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This one




Believes in omens could have a field day with

1. ,

2. .

3. .

4. .

5. .

 

Now here she was, somehow making the cosmic

leap of logic from dead flora in a pot to living

fauna in the pet classifieds. Kill a plant, buy a

puppy.Well, of course it made perfect sense.

John Grogan

I looked more closely at the newspaper in front

of her and saw that one ad in particular seemed to

have caught her fancy. She had drawn three fat red

stars beside it. It read: Lab puppies, yellow. AKC

purebred. All shots. Parents on premises.

So, I said, can you run this plant-pet thing

by me one more time?

You know, she said, looking up. I tried so

hard and look what happened. I cant even keep a

stupid houseplant alive. I mean, how hard is that?

All you need to do is water the damn thing.

Then she got to the real issue: If I cant even

keep a plant alive, how am I ever going to keep a

baby alive? She looked like she might start crying.

The Baby Thing, as I called it, had become a

constant in Jennys life and was getting bigger by

the day. When we had first met, at a small newspa-

per in western Michigan, she was just a few

months out of college, and serious adulthood still

seemed a far distant concept. For both of us, it

was our first professional job out of school. We ate

a lot of pizza, drank a lot of beer, and gave exactly

zero thought to the possibility of someday being

anything other than young, single, unfettered con-

sumers of pizza and beer.

But years passed. We had barely begun dating

when various job opportunitiesand a one-year

postgraduate program for mepulled us in differ-

Marley & Me

ent directions across the eastern United States. At

first we were one hours drive apart. Then we were

three hours apart. Then eight, then twenty-four.

By the time we both landed together in South

Florida and tied the knot, she was nearly thirty.

Her friends were having babies. Her body was

sending her strange messages. That once seem-

ingly eternal window of procreative opportunity

was slowly lowering.

I leaned over her from behind, wrapped my

arms around her shoulders, and kissed the top of



her head. Its okay, I said. But I had to admit,

she raised a good question. Neither of us had ever

really nurtured a thing in our lives. Sure, wed had

pets growing up, but they didnt really count. We

always knew our parents would keep them alive

and well. We both knew we wanted to one day

have children, but was either of us really up for

the job? Children were so . . . so . . . scary. They

were helpless and fragile and looked like they

would break easily if dropped.

A little smile broke out on Jennys face. I

thought maybe a dog would be good practice,

she said.

As we drove through the darkness, heading north-

west out of town where the suburbs of West Palm

John Grogan

Beach fade into sprawling country properties, I

thought through our decision to bring home a dog.

It was a huge responsibility, especially for two peo-

ple with full-time jobs. Yet we knew what we were

in for. Wed both grown up with dogs and loved

them immensely. Id had Saint Shaun and Jenny

had had Saint Winnie, her familys beloved English

setter. Our happiest childhood memories almost all

included those dogs. Hiking with them, swimming

with them, playing with them, getting in trouble

with them. If Jenny really only wanted a dog to

hone her parenting skills, I would have tried to talk

her in off the ledge and maybe placate her with a

goldfish. But just as we knew we wanted children

someday, we knew with equal certainty that our

family home would not be complete without a dog

sprawled at our feet. When we were dating, long

before children ever came on our radar, we spent

hours discussing our childhood pets, how much we

missed them and how we longed somedayonce

we had a house to call our own and some stability

in our livesto own a dog again.

Now we had both. We were together in a place

we did not plan to leave anytime soon. And we had

a house to call our very own.

It was a perfect little house on a perfect little

quarter-acre fenced lot just right for a dog. And

the location was just right, too, a funky city neigh-

Marley & Me

borhood one and a half blocks off the Intracoastal

Waterway separating West Palm Beach from the

rarified mansions of Palm Beach. At the foot of

our street, Churchill Road, a linear green park and

paved trail stretched for miles along the water-

front. It was ideal for jogging and bicycling and

Rollerblading. And, more than anything, for walk-

ing a dog.

The house was built in the 1950s and had an Old

Florida charma fireplace, rough plaster walls,

big airy windows, and French doors leading to our

favorite space of all, the screened back porch. The

yard was a little tropical haven, filled with palms

and bromeliads and avocado trees and brightly

colored coleus plants. Dominating the property

was a towering mango tree; each summer it

dropped its heavy fruit with loud thuds that

sounded, somewhat grotesquely, like bodies being

thrown off the roof. We would lie awake in bed

and listen: Thud! Thud! Thud!

We bought the two-bedroom, one-bath bunga-

low a few months after we returned from our hon-

eymoon and immediately set about refurbishing

it. The prior owners, a retired postal clerk and his

wife, loved the color green. The exterior stucco

was green. The interior walls were green. The

curtains were green. The shutters were green.

The front door was green. The carpet, which they

John Grogan

had just purchased to help sell the house, was

green. Not a cheery kelly green or a cool emerald

green or even a daring lime green but a puke-

your-guts-out-after-split-pea-soup green ac-

cented with khaki trim. The place had the feel of

an army field barracks.

On our first night in the house, we ripped up

every square inch of the new green carpeting and

dragged it to the curb. Where the carpet had been,

we discovered a pristine oak plank floor that, as

best we could tell, had never suffered the scuff of

a single shoe. We painstakingly sanded and var-

nished it to a high sheen. Then we went out and

blew the better part of two weeks pay for a hand-

woven Persian rug, which we unfurled in the living

room in front of the fireplace. Over the months,

we repainted every green surface and replaced

every green accessory. The postal clerks house

was slowly becoming our own.

Once we got the joint just right, of course, it

only made sense that we bring home a large, four-

legged roommate with sharp toenails, large teeth,

and exceedingly limited English-language skills to

start tearing it apart again.

Slow down, dingo, or youre going to miss it,

Jenny scolded. It should be coming up any sec-

Marley & Me

ond. We were driving through inky blackness

across what had once been swampland, drained af-

ter World War II for farming and later colonized

by suburbanites seeking a country lifestyle.

As Jenny predicted, our headlights soon illumi-

nated a mailbox marked with the address we were

looking for. I turned up a gravel drive that led into

a large wooded property with a pond in front of

the house and a small barn out back. At the door, a

middle-aged woman named Lori greeted us, a big,

placid yellow Labrador retriever by her side.

This is Lily, the proud mama, Lori said after

we introduced ourselves. We could see that five

weeks after birth Lilys stomach was still swollen

and her teats pronounced. We both got on our

knees, and she happily accepted our affection. She

was just what we pictured a Lab would besweet-

natured, affectionate, calm, and breathtakingly

beautiful.

Wheres the father? I asked.

Oh, the woman said, hesitating for just a frac-

tion of a second. Sammy Boy? Hes around here

somewhere. She quickly added, I imagine

youre dying to see the puppies.

She led us through the kitchen out to a utility

room that had been drafted into service as a nurs-

ery. Newspapers covered the floor, and in one cor-

ner was a low box lined with old beach towels. But

John Grogan

we hardly noticed any of that. How could we with

nine tiny yellow puppies stumbling all over one

another as they clamored to check out the latest

strangers to drop by? Jenny gasped. Oh my, she

said. I dont think Ive ever seen anything so cute

in my life.

We sat on the floor and let the puppies climb all

over us as Lily happily bounced around, tail wag-

ging and nose poking each of her offspring to

make sure all was well. The deal I had struck with

Jenny when I agreed to come here was that we

would check the pups out, ask some questions,

and keep an open mind as to whether we were

ready to bring home a dog. This is the first ad

were answering, I had said. Lets not make any

snap decisions. But thirty seconds into it, I could

see I had already lost the battle. There was no

question that before the night was through one of

these puppies would be ours.

Lori was what is known as a backyard breeder.

When it came to buying a purebred dog, we were

pure novices, but we had read enough to know to

steer clear of the so-called puppy mills, those

commercial breeding operations that churn out

purebreds like Ford churns out Tauruses. Unlike

mass-produced cars, however, mass-produced

pedigree puppies can come with serious heredi-

tary problems, running the gamut from hip dys-

Marley & Me

plasia to early blindness, brought on by multigen-

erational inbreeding.

Lori, on the other hand, was a hobbyist, moti-

vated more by love of the breed than by profit.

She owned just one female and one male. They

had come from distinct bloodlines, and she had

the paper trail to prove it. This would be Lilys

second and final litter before she retired to the

good life of a countrified family pet. With both

parents on the premises, the buyer could see first-

hand the lineagealthough in our case, the father

apparently was outside and out of pocket.

The litter consisted of five females, all but one

of which already had deposits on them, and four

males. Lori was asking $400 for the remaining fe-

male and $375 for the males. One of the males

seemed particularly smitten with us. He was the

goofiest of the group and charged into us, somer-

saulting into our laps and clawing his way up our

shirts to lick our faces. He gnawed on our fingers

with surprisingly sharp baby teeth and stomped

clumsy circles around us on giant tawny paws that

were way out of proportion to the rest of his body.

That one there you can have for three-fifty, the

owner said.

Jenny is a rabid bargain hunter who has been

known to drag home all sorts of things we neither

want nor need simply because they were priced

John Grogan

too attractively to pass up. I know you dont

golf, she said to me one day as she pulled a set of

used clubs out of the car. But you wouldnt be-

lieve the deal I got on these. Now I saw her eyes

brighten. Aw, honey, she cooed. The little

guys on clearance!

I had to admit he was pretty darn adorable.

Frisky, too. Before I realized what he was up to,

the rascal had half my watchband chewed off.

We have to do the scare test, I said. Many

times before I had recounted for Jenny the story of

picking out Saint Shaun when I was a boy, and my

father teaching me to make a sudden move or loud

noise to separate the timid from the self-assured.

Sitting in this heap of pups, she gave me that roll

of the eyes that she reserved for odd Grogan-

family behavior. Seriously, I said. It works.

I stood up, turned away from the puppies, then

swung quickly back around, taking a sudden, ex-

aggerated step toward them. I stomped my foot

and barked out, Hey! None seemed too con-

cerned by this strangers contortions. But only one

plunged forward to meet the assault head-on. It

was Clearance Dog. He plowed full steam into me,

throwing a cross-body block across my ankles and

pouncing at my shoelaces as though convinced

they were dangerous enemies that needed to be

destroyed.

Marley & Me

I think its fate, Jenny said.

Ya think? I said, scooping him up and holding

him in one hand in front of my face, studying his

mug. He looked at me with heart-melting brown

eyes and then nibbled my nose. I plopped him into

Jennys arms, where he did the same to her. He

certainly seems to like us, I said.

And so it came to be. We wrote Lori a check for

$350, and she told us we could return to take

Clearance Dog home with us in three weeks when

he was eight weeks old and weaned. We thanked

her, gave Lily one last pat, and said good-bye.

Walking to the car, I threw my arm around

Jennys shoulder and pulled her tight to me. Can

you believe it? I said. We actually got our dog!

I cant wait to bring him home, she said.

Just as we were reaching the car, we heard a

commotion coming from the woods. Something

was crashing through the brushand breathing

very heavily. It sounded like what you might hear

in a slasher film. And it was coming our way. We

froze, staring into the darkness. The sound grew

louder and closer. Then in a flash the thing burst

into the clearing and came charging in our direc-

tion, a yellow blur. A very bigyellow blur. As it

galloped past, not stopping, not even seeming to

notice us, we could see it was a large Labrador re-

triever. But it was nothing like the sweet Lily we

John Grogan

had just cuddled with inside. This one was soak-

ing wet and covered up to its belly in mud and

burrs. Its tongue hung out wildly to one side, and

froth flew off its jowls as it barreled past. In the

split-second glimpse I got, I detected an odd,

slightly crazed, yet somehow joyous gaze in its

eyes. It was as though this animal had just seen a

ghostand couldnt possibly be more tickled

about it.

Then, with the roar of a stampeding herd of

buffalo, it was gone, around the back of the house

and out of sight. Jenny let out a little gasp.

I think, I said, a slight queasiness rising in my

gut, we just met Dad.

C H A P T E R 2

Running with the Blue Bloods

Our first official act as dog owners was to have

a fight.

It began on the drive home from the breeders

and continued in fits and snippets through the

next week. We could not agree on what to name

our Clearance Dog. Jenny shot down my sugges-

tions, and I shot down hers. The battle culminated

one morning before we left for work.

Chelsea? I said. That is sucha chick name.

No boy dog would be caught dead with the name

Chelsea.

Like hell really know, Jenny said.

Hunter, I said. Hunter is perfect.

Hunter?Youre kidding, right? What are you,

on some macho, sportsman trip? Way too mascu-

line. Besides, youve never hunted a day in your

life.

John Grogan

Hes a male, I said, seething. Hes supposed

to be masculine. Dont turn this into one of your

feminist screeds.

This was not going well. I had just taken off the

gloves. As Jenny wound up to counterpunch, I

quickly tried to return the deliberations to my

leading candidate. Whats wrong with Louie?

Nothing, if youre a gas-station attendant,

she snapped.

Hey! Watch it! Thats my grandfathers name.

I suppose we should name him after your grandfa-

ther? Good dog, Bill!

As we fought, Jenny absently walked to the

stereo and pushed the play button on the tape

deck. It was one of her marital combat strategies.

When in doubt, drown out your opponent. The

lilting reggae strains of Bob Marley began to pulse

through the speakers, having an almost instant

mellowing effect on us both.

We had only discovered the late Jamaican singer

when we moved to South Florida from Michigan.

In the white-bread backwaters of the Upper Mid-

west, wed been fed a steady diet of Bob Seger and

John Cougar Mellencamp. But here in the pulsing

ethnic stew that was South Florida, Bob Marleys

music, even a decade after his death, was every-

where. We heard it on the car radio as we drove

down Biscayne Boulevard. We heard it as we

Marley & Me

sipped cafés cubanosin Little Havana and ate Ja-

maican jerk chicken in little holes-in-the-wall in

the dreary immigrant neighborhoods west of Fort

Lauderdale. We heard it as we sampled our first

conch fritters at the Bahamian Goombay Festival

in Miamis Coconut Grove section and as we

shopped for Haitian art in Key West.

The more we explored, the more we fell in love,

both with South Florida and with each other. And

always in the background, it seemed, was Bob

Marley. He was there as we baked on the beach, as

we painted over the dingy green walls of our

house, as we awoke at dawn to the screech of wild

parrots and made love in the first light filtering

through the Brazilian pepper tree outside our

window. We fell in love with his music for what it

was, but also for what it defined, which was that

moment in our lives when we ceased being two

and became one. Bob Marley was the soundtrack

for our new life together in this strange, exotic,

rough-and-tumble place that was so unlike any-

where we had lived before.

And now through the speakers came our fa-

vorite song of all, because it was so achingly beau-

tiful and because it spoke so clearly to us. Marleys

voice filled the room, repeating the chorus over

and over: Is this love that Im feeling? And at

the exact same moment, in perfect unison, as if we

John Grogan

had rehearsed it for weeks, we both shouted,

Marley!

Thats it! I exclaimed. Thats our name.

Jenny was smiling, a good sign. I tried it on for

size. Marley, come! I commanded. Marley,

stay! Good boy, Marley!

Jenny chimed in, Youre a cutie-wootie-woo,

Marley!

Hey, I think it works, I said. Jenny did, too.

Our fight was over. We had our new puppys name.

The next night after dinner I came into the bed-

room where Jenny was reading and said, I think

we need to spice the name up a little.

What are you talking about? she asked. We

both love it.

I had been reading the registration papers from

the American Kennel Club. As a purebred

Labrador retriever with both parents properly

registered, Marley was entitled to AKC registra-

tion as well. This was only really needed if you

planned to show or breed your dog, in which case

there was no more important piece of paper. For a

house pet, however, it was superfluous. But I had

big plans for our Marley. This was my first time

rubbing shoulders with anything resembling high

breeding, my own family included. Like Saint

Marley & Me

Shaun, the dog of my childhood, I was a mutt of

indistinct and undistinguished ancestry. My line-

age represented more nations than the European

Union. This dog was the closest to blue blood I

would ever get, and I wasnt about to pass up

whatever opportunities it offered. I admit I was a

little starstruck.

Lets say we want to enter him in competi-

tions, I said. Have you ever seen a champion

dog with just one name? They always have big

long titles, like Sir Dartworth of Cheltenham.

And his master, Sir Dorkshire of West Palm

Beach, Jenny said.

Im serious, I said. We could make money

studding him out. Do you know what people pay

for top stud dogs? They all have fancy names.

Whatever floats your boat, honey, Jenny said,

and returned to her book.

The next morning, after a late night of brain-

storming, I cornered her at the bathroom sink and

said, I came up with the perfect name.

She looked at me skeptically. Hit me, she said.

Okay. Are you ready? Here goes. I let each

word fall slowly from my lips: Grogans . . . Ma-

jestic . . . Marley . . . of . . . Churchill. Man,I

thought, does that sound regal.

Man, Jenny said, does that sound dumb.

I didnt care. I was the one handling the paper-

John Grogan

work, and I had already written in the name. In

ink. Jenny could smirk all she wanted; when Gro-

gans Majestic Marley of Churchill took top hon-

ors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in a

few years, and I gloriously trotted him around the

ring before an adoring international television au-

dience, wed see who would be laughing.

Come on, my dorky duke, Jenny said. Lets

have breakfast.

C H A P T E R 3

Homeward Bound

While we counted down the days until we

could bring Marley home, I belatedly be-

gan reading up on Labrador retrievers. I say be-

latedlybecause virtually everything I read gave

the same strong advice: Beforebuying a dog,

make sure you thoroughly research the breed so

you know what youre getting into. Oops.

An apartment dweller, for instance, probably

wouldnt do well with a Saint Bernard. A family

with young children might want to avoid the

sometimes unpredictable chow chow. A couch po-

tato looking for a lapdog to idle the hours away in

front of the television would likely be driven in-

sane by a border collie, which needs to run and

work to be happy.

I was embarrassed to admit that Jenny and I had

done almost no research before settling on a

John Grogan

Labrador retriever. We chose the breed on one cri-

terion alone: curb appeal. We often had admired

them with their owners down on the Intracoastal

Waterway bike trailbig, dopey, playful

galumphs that seemed to love life with a passion

not often seen in this world. Even more embar-

rassing, our decision was influenced not by The

Complete Dog Book, the bible of dog breeds

published by the American Kennel Club, or by

any other reputable guide. It was influenced by

that other heavyweight of canine literature, The

Far Side by Gary Larson. We were huge fans of

the cartoon. Larson filled his panels with witty,

urbane Labs doing and saying the darnedest

things. Yes, they talked! What wasnt to like? Labs

were immensely amusing animalsat least in Lar-

sons hands. And who couldnt use a little more

amusement in life? We were sold.

Now, as I pored through more serious works on

the Labrador retriever, I was relieved to learn that

our choice, however ill informed, was not too

wildly off the mark. The literature was filled with

glowing testimonials about the Labrador re-

trievers loving, even-keeled personality, its gen-

tleness with children, its lack of aggression, and

its desire to please. Their intelligence and mal-

leability had made them a leading choice for

search-and-rescue training and as guide dogs for

Marley & Me

the blind and handicapped. All this boded well for

a pet in a home that would sooner or later likely

include children.

One guide gushed: The Labrador retriever is

known for its intelligence, warm affection for

man, field dexterity and undying devotion to any

task. Another marveled at the breeds immense

loyalty. All these qualities had pushed the

Labrador retriever from a specialty sporting dog,

favored by bird hunters because of its skill at

fetching downed pheasants and ducks from frigid

waters, into Americas favorite family pet. Just the

year before, in 1990, the Labrador retriever had

knocked the cocker spaniel out of the top spot on

the American Kennel Club registry as the nations

most popular breed. No other breed has come

close to overtaking the Lab since. In 2004 it took

its fifteenth straight year as the AKCs top dog,

with 146,692 Labs registered. Coming in a distant

second were golden retrievers, with 52,550, and,

in third place, German shepherds, with 46,046.

Quite by accident, we had stumbled upon a

breed America could not get enough of. All those

happy dog owners couldnt be wrong, could they?

We had chosen a proven winner. And yet the liter-

ature was filled with ominous caveats.

Labs were bred as working dogs and tended to

have boundless energy. They were highly social

John Grogan

and did not do well left alone for long periods.

They could be thick-skulled and difficult to train.

They needed rigorous daily exercise or they could

become destructive. Some were wildly excitable

and hard for even experienced dog handlers to

control. They had what could seem like eternal

puppyhoods, stretching three years or more. The

long, exuberant adolescence required extra pa-

tience from owners.

They were muscular and bred over the centuries

to be inured to pain, qualities that served them

well as they dove into the icy waters of the North

Atlantic to assist fishermen. But in a home setting,

those same qualities also meant they could be like

the proverbial bull in the china closet. They were

big, strong, barrel-chested animals that did not al-

ways realize their own strength. One owner would

later tell me she once tied her male Lab to the

frame of her garage door so he could be nearby

while she washed the car in the driveway. The dog

spotted a squirrel and lunged, pulling the large

steel doorframe right out of the wall.

And then I came across a sentence that struck

fear in my heart. The parents may be one of the

best indications of the future temperament of

your new puppy. A surprising amount of behav-

ior is inherited. My mind flashed back to the

frothing, mud-caked banshee that came charging

Marley & Me

out of the woods, the night we picked out our

puppy. Oh my,I thought. The book counseled to

insist, whenever possible, on seeing both the dam

and the sire. My mind flashed back again, this

time to the breeders ever-so-slight hesitation

when I asked where the father was. Oh . . . hes

around here somewhere.And then the way she

quickly changed the topic. It was all making

sense. Dog buyers in the know would have de-

manded to meet the father. And what would they

have found? A manic dervish tearing blindly

through the night as if demons were close on his

tail. I said a silent prayer that Marley had inher-

ited his mothers disposition.

Individual genetics aside, purebred Labs all

share certain predictable characteristics. The

American Kennel Club sets standards for the qual-

ities Labrador retrievers should possess. Physi-

cally, they are stocky and muscular, with short,

dense, weather-resistant coats. Their fur can be

black, chocolate brown, or a range of yellows,

from light cream to a rich fox red. One of the

Labrador retrievers main distinguishing charac-

teristics is its thick, powerful tail, which resembles

that of an otter and can clear a coffee table in one

quick swipe. The head is large and blocky, with

powerful jaws and high-set, floppy ears. Most

Labs are about two feet tall in the withers, or top

John Grogan

of the shoulders, and the typical male weighs

sixty-five to eighty pounds, though some can

weigh considerably more.

But looks, according to the AKC, are not all that

make a Lab a Lab. The clubs breed standard

states: True Labrador retriever temperament is as

much a hallmark of the breed as the otter tail.

The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing,

tractable nature, eager to please and non-aggressive

towards man or animal. The Labrador has much

that appeals to people. His gentle ways, intelligence

and adaptability make him an ideal dog.

An ideal dog! Endorsements did not come much

more glowing than that. The more I read, the bet-

ter I felt about our decision. Even the caveats

didnt scare me much. Jenny and I would naturally

throw ourselves into our new dog, showering him

with attention and affection. We were dedicated to

taking as long as needed to properly train him in

obedience and social skills. We were both enthusi-

astic walkers, hitting the waterfront trail nearly

every evening after work, and many mornings,

too. It would be just natural to bring our new dog

along with us on our power walks. Wed tire the

little rascal out. Jennys office was only a mile

away, and she came home every day for lunch, at

which time she could toss balls to him in the back-

Marley & Me

yard to let him burn off even more of this bound-

less energy we were warned about.

A week before we were to bring our dog home,

Jennys sister, Susan, called from Boston. She, her

husband, and their two children planned to be at

Disney World the following week; would Jenny

like to drive up and spend a few days with them? A

doting aunt who looked for any opportunity to

bond with her niece and nephew, Jenny was dying

to go. But she was torn. I wont be here to bring

little Marley home, she said.

You go, I told her. Ill get the dog and have

him all settled in and waiting for you when you get

back.

I tried to sound nonchalant, but secretly I was

overjoyed at the prospect of having the new

puppy all to myself for a few days of uninter-

rupted male bonding. He was to be our joint proj-

ect, both of ours equally. But I never believed a

dog could answer to two masters, and if there

could be only one alpha leader in the household

hierarchy, I wanted it to be me. This little three-

day run would give me a head start.

A week later Jenny left for Orlandoa three-

and-a-half-hour drive away. That evening after

John Grogan

work, a Friday, I returned to the breeders house

to fetch the new addition to our lives. When Lori

brought my new dog out from the back of the

house, I gasped audibly. The tiny, fuzzy puppy we

had picked out three weeks earlier had more than

doubled in size. He came barreling at me and ran

headfirst into my ankles, collapsing in a pile at my

feet and rolling onto his back, paws in the air, in

what I could only hope was a sign of supplication.

Lori must have sensed my shock. Hes a growing

boy, isnt he? she said cheerily. You should see

him pack away the puppy chow!

I leaned down, rubbed his belly, and said,

Ready to go home, Marley? It was my first time

using his new name for real, and it felt right.

In the car, I used beach towels to fashion a cozy

nest for him on the passenger seat and set him

down in it. But I was barely out of the driveway

when he began squirming and wiggling his way

out of the towels. He belly-crawled in my direc-

tion across the seat, whimpering as he advanced.

At the center console, Marley met the first of the

countless predicaments he would find himself in

over the course of his life. There he was, hind legs

hanging over the passenger side of the console and

front legs hanging over the drivers side. In the

middle, his stomach was firmly beached on the

emergency brake. His little legs were going in all

Marley & Me

directions, clawing at the air. He wiggled and

rocked and swayed, but he was grounded like a

freighter on a sandbar. I reached over and ran my

hand down his back, which only excited him more

and brought on a new flurry of squiggling. His

hind paws desperately sought purchase on the car-

peted hump between the two seats. Slowly, he be-

gan working his hind quarters into the air, his butt

rising up, up, up, tail furiously going, until the law

of gravity finally kicked in. He slalomed headfirst

down the other side of the console, somersaulting

onto the floor at my feet and flipping onto his

back. From there it was a quick, easy scramble up

into my lap.

Man, was he happydesperately happy. He

quaked with joy as he burrowed his head into my

stomach and nibbled the buttons of my shirt, his

tail slapping the steering wheel like the needle on a

metronome.

I quickly discovered I could affect the tempo of

his wagging by simply touching him. When I had

both hands on the wheel, the beat came at a

steady three thumps per second. Thump. Thump.

Thump. But all I needed to do was press one finger

against the top of his head and the rhythm jumped

from a waltz to a bossa nova. Thump-thump-

thump-thump-thump-thump!Two fingers and it

jumped up to a mambo. Thump-thumpa-thump-

John Grogan

thump-thumpa-thump!And when I cupped my

entire hand over his head and massaged my fingers

into his scalp, the beat exploded into a machine-

gun, rapid-fire samba. Thumpthumpthumpthump-





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