Reviewed by Jenn L.

Sometimes we find love in unexpected places. For Dirk Seward, it’s found in a 10-month-old, white and black spotted Pitt Bull puppy, abandoned in a grocery store dumpster, named Bull’s Eye.

Suppressed by the void of a disappearing mother, Dirk’s world is sheltered and restricted by his unrelenting, selfish father, Russ. Where his father fails, Bull’s Eye offers Dirk purpose, attention, unconditional affection, and protection – the latter being exceptionally important for a young boy in Chicago.

At first, the addition to the household seems to improve the family unit. Dirk and his dad spend evenings reading library books on Pitt Bulls and how to care for the breed. And with a stranger’s suggestion of enrolling Bull’s Eye in an upcoming weight pull, the pup gives father and son a concrete, unified front: spending night and day on training exercises. As Bull’s Eye begins to garner attention for his title-winning pulls, Dirk falls deeper in love with his furry companion and the breed. His father, on the other hand, only realizes the financial potential Bull’s Eye presents for breeding . . . and much, much worse.

By the time Dirk reaches high school, the family increases by two more Pitts, but Dirk and his father barely speak. Instead, Dirk converses with his father’s ex, Nellie, who shows Dirk how to train his animals with love and kindness instead of his father’s callous alternatives. Like most young men, he also attempts a few relationships of his own. But Dirk’s deep compassion for the animals often separates him from his other classmates; he is unable to understand why his community is so biased of Pitt Bulls, only to realize a source of the stereotype is living under the same roof. His father suddenly sends all three dogs away, telling Dirk the pups are at a weight training kennel. Dirk can no longer avoid the truth of his father’s actions when one of the dogs returns home with visible signs of dog fighting. With graduation looming, Dirk must decide whether to escape his troubled home life and start over with a full scholarship to college, or find a way to stop his father and save his beloved dogs.

Love Like a Dog will melt the heart of every animal lover, making you laugh, cry, and rage as the novel characterizes the emotional relationships of dogs, people, and abusers. Calcagno’s remarkable description and study of the meaning of “love” between a dysfunctional family and the animals who love them, regardless of their flaws, makes her novel an instant favorite.

Since graduating from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Professional Writing, Jenn works as a freelance writer, poet, and blogger at south of sheridan. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, and loves baking, crafting, and anything that requires a hot glue gun.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Anne Calcagno. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.