Archive for February, 2006

Howard & Me

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Marley has posthumously made a lot of new friends through his story, but one friend I never in a million years would have guessed is…..Howard Stern. The celebrity shock jock last week on his new show on the Sirius Satellite Network talked about my book, Marley & Me. In fact, he talked about it on three different days.

As Howard described it on the air, his girlfriend, Beth, had bought him a copy of Marley & Me for Valentine’s Day and he was reading it on a flight to visit his daughter in college. The flight was very turbulent and the flight attendant noticed Howard crying. She approached him and asked if he was OK. It wasn’t the bumpy flight, he told her; it was the book he had just finished reading, Marley & Me. He then went on to describe how the book changed the way he looks at relationships — with his girlfriend, his children, his friends, and, yes, his English bulldog, Bianca. I was later interviewed (by cell phone as I drove to the airport in Phoenix after a book event) on his station’s Howard 100 News about the effect my book had on him.

In a letter he wrote me afterward, he put it this way: “Marley touched me and opened me up so much. Your story made me realize that it is the tough times and how we handle them that defines a relationship.” He added: “I am spreading the word about your book.”

As if I hadn’t noticed. And when Howard Stern spreads the word, people listen. Lots of people. My website drew more than 200,000 hits the day Howard gushed on-air about the book. Wow. (The web address also appeared in a story in The New York Times last week on America’s bad-dog phenomenon, and that also contributed to the high number of hits. The Times story is at:

Thank you, Howard Stern. Thank you.

Kathy the Dog Sitter

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

I was in Florida last month participating in a panel discussion with other authors that was being taped to run on Book TV. I was jabbering on about the memoir in front of a group of about 500 people when I looked out into the crowd and spotted a familiar face. A face I knew; one I hadn’t seen for many years.
Of course! It was Kathy the Dog Sitter. Actually, Kathy was my friend and coworker from the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale. If you’ve read the book, you know that Kathy played a somewhat uproarious role in Marley’s life. When he was just a year or so old, Jenny and I, coming off a miscarriage, decided to travel to Ireland to regroup. Kathy generously volunteered to house sit and care for Marley. My lengthy instruction sheet to her (actually, more of a booklet) has become the stuff of legend. Needless to say, Marley gave poor Kathy a run for her money.

After the book event, Kathy and I chatted, and as we did so people standing nearby started interrupting. “Excuse me, but are you Kathy? The Kathy? Kathy the Dog Sitter?” Pretty soon, people were asking Kathy to autograph their Marley books. She was a good sport about it and signed away.

The other day, at my beckoning, Kathy dropped in to the Barnes & Noble website, where Marley & Me is being featured this month as a book club choice (if you want to check it out, click the “BN University” tab on the home page – it’s in the upper right corner). Lots of people wanted Kathy to give her account of her time with Marley. And this is what she wrote:

My husband just said I’m catching onto Marley’s dog-tail
to fame!! My stories? Well, John’s book describes the
Intracoastal and how Marley was a water dog. I walked
Marley there too …. until the day he almost hung himself.
He just wanted to swim and leaped off the wall toward the
water, about 12 or 14 feet below. Because I didn’t want to
break his neck, I grabbed the ledge with one hand, and
Marley was dangling off his leash lashed around my other
wrist, his paws just skimming the surface of the water.

We hung there like that until I managed to slide the leash
off and Marley plunged into the river. THEN the challenge
was how to coax him the half-mile to a sand bar where I
could climb down and try to lift that 80-pound puppy up to the
walkway again. Needless to say, that took another 2 hours!! It would have taken more if another dog owner hadn’t lured Marley to the sand bar with his own
visiting dog. How’s that story for starters? (More later, if
you’re interested. Oh, and don’t tell Jenny. I don’t think I
told them this story!!)

A book-club participant next asked Kathy if Marley was terrified by the experience of dangling over open-water by a leash. Kathy replied:

Marley wasn’t scared at all….he just stared up at me with
an expression like “Well gee, I thought I was going for a
swim!!” And when he finally got to the water, well, as I
said, he was having so much fun it took me nearly 2 hours
to coax him (from a dozen feet above him) to swim
through the water and up to the sandbar.

I had a day job when I took care of him, and even with a
neighbor giving him the run of the back yard in the
afternoon, my first job when I got back each day was to
look at the details of the garage and yard to see what was
still standing. One day, I found two ornamental backyard
trees cut down, looking like they’d been attacked by
beavers. The one that had me puzzled the longest,
though, was in the back of the garage, on the top of the
washing machine, a cone-shaped pile of dust. It took me
two days to realize that Marley had climbed on top of the
machine, and reached up to a shelf along the wall where
he found a ceramic tea set and pulverized one of the
pieces, chewing it through to just dust. I wondered why he
didn’t eat much that day, and what motivated him to eat
ceramics!! (More later, about the late night adventure, and
my last day with him and discovering what a sensitive dog
he really was.)

I’ll be sure to post Kathy’s next entry from her excellent adventure with Marley. She may have a sequel on her hands!

An Unlikely dog tale

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006 today ran a piece by the Reuters news service titled: “Unlikely dog tale tops bestseller list.” The piece, by Jon Hurdle, begins:

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – The tale of a rambunctious puppy is proving its staying power in the dog-eat-dog world of U.S. bestsellers.

With more than 1 million copies in print, “Marley and Me — Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog” has struck a chord with dog lovers who are laughing and crying over author John Grogan’s account of his yellow Labrador retriever.

The story is more than a recounting of Marley’s antics that include chewing through doors, expulsion from obedience school, clawing paint off concrete walls, devouring furniture, swallowing valuable jewelry and swooning over soiled diapers.

The excitable, good-natured lab also knows how to protect the family’s tiny children and consoles the couple when they grieve over a miscarriage.

The nonfiction book has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 17 weeks. It seems likely to break the barrier of a million copies sold, a feat generally accomplished by no more than a dozen books each year in the U.S. hardcover non-fiction market.

The story goes on to state:

Grogan’s publisher Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, set an initial print run of 50,000 copies. But as sales took off, it has gone back to the press for 24 runs, with 1.17 million copies in print as of February 22.

Fox 2000 has bought the movie rights to the book and plans to put it on a fast-track production schedule, a Morrow spokesman said.

Bob Wietrak, vice president of merchandising for the Barnes & Noble chain of bookstores, said the book’s success was due to its focus on broader human themes. “It’s about the human condition, it’s about relationships, it’s about family.”

To read the entire story, please go to:

PBS/39 television spot now on the Web

Friday, February 17th, 2006

A film crew from the PBS affiliate in the Lehigh Valley, Pa., PBS/39, came out to my house last week and hung out with Jenny and me (and Gracie the Lab) for a few hours. The crew, with reporter Jeff Chirico, also showed up at a signing I did at tiny Parkland Community Library, about a half hour from my house, in which 300 people showed up, pretty much overwhelming the library and its staff. The final piece runs about 5 minutes and can be viewed as a webcast at the station’s website. Go to: and click on Item 331.

You’ll want to fast forward through the first two segments. The Marley piece is third in the lineup. I thought Jeff and his team did a really great job cramming a lot into a few minutes and skillfully telling the story of Marley and the book’s suprising climb up the nation’s bestseller lists. Not only that, but you get to see me pretending to be working on my next manuscript as I sit at my computer (don’t tell the agent; she’s a taskmaster), and, of course, Gracie being disobedient! The piece includes a visit to Marley’s grave in back of our property on the edge of the woods.

A Dog named Dink, Chaser of Whales (and Coeds)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of dog stories these past few months, and each of them is special, just as each dog is special. But a few stand out. This story of a Labrador retriever named Dink was among them. Once in a lifetime, if we’re lucky, we will be touched by a bigger-than-life, utterly memorable dog, a dog like no other. For me, it was Marley. For Al Eggers, a college professor in Washington state, it was Dink. Here’s the story he shared with me by email, including a grainy but priceless photo of Dink at play with his large mammal friend:

“Marley & Me” brought tears to my eyes, and many memories of good dogs, but
most of all of a crazy yellow Lab who fixed all of his genetic programming
for birds & game on marine mammals, whales and seals. I live over saltwater, in a house on pilings, along Puget Sound. This dog, Dink, somehow transferred his retieverness from birds to larger things — harbor seals, sea lions, & grey whales. Dink had harbor seal friends with whom he would play — after being called by a barking seal at the front deck. The dog loved to harrass mating sea lions, and he bore the scars to prove their displeasure. But above all things Dink had a most unsual and special relationship with grey whales. Although you may find this not beievable, he loved them and they love him. (picture attached, poor but the best available). Many witnesses can testify to this exotic cetaceal-canine relationship. One bright sunny morning my neighbor and I watched Dink and a grey whale play
tag for almost an hour.

Dink loved crotches, paticularly those attached to young women. I’m a college professor, and my dogs go to my office with me daily. Students like dogs; I think most of the time my dogs help to sooth anxieties. At 14 years of age, Dink for several days disappeared. It had never happened before. I found him, living with four young women, under the psuedonym “Fred” in a place he could reach only afer a four-mile swim.

Eggers goes on to describe other dogs he has loved, including the late B.C. and Rosie, now nearing the end of her life. He concludes:

There comes a time when dogs tell you, “I’m ready.” You just know. When that time comes in my case I carry, with the help of friends, my dogs Dink, B.C. and in too short a time, Rosie, down the trail and up 220 steps to my car. We go to our vet, Dr. Hoff, who does know our dogs. In a little room Dr. Hoff puts a needle in their legs, and soon one can no longer feel a heart beat. And I cry, as I am now.

Here’s to Dink, a great dog who lived every day to the fullest. Marley would have loved to have joined him playing tag with the whales. Not to mention lounging with coeds.

The Gift of Snow

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

This morning, Gracie, our Labrador retriever, woke me early with a soft whimpering. The sun was not yet up, but she was — and she needed to go out. I pulled on jeans and a sweatshirt and opened the garage door for her. She bounded out into the garage on her way outside with her usual crashing joy, but came to a screeching halt when she reached to outer garage door. A major snowstorm had rolled in overnight — the first of the season — leaving 14 inches of fluffy white stuff on the ground. She was not about to sink her paws into it. She looked back at me, then at the snow, then back at me again. It was as if she were saying, C’mon, I really need to go. Will you carry me?
“You’re kidding me,” I said aloud. “You’re a Lab. Labs are supposed to be macho and studly and oblivious to cold. And you’re telling me you don’t want to get your tootsies wet?”
She looked up at me with those gold eyes of her. That’s what she was telling me.
“Oh for goodness sakes,” I grumbled. “Hold on.”
I went inside, put on my coat, hat, gloves and boots. When I returned, Gracie acted like I’d been gone for months. He’s back!I grabbed a shovel and began digging a path out from the garage for her. She waited patiently, inspecting my work and wagging her tail, which I took as an endorsement. Finally, she tiptoed out, sniffed cautiously and, apparently deciding this odd white stuff that she hadn’t seen for the better part of a year was not going to hurt her, bounded off across the yard in the deep snow. Pretty soon she was racing and rolling and nose diving until she looked like a giant powdered doughnut. It reminded me of Marley’s antics — only not quite so animated — back in his day. Dogs and snow….man, they sure go hand in hand.

I’m convinced that snow is a gift from the heavens, nature’s way of saying to us pathetic, rat-race, can’t-slow-down humans: “Hey, people, you need to give it a rest and take a deep breath and just relax. I’m sending a foot or two of the most beautiful powder you could ever imagine and it will force you to stay at home, sit tight, relax, if only for a day.” And that’s what I’m doing today, just drinking it in. Snowed in with a good book, a fire in the fireplace and a big yellow dog at my feet. There are worse ways to pass a Sunday.

Today gives me another reason to celebrate, and a big reason at that. Marley & Me officially goes to #1 on The New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list today, its 16th straight week on the list. It is also #1 on the Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly lists. If someone would have predicted this six months ago, I would have said no possible way. I would have said, Get real, it’s a book about my family and our dog. And yet, here we are. I still can’t quite believe it. My humble thanks to each and every one of you who helped make this happen.

Commotion at the Convent

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Today I received an email from a Catholic nun in New Jersey who shares her monastic life with…. (but who else?) a nutty yellow Labrador retriever. Here is Sister Florence’s note. The part about the dog stealing the nuns’ head veils and then dashing off with the sisters in pursuit gave me a good laugh. As I tell myself every day, “Marley’s spirit lives on.”

Dear Mr.. John Grogan,
Peace and all good. I’ve been looking for a way to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. It was written so well that I felt I was there experiencing those funny moments. I was laughing out loud in my bedroom all by myself.
I am a Poor Clare Nun from the Monastery of Saint Clare in Chesterfield,
New Jersey. However I was sent to our Monastery in Delray, Florida from
October 31st until December 15th to help the sisters there because they have so
many sick sisters. While I was there the Sisters were reading your book and
as a farewell present they bought me your book knowing that we in Jersey have
a yellow Lab, named Magnificat, Maggie for short. She was given to us by
a Friar, Richard Mcfeeley, who actually bought her from the internet from
somewhere in Florida. Maggie came to us at 3 months and we experienced
so many of the same things as you did with Marley. One thing Maggie did
was pull off our veils and we would run around the yard trying to get our
veil back before she chewed it up. That was a sight to behold.
Maggie is now three and has calmed down very much; however whenever a
visiting Sister comes she still pulls her veil off.
God Bless you,
Sister Florence OSC

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

It’s funny. When people who have never owned a dog respond to my book, they often assume I must have exaggerated Marley’s over-the-top mischief and antics. No, I tell them, it’s all true. But when dog owners respond, they’re completely unimpressed. “Is that all he did?” they ask. “Let me tell you what MY dog did!”
Toward that end, let me share a press release from the University of Florida that my friend Stacey Singer, a writer at The Palm Beach Post, shared with me today. This is such classic Lab behavior, it’s almost like someone made it up. But it’s 100 percent true. I can just hear the non-dog people now: “You mean to tell me a dog inhaled a wooden skewer without even chewing it?” Yes, that’s what we’re trying to tell you.
Here’s the story (which I edited slightly for space):


ATTENTION EDITOR: Photo available at

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When veterinarians and cardiologists from the
University of Florida said “Yankee, go home” this week, they did so with
pride and a sense of heartfelt joint ownership.

Yankee, a tail-wagging, 7-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, went home
from UF’s Veterinary Medical Center today (Feb. 3) with her actual
owners, the Stazzone family of Satellite Beach, after successful open
heart surgery to remove a bamboo barbecue skewer from her heart.

In a collaborative procedure involving UF veterinarians and physicians
from the Congenital Heart Center at UF, Yankee was placed on bypass for
55 minutes Jan. 27 at a surgical research facility located near the MRI
unit that was used to pinpoint the skewer’s location. The skewer had
perforated the dog’s stomach and pierced the heart after she ate a steak

The entire operation lasted about three hours, and pediatric
cardiothoracic surgeon Mark Bleiweis, M.D., the center’s director, was
lead surgeon on the case.

“We had very little time to coordinate this thing, and the team worked
out really great,” said Gary Ellison, D.V.M., a professor of small
animal surgery at UF who assisted in the procedure.

Once the skewer was removed, Bleiweis rebuilt a damaged heart valve.

“I’m really proud of what we did, and that we were able to put this
many people from so many specialties together to save this dog’s life,”
Bleiweis said. “I’m an animal owner and this is someone’s family

Bleiweis added that although Yankee had a severe heart infection, she
responded to the procedure “better than most people do.”

“We were able to get her off the ventilator and out of the operating
room without a problem and she was standing on all fours that same day,”
he said. “It was amazing.”

After the operation was completed and Yankee awakened from the
anesthesia, she was transported back to the VMC’s small animal intensive
care unit, where she continued to recuperate this past week.

“By Sunday night, she was eating and walking outside,” said Nikki
Hackendahl, D.V.M., the small animal internal medicine resident at UF
who had primary responsibility for Yankee and monitored her progress
every day.

Yankee’s woes actually began on Halloween, when the Stazzones had steak
kabobs for dinner and Yankee grabbed one, “practically inhaling the
whole thing,” Mary Stazzone said. “Immediately she was sick and throwing
up, and everything I cleaned up was steak, but no stick.”

After her initial surgery, Yankee seemed to have recovered. But two
months later her condition rapidly deteriorated and it initially
appeared to be unrelated to her previous illness.

When Yankee was admitted to the VMC a few days prior to surgery, her
blood was not clotting and she was anemic, Hackendahl said. Then
Hackendahl detected a heart murmur and immediately requested a
consultation from veterinary cardiologist Amara Estrada, D.V.M.

“We did an echocardiogram and noticed a strange linear structure in the
heart,” Estrada said. “Then we found out the dog had a history of eating
a bamboo skewer back in October and surgery had been performed to remove
part of it from the dog’s stomach.”

The veterinarian who referred Yankee to UF had performed a CT scan and
been extremely thorough, but wood is not visible on a CT scan,
Hackendahl said.

Thankfully, Dr. Hackendahl discovered the heart murmur,” Stazzone said.
“We knew there was a slim chance this would all work out, but we did a
lot of praying on this one. We obviously love Yankee very much.”

Because of the close relationship Estrada and the veterinary cardiology
group have with the human pediatric cardiology team – the two groups
round together on Wednesdays – Estrada shared images from Yankee’s
echocardiogram and asked her human counterparts’ opinion.

“We were going to do inflow occlusion, a procedure that prohibits blood
flow but gives you only two to four minutes to open up the heart and
look inside,” Estrada said. “They said this wasn’t such a great idea due
to the short time frame and the limited access. I asked them for help
and they readily accepted and offered to assist us with the case.”

Although Yankee developed a systemic infection that will continue to be
treated with antibiotics, she’s alive and improving every day,
clinicians said. Her owners said their three daughters have been making
cards for Yankee and can’t wait to have her home.

“I bought Yankee for my husband when we were just dating and we’ve had
her for seven years,” Mary Stazzone said. “It was just such a shock how
this has all happened.”


All I can say is, please don’t send the vet bill to me! And you know as soon as Yankee gets home, she’s going to make a beeline for the barbecue to see what’s cooking.