An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

Marley was a dog made famous by journalist John Grogan, who made a tidy living writing columns about his yellow lab’s incorrigible but endearing qualities, and then turned them into a best-selling book called Marley and Me. The book then became a movie, which opened Christmas Day and raked in $51.7 million through the long holiday weekend. It’ll take a big pooper scooper for Grogan to haul home his share of the take.

My family joined lots of others in choosing the flik as a holiday outing, and it was every bit the tearfest we’d been told to expect — sort of like a suburban Old Yeller, without the heroics. Marley does nothing more remarkable than act like an undisciplined dog who sticks around long enough to become part of the family before growing old and dying from a “flipped stomach,” a malady with which I was previously unfamiliar.

I used up the popcorn napkin I’d scarfed on the way in, but I always cry at movies. I’m generally more of a sucker for happy endings, but the schmaltzy scene in which Grogan sits with Marley while the vet puts him down was close to home. The dog I once held through the same procedure was much smaller but no less loved, at least by my son.

The dog we now have (B is for “Banjo”) could vie with Marley for the title of “World’s Worst Dog,” though he’s growing on me. I complain about him the most, but am also most likely to feel sorry for the mutt and take him for mailbox-sniffing walks so he can experience the aromatic adventures that bring meaning to his doggy life.

I came away from the movie with a couple of impressions. The first was pure envy that had nothing to do with a dog, but with the reminder that there are journalists who can make a good living doing nothing more than writing two 600-word columns per week. Sheesh.

The second came as I rose from the dinner table after stuffing myself with yet more holiday goodies … there’s probably little chance of my stomach flipping, but it’s clearly in need of shrinking. Like Marley and Banjo, I could use more personal discipline. It may not make me any more endearing and I probably won’t get a book out of it, but it will give me a better chance of outliving the dog.

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