Archive for May, 2007

Dog Lovers, Beware

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

We’re all dog lovers here, and so I wanted to pass on a warning from the Better Business Bureau and the American Kennel Club about a really insidious internet scam taking place out there. It involves criminals posting fictitious online ads for cute puppies that need homes. As we all know, these puppies are hard to resist. But in this scam, there are no dogs….only strings of false promises as unsuspecting dog lovers send money and more money to arrange to have the dogs sent to them.

Here is a Los Angeles Times story describing the scam:
http://www.thestate.com/business/story/76543.html

In my opinion, it’s always a bad idea to buy dogs over the internet. These types of operations do not have to have their kennels available for inspection. The notorious “puppy mills” that crank out purebred dogs, often with genetic and/or health problems, frequently use internet ads to move puppies. Again, the best advice is to find a reputable breeder and personally visit his or her kennels, get to know the parents and their lineage before making a decision. Better still, consider bringing home a rescue dog. These animals, so often discarded through no fault of their own, can make amazing pets.

The Bad Dog Done Good

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

My two children’s books — “Bad Dog, Marley!” and “Marley: A Dog Like No Other” — have been out since May 1, and I am just home from a three week publicity tour that took me from New Jersey to Connecticut to Chicago to Raleigh, Nashville and Memphis. On most days, I hit a school or two and finished with an evening appearance at a bookstore. I had a lot of fun reading “Bad Dog” to the younger kids at schools, who, as if on cue, squealed every time poop, pee or underwear were mentioned. Ah, the holy trinity of children’s literature. I also enjoyed talking about writing, reading and dogs with the older kids, who asked a lot of great questions. My evening appearances drew mainly adults, which was a nice break from the Kidfest during the day.

The good news is that “Bad Dog, Marley!” goes to #1 on The New York Times children’s illustrated-book bestseller list this Sunday. “Marley: A Dog Like No Other” is at #5 on the Times’ chapter-book list. Hey, not bad for a bad dog! (See the lists at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/books/bestseller/0603bestchildren.html?_r=1&oref=slogin )

Back in grown-up land, “Marley & Me,” which had fallen off the Times nonfiction bestseller list several weeks ago, popped back on, at #15, this past Sunday, helped no doubt by the publicity surrounding the children’s books, including my appearance on The Today Show. This coming Sunday, it slips back onto the extended list, to #26. All told, the book has spent 76 weeks on the Times’ top-15 list, 23 of them at #1. As we are fond of saying in our house, Marley has finally paid his family back for all the damage.

Here at home in eastern Pennsylvania, the landscape is a riot of color. Right now, the peonies have just opened in a glorious show, and my roses are also budding out. The most beautiful of them all, a vigorous hybrid called “Passionate Kisses.” The mock orange bush, which has taken over the pathway to the deck, sends its intoxicating scent up and through the bedroom windows. The pair of geese down by the creek, whom my kids have named Mildred and Melvin, have hatched out 12 fluffy goslings, and it’s fun watching them waddle around, tripping over each other. I was walking through the woods the other day and looked down to see a fawn — just a tiny, fragile thing — curled up beneath the canes of a wild rose. She wasn’t more than five feet away. She stared up at me, breathing rapidly through her nostrils, as if trying to figure out if I was dangerous or a friend of her mom’s who had dropped by to visit. I quietly backed away and left her to her devices. On the way back out of the woods, a great blue heron lifted off a stream bank, its impressive wing span casting a long graceful shadow over the meadow below it.

Man, spring. What a time of year. Soon the grass will be parched, the Japanese beetles all over the garden plants and the humidity over the moon. But for now, all is as perfect as perfect can be.

It’s good to be home.

A Work in Progress

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

Last summer, Cesar Milan and his crew from National Geographic Channel’s “The Dog Whisperer” came to our house in Pennslvania to help us curb our Lab Gracie’s appetite for our backyard chickens. She was positively obsessed by them, and had killed two of them. Cesar showed us techniques to desensitive her to the birds and redirect her hunting instincts into a more acceptable outlet, such as fetching balls. (Yeah right, Gracie seems to say…Like I’m supposed to find a tennis ball a satisfactory substitute for a plump feathered pullet.)

Well, here’s Gracie eight months later, still working on her chicken tolerance skills, but making progress. As you can see, at least she’s sitting calmly, and not hopping around, barking and carrying on as she would have been nine months ago.

Tomorrow (Monday, May 14) I head to Nashville and Memphis for a few days on the third leg of my book tour for “Bad Dog, Marley!” and “Marley: A Dog Like No Other.” If you are in the area, please stop by and say hello!

The Today Show, the Tour….and Dr. John

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

Man, last week was a blur.

It began on Monday when Jenny, Gracie the Lab and I drove into New York to get in place for an appearance on The Today Show on NBC the next morning. The appearance went fine, and Gracie behaved like a little lady, just sitting quietly by my side with no Marleyesque moments such as knocking over cameras, chewing through microphone cables or barking over Al Roker.

The only potentially humiliating moment came just a few minutes before I was to go on live before who-knows-how-many-gazillion-people. I had a few tasty dog treats in my hand just in case I needed to bribe Gracie. She has a nose like, well, a dog, and as I sat, all wired up, chatting with Amy Robach, the interviewer, Gracie was snuffling her nose into my closed fist, trying to get at a treat. I just ignored her and wouldn’t give up a treat. When I looked down, I nearly fell off my stool. Gracie’s salivary glands apparently had gone into overdrive at the smell of the treats, and both of my thighs were soaked with dog drool. Good Lord, it looked like I had peed my pants! Oh no…. I patted my pants frantically for the next two minutes and by the time we went on the air, they were dry enough that it was not noticeable. At least I hope it wasn’t. That’ll teach me to keep snacks away from Miss Drooly.

If you want to view the clip to see for yourself, Jenn C on my message boards was kind enough to post a link to the video on MSNBC.

The Today Show appearance was the official launch of my book tour for my two children’s books, which came out that same day, “Bad Dog, Marley!” and “Marley: A Dog Like No Other.” From the NBC studios in Rockerfeller Center, Jenny and Gracie headed home, and I headed on the road to make appearances at schools and bookstores in New Jersey, Connecticut and suburban Chicago.

From there I traveled to my home state of Michigan, where on Saturday I gave the commencement address to the 1,200 graduates and their families at my alma mater, Central Michigan University. No good deed goes unrewarded, and CMU President Mike Rao bestowed upon me (I think that’s the way they describe it) an honorary doctorate of letters degree. I’m telling all my friends they have to call me Dr. John now, but seriously, it meant a lot to me. Go Chippewas!

No trip to your alma mater is complete without dragging your old best friend from the dorm along with you. So on the way, I picked up my pal of 28 years, Pete Kelly, a police officer in the metro Detroit area. I met Pete my freshman year at CMU. He was in room 116 of Emmons Hall, and I was across the hall in room 115. We’ve stayed friends ever since, and it just seemed right that my first visit back to campus in more than two decades should be with him.

Pete and I ate at the Embers, a beloved institution in Mount Pleasant for the past 49 years that will close next month. We hit all our old drinking holes, where the patrons looked WAY younger than I remember them being back in 1979. We drove out to The Judge’s Bench, a barebones tavern at a farming-community crossroads outside town where we had the not-quite-famous (but still decadently delicious) Bench Burger. We hiked along the Chippewa River until we came to Swinging Bridge, where we and our dorm co-conspirators had staged many an illegal kegger. The bridge suspends over the river on heavy steel cables, and we used to get a couple dozen boozed-up kids on it and rock in unison. In this way, we could really get it swaying. I’m pleased to say no one was ever killed, or even hurt, doing this, but less pleased to report that when Pete and I got out there and did our best to get the big bridge rocking, we had no luck at all. The oomph of yesteryear just wasn’t there. Or maybe we simply had not consumed enough sway-inducing suds.

Now I’m sitting in the airport in Cleveland, waiting for a connecting flight home to Pennysylvania and my family, whom I have not seen for a week. It will be good to be home, if only for a day. On Tuesday, I speak in Exton, Pa., then head off on the next leg of my tour. You can check out times and locations by clicking the “upcoming events” link on the marleyandme.com home page.

Time to run. And thanks to everyone who has been turning out for my events; it’s been great to see you and say hello in person. Woof!