Bad Dog! Good Book: Marley & Me

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I finished reading, "Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog" by John Grogan, and it was a touching tale about the unrequited love and bond that a canine companion can bring to our life. Marley, a yellow Lab, was blockheaded in form and actions, barrelling through screen doors and dragging dining tables by his leash, while trying to fetch any piece of fabric, trash or food into his cavernous maw. Many families wouldn't put up with such an unruly hound, but the Grogans learned to love Marley and his boneheaded ways up until his passing after thirteen years. The book is an easy, witty and lighthearted look into the Grogan's life of the last thirteen years, from John's early years working in Florida, to his stint with Organic Gardening to his present job as a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Any dog owner of past or present will instantly relate with this book, and it certainly is a GREAT read if you ever plan on adopting or buying a dog. Caveat emptor - Let the buyer beware.

In our family, dogs were always a huge part of our lives, because of my two sisters, Stephanie and Stacey. They are my older twin sisters, "The Twins" as my father would just call them like they were one person. And for the better part of 21 years - from grade school to college they were inseperable.

This included their pre-teen and teenage years working at the Richboro Veterinary Hospital, as assistants to the doctor. They were the experts in anything animal related, and would make our home a second refuge for wild animals that needed rehabilitation. Fortunately we were in the suburbs of Philadelphia, so the "wild" animals were common birds, squirrels, racoons, geese, ducks and once a fawn deer, along with other assortments of animals, like our cat Ratio and our dog Leia.

Leia, an afgan hound, was like the Ford Taurus of dogs. Named after Princess Leia, she was a docile, quiet, long haired dog with the IQ of a carrot. She was fun and interesting as a puppy, with a lively nature, but after 2 years, when she stopped being a frisky puppy, Leia's only job was to sleep, eat and poop. She didn't fetch. She didn't catch frisbees. She was fairly well versed in verbal commands like "Sit", "Stay", "Paw", "Come", "Down". Like many Afgans, one of her attributes was her blazing speed. She ran like a black blur.

Her speed, combined with her stupidity lent to many accidents with her.

I was responsible for Leia on a late spring day, and she got away from me. I tracked her down behind the old Bennis house not too far away. The yard behind their house sloped up, and at its crest was a swimming pool. The gate was open, and Leia - in her panic to get away from me, ran up the hill. She ran up that hill with tremendous speed and gusto and she was airbourne. Her legs were flapping in the air, expecting to hit ground - but there was no ground, just the pool below her.

I raced up the hill, equally worried because from my perspective, because as I got closer I didn't see any water in the pool. I'm having visions of a dead Afgan at the bottom of the pool, and me getting into a shitload of trouble. As I got to the top of the hill, I looked in to see Leia, in a small pool of water soaked to the bone with a look on her face that clearly said, "What the fuck just happened?!"

You know those belly-hurting kind of laughs? Yea, I was nearly buckled over while I tried to "save" her from the pool. I got her back on the leash while she gamely walked with me back to the house, shivering from the cold water. We loved Leia, but it wasn't until later in life that I got to meet some dogs with real personality.

Cruz, Jack Russel Terrier, Sisters: My sisters were horseback riders and often attended horse shows at Devon, PA. There they mey the white furry guy, and bought him when they were around 19 or 20. He was named after a character from the soap opera "Santa Barbara". Cruz was everything that Leia wasn't - animated, full of personality, fun, self absorbed and neurotic. Cruz would have an adorable tail-butt wiggle thing when he got excited, which just make him adorable. What, over the years, didn't make him adorable was his increasing intolerance to commands and his desire to be the Alpha. The sisters shared him in college, and he was Stephanie's dog after college. He passed away in the mid-90s.

Lakin, Rottweiler, Stacey: While one sister had Cruz, my other sister got the other opposite - a Rottweiler named Lakin. Lakin was a big muscular bitch that could rip your arm off, but she was nothing but kind and gentle with everyone in the family. We dubbed her "my shadow" because if you were ever alone with her, Lakin would just follow you like a loyal dog. Watching TV? Lakin is next to you. Want to get some Iced Tea? Lakin would get up and follow you into the kitchen, and then back into the dining room. Lakin was no joke - pure muscle and filled with loyal love. Lakin was Stacey's dog for about 3 or 4 years. Once my sister had her firstborn Lakin's temperment became a concern, and was adopted by a new family. Rotties are great dogs, but I think (in my opinion) you should get them AFTER you have kids.

Chauncy, Golden Retreiver, Stephanie: A gentle Golden Retriever, she could have been the mold out of which all the Goldens were created. Gentle and patient, kind and loyal. Similar to Leia, but was much more loving and certainly smarter. I wrote about Chauncy on my last visit to California, she lived with Champ and Snoop at the end of her life, and passed away last year.

Chloe, Bouvier des Flandres, Stacey: Once Stacey had children, she adopted a 3 year old Bouvier des Flandres (Flanders Cattle Dog) from a German-speaking couple. It was well versed in German dog commands. After years of watching Hogan's Heroes, I knew a few good phrases: "COMEN ZE HERE!", "MACH SCHNELL!". The dog didn't respond, but to sniff me. Chloe's time with Stacey didn't last very long, due to the fact that no matter what was done, Chloe couldn't be housebroken. 4 children and a dog that poops all over the house isn't a good situation. Chloe was adopted by a new family.

Bromley, Clumber Spaniel, K & A: Bromley! What can be said about the Brom-ster? K & A got Bromley in 2000, their first dog, while they were living together in Duane street in NYC. Bromley is just a lovable goof, a jelly belly happy go lucky dog that is a bit of a dope. To have a Clumber, you have to embrace the fact that you are going to be avoiding or cleaning up a lot of his slobber and hair. Plus the dog snores like no one's business. Otherwise he is a nice dog and K & A are now living with him in D.C., along with their baby girl.

Champ, Boxer, Stephanie: I'm guessing there are a trillion Boxer dogs named "Cassius", "Clay", "Ali" or "Rocky". Champ isn't that long of a stretch, either. Champ was abandoned on the streets of Camden as a puppy. Emaciated, very thin and with healing wounds, Stephanie found the dog in the shelter and agreed to adopt him. Champ is cool dude. He is like Samuel Jackson of dogs. Doesn't bark, yip or bite. Just has that quiet confidence, and likes to chill out with his masters. He also likes to follow people around, and stay by their side.

Snoop, Mutt (Border Collie/Lab/Greyhound mix), Stephanie: Another shelter dog rescued that easily is the smartest dog of the bunch. Also the most active. I played fetch with him for about an hour or two last year. He somehow got a cut on his foot, and was standing there, on the pavement, bleeding - and he wouldn't stop. He was like obsessed to keep fetching. Stephanie fixed up his foot and we put the ball away. He sat in front of the cabinent where the ball is locked, while we were making lunch in the other room. He would make eye contact with me. Then look at the cabinent, and then look back at me, as if to say, "Hey, we aren't done yet?!" Snoop is absolutely, positively the dog I should have grown up with. We would have had loads of fun. I don't know if, as an adult, I could keep up with his energy level & certainly would feel really bad to keep him in a condo all day. Fortunately Stephanie has a huge house in Temecula, and Snoop and Champ play together all day.

German Shepherds, Stacey: Stacey now trains seeing eye dogs. They are specially bred German Shepherds. Smaller and less aggressive than what many would associate with the Shepherd breed. Plus she gets them as a puppy, trains them for a year, and then gives them back to the Seeing Eye group for placement in homes.

Our family has known a lot of dogs in our lives, some good and some not-so-good. But they have brought us a lot of love, happiness and tears over the years. If you are a dog owner, go out and buy Marley & Me, you won't be disappointed.

2 Comments

I read this book last week. LOVED IT! I bought a copy for a friend and myself. He loved it as much as I did.

I grew up with alot of dogs and always had one throughout my life. I can't imagine living a life without one :).

I always read what "local" writers write. I guess it is safe to assume you already read the Jere Longman book about the Eagles, right?

I could write a book about my past dogs --crazy Irish Setters - and about my current beagle. Not to mention about life as a dog walker -- I have 12 new buddies these days!!!

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on February 10, 2006 12:27 AM.

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