Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Marley & Me - The World's Worst Dog (Or Is He?)

Pros: Heartwarming and hilarious goodies
Cons: Be prepared to tear up - especially if you own an old dog yourself.

The Bottom Line: A cozy read no matter where you are. Just be ready for the end that has to come.

Even though Marley & Me came out a year or so ago, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed it, or at least Marley, was everywhere. As I work at a Barnes & Noble, it is likely that I never would have noticed it otherwise. I first spotted Marley in his artist-drawn form for the children’s book, Bad Dog Marley!. From there things snowballed. More books on the Pets shelf. Lovely hardcover bargain editions getting showcased. Then a week or so ago, at least 20 copies sitting on a table in the Pets section, getting a lot of airtime.

Being a dog lover, I was very curious about this book with an adorable Labrador sitting innocently on the front while the title proclaimed him “World’s Worst Dog.” I’ve heard horror stories about bad dogs and I wondered if Marley really did live up to them. That and I just decided to read the book. Haha.

Essentially, you get to read about the life of Marley as it relates to that of the author, John Grogan, and his family. It starts with the death of the plant and John’s new wife desiring to take care of a dog to prove to herself that she can actually take care of a child (after all, if she killed a plant, how can she be a fit mother, as she claims). From there Marley comes in and shows his neurosis, everything from acting like a horse galloping around the house to freaking out in a most destructive manner when a storm comes. You follow the family as they begin in Florida and end up in Pennsylvania (only 3 hours away from me!) and eventually the end everyone knows will be coming in this book.

It’s a lot of fun to read. Even someone else’s life, who may not be much different from yours in terms of every day occurrences, is very interesting. Add a little spice that is a wacky dog to the mix and it gets even better. There are plenty of giggle to laugh out loud moments. Marley as Clearance Dog when he was a puppy. The way Grogan describes Marley’s antics, such as when he has some foreign object in his mouth. You also get the “Awww” moments in life, like when a dog just knows that you’re sad and is there for you until you feel better. Then of course, the end – you’ll likely cry if you’ve gotten attached to Marley, used to have a dog of your own, or have a dog now (because we all know the inevitable thing that waits ahead due to a dog’s lifespan). I enjoyed this book a great deal and did indeed cry at the end, for both Marley and because my own dog is 13, and though she’s still surprisingly spunky at times, at others you can clearly see her age – a lot of which Grogan described that had me thinking, “Oh God, that sounds like my dog.”

In one way though, I found myself slightly disappointed. This is mostly due to my own fault and expectations I guess, but I felt like I wasn’t getting enough of Marley and his psychotic antics. There were a few times when Grogan would mention a past event at some length and I thought, “Why didn’t you just give that whole episode its own crazy chapter? After all, the title is Marley & Me.” Rather, at some times it felt more like a memoir for Grogan with a lot of Marley clowning added in. I guess I just wanted it to be the other way around; all about Marley with human actions added in. But again, that was probably my own fault to expect so much of Marley – after all, it is hard to make a book nothing but doggie wackiness while still having a coherent story that follows a timeline (as a string of incidents would end up being no more than, well, a string of incidents in short story form).

Grogan has a real knack for good description and you’ll have a good time reading this book, wrapping yourself up in the good times and the bad times the family goes through, and of course, all the crazy, drooling, barking, command-disobeying, playful, fun-loving, boundless ball of energy that is Marley.


Originally published on

Notes from the playlist: "One Love/People Get Ready" by Bob Marley

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