Marley and Me author speaks at Sundance | ParkRecord.com
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Marley and Me author speaks at Sundance

Melissa Zamarin, Record contributing writer

Man’s best friend a common phrase that describes a furry, four-legged canine generally referred to as a dog. Dogs are great companions and provide unconditional love to their owner making attachment inevitable. However, this attachment is not without its ups and downs. Ask any dog owner and they will be the first to admit that for as much delight a dog brings into their lives, there is an equal amount of dispair. Let’s be honest, a dog can quickly turn into a terror.

In October 2005, John Grogan, a dog owner who owns an absolutely adorable yet naughty dog, decided to share his story with the world. Grogan’s book, "Marley and Me" became so popular that it remained #1 on the New York Times best selling list for 23 weeks in a row and continues to make readers laugh and cry.

Last Saturday, Grogan was the guest author at the Sundance Resort Summer Author Series. In attendance to hear Grogan talk about the book were both local and out-of-town dog lovers. Grogan spoke about the process of writing the book, where his inspiration came from, and above all he reminisced about Marley.

Grogan went into explicit detail about all the crazy situations that Marley got himself into during his life. One of the more memorable descriptions shared by Grogan was the tale of the Marley mambo. Grogan defined it as: "A full body wag that Marley would do and when he started his wag we knew that he was up to something bad."

"Marley ate paychecks, gold jewelry, dug though walls, ate cones out of stereo speakers, and much more," said Grogan. While he was speaking about the many adventures of Marley, he connected with the audience and created a fun atmosphere that was filled with laughter, empathy, shock, and admiration.

Grogan was able to sum up Marley’s character and the reason for keeping Marley in his life by saying, "He was the type of dog that if you give him your heart, he will give you his."

Grogan said he received a huge response from readers and, surprisingly, most included their stories about other crazy dog situations. As Grogan said, "The stories I was told by my readers gave Marley a run for his money."

From Grogan’s comment, it seems that crazy dog behavior is a universal. Dogs everywhere are capable of getting themselves into trouble, and the local dogs of Park City are no exception.

Talking to local dog owners in a dog obedience class held at The Park City Racquet Club on Tuesday provided great insight into some of the crazy behavior of Park City dogs.

Stories about dogs chewing up socks, clothes, gallivanting around the house with freshly chewed toilet paper, running outside with dirty laundry in their mouths and mauling favorite stuffed animals gave a brief picture of the chaos that Park City dogs have created.

Lisa Laswell, the proud owner of Opal, an eight-month-old Labradoodle, shared a story about her dog. Laswell her dog "is a seed bank. Opal is always running into the woods and collecting burs and bringing them back into the house for show."

Katherine Wright said her dog, a rescued Rotwiller/spaniel mix has an unlikely best friend — a white poodle. "Ulli always runs over and they will play together, go figure."

Park City locals Garry and Barbara Waldman own a sweet chocolate cocker spaniel named Sophie and shared a funny story about their dog. Waldman remembered that after a birthday party, "Sophie proceeded to get loose outside, run all around the neighborhood past two huge moose that were standing in our yard." Waldman said he also ran past the two moose in pursuit of Sophie and recalls that the moose were "just watching the show."

Obviously all these stories, including the stories about Marley, were not very funny when they happened, but in hindsight, it seems all dog owners consistently able to reminisce about the appalling situations that their dogs have gotten into and laugh.

Listening to the horrifying and embarrassing stories about dogs provokes the question: why do owners put up with it? At Sundance, Grogan answered this question with great clarity when he described the infamous Marley as a, "gentle giant."

Grogan spoke eloquently about how Marley became an integral part of their family. "Marley taught us patience, acceptance of flaws, the value of commitment grace and optimism in the face of adversity, how to enjoy life, and unconditional love," he said.

A powerful aspect of Grogan’s novel is his ability to record Marley’s in a truthful and expressive way that captured many of the wonderful and not so wonderful aspects of owning a dog. Regardless of the roller coaster ride of dog ownership, the kinship and connection between dog and owner is real and very fulfilling.

Park City local Ellen Kidwell agrees. Kidwell adopted Danny, a six-month-old golden retriever because, "We were empty-nesters." And even though Danny is still a havoc-causing puppy he has brought great joy and adventure into the Kidwells lives..

If Grogan and his family can survive a dog like Marley and still love dogs, then it is not difficult to believe that dog owners fall into the same category. The connection between dog and owner is deep and as Grogan says, "I can’t tell Marley’s story without telling the story of our lives. They are tightly stitched together."


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