October 14, 2006

Marley & Me

Marley & Me by John Grogan
Finished on 10/3/06
Rating: A- (8/10 Very good)

Dogs have given us their absolute all.
We are the center of their universe.
We are the focus of their love and faith and trust.
They serve us in return for scraps.
It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.
~Roger Caras

I was 26 years old when I got my first dog. Oh, sure, we had a couple of dogs while I was growing up, but they were really more my parents’ than mine. And to be quite honest, Sidney was really Rod’s dog. It wasn’t until we became empty-nesters and (quite coincidentally) Sid became an indoor dog that we became close pals. I had more time for him than I had in the past and I was in desperate need of something to nurture. I went from room-mother and soccer mom to head-groomer and dog-walker. Sidney was 12 and I was a year-and-a-half away from the big 4-0. It was a perfect fit.

I got a copy of Marley & Me from our library, but since I was trying to wrap up my classic challenge, Rod went ahead and read it first. I warned him that I’d heard it had a sad ending and it didn’t surprise me that he chose not to read the final chapters. I, on the other hand (being a glutton for punishment), sucked it up and read the whole book.

It took me a few chapters to get enthusiastic about Marley & Me. Something about the author’s style bothered me, at least initially, and I was afraid I was headed for another disappointing read. However, at some point Grogan stopped trying to sound like Dave Barry (and I stopped comparing his book to Fifty Acres and a Poodle) and I found myself nodding my head and chortling at his recollections of life with “the world’s worst dog.” I saw a lot of us and our Sidney in his stories.

Like the Grogans, we traded our postage-stamp-sized lot for three acres, a creek (crik to the locals) and gentle, rolling hills, moving from San Diego to Lincoln. It felt as if we’d moved into a Norman Rockwell painting. Never had we seen so many parks, all full of happy families riding bikes, flying kites or walking to the neighborhood DQ. Gone were the days of drive-by-shooting drills and gated communities. People left their cars and homes unlocked and a couple of grocery stores even let you sign for your groceries, happy--and trusting enough--to bill you at the end of the month.

We were thrilled and Sid was in heaven. Freedom! We let him roam during the day, happy he’d made friends with the neighbor’s dog, Molly, and smiled like proud parents as the two frolicked in the meadow, returning home utterly worn out and covered in burrs, pond scum and ticks.

But he paid a price for his new life as a country dog. Poor Sid. He hated thunder (and fireworks) and like Grogan, we eventually wound up drugging Sid every time a storm rolled through. This happens a lot in Nebraska, especially compared to San Diego, which rarely ever gets the big thunderstorms we see in the Midwest.

Sid was quite the retriever (on his own terms, mind you), entertaining us with unusual gifts from his daily excursions: a snapping turtle from the creek, a Runza bag with the remnants of someone’s partially-eaten lunch, a pair of pantyhose (don’t even want to know where he got those!), and the occasional golf ball (hopefully from one of the ditches alongside our road and not from the private golf course kitty-corner to our lot).

Sid loved to chase squirrels, sitting at the base of a tree for hours, completely unaware that the squirrel was long gone. He’d bark at rabbits, opossums, skunks, raccoons and stray cats as they’d wander up on our deck, enjoying the food and water my well-meaning hubby would leave out. He’d bark at Amy as she rode our shiny new John Deere mower, or at the two wild turkeys (named Lucy & Dezi -- Amy was a big I Love Lucy fan) that came to graze under the mulberry tree. Hell, he’d even bark at a solitary leaf blowing in the wind (we didn’t get a lot of falling leaves in San Diego). Quite the happy fellow. Until we told him we were moving to Texas. Land of scorpions, fire ants and heat. But that’s another story for another time.

And like any dog-owner, I have dozens and dozens of Sidney stories that I’d love to share (like the time we accidentally overdosed him on his tranquilizers or how his lip would curl into a smile causing him to sneeze and snort all over you or how Rod built a ramp for the porch steps so Sidney, as he aged, could continue to come in the front door with dignity), but this a book review and I should try to stay focused.

Sidney was part Chow, part yellow Lab and part human. I never fail to think of him when we have fried eggs and toast for breakfast. We always saved him some of the runny yolk and he licked that plate cleaner than any dishwasher ever could. He was my true companion and, until last year, I have never experienced a loss of a loved-one quite like I did when we had to have him put to sleep. He was almost 14 and he was the best damned dog I ever knew. Sniff.

Marley and Me is a book for all dog-lovers, whether they currently own a dog or have fond memories of a family pet that has passed away. Of course it’s a tear-jerker (Marley’s senior years were so much like Sid’s), but overall the book was entertaining and made me laugh (and made me grateful we didn’t wind up with a dog quite as high-maintenance as the Grogans). I think, most importantly though, it brought back some special memories of our sweet Sidney and for that I’m especially grateful.

Sidney's Photo Gallery


  1. Aaawwwwweeee, you brought tears to my eyes. I love the picture of Sid at the counter...adorable!

    I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said something like this: I wish I could be the person that my dog thinks I am. :)

    I really liked MARLEY & ME, yet I didn't like the arrogance and attitude of Grogan.

  2. I am glad that you enjoyed this book! I thought it was really great, and like you, wrote more about my own dog than actaully about the book. :)

  3. Ohhhhh, I love your photos and the fact that you wrote more about your own dog than the book (it's been talked about quite a bit)!!

    I haven't yet read Marley & Me, although I have an advanced reader copy that I bought because everyone else seemed to be enjoying it, last year. While we sat in the Anchorage airport, I watched a woman's shoulders shake as she snickered over a copy of the book. Just watching her read made me smile.

    I've seen that bumper sticker Joy mentioned - love it!

  4. Joy, I love that picture, too. He was still such a pup. I doubt he was even two when I took that shot.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your final comment. He did come across pretty arrogant, at least in the first few chapters. Kind of like, "Hey, listen to me be clever as I write about my dog." I think once he started sharing more about his wife and family, I began to enjoy the book.

    Kailana, I think everyone who reviews this book winds up saying more about their own dog than the book! ;)

    Nancy, good thing you didn't see the first draft of my review! It got to be a bit long-winded as I reminiscent about Sid. I also had lots more pics, but decided to curb my enthusiasm a smidge. I think you'll enjoy the book when you get around to it. Maybe save it for when you're feeling a bit down and need a chuckle (but hold off on the last few chapters!).

  5. Anonymous9:37 AM

    Thanks so much for sharing the pictures of Sidney! He was a beautiful dog. I have a dog, too, that I'm sure would rival Grogan's Marley as "world's worst", but I love her as she is and wouldn't change a thing. She is 11 1/2 years old and I dread the thought of her getting to "that point." Haven't read the Grogan book yet, and maybe I won't. I would rather hear the stories like yours about Sidney.

  6. Thanks, Sharon. He was a beautiful (or should we say, handsome) dog, wasn't he? But boy could he shed! We had a pool when we first got him and my husband spent a lot of timing skimming Sidney-hair. And when he blew his coat in the summer, lookout! We'd sit around, sipping a beer, plucking the dog. He didn't mind. Anything to get rid of some of that overcoat. Silly dog, though, didn't like water. He could've cooled off in the pool but he was afraid to go in.

    I don't blame you for not wanting to read Grogan's book, but maybe you could do like Rod and just stop when the author starts to allude to Marley's senior moments. Or not. Either way, it sounds like you still have some good times ahead of you with your dog. I know you'll treasure every one.

    Thanks for the comments.


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