Marley the gentle giant turns heads in the street and online

By Ilias Bakalla

You would be forgiven for mistaking Marley the Maremma as Marley the Labrador from the 2008 film Marley & Me.

And that’s not just because they look similar.

According to his owner, Shepparton’s Emily Esam, her 53 kg canine also acts like his Hollywood doppelganger.

‘‘Once he was with my boyfriend (Michael Iulio) and escaped from the house and ran down the street,’’ she said.

‘‘The police were raiding a house and Marley ran in.

‘‘They had to pick him up and bring him back to us.’’

Then there was the time Marley disappeared for the afternoon.

Marley the Maremma sheepdog.

‘‘Police found him wandering along Wyndham St,’’ Emily said.

“They had to contact the pound to scan his microchip and bring him home.’’

Marley makes an impact wherever he goes. Even when he doesn’t leave his home, he still makes himself known to the postman with his deep throaty bark.

But despite his sometimes intimidating greeting, Emily said he was a gentle giant.

‘‘He is also a really good guard dog,’’ she said.

That explains why Marley is also the same breed as Oddball — the lead canine in the Australian movie of the same name which tells the story of a Maremma who protects penguins from foxes.

Those instincts aside, Emily said he had a sleepy nature and his fur took a lot to maintain.

"I brush him every day and aim to bathe him once a month,’’ she said.

‘‘But he really hates water so it can be tough and he doesn’t like to go for a walk on rainy days.

‘‘The only time he doesn’t mind it is when it’s hot. We have a little paddling pool for him to lay in on those hot days.’’

Marley surveying the street and guarding against the postman.

Emily and her boyfriend bought Marley from a pet store in Shepparton five years ago.

She said all the puppies had been bought but when they returned the next day one sale had fallen through.

‘‘Marley was available,’’ she said.

‘‘We named him Marley because he looks like the dog from Marley and Me.

‘‘And also that dog was kind of left to the side, just like Marley.’’

But that’s certainly not the case these days.

Emily said Marley was fed a bowl of rice, vegetables and meat daily. Emily’s mum, Kanitha, also has a vegie patch and Marley occasionally gets the stalks of broccoli.

‘‘But once Marley got into the vegie patch and ate heaps of the vegies so we had to build a gate and door,’’ Emily said with a laugh.

Marley has also made an impact online. He has an Instagram page (@marleys—world101) with nearly 200 followers.

‘‘I started it about six months ago because my camera roll was basically full of photos of Marley,’’ Emily said. ‘‘I mostly post photos of him looking cute. He’s a handsome boy.’’

And a good boy too even if he can be mischievous sometimes. Because as John Grogan wrote in the best-selling novel about his Marley, ‘‘bad dogs, if you can really call them that, are perhaps the greatest of them all’’.

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