Sometimes, in one’s life appears a being that really settles in the heart, and it is impossible to forget about it. It can be a human being, animal, and even favorite toy or film character. However, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is a pet. Domestic animals are, as a rule, the favorite creatures in the house beloved by all members of the family despite all the problems and care they bring. Among others, dogs are the most loyal, dedicated, sincere and true friends since they cannot hock feelings, emotions, and are extremely devoted to the owner. The dog’s love is everlasting and there is no other as dedicated animal as a dog. A young married couple John and Jenny Grogan had the same thoughts. For them, bringing a dog into their house was an attempt to refresh their childhood memories and accept a challenge of taking care of a living being. In his book Marley & Me, John Grogan describes in details their story, which is not only the guidance of taking care about an insane dog, but also one of the most successful illustrations of human-animal relationships.
The book begins with a preface, describing a perfect dog Shaun, the first John’s pet who was energetic, but controlled, tender and polite if one could say that about a dog. Shaun mastered every command, behaved well whatever circumstances and was “the dog that gives dogs their good name” (Grogan 3). What is more important, Shaun made John think that all dogs should be as educated as Shaun was. Therefore, the dog created a perfect image in Johns mind and, to some extent, made him think that he can raise a dog perfectly.
In the first chapter, John and his wife Jenny were young and in love. They had their perfect “family nest” near the beautiful ocean. The couple was very happy and, naturally, they thought about having children. Bringing a dog to their idyllic life was to become a trial round before taking care of a child. The chapter is a hook to pay the readers’ attention to what will be happening next.
Next month and a half, Jenny and John were in expectancy. The focus of the second chapter is the choice of a name for a “newcomer.” Obviously, there was an argument since spouses had different visions of the dog’s name. Finally, the compromise was reached when they simultaneously shouted the name “Marley” after their favorite singer Bob Marley, who was a sign of one-way life in Florida for them. However, this was not enough for John who, knowing Marley was a thoroughbred dog, gave him “aristocratic” name, which sounded like Grogan’s Majestic Marley of Churchill.
In the next chapter, the reader finally meets Marley. Firstly, John familiarized himself with the ethos of their future dog, namely Labrador Retriever. All the reference books said that Labs are friendly, educated and easy-going dogs, which was good since John wanted to have second Shaun. However, here begins the story about complicated relationships between a dog and his owner. From the first day, Marley showed that he will play a leading role in these relationships since he touched the right chord in John’s soul and literally made him put his box near the bad. The puppy became not a pet-friend but a pet-child. Thus, Grogans originally perceived Marley as a child that they had to raise. What is more important, the little puppy became a full member of the family.
The next chapter shows the reader the “real Marley”. The reference book described Labs, i.e. Marley, as a perfect dog and perfect companion. However, Marley was immensely energetic, clumsy and even a little dummy. Apparently, Jenny and John realized that it would not be easy to rear the dog. The couple tried to educate Marley, but he was too small to learn. Jenny even got him a name Mr. Wiggles since the puppy was “wiggling” every time he did something wrong. Marley ate everything he could reach, went everywhere he wanted (both in a house and at walk) and crushed everything that was at his eyes (and tail) level. He appeared to be a hurricane dog, but despite all the destruction he brought, Marley was a beloved dog. The puppy was like a rowdy, whom parents forgave his antics. Therefore, the relationships were positive in this human-animal family.
The following several chapters are about unfortunate Jenny’s pregnancy and Marley’s aid in encouraging her. John and Jenny decided to stop using contraceptives, and the woman got pregnant. However, the heart of the child was not beating already on the eleventh week, which was distressful for the family, especially for Jenny. Marley appeared to be the best helper for the woman. In addition, Marley changed significantly. In fact, he became an adult dog; he was large, sometimes scary, but easy-going. The change was important since the area where Grogans lived started becoming a criminal one. In the chapter, human-animal relationships are reflected perfectly since the reader can see that Marley transformed from a child into the best companion and defender.
The next several chapters are rather mundane since Marley continued his childish sports. They also display how the dog played with a stick, he and John were expelled from a dog-school, Marley, unfortunately, was cut, Jenny and John realized that their dog is extremely afraid of storms, and, finally, the couple left Marley with a sitter for the first (and last) time. Jenny got pregnant again, and Grogans’ troubles doubled because they had to worry about their dog and future child relationships since Marley was immensely emotional and no one new how he would react. In fact, Marley transformed again into a capricious, uncontrolled but still beloved child. Thus, Grogans punished him for all he ate and crashed as well as for his misbehavior and whims.
However, the next chapters show that child-animal relationships were also very friendly. Jenny bore Patrick and got pregnant again. Marley, in his turn, showed himself that he can be patient with children and a real companion. He helped Jenny by encouraging her during complicated second pregnancy by manifesting himself as a best human friend. Simultaneously, he was a defender since the area they lived in became very criminal. Once Grogans’ seventeen-year-old neighbor was hurt, Marley protected her and John before ambulance and police arrived.
After Jenny delivered their second child Connor, everything changed. Jenny had deep depression and almost banished Marley from the house. Grogans’ moved to calmer area to a bigger house, and Jenny delivered their third child a girl Colleen. Although they had three children, it seemed there were four of them. Marley continued to embarrass Grogans and destroy everything in public. Consequently, the family tried to calm the dog by putting him into a cage when leaving, but nothing helped. The life continued, and Grogans treated Marley sometimes as a companion and sometimes as a child. At this time, John firstly thought of Marley as an insane dog.
A couple of years later, the family moved to Pennsylvania. Marley became calmer because of his age. In fact, this part of the book is the most important in terms of human-animal relationships. Marley was an old dog and now he needed help. The dog still wanted to crush everything, jump everywhere, floor everyone and run everywhere, but he could not. Marley’s aging helped John to realize the importance of their relationships. For thirteen years, John tried to teach his pet to behave well and be a perfect dog, but he did not realize that Marley also tried to teach his master. In fact, Marley taught Grogans to feel happy about simple things, be friendly and not to be shy about their emotions.
The chapter of Marley’s “afterword” is worth mentioning in details. After the dog’s funeral, John wrote an article in his column about Marley. Apparently, this was an afterword of the whole Marley’s life. Afterward, Grogan received about eight hundred comment letters on his article. These letters contained both condolence about Marley’s death and stories about the readers’ “terrible” dogs. In fact, this is one of the key events in the whole book, being equal to the decision to take the dog in the first chapter. In this chapter, John understood the importance of their relationships with Marley. He finally understood that throughout the dog’s life he tried to make him perfect, but the dog was already perfect. It may sound cynical, but Marley had to die for John to make him understand that his dog was perfect. Thus, in this final chapter, the reader understands that no matter how bad the dog behaves and how many things he ate or crushed, the love and devotion he gives to the owner is what really matters.
The significance of this book as a whole and the depiction of human-animal relationship in particular is the display of what a pet could bring to the human life. The relationships between the dog and his owner are the key topic of this novel, which are a kind of a background to the Grogans’ biography. They make the life brighter, teach people about love, care and devotion and develop the sense of responsibility. Animals are as important for humans as humans are important for pets. After reading this book, one can understand that an animal is the best companion, devoted friend and defender.
Grogan, John. Marley & Me. London: Hatchett, 2012. Print.