John Grogan realized he had struck a chord with readers when he wrote a column about the death of his beloved golden Labrador retriever Marley for The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2003.
By the end of the day the story ran, Grogan had received 800 responses. Grogan then began to write a book, "Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog," which he finished in just eight months.
"He lived life in such a big, joyous way," Grogan said of his dog. "He just crashed through life with joy, and he went right through the screens and right through the wall."
Marley's joyous style of living meant that nothing in the house was safe, not even Grogan's paychecks -- this was in the days before direct deposit. The dog even managed to chew the leg off an antique stool belonging to Grogan's wife, Jenny Vogt. The leg was never found.
The worst thing that Marley ate was Vogt's 24-karat gold necklace. For a week, Grogan had to dig through Marley's poop until the necklace finally passed through his system.
"It was shinier than ever," Grogan said.
Grogan and his wife did everything they could to stop Marley's bad behavior, including sending him to obedience school. But Marley, who "marched to his own drum," as Grogan said, got kicked out.
Despite Marley's rambunctious nature, he had a gentle side. He comforted Vogt when she was distraught over her miscarriage.
"He just went perfectly still and put his head in her lap and just really empathized with her."
But "Marley & Me," which has spent 29 weeks on The New York Times nonfiction best-seller list -- 13 of which in the No. 1 spot -- is about more than the dog's antics. It shows the evolution of a family over 13 years and offers lessons about accepting the people (or dogs) we love, flaws and all.
"[When] this book opens, we're newlyweds and we just got our first house and we got it all fixed up and we were starting our life together and we brought in this little puppy who quickly grew into this big, crazy dog," Grogan said. "But it's really the story of a couple figuring out what they're going to be -- something we all go through where two individuals blend into a relationship. It is the making of a family."
Grogan and Vogt have three children -- and amazingly, Marley was calm around them when they were babies.
"As soon as we introduced babies into our home, he settled right down around them," Grogan said. "He would let them climb on top and pull his ears and put their fingers in his mouth and he'd just sit patiently taking it."
The Grogan family now has a new dog that's calm and patient almost all of the time. Nine months after Marley's death, they brought home Gracie, a female golden Labrador retriever.
"This is the right dog for us at this stage of our lives," Grogan said. "She's everything he wasn't. She's calm and focused and easy to train."
Even though she's no Marley, 18-month-old Gracie still gets into trouble.
"She ate my son's cell phone a few days ago. By the time we got it back, it was no longer a working cell phone."
ABCNEWS.com's Liz Borod Wright contributed to this report.