I read the last hundred pages of Marley & Me at the counter of a neighborhood diner. Waiters and busboys and cooks milled around in front of me; fellow customers chomped on burgers to my left and my right. It was with around forty pages to go that I had the mortifying realization that I was crying. Sitting there in full view of what seemed at that moment to be all of San Francisco, reading a bright red book with a Labrador retriever puppy on the cover, tears streamed from my eyes.

Now, I won't try to sell you on the idea that Marley & Me is a great book. I can't even, in good conscience, recommend it as a "good book," which is what makes my teary diner incident so embarrassing. It's a sappy, sometimes shameless, thoroughly unremarkable memoir, consisting mostly of strained attempts to extract life lessons from mischievous-dog anecdotes. But there's something in it that pushes a certain button in those of us who melt at the sight of a grinning, tail-wagging canine. You know who you are. You may have wept watchingMy Dog Skip.