New house, new pup for 'Marley' author

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Excuse us for a moment. We're on hold while John Grogan runs down to the basement. Duty is calling. In this case, "duty" is Woodson, the "Marley & Me" author's newest four-legged family member. For some reason, the 9-month-old, housebroken yellow Lab has run downstairs, having confused the basement for his own personal restroom.

To be kind, he could be marking territory. This is a new home his family has just moved into.

Grogan adopted Woodson off the set of "Marley & Me," the film interpretation of Grogan's best-seller starring Jennifer Aniston as Grogan's wife, Jenny, Owen Wilson as the columnist/author and Woodson, of course, who had the task of playing a Labrador pup. (In case you've missed the hyper-marketing that rivals the famous Marley's intensity, the movie opens on Christmas Day.)

"I'm surrounded by boxes and junk," Grogan says, when he returns to the phone. He's just weeks back from the tour promoting his new book, "The Longest Trip Home," and finishing up the move into his family's renovated 1790 stone farmhouse. "We moved in two parts: We moved half the stuff before the book tour [in early November]. And yesterday we moved the rest. It's just starting to feel like our own house now."

The "new" home in Coopersberg, Pa., is not far from the vinyl-sided suburban abode that the Grogans—John, Jenny, Patrick, 16, Connor, 15, Colleen, 11, Woodson, Gracie (an "older and calmer Lab") and three new kittens—had outgrown. In addition to the farmhouse, the new 19-acre homestead has a wood-frame cottage (now Grogan's writing place), a stone barn, two-car garage (originally built for hay wagons), a walk-in chicken coop, meadow, lots of deer, wetlands, swamps and a stream. It's also got perennials and roses that Grogan, the former editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine, transplanted from their old house.

The decor is "definitely eclectic," Grogan says. "A lot of African art, several Buddhas floating around, Hatitian art we collected while [living] in Florida, a Rastafarian mask that we got from a gallery in Key West. Plus some traditional pieces. [Also], I like to collect old tools. I have them on the wall out [in the writing cottage]. I like them with a story."

Speaking of stories, you should know: Woodson redeemed himself after he relieved himself down in the basement. As he walked by the front-loading washer, his tail gave it an enthusiastic and mighty whack. And that started it up.

What item in your home says John Grogan lives here: The [blown-up] "Marley & Me" book cover that's on the wall. ... [and] botanical prints. I have a framed 19th Century reproduction botanical print of a plant with the little Latin written on it. That's pretty much a John Grogan signature statement.

Three things on your nightstand: My iPod and its alarm-clock docker. The book I'm reading right now "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan. And the latest issues of Esquire and Newsweek.

One thing on a wall in your living room: A large 31/2-by-5-foot framed poster of the imperial Chinese emperor that was part of a German art exhibit. ... We [also] have one of those big wrought-iron fireplace bars that you'd hang kettles on, and we have it mounted it on the wall.

One thing you have in your house from your childhood: When I started to write "The Longest Trip Home," I started gathering things that would jog my memories from my childhood. And I found my second-grade school picture—it was still in that little cardboard frame. ... That's sitting up on my dresser in my bedroom.

Three things we'd find in your medicine cabinet: Garden Tomato Toner by Burt's Bees, ibuprofen for achy bones after I split firewood, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant.

Three things we'd find in your refrigerator? The usual suspects: turkey cold cuts, Muenster cheese and nan bread.

If you had to save one "thing" from your home, what would it be? That's easy. I've actually said this before. Just before my dad died, I made a videotape of him and he told me his whole life story ... I would definitely grab those [tapes]. Those are very precious to me.

What is the biggest collection in your home? Old tools, many of which I buy at garage sales. ... Oh, and I have every Kinks album. They're just in a wooden crate. I was a huge fan in junior high school.

What reading material would we find in your bathroom? None. There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that have reading material in their bathroom and those that don't. [In our house,] all the reading stuff's on the bed stand. The bathroom: It's a no-read zone.

Most embarrassing thing in your home that you hide when guests come over: For us, the big issue is—we have two dogs—it's a dog-hair fiesta. We race around doing a last-minute vacuum.

If we came unexpectedly, would we find your bed made—or not made? Made every morning. I'm usually the second [one] up and I always make the bed. My wife would probably dispute that. We mostly do that because our dogs are really disobedient and if they get up on the bed, it's better if they get up on the covers rather than the sheets.

Best furniture bargain you ever got? A neighbor up the hill was throwing out an old couch. Jenny spotted it and it looked like it had good bones and she dragged it to an upholsterer and it's a beautiful piece now.

What CD or artist would we find in your player (or on your iPod)? Just listening to the Avett Brothers' "Emotionalism." They're like organic rock—banjos and mandolins and stuff [with] kind of a rock rhythm. I heard them in San Francisco in a shop in Haight-Asbury.

Do you hang your toilet paper with the paper hanging over the front or down the back? Over the front. I don't know why, it's just the way it's always been. My wife and I are on the same page.

Do you do any snooping of your own when visiting friends? I do like to look at what people read. I'll wander over to the bookshelves. It really tells you something about them.

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