"When a dog bites a man, that's not news. But when a man bites a dog, that's news!" 

-- Charles A. Dana, 19th-century editor

I couldn't help but be reminded of that quote when I came across the disturbing news that Leona Helmsley -- true to her nickname "The Queen of Mean" -- had left her dog a $12 million inheritance while giving nothing to two of her grandchildren.

A person is free to do whatever she wants with her money and, for all I know, Helmsley's two grandchildren may not deserve a penny. Nevertheless, the idea of a dog getting $12 million is the kind of news that can make the rest of us feel like, well, like we really are leading a dog's life -- that is, an ordinary dog's life.

It needn't be this way. And while it probably isn't realistic to expect that most of us will retire with a net worth of $12 million, the stock market offers investors the best chance, as David Gardner reminds us in The Highest Possible Returns. Period. In the article, he cites his own example of turning a $10,000 investment in AOL in 1994 into $369,370.

A similar investment in Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) in 1986 would have returned more than $1.3 million; and if you had had the foresight to invest $10,000 in Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) when it first went public, you would be sitting on more than $3 million today.

To be sure, these are the types of investments we all wish we had made. But recent history demonstrates that the stock market continues to offer no shortage of extraordinary opportunities. Even a larger, well-known company like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) can provide a doubling in a year's time.

But finding these bargains, frankly, is no easy task. It takes a lot of hard work. Fortunately, there are a number of informative (and free) resources right here at The Motley Fool, including Getting Started, Investing Basics, and Analyzing Stocks, that can point you in the right direction.

As the old saying goes, "It's a dog-eat-dog world out there," and it is highly unlikely anyone is just going to leave you $12 million. So, if you're tired of leading a dog's life, I'd encourage you to get cracking and start learning -- and investing.

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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich likes dogs -- especially ones that come with a $12 million inheritance. He doesn't hold positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. The Fool has a gold-plated, fire hydrant-resistant disclosure policy.