Do you remember my talking about my new favorite author Jon Katz? I had read The Dogs of Bedlam Farm, A Dog Year, Running to the Mountain and now I’ve just completed his latest book, A Good Dog.
I E-mailed Katz after I completed A Dog Year against Herman’s strong objections. I think his exact words were, “There’s no way a well-known author is going to E-mail you back.”
Well, to my delight he did. I had told him in the first E-mail that I wrote a column in a small upstate New York newspaper. Turns out he lives in an even smaller town in upstate New York near the Vermont border.
He offered to send me galleys of his new book. I didn’t know what galleys were, but Herman filled me in. They are the uncorrected printer’s proofs of a book before it is released. I was delighted at the prospect. He asked me if I’d like to review it for this column and I told him I would. So here goes.
The premise of the book is about Jon Katz and his dog named Orson, who in previous books was named Devon. Katz told me a dog trainer had suggested a name change as he was not reacting well to his given name. I read about the name change in A Good Dog. Katz said it didn’t take any time at all for Orson to respond well to his new name.
The book is as much about Katz as it is about Orson. In fact, the sub-title is “The story of Orson, who changed my life.” Orson taught Katz things about himself that he himself didn’t know. I don’t think Katz realized how bad a temper he had before Orson came into his life. It was a dog that could really push boundaries.
For example, at many times in the book Katz would find himself totally frustrated with Orson’s behavior. He went as far as to take him to a holistic doctor and even a shaman. He was trying to get to the essence of the dog’s spirit.
The whole time he was doing this he was remarking to himself how ridiculous and expensive it was. But this illustrates how badly he wanted to bond with Orson as well as help Orson grow into a mature dog.
In the book, Katz talks about other dogs as well. But Orson was clearly the most trying for him and therefore it was through Orson that Katz grew the most.
Now, you guys know I’m a cat lover. Towards the end of the book, Katz broke down and got a cat named Mother. Turns out he had rats in his barn and an old farmer, also from upstate New York, suggested a cat. As an aside, Katz talks about the fact that if he had not taken Mother, her demise would have been immanent at her former home at the farmer’s house.
The title of the book A Good Dog is, of course, somewhat tongue-in-cheek since Orson wasn’t really a “good” dog. But he was a good dog for Katz to learn from and with. In this book, we learn a few things as well.