A Dog Year: Rescuing Devon, the Most Troublesome Dog in the World by Jon Katz, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
A Dog Year: Rescuing Devon, the Most Troublesome Dog in the World

A Dog Year: Rescuing Devon, the Most Troublesome Dog in the World

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by Jon Katz
     
 

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Sometimes, change comes on four legs.

In his popular and widely praised Running to the Mountain, Jon Katz wrote of the strength and support he found in the massive forms of his two yellow Labrador retrievers, Julius and Stanley. When the Labs were six and seven, a breeder who’d read his book contacted Katz to say she had a dog that was meant for him&

Overview

Sometimes, change comes on four legs.

In his popular and widely praised Running to the Mountain, Jon Katz wrote of the strength and support he found in the massive forms of his two yellow Labrador retrievers, Julius and Stanley. When the Labs were six and seven, a breeder who’d read his book contacted Katz to say she had a dog that was meant for him—a two-year-old border collie named Devon, well bred but high-strung and homeless. Katz already had a full canine complement—but, as he writes, “Change loves me. . . . It comes in all forms. . . . Sometimes, change comes on four legs.” Shortly thereafter he brought Devon home. A Dog Year shows how a man discovered much about himself through one dog (and then another), whose temperament seemed as different from his own as day from night. It is a story of trust and understanding, of life and death, of continuity and change. It is by turns insightful, hilarious, and deeply moving.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This gentle book is a great reminder—as if anybody needed one—of what animals can mean to people at particular times in life.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Moving, funny . . . This is a loveable mutt of a book.” —Chicago Tribune

“Part cautionary tale, part love story, A Dog Year reminds us that adopting a pet is a massive responsibility but one that rewards the owner with a richer, more meaningful life.” —Los Angeles Times

bn.com
The Barnes & Noble Review
I can't think of a single dog lover who won't love Jon Katz's memoir of his year with two Labs and two border collies. For one thing, the cast of characters is so appealing. There are the easygoing Julius and the mischievous Stanley, two white Labs; Devon, a super-smart two-year-old border collie, high-strung, with low self-esteem; and Homer, a border collie puppy, as sweet and uncomplicated as Devon is not. It's a great crowd.

For another thing, Katz writes with great humor and warmth about living with dogs and the way they transform their owners. "Dogs live on a scale that I can comprehend; their lives are an outcome I can affect," he writes. "They make me happy, satisfy me deeply, anchor me in an elemental way. Sometimes it's hard for me to trust people, or to find people I can come to trust. I trust my dogs, though. They would do anything for me, and I for them. That's a powerful relationship, no matter what the species."

As the book begins, Katz reflects on his relationship with Julius and Stanley, "whose chosen work was to reflect on the state of the world, lick neighborhood kids, and accompany me through midlife." Together, they go on strolls, spend summers on Cape Cod, and enjoy long, happy weeks at Katz's mountain retreat. In fact, they achieve such a Zen state of human-dog harmony that it's surprising when Katz actually follows up on a suggestion from a breeder in Texas to adopt Devon, an emotionally battered border collie with many, many issues. But, writes Katz, "Change loves me, defines and stalks me like a laser-guided smart bomb. It comes at me in all forms. Sometimes, changes come on four legs. "

If Julius and Stanley reflected one part of Katz's nature, Devon certainly appealed to another, more troubled side. Devon was the canine equivalent of Jesse James. He chased buses, jumped fences, and could extricate ham from a sandwich, leaving the bread and cheese untouched. He could even open the refrigerator, pop open a plastic container, extract (and eat) a roast chicken, and hide the evidence. Ultimately, Katz and Devon come to terms in a confrontation of wills that is deeply moving.

The fourth dog in Katz's dog year is recommended by Devon's breeder. While Katz was considering the puppy, he appeared as a guest on Oprah to promote a book. During the commercial break, he confided his indecision to Winfrey, then called up his long-suffering wife, Paula, right after the show:

"Honey, great news," I said, "Oprah says we should get the puppy!"

"What?"

"Oprah! Oprah Winfrey just told me to take Homer if it will make me happy. And it will."

"Oh, God," was all she said.

Homer came to live with Jon Katz and his family, and he made everyone happy. (Ginger Curwen)
Publishers Weekly
The story line of Katz's latest book can be summed up very simply two dogs die and two new ones join the family but its charm comes from an intricate blend of witty anecdote and touching reflection. Katz (Geeks, Virtuous Reality) has shared his affection for years with two low-maintenance Labs, whose "chosen work was to reflect on the state of the world, lick neighborhood kids, and accompany [him] through midlife." So it is somewhat surprising that he next adopts a frenetic and demanding border collie he occasionally refers to as "Helldog." His life turned upside down; his writing schedule disrupted, he learns to center his life around a dog's needs rather than vice versa. After adopting the homeless Devon, Katz adopts his second border collie, Homer, because Oprah Winfrey urges him to. (He appears on her show for his book about his Labs, Running to the Mountain.) He's fallen in love with the breed's intelligence and curiosity. In fact, both breeds seem to touch something in his soul the Lab his centered, peaceful side; the border collie his troubled side. Over the course of the year, Katz reflects on the importance of devotion to and understanding of any animal taken into the home; ways to live peacefully with border collies; and even the problems of midlife crisis. "Once in a great while," he muses, "the right person is fortunate enough to get the right dog, to have time to take care of it, to connect with it in a profound way." (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The story line of Katz's latest book can be summed up very simply two dogs die and two new ones join the family but its charm comes from an intricate blend of witty anecdote and touching reflection. Katz (Geeks, Virtuous Reality) has shared his affection for years with two low-maintenance Labs, whose "chosen work was to reflect on the state of the world, lick neighborhood kids, and accompany [him] through midlife." So it is somewhat surprising that he next adopts a frenetic and demanding border collie he occasionally refers to as "Helldog." His life turned upside down; his writing schedule disrupted, he learns to center his life around a dog's needs rather than vice versa. After adopting the homeless Devon, Katz adopts his second border collie, Homer, because Oprah Winfrey urges him to. (He appears on her show for his book about his Labs, Running to the Mountain.) He's fallen in love with the breed's intelligence and curiosity. In fact, both breeds seem to touch something in his soul the Lab his centered, peaceful side; the border collie his troubled side. Over the course of the year, Katz reflects on the importance of devotion to and understanding of any animal taken into the home; ways to live peacefully with border collies; and even the problems of midlife crisis. "Once in a great while," he muses, "the right person is fortunate enough to get the right dog, to have time to take care of it, to connect with it in a profound way." (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
This paean to pooches everywhere is by an author who loves canines. Katz's year begins with the arrival at Newark Airport of a new dog, a two-year-old border collie of Australian lineage named Devon. After escaping from his travel cage and tearing around the terminal, Devon is captured and taken home to meet the author's other dogs, two beautiful and calm golden Labs named Julius and Stanley, who don't know quite what to make of the manic collie. The neighborhood is just as bewildered, because Katz's training of Devon is slow and agonizing. He breaks into expletives, screams at the dog, and even hits him. The neighbors are ready to call the SPCA. Eventually, however, Devon settles in. The noble Stanley sickens and is put down. (I cried, as would anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet.) The same fate awaits Julius later in the year. After appearing on Oprah Winfrey's show, Katz decides to take her advice and adopt another border collie, Homer, a sweet puppy beloved by everyone. Everyone, that is, except Devon. The Helldog gives the newcomer a tough time but after Katz takes them to a farm where they actually herd sheep, the two are easier together. Katz ends his book with this advice: "If you are pondering bringing a border collie, or for that matter, any other dog into your life, please consider it carefully and talk to breeders and other owners first." Katz followed his own advice, although things were more frantic than he expected. Still, it is obvious that love is a most important ingredient in any human/dog relationship and Katz loves his canines. So will the reader. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, RandomHouse, 209p.,
— Janet Julian
Library Journal
After mentoring a troubled teen, as recounted in Geeks, journalist Katz describes another kind of mentoring process: his adoption of Devon, a broken-spirited two-year-old border collie. A breeder who had read Katz's account about his two yellow Labs (Running to the Mountains) suggested that the author take the dog. From Devon's frenzied entrance into Katz's life, escaping from the confines of his crate into a busy airport, to his exultant, trusting leap into Katz's arms one year later, this memoir is warm and heartfelt. Although it lacks the searing intensity of Elizabeth Rose's For the Love of a Dog (LJ 7/01), there are the moving anecdotes about Devon's stunning intelligence: "When [Devon] found a loose slat, he wiggled his nose furiously, pushing the wood to one side. He squeezed through the narrow opening and then here's the scary part turned around and pushed the slat back into position." Katz's style and vocabulary are flowing and accessible, and sure to appeal to canine fans. For all public libraries. Cleo Pappas, Lisle Lib. Dist., IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Katz's smooth, flowing writing style and engaging manner of describing the personalities of his four dogs will captivate even reluctant readers. That he unobtrusively conveys lessons about dignity, discipline, and trust along the way is a bonus. In the opening pages, the family has two golden Labrador retrievers (Julius and Stanley) of tranquil and stately demeanor who have meshed perfectly into the rhythms of the author's daily writing routine and are beloved by neighbors in their suburban NJ locale. Then, he takes in Devon, a high-strung, two-year-old Border collie "with emotional issues." Surmounting the challenges presented by this beautiful and intelligent (but willful and anxious) animal, bonding with him and restoring equilibrium, fill many an entertaining chapter as the author cajoles Devon into accepting his new owner as the alpha male in the pack. Further adjustments are necessary as illness prematurely claims the lives of both Labs, and a Border collie puppy, Homer, is introduced into the household. In final chapters, wanting to satisfy the collies' native instincts as working dogs, Katz seeks out a training opportunity for them to experience herding sheep, and is rewarded by appreciation for their aptitude and high-energy intensity on the job. Throughout the story, adventures are touching, humorous, and winsome.-Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Journalist Katz, creator of suburban detective novels (Death Row, 1998, etc.) and introspective nonfiction (Running to the Mountain, 1999, etc.), goes completely and passionately to the dogs. At the start of his Year of the Dog, the most meaningful canines in his life were Stanley and Julius, two notably sweet Labrador retrievers. When they died-mourned mightily by their owner, their buddy, their pal-their places were taken by Devon and then Homer, a couple of young border collies, members of a particularly touchy breed. The intense training of Devon, at first almost feral, in the Jersey 'burbs quickly developed into a battle to determine who was to be the alpha male. Devon and Jon browbeat each other repeatedly, and for a while it was touch and go. But after many serious conversations and a few fierce confrontations, the dog conceded the test of wills to the writer. Still, Devon continued high maintenance, willful and stealthy, leaping into a raging river and regularly raiding the fridge just for the hell of it. Homer, by contrast, was notably laid back, but he actually proved capable of herding sheep, as border collies were meant to do. Sheepherding may not be an imperative in Montclair, New Jersey, but since Katz promised his collies the opportunity, he is conscientious in following through. He pays proper tribute to his wife and daughter, but this tale is practically all Katz and dogs. There is much canine psychology and anthropomorphism, of course, as "the boys" commune with their biographer through ear wiggles, barks, and limpid looks. In the interest of further male bonding, the author is even learning the rudiments of the shepherds' calling. It's enough to leave like-mindedreaders panting. A surfeit of tail-wagging, face-licking love. Author tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812966909
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/06/2003
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
259,114
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Welcome to Newark Airport

He was a two-year-old border collie of Australian lineage, well-bred but high-strung, and in big trouble. He had been shown at obedience trials in the Southwest. But something had gone very wrong with this arrangement and his breeder had taken him back and was working to find him a home. He needed one badly, she told me. That was all I knew about Devon when I drove to Newark Airport to pick him up.

I already had two sweet dogs and I had plenty of non-dog-related responsibilities as well. I wasn’t particularly keen on taking in a third dog.

But this breeder, who kept a fierce eye on her dogs even after they’d left her kennels, had been e-mailing me for a while. She’d read a book of mine called Running to the Mountain, which featured Julius and Stanley, not only as coverdogs but as major characters.

She called me up; before long we were spending hours on the phone. Deanne wasn’t pushing me, she kept saying, but she believed this dog belonged with me. She meant to make it happen.

I’d been fascinated by border collies for years, poring over books like The Versatile Border Collie by Janet Larson, browsing Web sites where owners post stories of their dogs’ weird behavior, exchanging tentative e-mails with breeders. They were such intelligent dogs, I’d read, and somehow exotic. But everyone I consulted said more or less the same thing: unless you have a hundred acres right outside your back door, don’t do it. I had only a normal suburban New Jersey yard—and did I mention that I already had two large dogs?

So I hemmed and hawed about adopting a border collie, especially one with more than the usual . . . issues. A part of me was drawn to the idea, but the rational part said: Stop! Danger ahead!

Deanne was patient, persuasive, persistent without being pushy, a subtle line she walked with great skill. The better we got to know each other, the more effective her message. Devon, she said, was a special case in need of special handling. He was uncommonly bright, willful, and emotionally beat up. From my book, with its descriptions of Julius and Stanley and of my cabin in rural upstate New York—close to border collie nirvana—she suspected that I had a high tolerance for odd dog behavior. And Devon was, well, odd.

After a few weeks of this back-and-forth, she put him on a plane and shipped him from Lubbock, Texas, eastward to his new life. On a balmy spring night, I stood outside the American Airlines baggage freight window in Terminal B.

Waiting nervously, I recalled in particular the warning of breeder and author Larson. She was straightforward: “In border collies, the wild type or wolf temperament is common and seems to be genetically linked to the herding behavior. This means that many border collies make unstable pets, and some can be dangerous. Remember that these dogs were developed as sheep herders, and in the mountains and moors they did not need to be sociable with strangers. As a result, shy and sharp temperaments are fairly common.”

In my thickly settled neighborhood only about fifteen miles west of New York City, you don’t encounter many mountains or moors. You don’t see many border collies, either.

Doing my homework had only increased my trepidation. Border collies need vast spaces to roam, I read. They had insatiable energy; they’d go nuts living out the fate of many suburban family hounds: locked in crates or basements all day while the grown-ups worked; never properly trained, socialized, or exercised; growing increasingly neurotic while the kids, for whose sake the dogs were allegedly acquired, often wound up ignoring them.

Border collies, I read further, sometimes mistook kids for sheep and nipped or bit them. They had peculiar habits, interests, needs, and mood swings. Working dogs in every sense of the word, diggers and foragers, they abhorred loneliness and inactivity and hated having nothing to do. If you didn’t give them something to keep them occupied, they would find something themselves.

They often had trouble with other dogs, herding or chasing them. They obsessively pursued squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, cars, and trucks—that is to say, anything that moved quickly away from them. Always in pursuit of something mobile, they’d take off explosively when they found it, racing after it at blinding speeds. Once launched, few things—shrubbery, fences, traffic, shouts—could slow them down.

Newark Airport is a sometimes overwhelming place, justly famous for its nearly continual mobs, traffic, congestion, and delays. Devon’s plane had been routed through Atlanta, and the airport monitors said that his flight would be late, though not how late. This had to be rough on any dog, let alone a wired-up border collie with a delicate psychological history. Poor guy. I pictured him in the dark hold, feeling the plane move, the crates and luggage vibrating as the deafening engine roared nearby. Terminal B was unlikely to be a welcoming destination, either.

I had only the vaguest sense of what this dog looked like. I’d declined Deanne’s offer of a photograph, mostly because I didn’t want to make an adoption decision based on looks. That was a bad reason, I thought, to get a dog.

Parts of his story were vague. He had never lived in a house much or, I gathered, had a single human to attach himself to. He’d been neutered only a couple of weeks earlier, by the owner, before she gave him back to Deanne. The usually routine surgery had gone badly: the vets couldn’t put him to sleep with the usual amount of anesthesia, so they increased the dosage, and then they almost couldn’t wake him up. He was iron-willed and smart.

“Devon’s got some things to deal with,” Deanne told me. My understanding was that Devon had been raised for obedience competition, had fallen short in some way and been replaced. This wasn’t an uncommon fate in obedience show dogs, who aren’t raised to be pets. When they fail—and they know when they fail—they have no real purpose.

So Devon had languished. “He needs somebody to connect to,” Deanne told me. “He’s discouraged.”

She also told me I could change his name—it was a tad Martha Stewart for my taste—but I figured he’d have enough to adjust to.

Meet the Author

Jon Katz has written eleven books, six novels and five works of nonfiction. A two-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, he has written for The New York Times, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, and Wired. He currently writes about technology, media, and culture for the Web site Slashdot.org, and is a contributing editor to public radio’s Marketplace and to Bark magazine. A member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, he lives in northern New Jersey with his wife, Paula Span, a reporter for The Washington Post, and their college-student daughter, Emma Span. Jon Katz can be e-mailed at jonkatz3@comcast.net or jonkatz@slashdot.org.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Montclair, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
August 8, 1947
Place of Birth:
Providence, Rhode Island
Education:
Attended George Washington University and The New School for Social Research

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A Dog Year: Rescuing Devon, the Most Troublesome Dog in the World 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Was looking for a book to share reading with my sister and the cover of the book jumped out at me. As a child my grandfather had border collies and my first real loss was experienced when one of them died. Katz's writing style is easy to read and you can picture in your mind all that happens in the book just as if you were watching a movie. I'd highly recommend this book to any pet owner. It's a great book to share with friends and family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jon Katz has got the most amazing knack for hitting the nail on the head for me. I love all his books, and this book about dogs simply fills my heart with joy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book had been reccomended to me by several people. We don't own a dog due to allergies but like dogs. My brother-in-law owns a border collie. Molly is one crazy dog. Katz's warning at the end of the book are very wise words indeed. Don't own a border collie unless you are ready to work them. They absolutely must work or they will destory your house and be miserable!! The book was laugh out loud funny and also had it's touching moments. Katz is a very entertaining writer.I just finished reading it for the second time.A delightful read over all and a nice gift for anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be absorbing and fun to read. The surprises Mr. Katz ran into with Devon were very entertaining, and all of his dogs were very endearing in their individual ways. It was hard to put the book down because I wanted to see how Devon's relationships with the author and the other dogs worked out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book and I am sure that anyone who has ever owned a dog will love it as well! I was laughing out loud at a van surfing border collie, and I found myself dreaming of herding sheep.
kiorabree More than 1 year ago
I, of course, loved the dogs. Found the stories about the border collie delightful because I could relate to them. However, I found some of his thoughts on training and behavior modification a bit naive.
AJ_bookworm More than 1 year ago
It's so nice to be able to read and connect with other people that care and feel about dogs and other animals as I do. When you have pets it isn't always a bed of roses with them, they definitely have their own personalities, and it is refreshing to read of another person's ups and downs with their beloved pets!
IZIL More than 1 year ago
Inspiring ! A joyous book that that allows us to look within our human side and first find our weaknesses and address them. Loved the bond between man andd his favorite companion!
BlondieBT More than 1 year ago
A friend who is a dog lover (like me) told me I had to read this and I'm glad I did!! It's funny and sad all in one and anyone who has dogs will love this!! I was reading it on a plane and felt so stuiped when i forgot were i was and started laughing out loud!!
clzt More than 1 year ago
A Dog Year speaks to the heart of any who have loved and worked with a difficult, intelligent dog.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A Dog Year continues the story of Jon Katz's admirable adventures as he re-discovers himself and embraces change in order to 'keep the hinges oiled' as he enters middle age. I find that I can totally relate to where he is mentally, physically and pschologically as I am there, too. I've read five of Katz's non-fiction books and have come to feel as though I know him and would like to have him as a friend. This is not a 'seat of your pants' adventure book. It is the story of an individual totally and honestly exposing his life and weaknesses to readers. Katz exhibits great humor about life, and about himself. Great 'quotables' in this, as in all of Katz's, book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book captures the very essence of the special love and bond that a dog owner has for his/her animal. Compacted in a handful of years is a lifetime of love, friendship and devotion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is well written and enjoyable. It reminds me of what a special role dogs can have in our lives. Some require a bit more patience than others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love books about dogs - nothing can compare to 'Marley and me' but I hoped this might be good. I was very disappointed in that it didn't evoke much of am emotional response from me at all --- except the parts where the author SCREAMED at his dog, etc. Can't recommend it at all.