March 15, 2013

Marley and Me by Josh Grogan

There are so many things to enjoy about this book and so many things not to enjoy.  While I can like the diligence put forth into writing an entertaining book, there were some things in this book that disturbed me.  And it's actually more of a memoir than a story about a dog, the owner's life is first and foremost here.

As a practice run for a baby, John and Jenny decide to get a dog.  They decide on a Labrador because they're fun and goofy, and purchase a puppy.  Right away they realize they've gotten in over their heads.  Marley is a whirlwind on four paws and constantly into trouble.  He also grows into a behemoth who is hard to control and somewhat untrainable for them.  But they love him and as the years pass he becomes a part of their family (joined later by 3 kids).

This is a book about John's life.  Not Marley's.  I like memoirs, but I was expecting more about Marley.  Having to hear about his wife's pregnancies and contractions and all that kind of stuff was something I wasn't really interested in.  And there's not much mention of his kids, so if it was going to be that type of memoir, you'd think there would be more in there.  There is a lot of Marley though, and it usually is the author describing the antics Marley gets into.  So since there is a lot of Marley in it, I'm not going to fault the author too much on that point.

But there were a lot of things that bothered me.  First and foremost, the buying from a backyard breeder.  I like to volunteer at shelter's and it always pains me when people go out and buy puppies.  I understand the allure of a pure bred, but there's so many dogs out there that need homes (some purebreds).  And now I'll get off my soapbox.  I also couldn't believe the way they trained the dog, and the most disturbing scene is when the wife, suffering from post partum depression is found by the husband hitting Marley.  Now he goes on to say that the dog wasn't hurt physically, just emotionally because his person was upset, but it still doesn't bode well.  Especially since the author does nothing about it when it sounds like the wife could have probably used some help even before that incident so she didn't get into that state.  Everyone makes mistakes, but you have to rectify them too.

The book overall was well written.  It flowed easily and was edited ok.  Obviously there is childbirth, dog poop, and other messy things in the book, but it wasn't overly descriptive.  And towards the end, since dog's lives are short, I felt tears coming to my eyes at Marley's plight.  Animal lovers should be well aware this book details the entire life of the dog and the inevitable.  And have tissues on hand as a result.  It's true that this family loved the dog, even if they were a bit misguided.  And that's why so many people think Marley is a funny read, because of the screw ups committed by the author and the people, not the dog.  But again, this book is more about the people than the dog, which was kind of disappointing.

A book full of mixed emotions, it does have some sensitive topics.  Because people have so many opinions on animal care, training, specialized collars, etc. it can be kind of a volatile subject.  But this is a book about a family who loved a dog.

Marley & Me
Copyright 2005
289 pages

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