Bad Dog: A Love Story Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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—Publishers Weekly [HC starred review]
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
— Library Journal [HC starred review]
About the Author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The story is not centered so much around the titular Bad Dog, named Hola, but rather around Kihn's struggle with alcoholism and recovery. He is on the verge of losing it all, and his inability to maintain control over his dog is an excellent metaphor for his inability to maintain control over his life. This metaphor is carried through the book as Kihn attempts to sober up and focuses his attention on his new addiction--training his dog. Hola is a representation of the struggles that Kihn himself is experiencing. Will they be redeemed? Read it to find out.
Overall, I liked the unflinching honesty of this book. I thought the use of Hola as metaphor was interesting. And there was some humor thrown in there, too. For me, some of the detail about the dog training process and certifications grew a little dull, but the the story is much more than that. Definitely worth a read.
Briefly, Marty and his wife adopt an adorable puppy - a Bernese mountain dog who's missed the obedience train. As Marty's drinking escalates, he pays less attention to the dog, whose behavior deteriorates until, ultimately, Gloria leaves both of them.
The book is Marty's struggle for sobriety, reconciliation, and a dog who doesn't attack strangers, inhale unattended dinners, and drag humans behind her in the pursuit of a squirrel.
That being said, here are the top ten things about "Bad Dog (A Love Story)"
10. I always look for new bodies of information in anything I read, fiction included. "Bad Dog" is jammed with information about dog training, obedience, GCG, methods of training, breeds, trainers, and everything canine. At times it gets pretty technical, but you'll survive.
9. Marty is a huge fan, of Susan Conant's Holly Winter books, as am I. (Well, I'm a fan, though, unlike Marty, I don't put her in my Top Ten Authors List.) He pulls certain bits of philosophy from her book -- things we learn from dogs and the lessons they teach us. It a perfect teaser for Conant's books, and brings us some of her best philosophical moments and quotes. A favorite, re: Holly Winter's malamute is that "He doesn't necessarily do anything more than take my opinions under advisement."
8. It's a dog story. Who doesn't love a dog story?
7. Kihn writes good characters, from his seemingly put-together sponsor to the dog ladies with their sweatshirts ("You had me at woof"), to the trainers who treat dog training as a religion, to the doorman. Each is unique and masterfully described.
6. Kihn writes good dog characters, too. Besides Hola, you'll meet the teacher's pet, the kiss-up dog, the perfect dog... There are as many types of dog personalities as human personalities.
5. Doggie insights. The book is full of them, and you'll learn a lot about your dog (and how your dog manipulates you for the greater canine good.) For example, a trainer points out that Hola, who is a pretty dog, has trained Marty. By batting her eyes and turning on the charm, she gets Marty's attention. He rubs her belly, he sweet-talks her. The book can make us more aware of behaviors we may have unwittingly encouraged.
4. Dog training insights. (See 6) Different trainers have vastly different philosophies of how to train a dog, and Mart samples many of these. You'll encounter many points of view. The moral? There's no one right way. The right way is the one that works for the dog/human combination. And a great piece of advice for those who wish to achieve dominance over their dog? "Ignoring attention-seeking behaviors is the highest form of dominance." (Now stop yelling at the dog when he barks at the mailman.)
3. Dog dialog. Marty talks to Hola, and Hola talks to Marty. Admit it. You do it, too. You probably have a special voice your dog uses when answering you. Marty (en route to his estranged wife, with Hola in tow):
Marty: Hola... what if Mommy doesn't want to see us?
Hola: She'll want to see me. Everyone loves me.
Marty: Don't count on it, girlfriend.
Hola: Do you think she made crab cakes?
2. It's a powerful story of addiction and the struggle for sobriety. The author writes clearly and painfully about the steps, the slips, the obstacles, the support, the fellowship of AA, and more. It's realistic. It's harsh. It's inspiring. It's more than a little scary. We see that recovery is always fragile. You'll hear tales of bottoming out that will make you cringe. You'll see people struggling forward and feel huge amounts of admiration.
1. Marty tells an inspiring story of recovery, about regaining trust that has eroded away over years, through the love of a human and a dog.
However, he did a great job combining an "untrainable" Bernese mountain dog named Hola, the ins and outs of the American Kennel Club and of dog training, and his alcoholism. It really seems like the bad dog is Kihn, actually.
This isn't a cute-and-fuzzy dog story, but the irreverent Hola makes the reader fall in love with her. The reader also feels for Gloria, Kihn's wife who just couldn't take it (either the dog or the husband, but probably the husband). Kihn portrays himself as a guy who doesn't need pity or sympathy, just support, because of his screwups with his life and with training his dog.
Kihn is actually a likable character, despite his shortcomings. He frankly told his story.
I'm not nuts about books told in the present-tense, nor do I think that Alcoholics ANONYMOUS meetings and members should be discussed without consent of everyone involved (for all I know, there was consent, but there's no cute little blurb in the front of the book saying so).
That said, this is a good book. I'd give it a B+, and I'd share it not only with dog lovers or people in The Program, but also with teens. It's not raunchy or full of vampires (nothing against vampires but they are SO overdone) but it's full of honesty and love.
It takes Marty's wife, Gloria, walking out on him --- and Hola --- before he understands that there is a problem. A serious one. The myriad puncture marks and angry bruises that habitually adorn Gloria's arms have done little to sharpen Marty's sensibilities. Hola is just too gorgeous. But what about Gloria? She's gorgeous, too, and she's made it clear that Hola scares the dickens out of her. When she's finally fed up to the point of leaving him, he faces her abandonment with his usual confusion and denial. It only takes a few days to drive the point home, though: Hola needs a drastic adjustment in her approach to human interaction. He writes: "I mean no disrespect to her when I say that all things considered, taking the long view and giving her the full benefit of the doubt, she was a horrible bitch."
Thus begins Marty's journey to help Hola earn her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award and prove to Gloria they can all live happily together. How hard can it be, really? A dog only has to pass a test of 10 items, most of which appear to be a cakewalk. Well, if the test involved real cake, maybe Hola would have an easy time of it, but treats are frowned upon, including cake. Good behavior comes at a cost. It also comes with a lot of hard work and many trips to classes and dog camps inconveniently located. Just ask Marty.
As if Gloria walking out wasn't enough, Marty has another problem that needs immediate attention. Lately, he's been having fewer and fewer days without a drink. Gloria's complaint --- that even when he's home he's not there --- starts to make a sickening sort of sense to him. So, while Hola is learning the 10 steps to the CGC, Marty is learning the 12 steps to sobriety. Achieving both will radically change all of their futures.
Now add to those hurdles brutal winter weather, an AA-sponsor gone rogue, and some understandable trouble at work, and you can see that Marty has an uphill battle. What keeps him going is that both of the ladies in his life are worth it.
There's no question that dog lovers will eat up this book. So, too, will cat lovers, for I haven't yet mentioned Ruby, a saucy feline who is thrust on Marty when he least expects it. But while pet owners may be more drawn to BAD DOG than other readers, there is something for everyone here. It's hard to decide which is tougher: Marty's battle with the bottle or Hola's struggle with transitioning to GOOD DOG. It would be an amusing adventure if it weren't all true. Because of that, BAD DOG is a heartwarming memoir written with fine introspection and canine wit.
--- Reviewed by Kate Ayers
So I ordered this book expecting to read a story similar to the war I had gone through. And it was--initially. The author then introduced his alcohol addiction written with "the eloquence we all seem to have when we tell our own story". I may be in error attributing the addiction to the author, but his writing is quite eloquent and heartfelt. There was plenty of laughter in this book but it also taught me a lot about alcohol abuse that I wasn't aware of. Instead of reading only about the war of bringing a large energetic dog under control, I also read the war story of a recovering alcoholic and his friends. Two major problems were actually discovered to be just one, although with two manifestations. In the end both problems were solved.
I have to give the author credit on style and substance. It is not often that you read that someone's friend was "looking like a hundred square miles of graveyard in a storm". While that metaphor might be shy of one created by Cormac McCarthy, the book is all the better for that.