Peacegal's Reviews > Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog

Marley and Me by John Grogan
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Jul 17, 2012

bookshelves: book-discussion-group

Well, that was quick. I took this book discussion selection downstairs on my lunch hour, and forty-five minutes in, I knew I wouldn’t read another page. I’m adding this one to my paltry “Books So Bad I Couldn’t Finish” list.

Marley & Me is one of those books that people knowingly chuckle about when they’ve hear you have a puppy of the retriever persuasion. And, as a first-time dog guardian with more than an inkling of knowledge about the behavior of the canine in this book, I myself was hesitant to approve this reading group choice. Would my future be predicted in Marley’s nightmarish misbehavior? I’m not one of those people who believe that all dogs are sweet angels and that there are only bad owners (one only needs to peruse the unsettling Dogsbite.org to see that). But in this case, yes, the Grogans were bad owners, and I wasn’t going to subject myself to a tome’s worth of celebration of their incompetence.

Here’s what I gathered from what little of M & M I did peruse.

The Grogans purchased a puppy on a whim. They did no research whatsoever on dog breeds or which would be right for them. They chose a Lab, essentially, because Labs are pretty and looked nice jogging on a leash. *facepalm* But that’s not the primary reason the Grogans brought home a sentient being to live with them. It’s because the wife couldn’t even keep a houseplant alive, and she “thought maybe a dog would be good practice” for a baby. *bangs head on desk*

So they look through the classified ads, and lo and behold, someone’s selling Labs:

Lori was what is known as a backyard breeder. When it came to buying a purebred dog, we were pure novices, be 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 hereditary problems, running the gamut from hip dysplasia to early blindness, brought on by multigenerational inbreeding.

Lori, on the other hand, was a hobbyist, motivated 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 Lily’s second and final litter…With both parents on the premises, the buyer could see firsthand the lineage…


Ok, I realize that in an ultra-mainstream dog book, this is probably the best we can hope for. The number of authors who have purchased puppy mill puppies from pet stores or even off the Internet and wrote about it as an adorable event are too numerous to name. At the very least, Grogan puts in a PSA about not supporting puppy mills and what to look for in a small breeder. So I won’t be too hard on him for that.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but think of the hordes of Labs and Lab mixes awaiting homes in animal shelters and rescue groups. Petfinder.com currently is listing 25,287 Labrador retrievers up for adoption; 1,866 are specifically identified as yellow Labs. A few months ago, we adopted a Labrador/Golden retriever mix puppy who could be Marley’s stunt double from a rescue group. Like the Grogans, my husband and I had our pick of the litter and brought home our puppy at 8 weeks old. And while Petfinder probably didn’t exist during the span of time covered by this book, animal shelters most certainly did. I was saddened to think of how many people were no doubt inspired by this book and movie to purchase Labs, when so many of them are waiting on death row.

Other reviews of this book have noted that pretty much every mistake one can make with a dog, the Grogans do, and they play it for laughs. The only “typical” irresponsible pet owner behavior they don’t engage in is ditching the dog when His Highness the Baby comes along.

…Which brings me to the true reason I can’t continue on with this awful book. The movie, despite its puppy-centric ad campaign, is not a story about a dog as much as it is a story about an unlikable couple’s reproductive adventures. The book, as I quickly realized by skimming it, is the exact same, only even more graphic. (At least with the movie, I could ignore most of it while playing with my own puppy and laughing at his reactions to the on-screen retriever.) I understood that the deeper I got into this mess the more I would start pondering the perennial question I usually have with situations like this, which is, sleeping pills by the handful or .45 pistol to the temple? And seeing as my doctor warned me about getting into these thought patterns, I figured the very best thing I could do was to put down Marley & Me, right here, right now.
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04/14/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Thanks. Off my to-read shelf.


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