When you’re recently married and living in Florida with a wife who can’t even keep houseplants alive, what’s the logical addition to the household? If you’re John Grogan, it’s a dog. Not just any dog: a big, boisterous, boneheaded Labrador with a phobia of thunderstorms. Of course, Marley doesn’t start out big; but it quickly becomes apparent that the new puppy has boundless energy and a considerable appetite for the inedible - and that thing about storms, a frequent occurrence in subtropical summers. Despite his many flaws, and the rapidly-mounting repair bill, Marley becomes a part of the family, following his owners through more than a decade of domestic ups and downs. He may be attention deficit, neurotic, or the canine equivalent of certifiable, but Marley has qualities that humans would do well to cultivate: unswerving loyalty, unconditional love, and a great enthusiasm for life and the simple pleasures it holds.
The best surprise under the tree (or rather, in the absence of a tree, on the kitchen bench) on Christmas Day was this. Marley might be billed as the world’s worst dog, but it’s impossible not to love him. For one thing, he’s cute; and for another, he adores his owners as much as they do him. He’s not just man’s best friend, but the whole family’s. I’m actually not much of a dog person, but I can relate to the experience of living with a much-loved but frustrating pet with a destructive appetite (having once owned a rabbit my mother swore was a reincarnation of either a garbage disposal or Harry Houdini). Despite the obvious differences in species and size, I could see occasional bits of Coco in Marley - including the ability to look totally innocent. At times Marley’s antics had me simply howling with laughter (pardon the pun) and, yes, I was reaching for the Kleenex by the end. If there’s anyone left who hasn’t already read this - what are you waiting for?