“Marley & Me”: More Than a ‘Dog Story’

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog

By John Grogran

Harper Collins, 2005

ISN: 13: 978-0-06-123822-2

I confess.  I’m a dyed-in-the-Alpo, no-bones-about-it, unabashed, bonafide dog lover, but even feline fans will appreciate John Grogan’s Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog.  An eloquent look at a “wondrously neurotic dog” and “what really matters in life,” this engaging, insightful epic recounts the zany escapades of a ninety-seven pound yellow Labrador retriever who “crashed through life with a gusto often associated with natural disasters” and the humans who loved him.

Marley begins when newlyweds John and Jen Grogan move to South Florida and begin budding careers as journalists at competing newspapers.  An adorable “clearance puppy”  turns their lives inside out and upside down for thirteen roaring, soaring, raucous, wonderful years – as only a “loopy” dog can.

A richly textured three-dimensional portrait of family life and love, Marley avoids maudlin sentimentality while offering honest “slice of life” vignettes to which anyone relate.  It’s also wickedly funny.  Catapult-like, this wild ride with “the world’s worst dog” races through mango snacks, gold necklace “dessert,” poodle distractions, drywall destruction, thunder phobias, ejection from obedience school, mishaps at Dog Beach, to loss, disappointment, kids and sleep deprivation, a scream in the night, job changes, moves, and the kind of unwavering loyalty, devotion, and crazy love that’s unique to canines.

Marley & Me is more than a “dog story.”  Grogan’s nimble pacing, pithy observations and quirky chronicling evoke both laugh-out-loud mirth and hand-me-another-tissue sniffles.  Marley makes you want to run, not walk, to the nearest mutt and hug him or her for dear life.

Speaking of which, Grogan’s first-person narrative runs the gamut of “everyday life” emotions: appreciation, apprehension, horror, humiliation, unbridled glee, intense sorrow, exasperation, exhaustion, effervescence and ebullience.  Chapters include And Puppy Makes Three, A Battle of Wills, The Things He Ate,  In the Land of Bocahontas, alfresco Dining, Lightning Strikes, The Big Meadow and Beneath the Cherry Tree.   A special bonus is a reprint of Grogan’s January 6, 2004 column about Marley from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Saying Farewell to a Faithful Pal, that inspired the book (bring Kleenex).

Nuts as Marley is, we get the feeling that the world would be a better place if more humans lived and loved like this crazy yellow dog.  Indeed, Marley and Me leaves no doubt as to why dogs, not cats, are tagged as “man’s best friend.”  By the end of the book you’ll feel like you’ve known the Grogans for years, and that Marley was your dog, too.  (Have I told you about Eve, our mellow yellow Lab? A Marley polar-opposite, Eve is by far and away the smartest member of our family.)

Even cat lovers will get this one.  Four stars (for occasional language, adult themes.)

***

Coming up:

Laughing All the Way: 10 Tips for the Hilarity Highway and a five-part mini-series: Write Away…

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