Review: Bad Dog: A Love Story

Bad Dog: A Love Story, by Martin Kihn

I’m skeptical, as you know, about dog-centric memoirs. They’re almost always too sappy. Thankfully, this new book by writer Martin Kihn doesn’t allow itself to become saccharine. Rather, it’s the tough and motivating story of the author’s struggle with alcoholism, a failing marriage, and one very big and very bad dog.

The book chronicles a dark time in Kihn’s life. He can’t stop drinking. His dog–a Bernese mountain dog named Hola–attacked his wife. His wife moved out. He joins a support group, only to find out later that his sponsor had been lying to him about being clean the whole time.

To prove to his wife that he and Hola can get their lives together, Kihn decides to train Hola to pass the Canine Good Citizen test. This is an AKC-sponsored obedience test that is the foundation for dogs who want to go on to therapy work and more advanced obedience. Its tenets, however, were designed to show that “ordinary” dogs can exist politely in society. Hola doesn’t seem to know what this means. At all.

I breezed through the book–the style is light and very informal–but enjoyed following Kihn through his introduction to the bizarre world of obedience junkies. It is a strange world filled with big women in fanny packs, but Kihn learns to navigate it successfully–and Hola is finally awarded her CGC certification in the end. You’re proud of her–but mostly you’re proud of Kihn. The success is his and you finish the book wishing him and Hola a long and happy life together.

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