A recovering alcoholic finds redemption in the training of his 90-pound mountain dog.
Kihn (A$$hole: How I Got Rich and Happy By Not Giving a Damn About Anyone, 2008, etc.) recalls hazily “swimming in moonshine” when his wife Gloria announced she wanted a puppy. His incremental descent into alcoholism, intensified by volatile behavior and frequent absences from their Manhattan home, spurred Gloria to seek a “a friend in the house for a change.” So she bought Hola, an expensive female Bernese mountain dog from a nearby breeder. What was initially a squirming, adorably fuzzy ball of tri-colored fur grew into a muscular, lumbering animal “bred to pull carts up steep Swiss mountains.” Hola’s aggressive shredding of paperback books and bed-hogging would become the least of Kihn’s problems, however. The author painfully describes life at the bottom of his downward spiral in striking detail: desperately chugging whole bottles of mouthwash while hiding in sidewalk telephone booths, sneaking shots of vodka in the bathroom at the break of dawn and passing out on the floor while Hola tried to rouse him with her paws. Yet his love for both Gloria and Hola was enough incentive to galvanize him to attend early-morning Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. Gloria, he writes, grew to become the family enemy. Exasperated with Hola’s threatening attacks and Kihn’s erratic, irresponsible behavior, she retreated to their vacation house in the Catskills. The author’s solution involved obedience training for unmanageable Hola and the inspired, passive-dominance process toward achieving a Canine Good Citizen certification from the American Kennel Club. That, alongside reconcilement with Gloria and an honest, clean and sober life made him whole. Memories of the writer’s upbringing and photographs of Hola further leaven this bittersweet tale of renewal.
An endearing read full of hope, humor and humility.