Dear Reader,

Whenever the holidays arrive, I cannot help thinking back fondly on the role our dog Marley played for thirteen yuletide seasons. As you can imagine, Marley was always underfoot as we wrapped gifts, baked cookies, and carried in the Christmas tree and decorated it. His contribution to the preparations was gobbling down gingerbread men as they cooled on the counter, stealing ornaments, raiding the stockings hanging from the fireplace, and-yes, he really did this-peeing on the Christmas tree. You could just tell that he was convinced we'd brought the tree inside for the sole purpose of giving him his very own inside bathroom. After lifting his leg, he yelped happily as if to say, "Gee, thanks for the potty!"

One of Marley's funniest holiday moments was the time he stuck his head and shoulders deep into the center of the Christmas tree to get a good sniff. Next thing he knew, he was caught. Something had him by the neck, tugging at him as he tried to back out. The Christmas Tree Monster! In a complete panic, Marley lunged backward. Timberrrrr! Down crashed the tree, ornaments flying and breaking. He yanked backward, dragging the tree across the living room, the water from the base pouring out on the rug, until the monster finally released him. The "monster" turned out to be a twig on a branch that had caught in his collar. Boy, what a mess we had to clean up. Marley's real-life antics were the inspiration for my new illustrated children's book, A Very Marley Christmas. Readers will find a little of the real Marley on every page. I hope you enjoy reading my new book as much as I enjoyed writing it and my talented colleague Richard Cowdrey enjoyed illustrating it.

Happy holidays!

John Grogan

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