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Bad Dog: A Love Story Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 5, 2011

95 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Kihn, a television writer turned management consultant, recovering alcoholic, and dog lover, shows how healing can come from the most unlikely of sources. He introduces us to the overzealous and energetic Hola, his five-year-old Bernese mountain dog who greets friends and strangers alike with full-body slams, chases buses, terrifies her family, and has the distinction of being expelled from two obedience schools. When we meet Kihn, he's doing no better. An out-of-shape, deeply in debt alcoholic, Kihn is on the verge of separating from his wife. He trades his need for booze for a need for Hola to win a Canine Good Citizen rating in the hopes of convincing his wife that both master and pooch are deserving of forgiveness and another chance. As Kihn struggles to stay sober, Hola's training becomes a lifeline—and a clue to his recovery: he comes to realize his wayward dog is actually very intelligent; he's been her greatest obstacle all along as his anxiety has been causing her to act out. This wry memoir of the human-dog bond is one that eschews the usual treacly sentimentality in favor of a raw, deeply sincere, and self-aware homage to this powerful bond. (May)


"Martin Kihn is just too talented—I still don’t know how a writer can be that laugh-out-loud funny while chronicling a major life crisis—and his story is just too good to miss. (And of course the soulful pictures of Hola, his lovely Bernese mountain dog, don’t hurt either.)"
—Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor

"It’s the special relationship between man and animal that form the heart of the memoir. . . Any dog lover is bound to tear up over the love and trust that can exist between a person and their dog, which Kihn captures perfectly with a blend of earnest emotional catharsis and wry humor."
—Katie Stroh, The Daily Texan

"Not a cozy Marley and Me duplicate or Cesar Millan–type training book (though readers will learn a lot about the value of appropriate training from someone who’s been there), this sharply written, darkly funny memoir–cum–dog story–cum–recovery tale is a quick, absorbing read that will serve a wide audience well."
—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (Starred Review)

"This wry memoir of the human-dog bond is one that eschews the usual treacly sentimentality in favor of a raw, deeply sincere, and self-aware homage to this powerful bond."
Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

"Hola, surprise, surprise, grows enormous, while also growing out of control, ignoring commands, sprawling, immovable, across the bed. Add to this rowdy mix the fact that Kihn drinks way too much and that his wife, Gloria, is on the verge of leaving him, and you have a recipe for a surefire heartbreaking bestseller along the lines of Marley and Me."
—Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“This tale of a man who forgot he was a man and the dog who ultimately reminded him is the most touching, original buddy story I’ve come across in ages. Sit. Stay. Read.”
—Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air
“A modern masterpiece that captures the dark side of K9 love.”
—Julia Szabo,
“Martin Kihn’s agile wit is showcased in this memoir of addiction, recovery, and the highs and lows of canine and human behavior.  Despite its compact form, Bad Dog carries a surprising amount of weight, and when you're not looking, it will knock you over and charm you, all while licking your face.”
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
“A bittersweet tale of renewal . . . An endearing read full of hope, humor and humility.”
Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1St Edition edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307379159
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307379153
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,012,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Martin Kihn is a writer, digital marketer, dog lover, balletomane and spiritual athlete. He was born in Zambia, grew up in suburban Michigan, has a BA in Theater Studies from Yale and an MBA from Columbia Business School. His articles have appeared in New York, the New York Times, GQ, Us, Details, Cosmopolitan and Forbes, among many others, and he was on the staff of Spy, Forbes, New York and Vibe. Until recently, most of his writing could be called satirical or snarky, meticulously researched and office-based.
His third book, the soon-to-be-released memoir "Bad Dog:
A Love Story," changes everything.

In the late 1990's, Kihn was Head Writer for the popular television program "Pop-Up Video" on MTV Networks and was nominated for an Emmy for Writing. He lost to "Win Ben Stein's Money," decided to quit writing and got into business school. Ironically enough, the tragicomic world of American business, where everybody seemed to be speaking an impressive language that was not quite English, and not quite clear, provided him with a whole new vein of source material, and his writing career really took off.

Kihn's first book was a humorous expose of the consulting industry called "House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time" (Grand Central 2005), based on the three years he spent working for a large consultancy. The Economist said "a more entertaining book about business is unlikely to appear for a long time," and called it "exceedingly smart and funny," echoing Publishers Weekly's reviewer, who declared the book "highly intelligent and deeply funny."

Former co-workers and pinheaded career consultants were less amused, however, spamming with one-star reviews and all but sabotaging the book's chances in the marketplace.

Enraged but unbroken, Kihn reemerged a few years later with a grotesquely satirical stunt-memoir called "A**hole: How I Got Rich & Happy By Not Giving a Damn About Anyone" (Broadway Books 2008). The premise of this reality TV-type firebomb was that a guy who is too nice to get ahead in business (aka Marty) decides systematically to turn himself into a pricktard and reap the rewards. Film rights were sold to Warner Brothers, where it is in development, and Booklist raved "Kihn's got a great ear for dialogue - and a comedic sense worthy of Second City."

For reasons that elude the Author, "A**hole" became a publishing phenomenon in Germany and Austria, sitting for months on the Der Spiegel bestseller list and causing his German publisher to proclaim him "the David Hasselhoff of satirical non-fiction." Notes from his legion of German fans lead some to suspect Kihn's gossamer irony was lost in translation.

Kihn is married to the singer-songwriter Julia Douglass. Her most recent projects include a series of brilliant one-minute animated songs about cooking called After twenty years living and working in New York City, the couple recently relocated to Minneapolis, where Kihn works as a digital marketing strategist for a well-known agency.

The forthcoming "Bad Dog: A Love Story," marks the emergence of a mature writer at the height of his powers. At its heart is an intensely charismatic, terribly-behaved 90-pound Bernese mountain dog named Hola. After a shattering personal crisis, Kihn decides to train Hola and together they earn their Canine Good Citizen certification from the American Kennel Club. It's a journey of redemption, as together man and dog reclaim their lives by working toward a common goal.

More will be revealed about this memoir shortly. You will be able to follow Hola's pre-publication antics on Facebook ( and Twitter (@BadDogTweets). For now, Hola and her companion can guarantee this: There won't be a dry eye in the kennel. xo

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By EJ on March 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I selected this book from the Vine program, I was a little hesitant because of the onslaught of dog books precipitated by the success John Groban's Marley and Me. I did enjoy that book very much, but some of the later books modeled on that one failed to live up to their predecessor. However, with Bad Dog, Martin Kihn creates a unique book that has more in common with memoirs like Mary Karr's Lit: A Memoir (P.S.) than with general "I Love My Dog" books.

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.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By E. Burian-Mohr TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you're looking for a warm fuzzy dog tale, this isn't it. Well, it is... kind of. It's the story of a recovering alcoholic (Marty, the author) and a recovering bad dog (Hola), and how they face obstacles and hurdles together. And while there doesn't appear to be a 12-step program for Bernese Mountain Dogs, perhaps Hola's steps toward her GCG (Good Canine Citizen) qualify, making her a friend of the canine Bill W.

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.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Rebekah Sue Carolla VINE VOICE on March 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Martin Kihn tried too hard to be funny in Bad Dog: A Love Story.

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.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Hola is a heavyweight (literally) in the dog world. She's a Bernese mountain dog, and, as Martin Kihn can tell you, they don't come small. Considering her size --- at a strapping 95 pounds --- you might think that training is an obvious essential. Good manners would seem to be Priority One for a large girl like Hola. Unfortunately, Marty just doesn't get it. Smitten by her beautiful face, he overlooked any unpleasant traits she tended to exhibit. In short, Hola stole his heart, wrapped him around her little, um, toe, and blinded him to her altogether unsavory conduct.

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.
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