gone through about seven leashes in the past year.

As soon as you do get her inside, she’s into the cat litter grabbing a snack. Bon appetite! She tries to be sly and sneaky about it, but I can always hear her enjoying her meal. In the morning, she always jumps on my bed and either licks my face or she will stick her bone in my mouth! Sometimes our neighbors will walk down the street, and soon enough, she’s out there following them and begging for treats. Occasionally, she’ll run out the door, knock over the food bowl, then she’ll run back inside and eat some.

Although she may be naughty, she’s only a puppy. Most people think she needs obedience classes, but I think she’s perfect. She’s my sweet, little destructive chocolate princess and I love her.

— Sarah Parsails, Bradenton, 12

Winner age 13-17:

We have four dogs and we love them all, but Rocky, our Boxer, is our Marley.

Rocky loves to open anything. Windows, doors, cabinets. He will jump up on top of our dryer and jump out the window. He can open anything!

He loves to play hide and seek with all our stuff. He will take our shoes, TV remote, pillows, clothes, etc., and he will go outside and hide them, so we have to find them. We never know when we leave what we’ll come home to. When he greets us at the door with his gift and he is so happy, it might be my Mom’s favorite shoes.

We have no cushions left outside as he has chewed everything, we never really catch him, but he brings us the evidence, foam hanging out of his mouth. We have lost count of how many cushions and pillows we have gone through! No food is safe on our counter, you walk away for one minute and Rocky has it. One night my mom was making dinner she made a chicken and she left the kitchen for two minutes and came back to find our dinner totally gone, and who came into the kitchen licking his chops, the one and only Rocky.

When Rocky is mad he sits with his back to you and ignores us, or if he wants you to pay attention to him he will come and jump RIGHT on your lap. All 80 pounds of him. But at the end of the day, you gotta love him. He is our “Rock” star as we call him. And he is always ready, willing and able to give us all the kisses and hugs we need!

— Kristi Drobecker, Bradenton, 17

Winner age 18 and older:

LuLu is an Old English sheepdog now full grown at about 65 pounds. After having my two previous dogs die in quick succession because of disease and old age, my wife and I were dogless. Shortly after, my oldest daughter told me in a telephone conversation that caring for Lulu, plus a Golden (retriever) was more than she could continue to handle. LuLu had already eaten three TV remotes, ate the bottom step of an oak stairway, chewed open the sheetrock on an interior wall not to mention the numerous pillows, magazines, mail, toilet tissue . . . the list goes on. I immediately told her I would take the dog to my home in Florida over my wife’s objections.

Trying to sneak LuLu out of New York not to upset the Golden didn’t work; it was very stressful for me to see how stressed both dogs were. After a two-day road trip back to Florida, I thought the ordeal was over. Didn’t happen. LuLu went to work on a large throw (pillow), jumping up on beds and the like. I had several eye-to-eye conversations with LuLu. Next, she falls into the pool and the wife comes to her rescue. At around that period she made several dramatic escapes. She can run fast, faster than I in my 60s. Now she walks without a leash, loves every human being, especially children and is the neighborhood darling. When you look into her deep, black eyes you feel she is reading your inner-self. She loves cheese, baloney, ham, turkey, etc., but not dog food. Her command of the language is large. She is the most loving and smart of all the dogs I have ever had the privilege to raise.

— James N. Kadien, Ellenton, age 66