April’s Pet of the Month: Marla Bean

This perma-puppy is a hit wherever she goes.
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Marla is nine years old, but she still looks like a puppy. “People often gasp when I tell them how old she is,” explains her owner, Alexander Coughlin, a Corte Madera native. “I always respond with, “She’s a perma-puppy!” As anyone who’s met Marla will tell you, she brings a sense of peace and happiness to all she meets. I picked up on this from the moment I met her when she was only a few weeks old.”

Alexander was so inspired by Marla’s good nature that he decided to share her loving nature with others by enrolling her in the SPCA’s Animal Assisted Therapy program five years ago. Alexander and Marla visit the elderly and adults with mental disabilities every month who can’t live on their own. “Every single visit we’ve ever had has always left the crowd with lifted spirits and smiles on their faces,” Alexander says. “I’ve been told by staff members that some residents who have been melancholy and hesitant to leave their rooms come out when they hear she’s coming. I see them smiling and laughing while they play with her and she gives them kisses. It’s the absolute best!

Marla lives with Alexander and his husband, Hai. “We’re like the Three Musketeers,” he says. “She goes everywhere with us. Even though it’s just the three of us, we live in a condo building and in a neighborhood with a lot of other dogs who like to play in the park across the street, so Marla has an extended family around her that always greets her whenever she’s out and about and asks me where she is if she’s not with me.”

We asked Alexander a few more questions about his beloved pooch:

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How did you two meet?

I got Marla from a family in Sebastopol in 2011. Marla’s mom had a litter of four puppies and I was lucky enough to be the first person to see them. This sounds funny, but Marla and I had an instant connection. We definitely picked each other. I sat down to see all of the adorable little puppies, and she made a beeline for me across the room and plopped herself right into my lap. It was hard to get any time with any of the other puppies after that, but I was definitely okay with it and we’ve been inseparable ever since!

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Why did you name her Marla Bean?

I named her after my grandmother, Marlene, who passed away a few years before I got Marla. She picked up the “Bean” a few weeks later because when she was really little she was so small that when she coiled up to sleep I thought she looked like a baked bean, so her name evolved from there.

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Does Marla have a favorite snack or treat?

Marla, like most dogs, is food-obsessed. She loves almost anything she can get her paws on, but I try to keep her on a pretty streamlined diet. Her favorite special treats would have to be chicken and yogurt.

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Does she sleep in your bed?

Of course… She has her own bed in our room, but most of the time she’s sleeping in between my husband and me and it’s not uncommon for her to burrow herself under the covers for extra warmth on chilly nights.

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Where are some of Marla’s favorite hiking spots?

Marla loves hiking in Sausalito on the Alta Trail where she meets other dogs and sometimes even a horse or two, the Corte Madera/Blithedale Ridge at the top of Christmas Tree Hill up the street from where I grew up, and up on Ring Mountain because she clearly loves views. I’m part Coast Miwok, so I definitely have a super strong affinity for Marin because my family’s literally been here for thousands of years. Marla and I are by far at our happiest when we are outdoors hiking in Marin. There’s nothing else like it in the world!

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Tell us something unique about Marla.

Marla has a really special energy that is both uplifting and calming. She has a knack for brightening people’s days and never hesitates to extend a paw to a stranger she meets along her way. I always see people smiling at her when she walks by, or saying things like, “Look at that cute little dog!” as she passes by. The other day a little girl went running up to her mom exclaiming, “Look, mom! It’s Lady from Lady and the Tramp!” She was so excited.

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You can find Marla on Instagram under the hashtag #MarlaBean or visit Alexander’s Instagram page.

For more Marin pets:

Dog of the Month: Special Agent Farley

Dog of the Month: Winnie

Dog of the Month: Millie

If you’d like to enter your dog into Marin’s dog-of-the-month, please contact jessica@marinmagazine.com.

Jessica GliddonJessica is an international writer and editor who has lived and worked in London, Dubai and Cape Town. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, Jessica is the former editor of Abu Dhabi’s airline magazine, Etihad Inflight. She also worked for six years in a creative agency in South Africa, heading up publications for wineries, jewelry companies, and even an orchestra. She then moved back to California and decided to get serious about digital, brushing up with a course at General Assembly and launching into the role of Digital Editor for both Marin Magazine and the SF Bay section of Better.net. When she’s not checking out the latest exhibit at SFMOMA or searching out the best places to eat and drink near her home in San Francisco, she volunteers at the Marin Mammal Center in Sausalito.

Categories: Marin Matters, Pets