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Your precious little necklace again.

“Drop it, Marley,” I whispered, taking another

small step forward. His whole body began to wag.

I crept forward by degrees. Almost imperceptibly,

Jenny closed in on his flank. We were within strik-

ing distance. We glanced at each other and knew,

Marley & Me

without speaking, what to do. We had been

through the Property Recovery Drill countless

times before. She would lunge for the hindquar-

ters, pinning his back legs to prevent escape. I

would lunge for the head, prying open his jaws

and nabbing the contraband. With any luck, we’d

be in and out in a matter of seconds. That was the

plan, and Marley saw it coming.

We were less than two feet away from him. I

nodded to Jenny and silently mouthed, “On

three.” But before we could make our move, he

threw his head back and made a loud smacking

sound. The tail end of the chain, which had been

dangling out of his mouth, disappeared. “He’s

eating it!” Jenny screamed. Together we dove at

him, Jenny tackling him by the hind legs as I

gripped him in a headlock. I forced his jaws open

and pushed my whole hand into his mouth and

down his throat. I probed every flap and crevice

and came up empty. “It’s too late,” I said. “He

swallowed it.” Jenny began slapping him on the

back, yelling, “Cough it up, damn it!” But it was

no use. The best she got out of him was a loud,

satisfied burp.

Marley may have won the battle, but we knew it

was just a matter of time before we won the war.

Nature’s call was on our side. Sooner or later, what

went in had to come out. As disgusting as the

John Grogan

thought was, I knew if I poked through his excre-

ment long enough, I would find it. Had it been,

say, a silver chain, or a gold-plated chain, some-

thing of any less value, my queasiness might have

won out. But this chain was solid gold and had set

me back a decent chunk of pay. Grossed out or

not, I was going in.

And so I prepared Marley his favorite laxative—

a giant bowl of dead-ripe sliced mangoes—and

settled in for the long wait. For three days I fol-

lowed him around every time I let him out, eagerly

waiting to swoop in with my shovel. Instead of

tossing his piles over the fence, I carefully placed

each on a wide board in the grass and poked it

with a tree branch while I sprayed with a garden

hose, gradually washing the digested material

away into the grass and leaving behind any foreign

objects. I felt like a gold miner working a sluice

and coming up with a treasure trove of swallowed

junk, from shoelaces to guitar picks. But no neck-

lace. Where the hell was it? Shouldn’t it have come

out by now? I began wondering if I had missed it,

accidentally washing it into the grass, where it

would remain lost forever. But how could I miss a

twenty-inch gold chain? Jenny was following my

recovery operation from the porch with keen in-

terest and even came up with a new nickname for

Marley & Me

me. “Hey, Scat Man Doo, any luck yet?” she

called out.

On the fourth day, my perseverance paid off. I

scooped up Marley’s latest deposit, repeating what

had become my daily refrain—“I can’t believe I’m

doing this”—and began poking and spraying. As

the poop melted away, I searched for any sign of

the necklace. Nothing. I was about to give up

when I spotted something odd: a small brown

lump, about the size of a lima bean. It wasn’t even

close to being large enough to be the missing jew-

elry, yet clearly it did not seem to belong there. I

pinned it down with my probing branch, which I

had officially christened the Shit Stick, and gave

the object a strong blast from the hose nozzle. As

the water washed it clean, I got a glimmer of

something exceptionally bright and shiny. Eureka!

I had struck gold.

The necklace was impossibly compressed, many

times smaller than I would have guessed possible.

It was as though some unknown alien power, a

black hole perhaps, had sucked it into a mysteri-

ous dimension of space and time before spitting it

out again. And, actually, that wasn’t too far from

the truth. The strong stream of water began to

loosen the hard wad, and gradually the lump of

gold unraveled back to its original shape, untan-

John Grogan

gled and unmangled. Good as new. No, actually

better than new. I took it inside to show Jenny,

who was ecstatic to have it back, despite its dubi-

ous passage. We both marveled at how blindingly

bright it was now—far more dazzling than when it

had gone in. Marley’s stomach acids had done an

amazing job. It was the most brilliant gold I had

ever seen. “Man,” I said with a whistle. “We

should open a jewelry-cleaning business.”

“We could make a killing with the dowagers in

Palm Beach,” Jenny agreed.

“Yes, ladies,” I parroted in my best slick-

salesman voice, “our secret patented process is not

available at any store! The proprietary Marley

Method will restore your treasured valuables to a

blinding brilliance you never thought possible.”

“It’s got possibilities, Grogan,” Jenny said, and

went off to disinfect her recovered birthday pres-

ent. She wore that gold chain for years, and every

time I looked at it I had the same vivid flashback

to my brief and ultimately successful career in

gold speculation. Scat Man Doo and his trusty Shit

Stick had gone where no man had ever gone be-

fore. And none should ever go again.

C H A P T E R 1 2

Welcome to the Indigent Ward

You don’t give birth to your first child every

day, and so, when St. Mary’s Hospital in

West Palm Beach offered us the option of paying

extra for a luxury birthing suite, we jumped at the

chance. The suites looked like upper-end hotel

rooms, spacious, bright, and well appointed with

wood-grained furniture, floral wallpaper, curtains,

a whirlpool bath, and, just for Dad, a comfy couch

that folded out into a bed. Instead of standard-

issue hospital food, “guests” were offered a choice

of gourmet dinners. You could even order a bottle

of champagne, though this was mostly for the fa-

thers to chug on their own, as breast-feeding

mothers were discouraged from having more than

a celebratory sip.

“Man, it’s just like being on vacation!” I ex-

John Grogan

claimed, bouncing on the Dad Couch as we took a

tour several weeks before Jenny’s due date.

The suites catered to the yuppie set and were a

big source of profits for the hospital, bringing in

hard cash from couples with money to blow above

the standard insurance allotment for deliveries. A

bit of an indulgence, we agreed, but why not?

When Jenny’s big day came and we arrived at

the hospital, overnight bag in hand, we were told

there was a little problem.

“A problem?” I asked.

“It must be a good day for having babies,” the

receptionist said cheerfully. “All the birthing

suites are already taken.”

Taken? This was the most important day of our

lives. What about the comfy couch and romantic

dinner for two and champagne toast? “Now, wait a

second,” I complained. “We made our reservation

weeks ago.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman said with a noticeable

lack of sympathy. “We don’t exactly have a lot of

control over when mothers go into labor.”

She made a valid point. It wasn’t like she could

hurry someone along. She directed us to another

floor, where we would be issued a standard hospi-

tal room. But when we arrived in the maternity

ward, the nurse at the counter had more bad news.

“Would you believe every last room is filled?” she

Marley & Me

said. No, we couldn’t. Jenny seemed to take it in

stride, but I was getting testy now. “What do you

suggest, the parking lot?” I snapped.

The nurse smiled calmly at me, apparently

well familiar with the antics of nervous fathers-

to-be, and said, “Don’t you worry. We’ll find a

spot for you.”

After a flurry of phone calls, she sent us down a

long hallway and through a set of double doors,

where we found ourselves in a mirror image of the

maternity ward we had just left except for one ob-

vious difference—the patients were definitely not

the buttoned-down, disposable-income yuppies

we had gone through Lamaze class with. We could

hear the nurses talking in Spanish to patients, and

standing in the hallway outside the rooms, brown-

skinned men holding straw hats in rugged hands

waited nervously. Palm Beach County is known as

a playground for the obscenely rich, but what is

less widely known is that it also is home to huge

farms that stretch across drained Everglades

swamp for miles west of town. Thousands of mi-

grant workers, mostly from Mexico and Central

America, migrate into South Florida each growing

season to pick the peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and

celery that supply much of the East Coast’s winter

vegetable needs. It seems we had discovered

where the migrant workers came to have their ba-

John Grogan

bies. Periodically, a woman’s anguished scream

would pierce the air, followed by awful moans and

calls of “Mi madre!”The place sounded like a

house of horrors. Jenny was white as a ghost.

The nurse led us into a small cubicle containing

one bed, one chair, and a bank of electronic mon-

itors and handed Jenny a gown to change into.

“Welcome to the indigent ward!” Dr. Sherman

said brightly when he breezed in a few minutes

later. “Don’t be fooled by the bare-bones rooms,”

he said. They were outfitted with some of the

most sophisticated medical equipment in the hos-

pital, and the nurses were some of the best

trained. Because poor women often lacked access

to prenatal care, theirs were some of the highest-

risk pregnancies. We were in good hands, he as-

sured us as he broke Jenny’s water. Then, as

quickly as he had appeared, he was gone.

Indeed, as the morning progressed and Jenny

fought her way through ferocious contractions,

we discovered we were in very good hands. The

nurses were seasoned professionals who exuded

confidence and warmth, attentively hovering

over her, checking the baby’s heartbeat and

coaching Jenny along. I stood helplessly by, try-

ing my best to be supportive, but it wasn’t work-

ing. At one point Jenny snarled at me through

gritted teeth, “If you ask me one more time how

Marley & Me

I’m doing, I’m going to RIP YOUR FACE

OFF!” I must have looked wounded because one

of the nurses walked around to my side of the

bed, squeezed my shoulders sympathetically, and

said, “Welcome to childbirth, Dad. It’s all part of

the experience.”

I began slipping out of the room to join the

other men waiting in the hallway. Each of us

leaned against the wall beside our respective doors

as our wives screamed and moaned away. I felt a

little ridiculous, dressed in my polo shirt, khakis,

and Top-Siders, but the farmworkers didn’t seem

to hold it against me. Soon we were smiling and

nodding knowingly to one another. They couldn’t

speak English and I couldn’t speak Spanish, but

that didn’t matter. We were in this together.

Or almost together. I learned that day that in

America pain relief is a luxury, not a necessity. For

those who could afford it—or whose insurance

covered it, as ours did—the hospital provided

epidurals, which delivered pain-blocking oblivion

directly into the central nervous system. About

four hours into Jenny’s labor, an anesthesiologist

arrived and slipped a long needle through the skin

along her spine and attached it to an intravenous

drip. Within minutes, Jenny was numb from the

waist down and resting comfortably. The Mexican

women nearby were not so lucky. They were left

John Grogan

to tough it out the old-fashioned way, and their

shrieks continued to puncture the air.

The hours passed. Jenny pushed. I coached. As

night fell I stepped out into the hall bearing a tiny

swaddled football. I lifted my newborn son above

my head for my new friends to see and called out,

“Es el niño!”The other dads flashed big smiles

and held up their thumbs in the international sign

of approval. Unlike our heated struggle to name

our dog, we would easily and almost instantly set-

tle on a name for our firstborn son. He would be

named Patrick for the first of my line of Grogans

to arrive in the United States from County Limer-

ick, Ireland. A nurse came into our cubicle and

told us a birthing suite was now available. It

seemed rather beside the point to change rooms

now, but she helped Jenny into a wheelchair,

placed our son in her arms, and whisked us away.

The gourmet dinner wasn’t all it was cracked up

to be.

During the weeks leading up to her due date,

Jenny and I had had long strategy talks about how

best to acclimate Marley to the new arrival who

would instantly knock him off his until-now

undisputed perch as Most Favored Dependent.

We wanted to let him down gently. We had heard

Marley & Me

stories of dogs becoming terribly jealous of in-

fants and acting out in unacceptable ways—

everything from urinating on prized possessions to

knocking over bassinets to outright attacks—that

usually resulted in a one-way ticket to the pound.

As we converted the spare bedroom into a nursery,

we gave Marley full access to the crib and bedding

and all the various accoutrements of infancy. He

sniffed and drooled and licked until his curiosity

was satisfied. In the thirty-six hours that Jenny re-

mained hospitalized recuperating after the birth, I

made frequent trips home to visit Marley, armed

with receiving blankets and anything else that car-

ried the baby’s scent. On one of my visits, I even

brought home a tiny used disposable diaper, which

Marley sniffed with such vigor I feared he might

suck it up his nostril, requiring more costly med-

ical intervention.

When I finally brought mother and child home,

Marley was oblivious. Jenny placed baby Patrick,

asleep in his car carrier, in the middle of our bed

and then joined me in greeting Marley out in the

garage, where we had an uproarious reunion.

When Marley had settled down from frantically

wild to merely desperately happy, we brought

him into the house with us. Our plan was to just

go about our business, not pointing the baby out

to him. We would hover nearby and let him grad-

John Grogan

ually discover the presence of the newcomer on

his own.

Marley followed Jenny into the bedroom, jam-

ming his nose deep into her overnight bag as she

unpacked. He clearly had no idea there was a liv-

ing thing sitting on our bed. Then Patrick stirred

and let out a small, birdlike chirp. Marley’s ears

pulled up and he froze. Where did that come

from?Patrick chirped again, and Marley lifted

one paw in the air, pointing like a bird dog. My

God, he was pointingat our baby boy like a hunt-

ing dog would point at . . . prey. In that instant, I

thought of the feather pillow he had attacked with

such ferocity. He wasn’t so dense as to mistake a

baby for a pheasant, was he?

Then he lunged. It was not a ferocious “kill the

enemy” lunge; there were no bared teeth or

growls. But it wasn’t a “welcome to the neighbor-

hood, little buddy” lunge, either. His chest hit the

mattress with such force that the entire bed jolted

across the floor. Patrick was wide awake now, eyes

wide. Marley recoiled and lunged again, this time

bringing his mouth within inches of our new-

born’s toes. Jenny dove for the baby and I dove for

the dog, pulling him back by the collar with both

hands. Marley was beside himself, straining to get

at this new creature that somehow had snuck into

our inner sanctum. He reared on his hind legs and

Marley & Me

I pulled back on his collar, feeling like the Lone

Ranger with Silver. “Well, that went well,” I said.

Jenny unbuckled Patrick from his car seat; I

pinned Marley between my legs and held him

tightly by the collar with both fists. Even Jenny

could see Marley meant no harm. He was panting

with that dopey grin of his; his eyes were bright

and his tail was wagging. As I held tight, she grad-

ually came closer, allowing Marley to sniff first the

baby’s toes, then his feet and calves and thighs.

The poor kid was only a day and a half old, and he

was already under attack by a Shop-Vac. When

Marley reached the diaper, he seemed to enter an

altered state of consciousness, a sort of Pampers-

induced trance. He had reached the holy land.

The dog looked positively euphoric.

“One false move, Marley, and you’re toast,”

Jenny warned, and she meant it. If he had shown

even the slightest aggression toward the baby, that

would have been it. But he never did. We soon

learned our problem was not keeping Marley from

hurting our precious baby boy. Our problem was

keeping him out of the diaper pail.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into

months, Marley came to accept Patrick as his new

best friend. One night early on, as I was turning

John Grogan

off the lights to go to bed, I couldn’t find Marley

anywhere. Finally I thought to look in the nursery,

and there he was, stretched out on the floor beside

Patrick’s crib, the two of them snoring away in

stereophonic fraternal bliss. Marley, our wild

crashing bronco, was different around Patrick. He

seemed to understand that this was a fragile, de-

fenseless little human, and he moved gingerly

whenever he was near him, licking his face and

ears delicately. As Patrick began crawling, Marley

would lie quietly on the floor and let the baby scale

him like a mountain, tugging on his ears, poking

his eyes, and pulling out little fistfuls of fur. None

of it fazed him. Marley just sat like a statue. He

was a gentle giant around Patrick, and he accepted

his second-fiddle status with bonhomie and good-

natured resignation.

Not everyone approved of the blind faith we

placed in our dog. They saw a wild, unpredictable,

and powerful beast—he was approaching a hun-

dred pounds by now—and thought us foolhardy to

trust him around a defenseless infant. My mother

was firmly in this camp and not shy about letting

us know it. It pained her to watch Marley lick her

grandson. “Do you know where that tongue has

been?” she would ask rhetorically. She warned us

darkly that we should never leave a dog and a baby

alone in the same room. The ancient predatory in-

Marley & Me

stinct could surface without warning. If it were up

to her, a concrete wall would separate Marley and

Patrick at all times.

One day while she was visiting from Michigan,

she let out a shriek from the living room. “John,

quick!” she screamed. “The dog’s biting the

baby!” I raced out of the bedroom, half dressed,

only to find Patrick swinging happily in his wind-

up swing, Marley lying beneath him. Indeed, the

dog was snapping at the baby, but it was not as my

panicky mother had feared. Marley had positioned

himself directly in Patrick’s flight path with his

head right where Patrick’s bottom, strapped in a

fabric sling, stopped at the peak of each arc before

swinging back in the opposite direction. Each time

Patrick’s diapered butt came within striking dis-

tance, Marley would snap playfully at it, goosing

him in the process. Patrick squealed with delight.

“Aw, Ma, that’s nothing,” I said. “Marley just has

a thing for his diapers.”

Jenny and I settled into a routine. At nighttime she

would get up with Patrick every few hours to

nurse him, and I would take the 6:00 A.M. feeding

so she could sleep in. Half asleep, I would pluck

him from his crib, change his diaper, and make a

bottle of formula for him. Then the payoff: I

John Grogan

would sit on the back porch with his tiny, warm

body nestled against my stomach as he sucked on

the bottle. Sometimes I would let my face rest

against the top of his head and doze off as he ate

lustily. Sometimes I would listen to National Pub-

lic Radio and watch the dawn sky turn from pur-

ple to pink to blue. When he was fed and I had

gotten a good burp out of him, I would get us both

dressed, whistle for Marley, and take a morning

walk along the water. We invested in a jogging

stroller with three large bicycle tires that allowed

it to go pretty much anywhere, including through

sand and over curbs. The three of us must have

made quite a sight each morning, Marley out in

front leading the charge like a mush dog, me in the

rear holding us back for dear life, and Patrick in

the middle, gleefully waving his arms in the air

like a traffic cop. By the time we arrived home,

Jenny would be up and have coffee on. We would

strap Patrick into his high chair and sprinkle

Cheerios on the tray for him, which Marley would

snitch the instant we turned away, laying his head

sideways on the tray and using his tongue to scoop

them into his mouth. Stealing food from a baby,

we thought; how low will he stoop?But Patrick

seemed immensely amused by the whole routine,

and pretty soon he learned how to push his Chee-

rios over the side so he could watch Marley scram-

Marley & Me

ble around, eating them off the floor. He also dis-

covered that if he dropped Cheerios into his lap,

Marley would poke his head up under the tray and

jab Patrick in the stomach as he went for the er-

rant cereal, sending him into peals of laughter.

Parenthood, we found, suited us well. We settled

into its rhythms, celebrated its simple joys, and

grinned our way through its frustrations, knowing

even the bad days soon enough would be cherished

memories. We had everything we could ask for. We

had our precious baby. We had our numbskull dog.

We had our little house by the water. Of course, we

also had each other. That November, my newspa-

per promoted me to columnist, a coveted position

that gave me my own space on the section front

three times a week to spout off about whatever I

wanted. Life was good. When Patrick was nine

months old, Jenny wondered aloud when we might

want to start thinking about having another baby.

“Oh, gee, I don’t know,” I said. We always knew

we wanted more than one, but I hadn’t really

thought about a time frame. Repeating everything

we had just gone through seemed like something

best not rushed into. “I guess we could just go

back off birth control again and see what hap-

pens,” I suggested.

“Ah,” Jenny said knowingly. “The old Que

será, seráschool of family planning.”

John Grogan

“Hey, don’t knock it,” I said. “It worked before.”

So that is what we did. We figured if we con-

ceived anytime in the next year, the timing would

be about right. As Jenny did the math, she said,

“Let’s say six months to get pregnant and then

nine more months to deliver. That would put two

full years between them.”

It sounded good to me. Two years was a long

way off. Two years was next to an eternity. Two

years was almost not real. Now that I had proved

myself capable of the manly duty of insemina-

tion, the pressure was off. No worries, no stress.

Whatever would be would be.

A week later, Jenny was knocked up.

C H A P T E R 1 3

A Scream in the Night

With another baby growing inside her,

Jenny’s odd, late-night food cravings re-

turned. One night it was root beer, the next grape-

fruit. “Do we have any Snickers bars?” she asked

once a little before midnight. It looked like I was

in for another jaunt down to the all-night conve-

nience store. I whistled for Marley, hooked him to

his leash, and set off for the corner. In the parking

lot, a young woman with teased blond hair, bright

lavender lips, and some of the highest heels I had

ever seen engaged us. “Oh, he’s so cute!” she

gushed. “Hi, puppy. What’s your name, cutie?”

Marley, of course, was more than happy to strike

up a friendship, and I pulled him tight against me

so he wouldn’t slobber on her purple miniskirt

and white tank top. “You just want to kiss me,

John Grogan

poochie, don’t you?” she said, and made

smooching noises with her lips.

As we chatted, I wondered what this attractive

woman was doing out in a parking lot along Dixie

Highway alone at this hour. She did not appear to

have a car. She did not appear to be on her way

into or out of the store. She was just there, a

parking-lot ambassador cheerfully greeting

strangers and their dogs as they approached as

though she were our neighborhood’s answer to the

Wal-Mart greeters. Why was she so immensely

friendly? Beautiful women were never friendly, at

least not to strange men in parking lots at mid-

night. A car pulled up, and an older man rolled

down his window. “Are you Heather?” he asked.

She shot me a bemused smile as if to say, You do

what you have to do to pay the rent. “Gotta

run,” she said, hopping into the car. “Bye,


“Don’t fall too in love, Marley,” I said as they

drove off. “You can’t afford her.”

A few weeks later, at ten o’clock on a Sunday

morning, I walked Marley to the same store to

buy a Miami Herald,and again we were ap-

proached, this time by two young women,

teenagers really, who both looked strung out and

nervous. Unlike the first woman we had met, they

were not terribly attractive and had taken no ef-

Marley & Me

forts to make themselves more so. They both

looked desperate for their next hit off a crack

pipe. “Harold?” one of them asked me. “Nope,”

I said, but what I was thinking was, Do you really

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