A memoir that attempts to weave together two themes of deep interest to the author: her eating disorder and her love for dogs, especially pit bulls.
As a teenager, Kopp, an animal welfare advocate and novice writer, suffered from bulimia, bingeing and purging in an attempt to achieve the body she thought would make her lovable. Warning to readers with a low queasiness threshold: the author does not spare details of her disorder, recounting in full color hiding in bathrooms and shoving her fingers down her throat to induce vomiting. Woven into this growing-up part of her memoir are stories of her alcoholic father (“Dad wasn’t angry or unpredictable when he drank. He was angry and unpredictable when sober”) and of her own sexual misadventures. Kopp describes somewhat sketchily her experiences later at live-in rehab centers and at open support meetings for people with eating disorders, but she lavishes her greatest narrative attention on damaged or doomed dogs at animal shelters. Working first at an animal shelter in San Diego and then one in Los Angeles, the author discovered that the unconditional love of animals was the key to her redemption. Despite relapses, the author’s healing continued as her connection with shelter dogs grew. The emotional attachment between human and beast eventually led to recovery of her health and to her becoming an animal welfare activist, working to find loving homes for abandoned dogs. Pit bulls figure largely in her story, and an afterword features a plea for greater public understanding and acceptance of the breed (“my four-legged sanctuaries, my therapists, my healers, my beefy love-bugs…”). Unfortunately, the author’s writing chops leave much to be desired, and the narrative is often rambling and sometimes self-indulgent.
More maudlin than inspirational, though ardent dog lovers may be touched by certain scenes and find Kopp’s story satisfying.