Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dog Lovers

I noticed the other day my daughter, Mandy, had purchased a new book. She -like her parents -loves to read so the fact she'd bought a new book wasn't all that big a surprise. The title and topic though -well, that did kind of surprise me.

I'd heard of this book before -had considered buying it too. But I think I backed off because getting the latest Jodi Picoult book seemed to take precedence in my general book buying schemes.

But this book that Mandy had bought, I had actually communicated with the author at least once, maybe twice three years ago this coming August or September. That was back in the days after our state legislature had passed themselves a huge pay raise in July of 2005 and I spent the better part of 2005 and almost all of 2006, highly jacked over that deal and also, involved with a grassroots organization here in Pennsylvania

No, this book isn't about politics -not at all -but the author, John Grogan, who is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, had written some terrific columns about the issues with this obnoxious pay raise and I had e-mailed him to commend him on his writings. So, when I had initially seen this book, Marley and Me, by John Grogan, and knowing what a gift he has for writing serious pieces but usually able to throw a few twists -sometimes more than a few -of humor into his work, I thought this book might be an interesting piece to read. By why Mandy decided to buy it, I really don't know. If the animal on the cover had been a cat, I could readily have understood her decision but she knew though she understood this dog, Marley, was the theme of the book, the fact she had no clue about the author didn't have any bearing on her choice like it would have had for me.

She whizzed through the book in about two days and turned it over to me. I read it in just under 24 hours and we both loved it. I do mean LOVED IT! A book that can create laughter and then tears -on the same page and on several occasions throughout the writing -definitely is a great book in my mind, and I'm quite sure Mandy would agree with me in that respect too.

But after reading it, I found myself thinking about all the animals that have made a home with me or with me and my kids too over the years. And in some of the pets we've had, there were a lot of things that made some of our pets akin to Marley - John Grogan's fantastic dog.

I come from a long line of dog lovers -and a goodly number of cat lovers too, for that matter. Ah Shucks, if you come right down to it, I suppose it would be easier to say I'm descended from a long, long line of animal lovers of most any type.

Over the years when I was growing up, we had two different dogs - Lady, part collie, part shepherd who was a great watchdog but hated paperboys and all my friends were terrified of her because she sounded very mean when someone came knocking on our door. We had her for twelve years until she died after my grandpa passed away. We believed -I still do - that she mourned him and in doing so, she stopped eating and died six weeks after he did. Lady was followed by Duffy, who was in all respects MY dog! Duffy went any place he could possibly go to follow me, including riding up and down these hills in town in the basket on the front of my bicycle.

When my ex and I moved back here, we had several dogs -and cats too. There was an airdale/beagle mix named Harvey, two mutts that were brothers, Shep and Willie. A big dog, obviously with a lot of golden retriever blood in her wandered in here and the kids adopted her, naming her Cactus who we had for about a year and then, she just wandered away as quietly as she had arrived. Willie was quite the romeo too and at one time, managed to get his behind filled with buckshot apparently being caught in the act of romancing someone else's dog. After that, he brought his girlfriends home with him as a very pretty German Shepherd mix that the kids named Sheba, followed him home and presented the kids and I with a littler of six puppies that she gave birth to under my bed, on New Year's Day morning of 1981. (There was a weird thing to awake to and I was really glad I hadn't done all that much celebrating the night before too when I woke up to find her and those puppies under my bed.) After Sheba there was Fred, one of that litter born under my bed and Fred was followed by another collie/shepherd mix we named Caesar. The last dog we had for about two years was Hercules and he was by far and away the most destructive dog I've ever seen as well as being capable of depositing by far and away, the largest piles of doggie poo I swear I have ever encountered.

Hercules once spied a little cloth bag containing rice - a rice pack my aunt had made and sent me intended to be used by heating it in the microwave and then placing it on arthritic joints - and he snagged it off the kitchen table, ripped a tiny hole in the fabric and then proceeded to shake all the contents -dry rice -out all over the downstairs of the house. Although this pack only contained one cup of rice, it is absolutely incredible just how much floor space can be covered by that one little cup of rice! He also got into a bag of yarn I had too one time and unraveled a big skein of yarn and then dragged that yarn throughout the living room and dining room, looping it in and around every chair and table leg so that when I came home from work that night, I had a labyrinth of yarn criss-crossing the length and width of the living room and dining room to untangle.

We've also had several cats over the past 30 some years too - from a black cat named Aces, followed by a white cat named Frosty. Then there were three cats -one solid gray, a grey-black tabby and a black and white spotted cat -whose names I can't for the life of me recall right now. There was Luther - our first orange cat that Carrie found while on a hike in the woods with our church youth group, then a black and grey cat the kids brought home that was here in the house for three weeks before I realized we had two identical cats here. The kids named that one Ben and he died after his acrobatic escapades in the basement caused him to fall, striking his head on the washer/dryer and he broke his neck. There was also a really sweet little kitten we had for about 3-4 weeks named Jellybean who had the misfortune of leaving the house and being hit by a car in front of the house. Then there was a very pretty white cat with grey and pinkish markings -a very furry almost persian type fur -that Mandy named "Pud -ley" who disappeared and we later learned that our next door neighbor had kidnapped her and carted her off to his parents farm in an county about 90 miles from here. George was an orange cat that belonged to my ex-sister-in-law's little sister and he took a shine to my son, following him home all the time till he just sort of became ours by default. George was the destructive cat -shredding the screen on the back door to the kitchen by flinging himself from the deck to the screen and then letting his claws rip the screen to bits and pieces - just to let us know he was home and wanted in the house! Gracie came along back in the fall of 1991 as the prettiest little black calico furball you'd ever hope to see and she's still here with us -feeble-minded now, yes, failing in other ways too but until we are absolutely forced into it, we won't have her put down. Nina was here for almost a year until she went to become a mouser for my son and his roommate when we acquired Jorge - the supposedly male cat but who it turned out is actually female and is the one who has been driving me and the rest of the family bonkers because she is in heat and wailing and howling loudly. Since she escaped yesterday for a couple hours and snuck out today when the wind blew the front door open and I wasn't aware of the escape hatch being opened up again, I will bet money we will no doubt have kittens available in a couple months -free for the taking. Considering Jorge's actions, the crying and rolling around, driving us nuts and her managing to slither out and becoming the neighborhood slut, I'm thinking now perhaps we should think about changing the spelling of her name from "Jorge" to "Whore-hay" cause she sure is doing a lot of that the past two days!

And there you have it - the rundown of the many and various cats and dogs my kids and I have had over the years. And in reading this book - "Marley and Me" there were so many parts relating escapades of Mr. Grogan's dog Marley that took me back in time to remembering some of the antics and causes for visits to the vet -or annoyances put upon our friends and neighbors too -that our pets have done over the years. Brought back lots of memories there it did.

Mr. Grogan's style of writing and telling the stories about Marley though are such that at the beginning of a paragraph, he will have you smiling, the a quiet giggle, often leading you into a big laugh that you can't contain inside you and end the paragraph having you in tears too about this dog and his actions and reactions.

Whether you're a dog, cat or any other type of animal lover or not, I'm betting that anyone reading this book will come away with the same reaction and response to it that Mandy and I both did.

I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone - any age too! Absolutely, it's a "Thumbs up" read! Don't believe me? Go get a copy yourself and you'll see. Trust me!


Minnesotablue said...

I've seen the book on the shelves but haven't read it. I sure will now. We always had dogs growing up and even when my kids were small, we had more dogs than cats. However, my kids seem to prefer cats, one daughter has 5or6. My youngest daughter had cats also but she just got a small dog and has fallen in love with him! His name is Sir Bently and he plays it for all it's worth.

fermicat said...

Pet people are good people! I can't imagine not having at least one or two, always. Our three cats are a handful and we probably won't expand our furry family any more in the near future. I do miss having a dog and would like to have a dog again some time. But not while my oldest cat is alive - she would definitely NOT be happy about a dog.

Jeff B said...

I'll have to put that on the list of "to read" books. I've always had at least one dog and cat in the house ever since I can remember.

Most of the dogs were labrdors, as my father and oldest brother alwys hunted birds.

Travis said...

My mom read this book and loved it too.

Gene Bach said...

Sounds good Jeni. We have always had dogs and cats. Now we have chickens and fish too.

SnoopMurph said...

I have heard some great reviews on this book and I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet.

We don't have any pets-my "no pets" motto is not because I don't like pets, but I feel like I wouldn't be able to devote the proper time to care for an animal right now with all the rest. Sounds a bit selfish, but truthfully, it would not be fair to a pet right now. However, I am certain I will change my mind some day when the boys are a little older. Maybe this book will change my mind!

Misty Dawn said...

I LOVED Marley and Me. Of course, I bawled my eyes out. That's me - a dog-lover and a sap ;-) My husband walked into the room and saw tears streaming down my face. He looked at me and asked "Marley?" I whimpered "Yyyyeah." He said "Honey, you knew that would happen, didn't you?" I said "Yyyyyyeah, that doesn't mean that I can stop from crying."

Yep, I'm a sap.

Posolxstvo said...

Don't know if I mentioned it, but Max (our puppy in case you'd forgotten gave me a copy of that for Christmas, I guess to remind me that he's not so troublesome after all, in the grand scheme of things...

Quasi said...

I’d like to tell you that I’ve written a scathingly funny book, The World Is Your Litter Box, which will be out May 6th. The book is cleverly disguised as a cute cat book so humans will buy it, but is, in fact, a how-to manual FOR cats. Check it out on my website,

Supreme Solutions said...

I have to say that they need to make a movie out of Max and me...FYI Grown man cried his eyes out every 10 pages of this book.