A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life

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Overview

?People who love dogs often talk about a ?lifetime? dog. I?d heard the phrase a dozen times before I came to recognize its significance. Lifetime dogs are dogs we love in especially powerful, sometimes inexplicable ways.??Jon Katz

In this gripping and deeply touching book, bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his lifetime dog, Orson: a beautiful border collie?intense, smart, crazy, and unforgettable.

From the moment Katz and Orson meet, when the dog springs from his ...

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Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life

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Overview

“People who love dogs often talk about a ‘lifetime’ dog. I’d heard the phrase a dozen times before I came to recognize its significance. Lifetime dogs are dogs we love in especially powerful, sometimes inexplicable ways.”–Jon Katz

In this gripping and deeply touching book, bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his lifetime dog, Orson: a beautiful border collie–intense, smart, crazy, and unforgettable.

From the moment Katz and Orson meet, when the dog springs from his traveling crate at Newark airport and panics the baggage claim area, their relationship is deep, stormy, and loving. At two years old, Katz’s new companion is a great herder of school buses, a scholar of refrigerators, but a dud at herding sheep. Everything Katz attempts– obedience training, herding instruction, a new name, acupuncture, herb and alternative therapies–helps a little but not enough, and not for long. “Like all border collies and many dogs,” Katz writes, “he needed work. I didn’t realize for some time I was the work Orson would find.”
While Katz is trying to help his dog, Orson is helping him, shepherding him toward a new life on a two-hundred-year-old hillside farm in upstate New York. There, aided by good neighbors and a tolerant wife, hip-deep in sheep, chickens, donkeys, and more dogs, the man and his canine companion explore meadows, woods, and even stars, wade through snow, bask by a roaring wood stove, and struggle to keep faith with each other. There, with deep love, each embraces his unfolding destiny.

A Good Dog is a book to savor. Just as Orson was the author’s lifetime dog, his story is a lifetime treasure–poignant, timeless, and powerful.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"People who love dogs often talk about a 'lifetime' dog. I'd heard the phrase a dozen times before I came to realize its significance. Lifetime dogs are dogs we love in especially powerful, sometimes inexplicable ways." A Good Dog recounts the ways in which an intense border collie named Orson and a dog owner named Jon Katz became intertwined in each other's lives. A charming book by the author of Katz on Dogs.
Publishers Weekly
Barking, lunging and nipping at visitors, terrorizing school buses and crashing through a window screen to pursue a cat in a neighbor's house, the hero of this absorbing, if melodramatic, memoir hardly seems a good dog. But Orson's fangs are firmly set in the heart of dog journalist Katz (The Dogs of Bedlam Farm), who tries everything to soothe his frenzy-acupuncture, chiropractic, "Shen calming herbs from China," sessions with a "shamanic soul retriever"-then moves to a farm where the border collie's native sheep-herding instincts might flourish. Ultimately, the therapeutic benefit accrues to the author, who finds in Orson a "soul mate" who saved him from mid-life crisis in the New Jersey suburbs and brought him to an ecstatic communion with nature. Katz's flagrant anthropomorphizing and his intense emotional involvement ("I was nearly crying with frustration, torn by my growing love for this dog") and heart-to-hearts with Orson ("[w]e can't go on this way," he sobs after a school-bus incident) will resonate with dog lovers, while perhaps puzzling others. When he Katz gets some psychological distance, though, his subtle, evocative descriptions of the beasts around him-including Rose, another border collie whose brilliant herding steals the show-vividly capture the fascinating, enigmatic lives of animals. Photos. (Sept. 26) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Readers of Katz's A Dog Year and The Dogs of Bedlam Farm will already be familiar with the lovable, lunatic border collie named Orson. Katz buys a farm in upstate New York and acquires a flock of sheep, hoping to calm Orson and redirect his energies by training him in sheep herding. But Orson doesn't perform well at his task and instead becomes Katz's protector, occasionally nipping at farm visitors. "Alternative" methods of domestication-e.g., acupuncture, chiropractics, herbs, and sessions with a shamanic soul retriever-aren't enough to prevent Orson's biting, and ultimately, Katz is forced to make a heart-wrenching decision. His devotion to Orson shines throughout; in turn, Orson helps Katz appreciate sunsets and star gazing. Not as humorous as John Grogan's Marley and Me, this loving tribute to that once-in-a-lifetime dog, with reflections also on the other animal residents of Bedlam Farm, is highly recommended for dog lovers. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/06.]-Eva Lautemann, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Katz concludes the canine love story he began in A Dog Year (2002). Border collie Devon was a misfit from the moment he arrived at the Katz household in New Jersey. He tried to herd garbage trucks, snowplows, buses, kids on skateboards. After months of attempting to discipline the high-strung pup, Katz took him to train with Carolyn, an animal behaviorist and sheepherder. She observed that to Devon, the world made no sense. She also noted the pup was terrified of his own name; thus, Devon became "Orson." Realizing that the dog would never adapt to suburban New Jersey, Katz pulled up stakes and relocated to a farm in upstate New York. There, Orson found a measure of tranquility alongside Rose, a disciplined border collie; Clementine, a sweet Lab puppy; and Winston, a rooster with "Patton-like authority." While Rose herded sheep, Orson made Katz his work. The dog sat quietly while his owner wrote, and the two took moonlit walks to observe Sirius, the dog star. On an all-terrain vehicle, they daily patrolled the farm-and, illegally, the surrounding town. While he wasn't perfect, he was Katz's once-in-a-lifetime dog. "Orson helped me, deep into my sixth decade, to stay open, to not shut down," he writes. But suddenly the dog began to nip visitors and, worse, bite them. As his violence escalated, the once-skeptical Katz embraced every available treatment: traditional veterinary medicine, New Age acupuncturists, even an animal shaman. Orson became more aggressive, and Katz faced a terrible decision: Is it morally right to keep a dog that poses a danger to others?A heartbreaking memoir of love, friendship and responsibility.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812971491
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/26/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 452,177
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Katz
Jon Katz
A versatile, modern writer about life at the turn of the century, Jon Katz has gone from "suburban mysteries" to cultural criticism to personal memoir. His spirited, often humorous musings have earned him both fans and critics; as he wrote in his last column for the web site HotWired: "If the quality of my work was sometimes uneven, my determination to rant was unwavering."

Biography

"I really don't know anyone in media who's been given the freedom I've had to spout off on a wide range of subjects," Jon Katz wrote in his 1998 farewell column for HotWired. As a writer for web venues such as HotWired and Slashdot, Katz has waxed enthusiastic about Internet culture and championed "geek life." As a contributor to Wired and Rolling Stone, he's written articles on technology, politics and culture. And as a book author, he's penned mystery novels, memoirs and more, at the rate of nearly one per year since 1990.

Katz began his career in traditional media, as a reporter and editor for the Boston Globe and Washington Post and as a producer for the CBS Morning News. His experiences in television became fodder for fiction in his first novel, Sign Off, which Publishers Weekly called "an absorbing, well-paced debut" about the corporate takeover of a television network.

Disenchanted with the world of old media, Katz signed on to the cyber-revolution as a contributor to Wired magazine and its then-online counterpart, HotWired. As pundit and media critic, Katz became a prominent voice of the libertarian, countercultural, freewheeling spirit that prevailed on the Web in its early years. After HotWired underwent a corporate transformation, Katz moved to Slashdot, a free-for-all e-zine that allowed him to continue spouting off on a wide range of subjects (for Katz, "open source" is not just a method of software development, it's a metaphor for free expression).

Meanwhile, Katz began a series of "suburban detective" books featuring private investigator and family man Kit DeLeeuw, who operates out of a New Jersey mall. The intricately plotted mysteries serve as "a framework for the author's musings on suburban fatherhood, a subject on which he is wise and witty and honestly touching," wrote Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times.

In 1997, Katz's digital-age pontifications took book form in Virtuous Reality, which tackled censorship, online privacy and the shortcomings of the media. Katz struck a more personal chord with Geeks (2000), a work of gonzo ethnography that follows two computer-obsessed teenagers and their struggle to escape the Idaho boonies. "Katz's obvious empathy and love for his 'lost boys,' his ability to see shades of his own troubled youth in their tough lives, gives his narrative a rich taste that makes it unlike other Net books," said Salon writer Andrew Leonard.

Katz turned to himself as the subject for a meditation on middle age, Running to the Mountain (2000) which chronicles the three months he spent alone in a dilapidated cabin in upstate New York. The result is "a funny, moving and triumphant voyage of the soul," according to The Boston Globe.

Then there's Katz's other pet subject: dogs. In A Dog Year , Katz writes about a high-strung border collie -- a canine "lost boy" he adopted and gradually bonded with. "Dogs make me a better human," said Katz in an interview. Given his recent contributions to The Bark magazine, dogs may make Katz an even more versatile and prolific writer, if that's possible.

Good To Know

Katz is so persuaded of the power of interactivity that he's refused to have his work printed by publishers unless they'll run his e-mail address with it. His published e-mail addresses include jonkatz@slashdot.org, jonkatz@bellatlantic.net and jonkatz3@comcast.net.

After a Slate writer made a disparaging comment about Katz's basement, Katz wrote a column describing the basement office where he works. Its accoutrements include a wooden cherub, portraits of Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln, and a collection of gargoyles. A Haitian voodoo "frame thingy" (in Katz's words) graces his computer.

In our interview, Katz told us more fun facts: "I see every movie that comes out, usually alone in a megaplex. I love the New York Yankees because they win a lot. My one brilliant move in life was marrying my wife Paula."

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

Read an Excerpt

Carolyn Wilki told the five of us to spread out into a circle in her pasture, with our dogs. We were an odd group, a mot­ley mix of dog lovers and our anxious border collies and shepherds arrayed near an aging stone farmhouse in eastern Pennsylvania in the blazing summer sun.
The other four people did as instructed, along with their dogs. I didn’t.
Devon and I were in our third month of working with Carolyn, a respected and fiercely opinionated sheepherder and dog behaviorist. She’d suggested that we join this herd­ing class in addition to our weekly lessons. So we had, with trepidation. I’m not generally a joiner; I don’t have a good history with groups. And Devon was not a dog who played well with others, either.
Once we were mostly in formation, Carolyn brought out her antique metal box filled with small figures of dogs, sheep, and fences. I groaned.
Carolyn was fond of her toy farm creatures, which she’d shown me on our first visit, and loved to demonstrate the bal­let that constituted sheepherding–human, dog, and sheep all moving in relation to one another. She would haul her box out and carefully place the components in their appropriate positions on a picnic table or on the grass. Then she’d sketch out herding and training moves like an NFL coach diagram­ming complex patterns for offense. The papers she handed her students when class ended were filled with X’s and O’s, squibbles and arrows. The X’s were dogs, the O’s were peo­ple. If the X’s went here, she’d explain, then the O’s would go there. The sheep were usually the squibbles.
Devon and I were rarely where we were supposed to be. He herded sheep the way he herded school buses–forcefully, impulsively, explosively. At least the sheep could run.
This role-playing was not the sort of thing either of us was especially good at. I was allergic to being lectured to, had hated just about every class and teacher I’d ever had, and the favor had been returned. Poor Mr. Hauser actually wept in front of my mother when I had to take his math class for the third time. Neither of us could bear the idea of going another round. Authority issues continued to plague me through my adult life. One reason that being a writer suited me was that most of the time the only jerk I had to put up with was me.
Devon had similar issues with commands and obedience. Training seemed to either upset or excite him, and learning to herd sheep seemed unlikely to be an exception.
You are a ewe,Carolyn told me, pointing to an O on her diagram, and placing one of her tiny white plastic sheep along a toy fence. You will stand over here and wait to be approached by a dog, she said, gesturing to an eighty-year-old woman in a sun hat holding a terrified sheltie on a leash.
Everybody else seemed willing, even enthusiastic, about acting out these herding moves. But I didn’t want to be a ewe. Devon looked up at me curiously; I knew there was no way he was going to do this, either.
In fact, he suddenly charged after the sheltie, chasing him under Carolyn’s truck. I pulled him back, made him lie down, and he settled to watch the proceedings.
As Carolyn passed by, dispensing instructions, I whis-pered–hoping to avoid a scene–that I didn’t want to be a ewe, or to play this game. Carolyn did not suffer fools or rebels gladly. I don’t care what you want,she muttered.Do it. It will be good for you.
I couldn’t. No better at being submissive than this strange dog I now owned, I told Carolyn this wasn’t the right class for me. Devon and I retreated to our room (Carolyn’s Rasp­berry Ridge Farm is a bed-and-breakfast as well as a training center) to brood. I put Devon in his crate and lay down on the bed. Outside the window, I could hear the dogs and sheep going through their exercises as Carolyn offered sug­gestions and critiqued the proceedings. Much as I often wished for a more pliant dog, I also wished I were a more compliant human. Life would be smoother.
It’s an article of faith among trainers that the problem with dogs is almost always the people who own them. My dog and I were both impulsive, impatient, distractible, and restless. That was why we’d come.
Carolyn was an impassioned believer in positive rewarding training, a training method that emphasizes reinforcing ap­propriate and desired behaviors, and generally rejects negative or coercive methods like yelling, swatting, or even more abusive responses.
Positive reinforcement puts pressure on the human, rather than the dog, to suppress anger and impatience, and simply praise or mark good behaviors–with words of praise, food, clickers, whatever works. It asks a lot of people; they have to take a long view of training and curb some of their stronger instincts. For somebody who is by no means an all-positive person, like me, it was difficult–especially with a dog like Devon, who daily challenged one’s patience.
One afternoon he escaped the yard in New Jersey (I have no idea how), and soon afterward I heard the by-now-familiar screaming and tumult in the street and went running out. Devon had intercepted half a dozen Jersey teenagers on skateboards, rounded them up into a tight cluster in the cen­ter of the street–skateboards flying in every direction–and held everyone there until I arrived.
Carolyn would not have approved of my response, which was not positive in the least. I screamed at Devon to get away from the kids, apologized profusely, and retreated into the house, Devon in tow. The kids thought it was funny; when they got home, their parents might not.
Recognizing that I needed help with Devon, a far greater challenge than my mellow Labradors, I’d started bringing him to Raspberry Ridge, along with my younger border col­lie, Homer. Homer didn’t seem destined to be an ace herder, either, but he was much more attentive and controllable than Devon.
Carolyn often said she was surprised that I’d stuck it out with Devon’s lessons; in fact, she told me, she’d doubted I would come back after the first session. Which had been marked by Devon’s chasing her panicked sheep around a fenced pasture. The truth is, I never thought of leaving Rasp­berry Ridge. Eventually, we became regulars.
From the first time we drove down the long gravel drive­way, I was drawn to the place. Carolyn had an old stone farm­house, a giant barn and other teetering outbuildings, a junkyard, perhaps two hundred ewes and rams, an old don­key, a dozen or so dogs, and more than seventy acres of grass, meadow, and woods.
She lived upstairs in the farmhouse; guests and visitors oc­cupied the B&B rooms downstairs. She kept crates tucked all over the house, in which her herding dogs–border collies and shepherds–slept while waiting to work, exercise, or play.
These working dogs, I’d come to learn, led lives very dif­ferent from my dogs’. Carolyn let them out several times a day to exercise and eliminate, but generally, they were out of crates only to train or herd sheep. While they were out, Car­olyn tossed a cup of kibble into their crates for them to eat when they returned. I asked her once if she left lights on for the dogs when she went out, and she looked at me curiously. Why? They don’t read.
They were happy dogs nonetheless, fit and obedient, so­ciable with dogs and people. From Carolyn’s example, I was learning to respect the true nature of dogs: they are wonder­ful, but they’re still animals, and not even the most complex animals. She didn’t see them as four-legged versions of hu­mans, and woe to the student who did.
Still, they were everywhere. If you bumped into a sofa it might growl or thump. Some of her crew were puppies; some were strange rescue dogs.
The chief working dog was Dave, a venerable shorthaired Scottish border collie who efficiently ran the farm, moving sheep in and out of pastures and into training pens for lessons and herding work. This was an impressive fellow. I once saw a near-riot break out during a herding trial when some sheep crashed through a fence by the parking area, which was crammed with dogs, handlers, spectators, cars and trailers, and food stands. Carolyn yelled to me to run inside–Dave’s crate held the place of honor by Carolyn’s desk–and let him out.
When I opened the crate, Dave promptly rushed to the front door, pushed open the screen, and picked his way among the rampaging dogs and sheep and people. He gath­ered up the sheep and, at Carolyn’s direction, moved them down the drive and into the back pasture, maneuvering them around lawn chairs and tents, barking dogs, and all the para­phernalia of a trial. He held them there until Carolyn arrived to close the pasture gate. Then he trotted right back to the house, nosed open the screen door, and went back into his crate. Dave was the anti-Devon, as grounded as Devon was excitable, as obedient as Devon was unresponsive, as useful as Devon was difficult and unpredictable. I told myself he was less interesting, too.
Carolyn’s hallways were hung with crooks, ropes and hal­ters, flashlights and rain gear. She loved dogs the way great trainers do, respecting their animal natures, understanding their simple and sometimes crass motives, accepting them as they are, rather than trying to recast them into versions of ourselves. The signs of her success with this approach were also abundant: the walls were festooned with trial ribbons and awards.
Yet she spent much of her time working with less her­alded dogs and their desperate people. Troubled dogs from all over the country came riding up her driveway. I remember one pair of newlyweds who arrived with a schnauzer that had belonged to the bride. The groom was covered in bandages. It seemed that every time he tried to touch his wife, the dog bit him.
Why, someone asked, didn’t they get rid of the dog? The bride was incredulous. I love my husband, but this dog has been with me for years.
Carolyn prescribed an elaborate new regimen in which all food came from the husband’s hand, and only when the dog was calm and well behaved. Any growling or biting meant the dog didn’t eat. The couple stayed at Raspberry Ridge for a week, and when they drove away, the dog was dozing lov­ingly in the husband’s lap, marriage saved.
Often, I was appointed dog bait for a weekend: I ap­proached an aggressive dog with a bag of meatballs to see how close I could get before the dog went off. Meatballs and other smelly stuff were a centerpiece of Raspberry Ridge dog training. When an aggressive dog was on hand, all of us armed ourselves with meatballs and began approaching the dog from a distance, tossing meatballs, getting a bit closer each time. The dog would begin by barking, but as meatballs began to rain from the sky, he’d calm down and likely rethink his hostility to people.
Staying at Carolyn’s bed-and-breakfast with Devon and Homer was an adventure. Sometimes, when I took the dogs out, I would hear Carolyn or somebody scream "Run!" and realize an aggressive dog-in-rehab was outside. We’d dive back inside, slamming the door as some ferocious-sounding creature thudded against it. These were exotic experiences for me, but useful for Devon, who became more comfortable on a farm and seemed rattled by fewer things.
The true heart of Carolyn’s farm was her kitchen, where sausages and pungent dog treats lay scattered over the coun­ters, along with collars, magazines and books, trial application forms, checks from her students (Carolyn, not big on details, often left them lying around for months), leashes, and dog toys.
Pots of coffee were always brewing, and dog people could be found sitting around her big wooden table at all hours. Devon and I were always welcome there, and he grew to love going around the table from person to person, collecting pats and treats. Troubled dogs were familiar at that table, and ap­preciated. If we couldn’t bring our dogs many places, we could always bring them here. If Devon wasn’t always suc­cessful, he was always accepted.
So was I. Here, I could be me. I came to cherish more rural pleasures. I began staying at the farm overnight, com­bining our lessons with taking the sheep out to graze. I helped with lambing in the spring, tossed hay to the flock in the winter. I met and befriended a donkey named Carol.
I also started accompanying Carolyn to the Scottish faires held around the region on weekends. She got paid peanuts for these appearances, but she loved showing people the art of herding, keeping it alive.
We would pile several dogs and half a dozen sheep into her pickup, along with hay and water and some temporary fencing, and drive off to herding demos. Suburbanites loved to see Dave push the sheep around parks and fields; between acts, Carolyn and I, like old-fashioned carnies on the circuit, could lounge in lawn chairs BS-ing about dogs.
While faires were child’s play for Dave, the awed crowds responded as if they were at the Olympics. I understood: there is something profoundly beautiful and moving in seeing dogs do this traditional work. Devon could not herd in these situations–too dangerous–but he very much appreciated coming along, and was much hugged and admired. Even within the safer confines of Raspberry Ridge, his herding progress was uneven, to say the least. We had many frustrat­ing and uncomfortable days, along with our triumphant moments.
Devon still wasn’t reliable enough to herd the sheep, but if I put him on a leash, the sheep would move ahead of us any­way. We could take them out to pasture, then take up posi­tions between the herd and the road.
It was often freezing, or sticky-hot and buggy, but if we went very early in the morning when the pasture was often shrouded in dew and mist, we could sit side by side for hours, Devon as calm as I ever saw him, listening to the sheep crunch away at the grass.
But when it was time to herd back to the barn and I re­leased him, he would bore straight into the middle of the flock, all training forgotten, scattering sheep in every direc­tion.
Homer was more of a herding dog, calmer, able to slip in behind the sheep and move them. He had more protective instincts, too; he could locate a newborn lamb off in the woods, help gather the flock in the midst of a blizzard.
But he also had problems. Homer was small, not especially hardy for a border collie, so he had trouble getting out in front of the sheep to turn the herd. He tended to use his mouth instead, and when he got excited, he’d grip a sheep by the legs–a major transgression. And he was easily intimi­dated. It was his misfortune to grow up as the Helldog’s little brother. Devon relentlessly terrorized poor Homer, grabbing his toys and food, pinning him to the ground when he came near me. If his canine sibling could push him around, a cranky ram or ewe could intimidate him, too.
I knew neither dog would make a stellar working dog like Dave–they were already too old, too far down the path of pet-hood. And I didn’t know enough to train them well. If I ever got serious about sheepherding, I would have to get a dog from a herding line and learn much more.
But we kept at it. At Raspberry Ridge, we saw an aston­ishing parade of dogs who bit, chewed, barked, and otherwise challenged the limits of their owners’ love and responsibility. Carolyn took on one problem dog after another, stalking the farm in an Australian slouch hat and cape, pockets stuffed with smelly meat, analyzing behavior both canine and human, offering suggestions and instructions. Dogs paid at­tention to her. She understood them and their foibles, even as she often got frustrated with their humans.
Carolyn believed that in Devon’s case Òthe world makes no sense to him.Ó I thought she was correct. Devon faced a constant tension between being himself and trying to be what the world wanted him to be. He was always struggling to fig­ure things out, always making choices, usually the wrong ones. I felt that herding sheep might help steady him.
Carolyn kept our lessons brief and focused. We usually took Devon into a pen with a few sheep and tried to induce him to move calmly around them. Usually we failed.
We supplemented that with grounding and obedience exercises–lie down, stay, get back. Eye contact. Name re­cognition. Over and over. It got boring, frustrating. I wasn’t really prepared for how repetitive the proper training of a dog is, how long it takes, especially with an already-damaged stu­dent. I wanted training to be quick and painless.
Instead, it was difficult and challenging. Devon’s sheep­herding skills improved only sporadically, and I could hardly call him obedient. But he loved working with me, and he did begin to calm down. I believed, though our progress was slow, that there was hope, that I was learning enough about dogs to train him and, therefore, to keep him.
I knew that my problems were as entrenched as his. I got angry and frustrated and yelled at Devon. Carolyn repeatedly pointed out that he wouldn’t settle down until I did, but that was a tough lesson to translate into word and deed. Dogs like Devon, I’ve come to understand, feed off our attention to them. The more apoplectic I became when he didn’t behave, the more I reinforced his misbehavior. Yet sometimes I found it impossible to remain quiet.
Once, out in the pasture, he tore off after a ewe, grabbed her leg, and tried to pull her down. Even from some distance away, I could see that he’d drawn blood, and I was horrified, enraged. I tore off after him, grabbed him by the collar, and screamed ÒNo!Ó ÒBad!Ó and the other useless things frus­trated humans shout at their dogs. I knew by then that the right thing to do was to ignore the charging and biting, to wait for Devon to be calm around the sheep, then praise him. But I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to summon such self-control at a moment like that.
Devon froze, frightened and cowering, as the ewe ran off. When I saw the look on his face, I stopped yelling and pulled him toward me, as upset with myself as I was with him. I knew this outburst would undermine our work together. I knew he couldn’t help himself. I hated seeing the sheep bleed and limp, but I also hated screaming at him; I hated the rage and frustration I felt. Was this why we were coming out here? So I could bully him into submission?
I rocked Devon in my arms like a baby while he licked my face. ÒI will try to never do this again,Ó I said. ÒI will try to be different.Ó
I told Carolyn what had happened, and in her usual blunt way, she told me I had set things back months. ÒBut it hap­pens. You are, unfortunately, a human,Ó she said. People, she pointed out, simply don’t grasp that dogs faced with anger and menace have only two options: fight or flight. When you pummel or intimidate them, they might do one or the other, but they do not learn.
Still, it was there, at Carolyn’s place, that I really got hooked on doing this ancient work with dogs, however halt­ingly we were learning it. And there I learned to love the rit­uals and routines of a farm. But it was also at Raspberry Ridge that I entered–or perhaps descended into–the world of dog lovers.
We would sit around her kitchen table for hours–Car-olyn, her friends and students, the ceaseless parade of dog people who came to the farm–gabbing about our dogs, our training, what worked and what didn’t. Almost everybody had a Devon-type dog, an animal they loved dearly but were struggling to live with.
We were outwardly different–rural and urban, men and women, old and young, doctors and farmers. We never talked about politics, work, or the outside world. Few of us brought spouses or kids along. These were dramas that involved just us and our dogs. We shared horror stories and triumphs; we ar­gued incessantly about food and vets, leashes, litters and train­ing. What worked? What had we learned that might be useful to others? How far were we prepared to go?
One morning at breakfast, I surprised myself by sud­denly asking: ÒHow many of you come from troubled fam­ilies?Ó Every hand went up. We didn’t pursue the topic, yet it was occurring to me–along with the other things I was starting to understand out there–that the emotional geog­raphy between people and their dogs was complicated and intriguing.
Faith and commitment kept us all coming back to Car-olyn’s fields–sometimes wiltingly hot, sometimes icy and bitter–to work hour after hour, week after week, with our dogs. Some of them would come running happily when their owners called. (Mine wouldn’t.) Some would skillfully and instinctively herd sheep. (Not mine.)
But none of us were inclined to give up on our dogs. If anything, my love for Devon deepened as we struggled to work together and figure each other out. We attended weekly sessions, weekend sessions, and special weeklong training camps. We took the sheep out again and again.
I never managed to learn long division, but I couldn’t soak up enough dog stuff. From the first, Carolyn had chal­lenged my notion of Devon as a rebellious adolescent, point­ing out how stressed, confused, and aroused he was by all my bumbling gesticulation, yelling, and ignorance. I’d come to understand that training him was less about his obedience than about my ability to become a better human, less angry and demanding, more patient and clear.
I saw that there were many successes, but also lots of fail­ures. In some cases, Carolyn could find a simple key to turn­ing a dog around. Many dogs left the farm in a few days, their problems markedly eased.
But sometimes it took years. Sometimes it never hap­pened. People ran out of money, time, or emotional energy.
Dogs disappeared, or were given away, or, in extreme cases, put down. Still, how hard we worked. We were generous, praising others’ dogs, cheering one another on, rooting for dogs and people to make it. Devon and I had joined a tribe.
The training began to take up a good chunk of my life, Devon and Homer and I whizzing back and forth along I-80. It took more than an hour just to reach the farm from our house, and training sessions took the better part of an after­noon or evening.
I had one measurable goal: that Devon win at least one herding ribbon before we were done. I didn’t really care about the trophy, but passing a beginner’s trial was something of a benchmark, a test of what I could learn and teach, of how much I could change. And I wanted Devon to be–and feel like–a winner, just once. Then, in my canine fantasy, we would retire to the normal life of a human and his beloved pet.
Away from Raspberry Ridge, my months with Devon remained tumultuous. He broke through a leaded-glass window when a UPS man came onto the front porch. He took off after dogs, cats, and wildlife. He somehow learned to open the door of our refrigerator, lifting containers of chicken and turkey burgers, neatly consuming the contents, and hiding the packaging strategically around the house, under the sofa or behind a chair.
One morning, out doing errands, I bought a sandwich for Paula at the neighborhood deli. Devon came along for the ride, as usual. After picking up the sandwich and stashing it in the car, I made stops at the hardware store and post office.
Back at the house, I discovered the sandwich was intact–ex-cept for the ham, which had vanished.
Our walks were dramas. For years, my Labs and I had am­bled through the neighborhood, Julius and Stanley pausing to greet their many admirers and sniff the occasional bush, while I used our strolls to think about my writing. The dogs re­quired little vigilance.
Devon, however, would wait until I wasn’t paying atten­tion, then pop the leash from my hand and tear into back­yards to snatch food from barbecue grills, herd terrified lap dogs, or run down squirrels.
Gradually, our house became a minimum-security canine facility. Child locks appeared on the refrigerator and cup­board doors, Plexiglas panels over the leaded glass, bungee cords across the closets. Peace finally came, to a degree, when I bought some dog crates and put Devon inside one when­ever I left the house.
It was hard to stay angry, anyway. He was extraordinarily loving. In the car, he loved to ride with his head on my shoulder, as if navigating. While I worked, he curled up at my feet.
He was always watching and studying me, aware of my every move, insistent on being only inches away. Yet our many moments of attachment and affection were punctuated by recurring outbursts of demonic behavior.
His first year with me provided nearly a lifetime of dog experiences. My Labs, Julius and Stanley, both died, Stanley of heart disease, Jules of cancer. Homer was my attempt to fill that void. But by year’s end, I was starting to wonder whether I could live a peaceful, happy existence with Devon.
My first attempt to win Devon a herding-trial ribbon did not go well. Stirred up even more than usual by the crowd, the other dogs, the competitive tension, he managed to knock over the judge. The panicked sheep busted through the corral gate and ran for their lives.
"Thank you," said the judge–code for "Get lost, you are disqualified."
I was also reprimanded for giving improper commands, like "Get those fucking sheep"–considered unsuitable for family sporting events. We regrouped and decided, despite our mortifying debut, to try again at the next trial, six months later.
It was during one of our innumerable and largely unsuc­cessful efforts to get Devon to lie down around sheep and stay calm that Carolyn noticed something: Whenever I gave Devon a command by name, he reacted by wincing, panting, cringing, or blinking–all signs of canine stress.
Devon didn’t take to training sessions, even when under­taken with food or with that chirpy voice many trainers rec­ommend and I hate. Some obedience-trained dogs, Carolyn said, associate training with unpleasantness, and Devon looked like one of them. Training made him anxious, as if he expected something bad to happen to him.
What about changing his name?
"Let’s start over," she suggested. "Then you can train him in a more positive way, without any baggage."
It seemed a strange idea. Change my dog’s name? Wouldn’t that just confuse him?
"Not at all," Carolyn said, pointing out that millions of rescue dogs were happily re-homed and renamed every year.
I didn’t really see Devon as an "abused" or rescued dog. I thought the term overused, I told her, often an excuse for people who didn’t train their dogs, preferring to regard them instead as piteous, helpless creatures.
Devon wasn’t piteous, I argued. He was ferociously inde­pendent, athletic, bright, and intense. Though he’d had his share of trouble, I didn’t want to think of him (or myself ) as crippled or pathetic.
"Look, he shows every sign of stress when you talk to him," Carolyn replied.
"Most of that is probably what hap­pened to him before you got him. Some of it you and your big mouth and your impatience and anger. It all comes through to him; he’s not a stupid dog. Let’s begin again."
In fact, she was so high on the idea, she suggested it to the owners of a sheltie, shepherd, Bouvier, and border collie who were also at the farm for training that weekend. They all in­stantly shook their heads; it just struck them as extreme. But Carolyn was nothing if not an outside-the-box thinker, a quality I respected.
Why not change his name? Devon had always sounded a bit Martha Stewarty to me, anyway.
What should I call him instead? I’ve always admired Orson Welles, partly because he seemed another example of sadly unfulfilled potential.
ÒOkay,Ó I said. ÒLet’s go for it. How long will it take?Ó
Not long, Carolyn said, smiling, reaching for her meatball pouch. Devon knew exactly what this pouch was and always focused when her hand neared it. I’d gotten one like it, at­tached to my belt, usually stuffed with liver treats. Devon was staying much closer to me on walks these days.
Carolyn and I took out our pouches on a breezy, beauti­ful spring day, and as the wind ruffled the meadow and her sheep grazed peacefully, we took turns standing over this in­tensely focused and suddenly quite happy dog, taking turns saying Orson, and popping a meatball or a liver treat into his waiting mouth.
We only had to empty her pouch and mine once to make the switch. Within twenty minutes, his name was Orson. He answered to it, made eye contact when I said it, and more sig­nificantly, associated it with nothing but good stuff.
If I kept my voice normal and cheerful when I said his name, there was no wincing, flattened ears, or averted eyes. Suddenly, training was about meatballs and liver treats, not about anger, disappointment, stress, or failure.
I can’t claim he became a well-behaved dog in that pas­ture, but he began to be a different one. He looked at me more readily when I spoke his name, came when I called him, walked more closely by my side. Training began to be something he seemed pleased about and wanted to do, rather than something that made him cower and skulk.
His name became a good thing, something likely to bring reward and praise, not punishment and recrimination. It was an opportunity for me, too, to make good on my promise to do better by him.
So he became a dog called Orson.
In the fall, I entered Orson in a beginner’s herding trial con­ducted under American Kennel Club auspices at Raspberry Ridge. The judges flew in from all over the country, and en­trants and their dogs assembled from everywhere.
The beginner’s protocol was fairly simple. You and your leashed dog entered a small fenced ring–perhaps seventy-five feet long and twenty-five feet wide–with traffic-type cones at either end. Unleashed, the dog had to lie down and then, at your command, go behind the five sheep in the pen and move them to the other end. After you and the dog had steered the sheep the length of the ring and around the cones three times, the dog had to lie down and stay; then you leashed him up and left the pen.
The trick was to get the dog to lie down and stay while you headed for the first cone. The dog had to be still, but the human had to keep moving, since dog and sheep had no idea where to go otherwise and couldn’t get into a natural rhythm.
Beginner’s trials were looser, less formal than other trial levels. Judges, if they were in a good mood, would cut you some slack. Or so I hoped.
Sheep can read dogs quite well, and when they see crazy ones, they move quickly. This was one of the big problems in working with Orson–the minute you walked through a gate, the sheep took one look and started running. That got him excited, and moving too quickly. Then I would start yelling, and things would deteriorate from there.
Still, I’d mailed in applications for both my border collies. Homer, less antsy, had a reasonable shot at fulfilling his herd­ing destiny, at least at this introductory level. Orson was al­ways a question mark, but I thought we’d take another shot. A ribbon–if we earned one–would be emblematic of my love for him, a recognition of the hard work Carolyn and I and Orson had been doing.
Even with a grounded dog, herding sheep is a tough thing to do. With a dog like Orson, it would be a milestone for both of us.
Homer, scheduled for the first trial day, had, true to form, acquitted himself fairly well. We’d gone through our paces quietly. I had trouble getting him to lie down, and he’d missed one of the cones on the third pass, but he was unag­gressive and eager to please. I swear he actually seemed proud when he got his green-and-white ribbon that meant he was a qualified, though novice, herding dog.
But I was nervous on the second morning, when Orson’s trial was scheduled. About a hundred people and thirty or forty dogs had gathered around the ring.
Orson normally would have gotten distracted and overex­cited being around so many people and dogs, but he was rel­atively calm. In a funny way, he really did seem reinvented, or perhaps reincarnated, after his name change. He was less tense. My communications with him had changed, too, and were less fraught. Since "Orson"was free of unhappy associations, he paid more attention to me, responded more quickly, and seemed to even enjoy our training sessions and the rain of treats that often accompanied them. It wasn’t so much that he had become a different dog but that the dog Orson really was had begun to emerge. I had more confi­dence that he would listen; he had more confidence that he could succeed.
But this would be a trickier and much more public test, with no treats allowed. We entered the gate, Orson on a leather lead, my number, 261, affixed to my shoulder with an elastic band. The judge nodded, and took a good look at Orson. "Pretty dog," he said.
"Lie down," I said, quietly, to Orson. He did. Then he stood up. Then he lay down. We went through this two or three times, until I lightly flicked his butt with my fingertips and said, "Hey! Lie down!" The judge smiled. Unlike Homer, Orson didn’t seem at ease in the ring, but at least he wasn’t out of control. So far, reasonably good. Then I told him to stay, went out to the sheep, and, since my voice often aroused him, used a hand command to tell him to come toward me. He took off like a rocket and headed for the sheep. Remembering Carolyn’s injunction to keep moving, I scrambled from one orange cone down to the other, hooves and paws clopping behind me. The sheep whizzed past, fol­lowed by Orson-on-the-run.
"Yo," I yelled, and he turned and stopped. "Down." To my surprise, he dropped. Then I ran to the opposite cone, turned, said, "Okay, you’re free," and dashed back toward the first cone, then around again. The sheep were shuttling along, though I thought I saw Orson bearing in on one of them.
"Orson,"I said, holding up my hand. "Stay!" He looked at me, then at the sheep, then at me–and he stayed. I came around, slipped the lead back on him, and headed for the gate.
It was not an elegant performance–the judge was strug­gling to keep from laughing–but it seemed to me that we had done it: had lain down, stayed, moved the sheep three times, lain down, stayed, left. And nobody, human or animal, had gotten injured. Still, it was hardly textbook herding. I wasn’t sure it qualified as herding at all. I had seen judges fail more-polished dogs for lesser infractions.
This judge said nothing, so I didn’t know until after all the entrants had finished how we’d fared.
When the results were announced, the judge said "261" and handed me another green-and-white ribbon. Orson, too, had passed the beginner’s test. He was a herder, sort of. I gave him a big hug, and he gave me a sloppy slurp. He seemed happy to get away from the trial ring.
Carolyn came running up, gave me a squeeze and critiqued my performance. I’d moved the wrong way and too slowly, she said, but not bad. On to the intermediate trials, she said.
I told her, thankfully, that this was the first thing I’d ever won. It was definitely my first victory together with Orson, who was enjoying pats and praise from the spectators. Yet I, too, was happy to get away.
Afterward, I put Orson on a long leash and we took Carolyn’s sheep out for some grazing. We climbed the rise over­looking the far pasture, and the sheep spread out to eat. From my backpack I took a plastic bowl and some bottled water. I poured him some and drank some myself, then gave him a biscuit while I ate a cookie.
Orson sighed, and stretched out next to me, his head rest­ing on my thigh. He paid no attention to the sheep, who crunched steadily ahead of us. He was soon asleep, and at peace.
I didn’t see as much of Carolyn or Raspberry Ridge after that trial weekend. Carolyn saw herding trials as important yard­sticks of training progress, especially for working dogs, but I didn’t like trialing, and I don’t think Orson did, either. He tensed up when he saw gates and fences and crowds of anx­ious people with dogs by their sides. Name change or not, he knew potential trouble when he saw it.
Besides, trials can sometimes inject an unappealing ele­ment into the relationship between human and dog. People like me tend not to simply enjoy the experience; we want to win. When we lose–sure to happen eventually–how can our disappointment and frustration not be apparent, espe­cially to dogs, who read us skillfully?
I liked Carolyn’s ideas about positive-reinforcement train­ing, yet I was growing increasingly resistant to particular philosophies for training dogs. No single idea seemed appro­priate for Orson and me. My own frailties kept me from being positive and patient enough, for example. Yet I was cu­rious about the process. I was coming to have my own train­ing approaches and wanted to explore them on my own.
Besides, I’d been bitten by another bug, once I realized how much I loved working on Carolyn’s farm. I owned a tiny cabin in upstate New York and was hearing a great deal about the dairy farmers going under all around. Real estate in Washington County was still remarkably affordable. Why not pursue my ideas up there, on my own farm, with my own sheep, battered truck, fences, barns, and dogs?
I came up with several reasons why I should get my own small farm. Our cabin was too small for Paula to work in, with little space for my daughter or her friends. The property, with just two steeply sloping acres, was too small for sheep, too. And the cabin was geographically so cut off from the nearby town that I hardly knew anyone around me. I hadn’t found lasting community in New Jersey or most of the other places we’d lived, but I still hoped for it. Perhaps up there.
Besides, on our own farm Orson could learn to herd, could have all the space even a demented border collie could want, could be far from school buses and sirens. He would, at last, learn to make sense of the world.

From the Hardcover edition.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2006

    Good Dead Dog, Inept Owner

    After getting Orson to the point where he is finally making sense of the world, and less pressured to conform to Katz's ideal of a dog, Katz kills him for aggression. He outlines his 'choices' when Orson shows territorial aggression, and doesn't consider (1) a sign to warn visitors not to reach over fences to pet him, (2) keeping this dog who supposedly never wanted to leave his side with him, or (3) seeking the help of an experienced dog behaviorist -- I suppose because he fancies himself to be a dog behaviorist. His track record is pretty poor - he never seems to stop being a reactive owner, and doesn't control Orson's environment so he can be successful. Katz the gentleman farmer would rather have his farm function as a community crossroads and petting zoo. Gee, a border collie acting out when strangers and workers are coming and going all the time, particularly with loud vehicles and power tools and such? Umm, isn't that why he thought he needed to bring his dog up from the suburbs? For him to be shocked by Orson's behavior shows he wasn't watching the dog all along, or wasn't taking warning signs seriously. This title has substantial overlap with his previous books, which I own but about which I had mixed emotions all along. The book falls apart over the course of the chapters, getting shorter, more clipped, stretching for material - until the killing section followed by the it's-ok-my-Shaman-says-he's-happy-now. I'll be getting rid of the books now. Some thanks Orson got for leading Katz to fame and fortune and a happier life. And how much money is he giving to his neighbors after all that he wasn't willing to invest in Orson? It's one thing to give up or euthanize a dog when you don't have the resources to deal with it. He had a huge farm and money to spare. Orson needed training and a fence, not a 'shaman' or an owner more concerned about story than day-to-day care of his dogs. Katz is fundamentally inconsistent. He rants against people anthropomorphizing animals, but is more guilty of it than an dog writer I have read recently. He imposes expectations on his animals rather than genuinely meeting them as individuals and assessing what they need. He cautions people to be careful what they're getting into with dogs, and in other books/interviews he tells people there is no right way to get a dog. I guess this is to rationalize his continued acquisition of purebreds, and rejects from breeders rather than shelters or rescue groups. He went about it entirely the wrong way with several of his dogs - didn't educate himself about the breed, or was in denial about his dog training and exercise abilities, was not logistically prepared for it, didn't consider the effect on his current dogs, didn't introduce the new dog(s) to his current dogs and then acted surprised when they were not great buddies, etc. etc. If he must have dogs, he should stick to pet-and-show bred Labs and stay away from real working dogs (border collie, hunting lab, or other). Now there is a movie in the works - more money for Katz on Orson's back. Great, there will be a whole 'nother round of border collies bound for rescue in the years to come after people see them in the movies (see post-Babe- and post-AnimalPlanet-effects). I hope Katz puts a disclaimer at the front of all his books and the movie that he killed Orson.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2007

    A reviewer

    An unbelievably hard book to have finished. After taking the reader on a trip of discovery with his dog Orson, Katz seems all too quick at analyzing and considering his options when the dog starts biting visitors. Although I found his discussion about the importance of safety worthwhile, I could never get past the ultimately simplistic way he deals with the problem. Katz spends the book, and in effect the dog's lifetime, insiting that he is seeking to delve into a deep understanding, meaning, and a broadening of his personal vistas. Yet, his choice rather horribly exempliefies the 'throwaway' society we find ourselves in, and leaves the reader frustrated and angry. I ended up wishing someone else had adopted Orson! A Good Dog will be unforgettably upsetting for compassionate people, and even moreso for animal lovers.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2007

    Shame on you, Katz

    How many of your readers know that you GAVE UP on Orson and killed him? A dog would never give up on his human...but a despicable human would give up on a dog. Shame on you Katz. I hope you write an addendum (an explanation) in your 'GOOD DOG' book.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2011

    Highly Recommended-a tear jurker

    I absolutely loved this book. It took some time for me to read because of me being so emotional. If you love animals or even if you don't, it teaches a life lesson between human and animals.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2011

    It hit so close to home!

    This book hit so close to home it was like Jon Katz wrote about my life with my dogs. I enjoyed listening to this heartwarming and touching story of a man a dog and the help they gave each other. I totally recommend Jon Katz and Bedlam Farm.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2007

    A very depressing book, not at all what I'd expect from Katz

    Katz played with unproven methods to improve his dog's behavior, but I am appalled to find out he was so weak and uncaring for his so-called 'lifetime dog' that he didn't use science 'maybe Cesar Milan' and become pack leader and fix the problem, instead of taking the easy way out and destroying something he supposedly loved 'but probably did not'. Too engrossed in his own ego, he failed to care for something that cared so much for him. I was too disappointed to recommend any further books of his to anyone.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2007

    An incredible journey

    After I read this book, I broke down for hours. I think it is a horrible misunderstanding to look at Mr. Katz as a person who gave up. I truly believe that what he chose to do was incredibly hard, and extremley personal. I have a two year old Border Collie, and as I read this book, something came over me and the way that I see my dog Luca. He (Luca) is a combination of both Rose and Orson, and I felt, as crazy as this may sound, a higher connection with my own dog. Jon had these moments with Orson that were so internal and spiritual, and as I write this now, I am still so emotional, and I kept telling myself that their bond was so much more than the world we live in today. I believe him when he says that Orson was troubled, and the fact that he wanted to help him, doesn't that account for anything at all? I couldn't help but wonder what Orson's life was like before, and it broke my heart when he had the Shaman read his auorua. Whether you believe in that or not, if you read this book and really understood the relationship that this wonderful and beautiful dog had with Jon you know that Orson's life dramatically changed for the better. I see my Border Collie in a completley different way, and this book gave me perspective of my own life, my downfalls, who I really am. I am a young woman (36) who was diagonosed with an awful auto-immune disease, who does maybe seek comfort when I am with my dog. I think that Mr. Katz and Orson had something that so many people never have their whole lives, even if when think they do,which is a true,honest,and completley unconditional love. I have never been so moved by a story as I was with this one. I do think about Orson now all of the time, and I know that that may be ridiculous seeing that he was not even my dog, and I can only imagine the turmoil and emotion he must of felt before Jon Katz became the most important part of his life. I really believe in my heart that he had the time of his life on that farm, and with Jon as well. I believe that Orson's life will always be a huge part of Mr. Katz, and it really brought the reality of just how incredibly special my dog Luca is to me. I belive in connetions to a higher level, and I hope that Orson's spirit will always be there for Jon.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2012

    Highly Recommended!

    This was the second book of Jon Katz animal stories that I have read. I love the way he writes about his life with his animals. I understood completely the agonizing decision he had to make, been there done that myself, and no one should judge or criticize him for that. He truly did all he could for Orson just like Orson did all he could for Jon. Bravo Mr. Katz. Please keep the stories coming!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    Incredible

    This is the first book of katz's i've read, and it was amazing. It really shows you the true love and bond people have with their dogs and the tough decisions people have to make. Animals have a real impact on our lives and this book shows just how big that impact can be.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2011

    Thank You for this Book

    This is an important book for anyone who loves dogs. People who think they know dogs and think they are good with dogs don't REALLY know dogs until they try to help a large, fearful, dominant-aggressive dog that bites people. Anyone who believes that Jon didn't love this dog with all his heart and didn't do all he could for this dog, doesn't know dogs. Loving and woking with a dog that has aggression issues is emotionally, financially and physically draining. When it comes to the safety of other people, especially the elderly and children, Jon did the only truly responsible thing. Some dogs just don't/can't live up to the human expectations that we impose on them and they can't just live as ferral animals. I love these half-wild, dominant aggressive dogs and feel deeply for their and their owner's plight. We just live in a world that doesn't understand them and cannot accept them for who they are because they are a danger to themselves and others. A tear jerker, this is a must read for anyone who loves dogs.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    I enjoyed the book until the end

    I must admit, Jon, that I wanted to call you up and curse you. When you destroyed a perfectly good border collie that you LOVED, I cried and cried all day. I was so mad at you for making that decision. I could never have done that. I don't think I could live without my border collie. I don't care WHO he bit. There WERE other options. However, I DID really enjoy the book. It struck emotion deep in the heart.

    A border collie lover.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2011

    The best book ever!

    I love this book. It is the best book I have ever read! It gets a little sad att the end but it is not too bad. I would recomend this book to any dog loving person.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2009

    A good, tough book to read

    After reading a Dog Year, this one was really hard for me. However, I know that times with our dog friends always come to an end, is extremely difficult and how is not really a factor. Faced with the same situation, I don't know what I would do. This took strength of character.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A wonderful book!

    Jon Katz is my new favorite author. As an animal lover and someone approaching the mid-years of life, I very much appreciate Katz' search to find happiness in life, and his great integrity in loving and respecting his dogs and other animals, putting what is best for them first-- even when that causes great personal sorrow. His relationship with Orson was truly a love story, with all of the highs and lows that accompany any great relationship. I laughed out loud at times....and wept at others. A wonderful book for any dog lover, or anyone searching to find their place in the world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2008

    LIFE IS GOOD WITH DOGS

    Katz is right on the nose with is book. Real,accuate,life,and so on. Jon thank you for a beautiful book.Thank you moving on to your next book:)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2007

    A reviewer

    Sadly, the author was more concerned about his 'research' for his book then he was concerned about this dog. It saddens me to think the public is being lead down this primrose path by the author's ability to write. The second book about this dog brings this issue more clearly into focus.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2007

    Heartbreaking and accurate

    I am a nurse in an ICU, and so it came as a surprise to me that I found myself sobbing uncontrollably (no book has ever done this to me), with Jon Katz's touching story of his dog, Orson. I could see into my own border collie's eyes as Jon considered the love for his beloved Orson through so many situations. A beautiful and accurate account of the way a border collie can affect your life and hold your love so completely. I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering getting a border collie, or is simply weighing the pros and cons of respondsibilities in caring for a dog.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2007

    Get out your hankie

    Good Dog was a good read, in that, it struck so many cords with me. It exemplifies what animals of all kinds and temperments can mean in a person's life. The actions and interactions with others are different with each animal. As with people, relationships with our pets who have had painful experiences in the past can be both frustrating and rewarding. I would like to thank Jon Katz for writing this book. It came into my life at a time when I truly needed it. Just as the critters in my life have.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2014

    Good reading dog book

    Enjoyed the book, but not as much as his book Rosie!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Awwwwww

    SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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