A graphic memoir about a pet dog is more about the artist who lived with her for 15 years or so.
A bit of a handful from the start, Beija, the puppy that illustrator Georges (Calling Dr. Laura, 2013, etc.) rescued from the adoption center to give to her high school boyfriend, would become not only her rites-of-passage companion, but also her therapist, antagonist, and muse. She was a difficult dog, in some ways just like her owner. As a small mutt with some Shar-Pei and corgi in her, Beija was uncomfortable around strangers and particularly among men, didn’t like unsolicited attention, and tended to attack when she was afraid. As the narrative plays chronological hopscotch back and forth to the author’s girlhood before Beija, there’s an inference that Georges might not have known how to raise a dog right because she herself hadn’t been raised right—that neglect and lack of sensitivity had turned her into “the feral beast of self-defense” whenever the presence of yet another babysitter threatened her. When her boyfriend’s parents refused to let the dog live with them, the artist and her family kept her. Eventually, the author, boyfriend, and dog shared an apartment, where the dog presented plenty of complications, from housebreaking to attacking. They did their best to find her another home, but she kept being returned; no one was able to manage her. Ultimately, they moved from the Midwest to Portland, where the chaos of the punk scene seemed more accommodating for Beija. Ultimately, the artist split from her boyfriend, kept the dog, and went through a process of sexual awakening when she went from considering herself bisexual to gay. Georges covers a lot of material in a narrative that could have used a little editing and is accompanied by black-and-white illustrations that might have benefitted from splashes of color.
Will appeal to readers who love both graphic narratives and dogs, but it’s not as memorable as the author’s previous memoir.