Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
I first heard about My Life Among the Underdogs on the hit animal rescue reality show Pit Bulls and Parolees when its star, Tia Marie Torres, ended last season by announcing to her family she had been writing a book about her life and their pit bull rescue, Villalobos Rescue Center, now located in New Orleans. I read an excerpt, and as a fan of the show and Tia herself, I knew it was a book I was going to have to read. I’m going to recommend everyone I know who is an animal lover to read as well. Not because the book is solely about dogs and animal rescue, but because I don’t think non-animal people would get the full effect from it.
In the first 14 pages, Tia takes you from her birth to her current situation as owner and manager of what is now the most famous pit bull rescue in the country, and subject of a popular and highly watched reality show on Animal Planet.
She writes matter-of-factly and the pages go by so quickly, it feels more like a conversation than the act of reading a book. Her writing style is conversational and has a natural flow to it that makes you want to keep learning more.
I already knew a lot about Tia, her family, Villalobos, and how she got started in a rescue that hires parolees in an effort to give them the second chance they need to turn their lives around, while also saving and trying to negate the bad image of the pit bull breed. The book fills in gaps and gives the reader a deeper understanding and appreciation for what she does, why she does it, and how she goes about doing it.
What makes this different than other memoirs is that the main subject of each chapter, save for the 14-page introduction, is not technically Tia herself, but rather a dog that has had a life-changing effect on Tia, her kids, or both, at various points in their lives.
The parallels she draws between these dogs and what is going on in her life at the time, and how each of these dogs’ personalities personally affected and changed her, makes for a truly heart-warming and impactful story, and I found myself cheering for her in every situation.
If you love dogs, or even slightly like them, you will love this book.
If you love a good underdog story and love/like dogs, or don’t hate them, you’ll love this book.
If you hate dogs/animals, but can appreciate a tale of perseverance and adaptability, and a real-life tale of a woman who against all odds became a household name because of her love for dogs and a burning passion to rescue those who need it–both dogs and humans–I think you just might end up at least liking this book, if not for the subject matter itself, at least for the underlying tale of pure grit, determination, and staying true to one’s vision.