Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Truly Heartwarming Story, especially for Dog Owners



As an animal lover in general and a dog lover specifically, I have no idea why I waited so long to read Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan (304 pgs, William Morrow). Maybe because it's non-fiction, which is a genre I've written off for years as "boring". Or maybe because I have 2 of the "world's worst dogs" myself, and I didn't think I would find anything unusual about this book. But signing up for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge has given me a new perspective on this genre. I'm truly glad I read this one!


John and Jenny Grogan were newlyweds starting their new life together in Florida. Both wrote for local newspapers and everything was good. Then one day, John came home to find Jenny pouring through the classifieds looking for a dog. She had just killed her house plant, and was feeling down. She wanted to prove to both herself and John that she was capable of caring for someone other than herself, knowing that one day, they would want to have children. And what would be a great place to start, but with a dog??


Enter Marley: a little, yellow Labrador, that was fun and full of spunk. Named after the Reggae singer, Marley was anything but mellow. With a fear of thunderstorms and a knack for eating just about anything in sight, Marley brought more drama into their lives than they ever thought possible. All at once, they had this ball of energy and unpredictableness in their home!! After trying to train him themselves, the Grogans decided that Obedience School was the way to go. But Marley had other ideas.
"All the other dogs were sitting placidly beside their masters, at tidy ten-foot intervals, awaiting further instructions. Jenny was fighting valiantly to plant her feet and bring Marley to a halt, but he lumbered on unimpeded, tugging her across the parking lot in pursuit of hot-poodle butt-sniffing action. My wife looked amazingly like a water-skier being towed behind a powerboat. Everyone stared. Someone snickered. I covered my eyes. Marley wasn't one for formal introductions. He crashed into the poodle and immediately crammed his nose between her legs. I imagined it was the canine male's way of asking, "So, do you come here often?"'


Marley was indeed expelled from Obedience school! And that was just for starters. He made his own doggie-door by barrelling through the screen door. He ingested a gold necklace, paychecks, and many other Grogan family items. He destroyed more shoes than imaginable. But when it came to family, Marley was the best. After a horrible miscarriage, John and Jenny finally had their first child. They were a little leery of what Marley might think, but he handled it with style:
"As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, Marley came to accept Patrick as his new best friend. One night early on, as I was turning off the lights to go to bed, I couldn't find Marley anywhere. Finally I thought to look in the nursery, and there he was stretched out on the floor beside Patrick's crib, the two of them snoring away in stereophonic fraternal bliss. Marley, our wild crashing bronco was different around Patrick. He seemed to understand that this was a fragile, defenseless little human, and he moved gingerly whenever he was near him, licking his face and ears delicately. He was a gentle giant around Patrick, and he accepted his second-fiddle status with bonhomie and good-natured resignation."


Marley was never mean-spirited. But when a neighbor was attacked, and danger was in the air, Marley was there: "When I looked up, there he stood, ten feet from us, facing the street, in a determined bull-like crouch I had never seen before. It was a fighter's stance. His muscles bulged at the neck; his jaw was clinched; the fur behind his shoulder blades bristled. He was intensely focused on the street and appeared poised to lunge. I realized in that instant Jenny had been right. If the armed assailant returned, he would have to get past my dog first. I knew -- I absolutely knew without a doubt -- that Marley would fight him to the death before he would let him at us."


I absolutely loved this book! Having a 3 year old St. Bernard, I know all about pain-in-the-ass dogs! But I also know the love that a person can have for a pet, and just how loyal they can be. This love radiates from Grogan's book. It shows just how special this dog was.....a dog that many had written off as bad and untrainable. Through it all, Marley was there. He indeed was a member of the family. I laughed at his antics, and I had tears rolling down my cheeks at the end. If you have ever had a pet that was special to you, please read this book! 5/5


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19 comments:

Kailana said...

I loved this book when I read it last year as well. Although, it was part of the reason I was so freaked when Sandy started acting strange, I thought for sure she was sick like the dog in this book because they have similar health problems...

jean pierre said...

aww... this sounds really heartwarming!

jean pierre said...

aww... this sounds really heartwarming!

Stephanie said...

kelly - with my dog hitting 13 this year, I'm seeing some of the same things. But I thought the book was great!

JP - If you like dogs, you will love this book! Fantastic!

Andi said...

Oh God, I want to, but I know I'll end up crying. Decisions, decisions.

Stephanie said...

Andi - Oh yeah. You'll end up crying!! If you like dogs at all, you will love it though. Actually, I saw they are making a movie with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston! Can't wait to see it!

Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

Don't feel like you're the only one late to the party with this book... I just finished it a couple of weeks ago. Like you, I have no idea why I waited so long! I loved it, I laughed, I cried, I could relate to many things being a dog owner and dog lover. It is an incredible book, I'm so glad to hear they are making a movie of it :) I also did a review at my blog, and copied a couple of paragraphs from the book. I used some at the end, when he wrote his column about Marley and what he had meant to their family. It is all so true - dogs give you their whole heart and live to love and protect us. Sniff sniff :)

Great review!

Kailana said...

I am not so sure about the movie to be honest...

Booklogged said...

I've been hearing so many good things about this book, but I just haven't been in the right mood yet. The day may come, though. Your review is weighing heavy on the 'read it' side.

Nymeth said...

This sounds like a great book. I love my pets, so I'll have to do myself the favour of reading it.

DesLily said...

for some reason animal books generally have parts for you to cry.. even the old Lassie and Rin Tin Tin books did the same, even if they were Fiction..

something about unconditional love...

Stephanie said...

Stacey - You are absolutely right! Dogs do give us their hearts and they are loyal beyond compare! I couldn't imagine life without them!

Kelly - Yeah...they are going to make a comedy. I just don't think the essence of the book will remain.

Booklogged - Oh Yes! I'm definitely in the "must read" camp!

Nymeth - if you have pets you will love and completely understand this book!

Deslily - Perfect unconditional love! Pets bring so much to a family, but you are right. That is the most important!

Tammy said...

I hadn't previously thought about reading this one, somehow I thought Marley was a man (I think I got it mixed up in my head with Tuesdays with Morrie), but now that I know it's about a dog, it's going on my TBR pile. I just recently finished A Dog Year by Jon Katz, also about a difficult dog, and loved it!

Heather (errantdreams) said...

Oh wow. Darn you, now I want to add yet another book to my wish list. *sigh*

Amanda said...

I loved this book Stephanie! There is also a picture book version...you should check that out!

Gentle Reader said...

This sounds great! I have one of the world's worst dogs, too (okay, she's also one of the world's greatest). I've seen this book but never picked it up, but now I will. Thanks :)

Bookfool said...

I still haven't read this one, myself, so you're not the last! I'm like Andi. I know it's going to make me cry. Maybe after the sting of losing one of my pets is gone, I'll give in. Not, yet, though.

Kimmie said...

I've got to read this. I loved all the James Herriot books.

Framed said...

Thank heavens, I already own this book so I won't be compelled to go out and buy it. Now I just need to find the tme to read it. Great review.