My Life Among the Underdogs: A Memoir

Book Review
Reviewed by Susan Tasaki, January 2019

From wolf hybrids to Pit Bulls to parolees —Animal Planet’s Pit Bulls & Parolees star Tia Torres rarely takes the path of least resistance. No stranger to dysfunction and controversy, she seems to thrive on engaging with what others might see as intractable problems.

For example, in the early 1990s, she established Villalobos Rescue Center for wolves and wolf hybrids at Agua Dulce, Calif., north of LA. Over time, another group of underdogs — Pit Bulls — became its primary residents. In 2006, she began employing parolees to care for and work with the dogs. By 2009, when Pit Bulls & Parolees debuted, Villalobos was sheltering multitudes of Pit Bulls and providing work for numerous parolees. Then, she relocated the whole operation to New Orleans.

As a champion of underdogs both human and canine, she sees her mission as shattering stereotypes. She is committed to rehabilitating Pit Bulls’ undeserved bad rep after falling for a burly little nub-eared girl she named Tatanka. This memoir is part of that work. Her stories of individual dogs— their quirks, skills and special natures—are truly heartfelt.

In the introduction, Torres says, “I can only be Tia—no other options have ever presented themselves.” Clearly, as far as the dogs and the people who care for them are concerned, “being Tia” is way more than enough.

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 96: Winter 2018

Susan Tasaki is a The Bark contributing editor.