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Where are my brothers and sisters?

The reality of his new life did not fully set in

until bedtime. Before leaving to get him, I had set

up his sleeping quarters in the one-car garage at-

tached to the side of the house. We never parked

there, using it more as a storage and utility room.

The washer and dryer were out there, along with

our ironing board. The room was dry and com-

fortable and had a rear door that led out into the

fenced backyard. And with its concrete floor and

walls, it was virtually indestructible. “Marley,” I

said cheerfully, leading him out there, “this is your

room.”

I had scattered chew toys around, laid newspa-

Marley & Me

pers down in the middle of the floor, filled a bowl

with water, and made a bed out of a cardboard box

lined with an old bedspread. “And here is where

you’ll be sleeping,” I said, and lowered him into

the box. He was used to such accommodations but

had always shared them with his siblings. Now he

paced the perimeter of the box and looked for-

lornly up at me. As a test, I stepped back into the

house and closed the door. I stood and listened. At

first nothing. Then a slight, barely audible whim-

per. And then full-fledged crying. It sounded like

someone was in there torturing him.

I opened the door, and as soon as he saw me he

stopped. I reached in and pet him for a couple of

minutes, then left again. Standing on the other

side of the door, I began to count. One, two,

three . . . He made it seven seconds before the

yips and cries began again. We repeated the exer-

cise several times, all with the same result. I was

tired and decided it was time for him to cry him-

self to sleep. I left the garage light on for him,

closed the door, walked to the opposite side of the

house, and crawled into bed. The concrete walls

did little to muffle his pitiful cries. I lay there, try-

ing to ignore them, figuring any minute now he

would give up and go to sleep. The crying contin-

ued. Even after I wrapped my pillow around my

head, I could still hear it. I thought of him out

John Grogan

there alone for the first time in his life, in this

strange environment without a single dog scent to

be had anywhere. His mother was missing in ac-

tion, and so were all his siblings. The poor little

thing. How would I like it?

I hung on for another half hour before getting

up and going to him. As soon as he spotted me, his

face brightened and his tail began to beat the side

of the box. It was as if he were saying, Come on,

hop in; there’s plenty of room.Instead, I lifted

the box with him in it and carried it into my bed-

room, where I placed it on the floor tight against

the side of the bed. I lay down on the very edge of

the mattress, my arm dangling into the box.

There, my hand resting on his side, feeling his rib

cage rise and fall with his every breath, we both

drifted off to sleep.

C H A P T E R 4

Mr. Wiggles

For the next three days I threw myself with



abandon into our new puppy. I lay on the floor

with him and let him scamper all over me. I wres-

tled with him. I used an old hand towel to play

tug-of-war with him—and was surprised at how

strong he already was. He followed me

everywhere—and tried to gnaw on anything he

could get his teeth around. It took him just one

day to discover the best thing about his new home:

toilet paper. He disappeared into the bathroom

and, five seconds later, came racing back out, the

end of the toilet-paper roll clenched in his teeth, a

paper ribbon unrolling behind him as he sprinted

across the house. The place looked like it had been

decorated for Halloween.

Every half hour or so I would lead him into the

backyard to relieve himself. When he had acci-

John Grogan

dents in the house, I scolded him. When he peed

outside, I placed my cheek against his and praised

him in my sweetest voice. And when he pooped

outside, I carried on as though he had just deliv-

ered the winning Florida Lotto ticket.

When Jenny returned from Disney World, she

threw herself into him with the same utter aban-

don. It was an amazing thing to behold. As the

days unfolded I saw in my young wife a calm, gen-

tle, nurturing side I had not known existed. She

held him; she caressed him; she played with him;

she fussed over him. She combed through every

strand of his fur in search of fleas and ticks. She

rose every couple of hours through the night—

night after night—to take him outside for bath-

room breaks. That more than anything was

responsible for him becoming fully housebroken

in just a few short weeks.

Mostly, she fed him.

Following the instructions on the bag, we gave

Marley three large bowls of puppy chow a day. He

wolfed down every morsel in a matter of seconds.

What went in came out, of course, and soon our

backyard was as inviting as a minefield. We didn’t

dare venture out into it without eyes sharply

peeled. If Marley’s appetite was huge, his drop-

pings were huger still, giant mounds that looked

Marley & Me

virtually unchanged from what had earlier gone in

the other end. Was he even digesting this stuff ?

Apparently he was. Marley was growing at a fu-

rious pace. Like one of those amazing jungle vines

that can cover a house in hours, he was expanding

exponentially in all directions. Each day he was a

little longer, a little wider, a little taller, a little

heavier. He was twenty-one pounds when I

brought him home and within weeks was up to

fifty. His cute little puppy head that I so easily cra-

dled in one hand as I drove him home that first

night had rapidly morphed into something resem-

bling the shape and heft of a blacksmith’s anvil.

His paws were enormous, his flanks already rip-

pled with muscle, and his chest almost as broad as

a bulldozer. Just as the books promised, his slip of

a puppy tail was becoming as thick and powerful

as an otter’s.

What a tail it was. Every last object in our house

that was at knee level or below was knocked asun-

der by Marley’s wildly wagging weapon. He

cleared coffee tables, scattered magazines,

knocked framed photographs off shelves, sent

beer bottles and wineglasses flying. He even

cracked a pane in the French door. Gradually every

item that was not bolted down migrated to higher

ground safely above the sweep of his swinging

John Grogan

mallet. Our friends with children would visit and

marvel, “Your house is already baby-proofed!”

Marley didn’t actually wag his tail. He more

wagged his whole body, starting with the front

shoulders and working backward. He was like the

canine version of a Slinky. We swore there were no

bones inside him, just one big, elastic muscle.

Jenny began calling him Mr. Wiggles.

And at no time did he wiggle more than when

he had something in his mouth. His reaction to

any situation was the same: grab the nearest shoe

or pillow or pencil—really, any item would do—

and run with it. Some little voice in his head

seemed to be whispering to him, “Go ahead! Pick

it up! Drool all over it! Run!”

Some of the objects he grabbed were small

enough to conceal, and this especially pleased

him—he seemed to think he was getting away

with something. But Marley would never have

made it as a poker player. When he had something

to hide, he could not mask his glee. He was always

on the rambunctious side, but then there were

those moments when he would explode into a

manic sort of hyperdrive, as if some invisible

prankster had just goosed him. His body would

quiver, his head would bob from side to side, and

his entire rear end would swing in a sort of spastic

dance. We called it the Marley Mambo.

Marley & Me

“All right, what have you got this time?” I’d say,

and as I approached he would begin evasive ac-

tion, waggling his way around the room, hips

sashaying, head flailing up and down like a whin-

nying filly’s, so overjoyed with his forbidden prize

he could not contain himself. When I would finally

get him cornered and pry open his jaws, I never

came up empty-handed. Always there was some-

thing he had plucked out of the trash or off the

floor or, as he got taller, right off the dining room

table. Paper towels, wadded Kleenex, grocery re-

ceipts, wine corks, paper clips, chess pieces, bottle

caps—it was like a salvage yard in there. One day I

pried open his jaws and peered in to find my pay-

check plastered to the roof of his mouth.

Within weeks, we had a hard time remembering

what life had been like without our new boarder.

Quickly, we fell into a routine. I started each

morning, before the first cup of coffee, by taking

him for a brisk walk down to the water and back.

After breakfast and before my shower, I patrolled

the backyard with a shovel, burying his land mines

in the sand at the back of the lot. Jenny left for

work before nine, and I seldom left the house be-

fore ten, first locking Marley out in the concrete

bunker with a fresh bowl of water, a host of toys,

John Grogan

and my cheery directive to “be a good boy, Mar-

ley.” By twelve-thirty, Jenny was home on her

lunch break, when she would give Marley his mid-

day meal and throw him a ball in the backyard un-

til he was tuckered out. In the early weeks, she

also made a quick trip home in the middle of the

afternoon to let him out. After dinner most eve-

nings we walked together with him back down to

the waterfront, where we would stroll along the

Intracoastal as the yachts from Palm Beach idled

by in the glow of the sunset.

Strollis probably the wrong word. Marley

strolled like a runaway locomotive strolls. He

surged ahead, straining against his leash with

everything he had, choking himself hoarse in the

process. We yanked him back; he yanked us for-

ward. We tugged; he pulled, coughing like a chain

smoker from the collar strangling him. He veered

left and right, darting to every mailbox and shrub,

sniffing, panting, and peeing without fully stop-

ping, usually getting more pee on himself than the

intended target. He circled behind us, wrapping

the leash around our ankles before lurching for-

ward again, nearly tripping us. When someone

approached with another dog, Marley would bolt

at them joyously, rearing up on his hind legs when

he reached the end of his leash, dying to make

Marley & Me

friends. “He sure seems to love life,” one dog

owner commented, and that about said it all.

He was still small enough that we could win

these leash tug-of-wars, but with each week the

balance of power was shifting. He was growing

bigger and stronger. It was obvious that before

long he would be more powerful than either of us.

We knew we would need to rein him in and teach

him to heel properly before he dragged us to hu-

miliating deaths beneath the wheels of a passing

car. Our friends who were veteran dog owners told

us not to rush the obedience regimen. “It’s too

early,” one of them advised. “Enjoy his puppy-

hood while you can. It’ll be gone soon enough,

and then you can get serious about training him.”

That is what we did, which is not to say that we

let him totally have his way. We set rules and tried

to enforce them consistently. Beds and furniture

were off-limits. Drinking from the toilet, sniffing

crotches, and chewing chair legs were actionable

offenses, though apparently worth suffering a

scolding for. Nobecame our favorite word. We

worked with him on the basic commands—come,

stay, sit, down—with limited success. Marley was

young and wired, with the attention span of algae

and the volatility of nitroglycerine. He was so ex-

citable, any interaction at all would send him into

John Grogan

a tizzy of bounce-off-the-walls, triple-espresso

exuberance. We wouldn’t realize it until years

later, but he showed early signs of that condition

that would later be coined to describe the behavior

of thousands of hard-to-control, ants-in-their-

pants schoolchildren. Our puppy had a textbook

case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Still, for all his juvenile antics, Marley was serv-

ing an important role in our home and our rela-

tionship. Through his very helplessness, he was

showing Jenny she could handle this maternal

nurturing thing. He had been in her care for sev-

eral weeks, and she hadn’t killed him yet. Quite to

the contrary, he was thriving. We joked that

maybe we should start withholding food to stunt

his growth and suppress his energy levels.

Jenny’s transformation from coldhearted plant

killer to nurturing dog mom continued to amaze

me. I think she amazed herself a little. She was a

natural. One day Marley began gagging violently.

Before I even fully registered that he was in trou-

ble, Jenny was on her feet. She swooped in, pried

his jaws open with one hand, and reached deep

into his gullet with the other, pulling out a large,

saliva-coated wad of cellophane. All in a day’s

work. Marley let out one last cough, banged his

tail against the wall, and looked up at her with an

expression that said, Can we do it again?

Marley & Me

❉ ❉ ❉

As we grew more comfortable with the new mem-

ber of our family, we became more comfortable

talking about expanding our family in other ways.

Within weeks of bringing Marley home, we de-

cided to stop using birth control. That’s not to say

we decided to get pregnant, which would have

been way too bold a gesture for two people who

had dedicated their lives to being as indecisive as

possible. Rather, we backed into it, merely decid-

ing to stop trying notto get pregnant. The logic

was convoluted, we realized, but it somehow made

us both feel better. No pressure. None at all. We

weren’t trying for a baby; we were just going to let

whatever happened happen. Let nature take its

course. Que será, seráand all that.

Frankly, we were terrified. We had several sets

of friends who had tried for months, years even,

to conceive without luck and who had gradually

taken their pitiful desperation public. At dinner

parties they would talk obsessively about doctor’s

visits, sperm counts, and timed menstrual cycles,

much to the discomfort of everyone else at the

table. I mean, what were you supposed to say? “I

think your sperm counts sound just fine!” It was

almost too painful to bear. We were scared to

death we would end up joining them.

John Grogan

Jenny had suffered several severe bouts of en-

dometriosis before we were married and had un-

dergone laparoscopic surgery to remove excess

scar tissue from her fallopian tubes, none of which

boded well for her fertility. Even more troubling

was a little secret from our past. In those blindly

passionate early days of our relationship, when

desire had a stranglehold on anything resembling

common sense, we had thrown caution into the

corner with our clothes and had sex with reckless

abandon, using no birth control whatsoever. Not

just once but many times. It was incredibly dumb,

and, looking back on it several years later, we

should have been kissing the ground in gratitude

for miraculously escaping an unwanted pregnancy.

Instead, all either of us could think was, What’s

wrong with us? No normal couple could possi-


Date: 2015-12-17; view: 205


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