About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

#42: Marley & Me

Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog, by John Grogan (New York:  HarperCollins, 2008)

"John and Jenny were just beginning their life together. They were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wriggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same.

"Marley quickly grew into a barrelling, ninety-seven-pound steamroller of a Labrador retriever, a dog like no other. He crashed through screen doors, gouged through drywall, flung drool on guests, and ate nearly everything he could get his mouth around, including couches and fine jewelry. Obedience school did no good -- Marley was expelled. Neither did the tranquilizers the vet prescribed for him with the admonishment, 'Don't hesitate to use these.'"

"And yet Marley's heart was pure. Just as he joyfully refused any limits on his behavior, his love and loyalty were boundless, too. Marley shared the couple's joy at their first pregnancy and their heartbreak over the miscarriage. He was there when babies finally arrived and when the screams of a seventeen-year-old stabbing victim pierced the night. Throughout it all he remained steadfast, a model of devotion, even when his family was at its wit's end. Unconditional love, they would learn, comes in many forms.

"Is it possible for humans to discover the key to happiness through a bigger-than-life, bad-boy dog? Just ask the Grogans."

Opening Lines:
"We were young. We were in love. We were rollicking in sublime early days of marriage when life seems about as good as life can get. We could not leave well enough alone."

My Take:
Expected to like it, but not quite the way I did. Expected a cathartic, glurgey, emotionally manipulative tearjerker in which at least one pet and/or child died before its time. Spoiler alert:  This didn't happen. Marley's a feel-good book, sure, and the ending is sad, but in a very natural, bittersweet way. A wise man I used to know (Filbert's late uncle) once told me that to love animals is to set yourself up for a lifetime of heartbreak; we don't usually dwell on it, but we know deep down that we're going to outlive all our pets except the last one or two. But we also know that every chewed wire, every gross waste management chore, every midnight veterinary emergency, and even that first wave of raw grief that stuns you with its intensity Every Damned Time, is worth it; in the immortal words of Garth Brooks, "I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance."

Tangent aside, this is an unexpectedly gentle and non-saccharine story of what it means to build a life and a family that includes a pet, and all the richness (joy, destruction, laughter, and sadness) our animal companions bring us.

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