Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Martin Kihn

Martin Kihn is the author of the comic memoir Bad Dog (A Love Story). It's his story of trying to stay sober while training his out-of-control 90-pound Bernese mountain dog, Hola, for her Canine Good Citizen certification from the American Kennel Club. Kihn's previous memoir of his time as a cutthroat management consultant was recently filmed as a pilot for Showtime.

From his Q & A with Dick Donahue at Publishers Weekly:

So what's the deal with a book titled Bad Dog and subtitled A Love Story— what's that about?

I liked the irony of it, which works on a lot of levels. I start the book thinking my dog, Hola, is a 90-pound Bernese mountain dog menace—obviously, she's the bad dog. But after I decide to take responsibility for my animal and actually try to train her, it dawns on me I've been the bad dog all along. She was fine. I was holding her back because of ignorance and fear and self-centeredness. All those things people do so well without any help from dogs. Also, back when I was still drinking I secretly read a memoir by Caroline Knapp called Drinking: A Love Story that made a big impression on me. It was the first time I'd read about an alcoholic who was someone I could relate to—a well-educated, upper-middle class writer type who happened to be a drunk. Her book definitely helped me admit my problem and find a program. My title purposely mirrors hers.

Which came first: taming Hola or curing Martin?

There's a scene in the book where I'm at a pretty famous dog-training camp in the woods of Virginia, and my teacher pulls me aside and says, "Your dog's very nervous because you're afraid." I had another trainer out in White Plains tell me Hola was basically picking up on my fear and acting it out. Most dogs are very sensitive to our body language and general vibe, more sensitive than people. I kept wondering why Hola wasn't improving even though we were working on our commands. It took me a while to figure out I had to get sane first and Hola could follow. And let me tell you, sanity is a lot harder than dog training!

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

I always...[read on]
Learn more about Bad Dog: A Love Story at Martin Kihn's website and the Bad Dog Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Martin Kihn and Hola.

The Page 99 Test: Bad Dog.

Writers Read: Martin Kihn.

--Marshal Zeringue