Remember the title”Bad Dog (A Love Story)”- it’s going to be a very successful book. Not allbest-selling dog books are worth reading, but this one is.So say Hello tothe nexttome you’ll want to sink your teeth into. I mean, say Hola – Spanish for “hello,” also the name of the story’s quadruped anti-heroine.
Fear not: “Bad Dog” isn’t one of those endlessly treaclytearjerkers, masquerading as literature, that end with the death of a rowdy but redeemable dog. Far from it. Nor is it apostmod re-imagining of the Cujo legend.Rather, it’sthe unflinchingly un-sentimentaltale of a dog whosaves aboy in big trouble. It’s seriously funny (its author wrote for the late, great Spy magazine, after all). It is, as its subtitle promises,A Love Story – a hairy one. And it will stay with you long after you’veturned the last page.
Author Martin Kihn starts out as a highly functioning alcoholic with twosignificant females in his life: a wifeand a Bernese Mountain Dog. “Bad Dog” is his wry, witty, un-put-downableaccount of how he temporarily loses onebeloved female, thenmanages to claw his way out of the quicksand pitby focusingenergy on trainingHola, the dog he previously believed to be untrainable.
Asthe clever illustration on page36 reveals, a negative addiction (Ethyl alcohol, left) is replaced with a positive one that resembles it(a good-looking dog, below).That observation isalmost worthy of the great Tom Lehrer.
What makes thisstory so compelling is how high Marty aims. Not only doesheundertake to teachHola garden-variety good doggie manners; he enters what you might callan Olympiad of behavior modification, a regimen
thatcould drivethedryesthuman to drink: crash preparation for the Canine Good Citizen test.
It’s no secret that I like this book. I “blurbed” it, which is publisher-speak for contributing an enthusiastic quoteto be printed onthe back cover.
Here’s what I said: “Martin Kihn marries The Lost Weekend and The Shaggy Dog to create a modern masterpiece that capturesthe dark side of K9 love.” Here’s what ended up on the back cover: “A modern masterpiece that captures the dark side of K9 love.” Which, of course, makes me sound like an over-enthusiastic idiot. (I shudder to thinkhow the late, great Spy would’ve made mincemeat of that.)
If you’ve ever seen Billy Wilder’s 1945 movie “The Lost Weekend,” starring Ray Milland-the story ofone New Yorker’s battle with the bottle- you’ll recognize some of that film’s sweaty, skin-crawlingdesperation in Marty’s descriptions of being $#!t-faced drunk in New York City.
Now picture that epic struggle mashed up with a shaggy-dog story. It needn’t literally be “The Shaggy Dog,” the 1959 Disney movie about a boy who’s magically turned into a sheepdog, or its 2006remake starring Tim Allen. It could be any memorable dog story – even, say,Lassie.
Actually, Hola is a lot like thatworld-renowned Collie: She’s a sheepdog who rescues her boy by getting him help (inHola’s case, she is the help). She’s Lassie to his Timmy, misunderstood to be a “bad dog” when in actual fact the “bad” one- spoiler alert! – walks on two legsbut morphs into a goodguy by the end. (Catsterstake note: Not only does the happy ending findMarty keeping both of his beloved females, he even scores a thirdby adoptingaTortie named Ruby.)
More successfully than any preachy tract on rewards-based training, “Bad Dog” proves that positive reinforcement can make good dogs of us all – the four-footed and two-footed alike.Enjoythis bookwith your best friend by your side.
“Bad Dog” hits book stores on April 5, but you can pre-order it here. Enjoy.