"For anyone who has ever loved a dog, especially a misunderstood one" is a quote found within the first few pages of this powerful fictional novel about young Dirk, growing into manhood, with the help of his best friend "Bull's Eye," an American Pit Bull Terrier pup.
The story is set in Chicago. Dirk's mom abandoned the family when Dirk was three and a half years old. Dad worked hard to support both of them as the manager at Happy Mart. When Dirk was in first grade, Dad found a tiny pup in a dumpster, all alone and hungry, behind his store. He cleaned the pup up, took him home, and nobody's life was ever the same again. While researching the breed at the local library, Dad finds they are NOT naturally aggressive toward humans and they ARE very human-friendly.
Several connecting sub-plots are built within the story line. Dad is a simple working man, trying to raise his son, and carrying a lot of anger about his wife's departure. We see a "don't-you-dare-challenge-me" attitude in Dad that frames a cold indifference toward people and animals. We feel as though we are walking alongside of Dirk as he struggles to grow and mature, make friends, accept himself, find love, and care for his dogs. This story also reminds us about the unconditional love a dog has for its master and its willingness to do anything to show its love. And we see the cruelty in others (not Dirk) as they seek to prey on a dog's love and trust.
I found this 226 page book from 2010 well-written, enjoyable, and extremely hard to put down. I was reading all through the night.
Reviewer's Note: I have family members who had a wonderful Pit Bull Terrier. Windmill has passed on, but the memory of the love she displayed will live in the family's hearts forever. I also have a girlfriend who has a loving Pit Bull. The Pit has watched over her 2-year old since the little girl was born. I had a German Shepherd as a child, and a Rotweiler/Doberman mix in more recent years. They were all wonderful dogs. It's not the dog; it's the way they are taught. Teach love and they will be loving. Teach aggression, and they will do it--to please YOU.
Dirk Seward is a young boy living in Chicago with his father, Russ. Dirk's mother left when he was just three and his world is limited within constraints set by his father. Life changes for Dirk just before he turns eight when his father finds a pit bull puppy abandoned in a grocery store dumpster.
`My gift from the God of Lonely Boys.' Dirk names the ten month old white and black spotted puppy Bull's Eye, and becomes absorbed in caring for him. In return, Bull's Eye offers Dirk unconditional love, and protects him. The presence of Bull's Eye seems to unite Dirk and his father as they spend time learning about how to care for pit bulls.
One day, a stranger suggests that Bull's Eye would be effective in weight pull competitions. Dirk and his father start to train Bull's Eye, and he competes successfully in a number of different competitions. But while Dirk is devoted to Bull's Eye, his father sees financial potential in breeding, and worse.
As Dirk grows up, he is faced with a number of choices and decisions. Life after high school beckons - the possibility of a college education - as do relationships. Dirk wants to leave home, but he also wants to save his beloved pit bulls.
On one level, this is a novel about a lonely boy and his dog. It is also a novel about dysfunctional family relationships, and how greed can motivate people to acts of gross animal cruelty. Are pit bulls a maligned breed because of their actions when misused by humans? I am not fond of pit bulls, but I am far less fond of people who use the dogs to meet their own needs.
I enjoyed this novel, even though it made me sad to read about the way in which the pit bulls were used and abused. And I confess that my concerns about the dogs distracted me somewhat from Dirk's story. If you are interested in reading a story which stars a dog with enormous heart changing the life of a boy with tremendous need, then you may well enjoy this novel.
Note: I was offered, and accepted, a free copy of this novel for review purposes.