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Unlikely dog tale tops US best-seller list

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PHILADELPHIA, Feb 24 (Reuters) The tale of a rambunctious puppy is proving its staying power in the dog-eat-dog world of US best-sellers.

With more than 1 million copies in print, ''Marley and Me -- Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog'' has struck a chord with dog lovers who are laughing and crying over author John Grogan's account of his yellow Labrador retriever.

The story is more than a recounting of Marley's antics that include chewing through doors, expulsion from obedience school, clawing paint off concrete walls, devouring furniture, swallowing valuable jewelry and swooning over soiled diapers.

The excitable, good-natured lab also knows how to protect the family's tiny children and consoles the couple when they grieve over a miscarriage.

The nonfiction book has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 17 weeks. It seems likely to break the barrier of a million copies sold, a feat generally accomplished by no more than a dozen books each year in the U.S. hardcover non-fiction market.

''It's really not just a dog book,'' Grogan said in an interview with Reuters.

''Before Marley, our life was about career, relationship, and ourselves,'' said Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

''He helped us shift from an egocentric life to something more generous.'' In the book, Grogan wrote: ''Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things -- a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in the shaft of winter sunlight.

''And as he grew old and achy, he taught he about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.'' Grogan said he realized the appeal of Marley's story after the 13-year-old dog died in 2003, and he wrote about the experience in his newspaper column.

The column evoked responses from some 800 readers, 20 times the volume of mail his columns usually generated.

Readers now post their own ''world's worst dog'' stories on his Web site. At his book signings, some people bring their dogs, some seek his advice but most just want to share their dog stories, he said.

Grogan's publisher Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, set an initial print run of 50,000 copies. But as sales took off, it has gone back to the press for 24 runs, with 1.17 million copies in print as of February 22.

Fox 2000 has bought the movie rights to the book and plans to put it on a fast-track production schedule, a Morrow spokesman said.

Bob Wietrak, vice president of merchandising for the Barnes&Noble chain of bookstores, said the book's success was due to its focus on broader human themes. ''It's about the human condition, it's about relationships, it's about family.'' REUTERS SB SSC1030

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