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From Barnes & NobleThe 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!"Homer came to live with Jon Katz and his family, and he made everyone happy. (Ginger Curwen)
"Oprah! Oprah Winfrey just told me to take Homer if it will make me happy. And it will."
"Oh, God," was all she said.