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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is not another Marley and Me
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...
Published on March 5, 2011 by EJ

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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who's the bad dog?
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...
Published on March 13, 2011 by Rebekah Sue Carolla


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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is not another Marley and Me, March 5, 2011
This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Ten Things That are Great About "Bad Dog: A Love Story", March 2, 2011
This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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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. 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.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who's the bad dog?, March 13, 2011
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This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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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.

Totes.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming, especially for pet lovers, April 13, 2011
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (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. 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
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time to Laugh? Oops, maybe not., April 1, 2011
By 
Scott E. High (Punta Gorda, FL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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I ordered this book to review based upon the teaser. Dante and I had just finished our Canine Good Citizenship(CGC) course over seven weeks and he actually passed his test. Dante was six months old and weighed 90 pounds when we started class. Today he is halfway through Beginning Obedience and is nine months old and weighs about 130 pounds. Did I forget to mention that Dante is a blue brindle Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff)? The first night of CGC class we wouldn't even have made it into the building unless one of the trainers took pity on me and showed me the power of 'treats'. Everyone in his class was terrified of him, both the dogs and their owners. One of the owners later told me that her dog peed immediately after seeing Dante, then dropped a load on the floor, and followed that up with expressing her anal glands all over her owner. Hard to believe that the owner and I are now friends.

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.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story of Hope and Humor, April 3, 2011
By 
C. Wong "Book worm" (Plano, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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Have you seen the TV shows about how training dogs helps prisoners gain a sense of self-worth, responsibility and joy? This book, Bad Dog by Martin Kihn shows how developing a routine of training and unconditional love
have helped him pull away from the abyss of alcoholism.
It is not so much a story about Hola, a Bernese Mountain dog as a man's struggle with alcoholism,the destruction of a marriage and the difficult road back.

Dog training can become an obsession, in this case, a good obsession.Martin's wife had wanted a dog,she didn't even recognize at the time what she really wanted was for Martin to stop drinking and so that they could rebuild their marriage. She thought a dog would make her happy.

They picked a dog from a breeder and named the dog Hola. Hola was not the typical Bernese Mountain Dog. She was unusually intelligent, gorgeous, exuberantly affectionate and extremely active. Because Hola was different from others of this breed, it made the task of training Hola much more difficult. Marti had never trained a dog before.

I really liked this book. I am a sucker for books about dogs but this definitely had a twist to it.
There is a lot of humor and hope in this book as the author goes on his journey away from alcoholism and towards better human relationships and loving dog relationship.

Since I was curious about the AKA, this breed and different kinds of training I enjoyed it even more but some may not.

I was hooked early in the book and it was difficult to lay it down.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More About the Owner's Foibles Than the Dog's, March 17, 2011
This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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I admit to being a sucker for a dog story. This memoir, while interesting, is as much about its owner as the dog in question, a supposed Bernese Mountain dog named Hola.

Author Martin Kihn chronicles his own re-training--emerging from the grips of rampant alcoholism and the breakdown of his marriage--with Hola's, and the story is as much about the healing power of AA, as the transformation of a dog and its owner.

In the end, Hola is charming enough to hold the story together (even when her owner is less endearing), but this doesn't strike me as a classic in the dog tale genre and, frankly, without the impetus of the looming Vine review, I don't know if I would have finished this story as it's pretty clear where it's going, from page one, and the journey wasn't, at least to me, overly compelling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Choppy, July 23, 2011
By 
Leeshie (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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I chose this book from the Vine program because I am a sucker for a story about a person and their dog. Think, Marley & Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain. This book; however, is more a story about the author, Kihn, and how he is essentially the "bad dog." From the beginning, we're made aware that he drinks.... a lot. He and his wife Glorida decide to get a dog - and they choose a Bernese Mountain dog for no other reason than the fact that Glorida likes big dogs. Not having been either properly trained nor socialized, they end up with a big dog that is pretty out of control. Hola, the dog, serves as a sort of metaphor for Kihn's life - as it starts spiraling out of control. When Glorida finally can't take any more, even after her husband has been sober for a few months, Kihn decides to get his life back in control and that includes working with Hola to become a Canine Good Citizen.

There were parts of this book that were hard for me to read. Not emotionally hard, but actually difficult because I found the writing a little choppy. At times, the author would write in short, sentence fragments, which didn't help the story flow along so easily. Also, some of the parts, especially the nitty gritty AKC passages went a little over my head. Things I did like - I enjoyed Kihn as a narrator. I like reading about people overcoming their problems and working to make a better life for themselves and those close to them. I liked the pictures.... I wish there were more. My biggest complaint is that I wish there was more Hola in her puppy years - she seemed to jump from chewing up a Nora Roberts novel to being a 5 year old so quickly - I would have liked more in between - especially concerning the relationship with Kihn and Gloria when he first joined AA.

Overall, not a bad story, but not quite as great as I had hoped it would be. 3 stars for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've read all year..., May 19, 2011
This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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A real page-turner; couldn't put it down. I couldn't even speak about it until now since it has "stayed with me so long." I've read a ton of books about alcoholics who finally put down the bottle (there's plenty of functioning alcoholics in our family) and this one was special. No pity, no self-pity, no "sorries," no nothing except "this is what I did" and then "this is what I did." And things finally started working!

Plus the information about dog training and the Canine Good Citizens award for well behaved dogs was fascinating and valuable. I had no idea! Well organized and woven throughout the storyline. Simply excellent.

The dog is truly a reflection of his owner (as are all dogs!) and we get to travel down the road of both their paths of transformation. Spectacular in it's quiet grief and ultimate joy. Loved every minute of it; every sentence and every single word of it. Hope he writes more. Going to look right now. Thank you to the author for showing that it can be done. Writing and drinking DON'T have to go "hand in hand." Bravo!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good story w/ a good ending, March 8, 2011
This review is from: Bad Dog: A Love Story (Hardcover)
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(3 & 1/2 stars)
My friend Debbie refuses to read dog books because the dog often dies in the end. She could read this one -- nothing dies.
Bad Dog a relatively good read, a tale of an alcoholic writer (the author, Marty) trying to redeem himself as he recovers, helped by the love of his Bernese Mountain Dog, Hola. Making the easy comparison to Marley & Me is not entirely fair, as this book includes an all-too-grim description of Marty's alcoholic descent. That was not necessarily something I wanted to immerse myself in with a dog memoir, but after all, it is this writer's story. Marty goes through various rounds of dog training in order to win his dog the Canine Good Citizen recognition. Those passages were somewhat interesting, but the book lacks the entertainment value of Marley & Me, partly because Hola may have started out as a Bad Dog, but she can't compare to Marley for sheer wackiness and amusement value. Still, author Kihn does sprinkle a fair amount of humor through the book, which helps somewhat. I did enjoy the ending, which had a rewarding human-interest quality. It would be great to check in with these people (and dog) in a couple of years and see how they're all doing.
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Bad Dog: A Love Story
Bad Dog: A Love Story by Martin Kihn (Hardcover - April 5, 2011)
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