Not referring here to Scrooge's ex-business partner, obviously. Dickens had the grace to break the news about him to us in the first sentence. I'm talking about the canine star of Marley and Me.
Perhaps you're wondering how I came to be watching it in the first place. Thing is, we've had these free cinema tickets magnet-pinned to the front of our fridge for what seems like forever, but actually since the time we went to see The Duchess with Keira Knightley, and had to contend with the repulsive sound of Mamma Mia on the adjacent screen, booming through the walls of the worst sound-proofed cinema I've ever encountered in my life. So in recognition of the fact that there really is no excuse even for the existence of an Abba musical with Meryl Streep and Julie Walters in it, still less for it serving as the soundtrack to a film about the political and domestic intrigues of an eighteenth century aristocratic hottie, we got a pair of free tickets from the manager, who had 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari' enigmatically printed under his name on the staff badge he was wearing.
Then for the next year they just sat there, while we waited patiently for someone to make a film not based on a Marvel comic.
Eventually, with one day left before they expired, we decided to cut our losses and go to see Marley and Me on the grounds that we knew it contained a sequence in which a cute dog climbs out the window of a moving car and trots alongside it while Owen Wilson tries to get it back in.
And for a long time it was fine. We saw Marley (who was, apparently, played by 22 different dogs) as a puppy, we saw him get expelled from obedience class for flooring the trainer (who was, apparently, played by Kathleen Turner); we saw him doing a whole bunch of great dog stuff like ripping up sofas, wrecking a garage and eating Jennifer Aniston's necklace, which they eventually retrieve from Marley's faeces by breaking it up with a garden hose. All good stuff.
But then the dog starts limping, and everyone knows what's coming next when a dog starts limping. It's like when Garbo starts coughing. And sure enough, next thing you know, Marley's at the vets, the drip's in, and all that's left is the scene where they bury him in the garden.
At least he gets to have lots of fun in the first three quarters of the film, unlike, say, Old Shep, who, loved though he may have been, nonetheless led a rather austere life before Elvis shot him. Marley is pretty incorrigible, actually, and the end, when it comes, is quick. Still, I was off my guard, that's all I'm saying; I was off my guard.