Marley & Me (John Grogan)

Marley was not the world’s worst dog, although it may have seemed so to John Grogan from time to time. He was expelled from obedience school and ate speaker covers so thoroughly they vanished. (I won’t even begin to describe Grogan’s idea for a jewelry-cleaning business.) But Marley was, in fact, a wonderful dog. Their best-selling book, Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog [LibraryThing / WorldCat], was a delight. I say “their” book because Marley needed a writer and Grogan needed an inspiration. Together they were a perfect team.

The book was a dual biography. On one hand Grogan recounted his own life: he and his wife being young and married; attempts to become pregnant; young children; neighborhood crime; job commitments. On the other hand he tells us about Marley, his lovable 97 pound yellow labrador retriever, who inserted himself into every story along the way — never quite the way Grogan anticipated.

Any dog owner could relate to some of the situations in the book, but Grogan’s word choice, wit, and entertaining descriptions colored the stories to make his memories seem like they could be yours. One of my dogs, for instance, was “big, dumb and loopy” with “more energy than sense.” Another might have been mistaken for a “methane plant.” Every dog I’ve ever owned could be associated with the Grogan family’s “emergency spill-response team.” And how often have we engaged our dogs like hostage negotiators seeking to recover valuables from their gloppy mouths? Marley, “as stealthy as a marching band,” surpassed my dogs, however, by being cast in a movie and reeking havoc on the set. In one the more poignant stories (and they are several) he stoically surprised his owner the night they both reacted to a neighborhood stabbing.

Most of all, Marley & Me was a love story. Although Grogan called Marley the world’s worst dog, the label was an endearment. Even the world’s worst dog can be a teacher to its owner. A mentor. The life cycle of a dog is short, but it can also be full. Grogan’s tribute managed to capture the “unbridled exuberance and joy” of one dog in particular, and in doing so, every dog I’ve ever known.

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