SPOILER: sent in by Annie.
The book starts out with John Grogan reminiscing about his childhood dog. This dog seemed perfect in every way and helped influence John to get another dog later on . . .
John and Jenny Grogan are a newly married couple. They are both reporters and have recently bought a small house in Florida. One day Jenny becomes depressed that she can’t keep their house plants alive and decides that they should get a dog in order for her to prepare for taking care of children. John is a little confused by her reasoning, but agrees because they both like dogs anyway.
After they find a good breeder, they choose the most rambunctious puppy of the litter. They hope that the puppy will inherit its mother’s personality, as the father seems very wild.
They take very good care of their new pet and learn, a little too late, that they may have made a mistake. They name the dog Marley (after Bob Marley) and he the most excitable animal either of them has ever seen. He jumps, he slobbers, he chews on everything, he swallows expensive jewelry. They try to take him to obedience school but, he is so wild, that the teacher kicks him out. Marley couldn’t care less and continues loving life and living it to the fullest.
John and Jenny soon start a family and Marley seems to fit right in. Despite his destructive and excitable nature, he is very good with their children. They are also happy to have him as a threat to those who could potentially hurt their family, as their neighborhood is getting less and less safe. He protects and loves them while constantly disrupting their lives at the same time.
John tells various stories of the crazy things Marley does and how the family deals with them because they love him (for example, being cast in a movie and messing up almost every scene, and dragging a restaurant table down the street by his leash). At one point, Jenny, in a postpartum depression, wants to get rid of Marley for good. John works extremely hard to train Marley to be bearable and Jenny eventually comes out of her depression and accepts Marley again.
They are soon a family with three children. John gets a new job and moves the family to Pennsylvania. By this point we can see that Marley is starting to show signs of his age when he starts loosing some of his puppy energy. John notices this as well, but the family never really thinks about it until Marley is put up in a boarding kennel and is discovered to have a twisted stomach a very serious condition. He miraculously recovers, but his health slowly gets worse. His hearing is soon gone, his bladder is weak and his hips give out on him as well. He is still the same puppy, getting into trouble whenever he can, but the family knows the end is near.
One day Marley’s stomach twists again and John is forced to have him put to sleep. The whole family is devastated. They burry Marley in their backyard and John contemplates writing an article for his newspaper column about Marley. Once this is accomplished, John receives hundreds of emails and voicemails at work from people who also have terribly behaved dogs but can’t stop loving them.
John takes a page or two to explain what Marley meant to him. He does not compare the life of a dog to the life of a human, but he realizes that he was more sorrowful after Marley’s death than after the death of other people he had known. Marley, although not a person, had been a good friend and would always be missed. He discusses Marley’s love of life and how everyone should be just that happy.
The family moves on with their lives and, about 9 months after Marley’s death, John and Jenny decide to go take a look at a new dog.