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

4.2 out of 5 stars 104 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)

Review

"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, Dogster.com
 
“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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,318,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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.
Read more ›
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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.

Totes.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wonderful story of redemption and how to get there. A tour of recovery through AA and Canine Good Citizenship, detailing the roadmap while contrasting the teachings. Ask for help. Ask for help when you need it - whether it be alcoholism or training your dog. Set goals - set the goal of CGC certification or recovery - or repairing personal relationships. Realize that a lot of different people are giving a lot of different answers - take the good where it comes. And in the case of dog training - realize the training is more about the human than it is the dog. What you bring to the dog is what the dog will give you back.
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