380 of 426 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2007
So he has money to elaborately renovate his playfarm, to landscape and hire gardeners and helpers, to buy an ATV (the better to "commune" with nature -- like he went to the mountain for solitude but quickly got MTV), and he didn't hesitate writing out a check for a new dog not long after he euthanized his "soulmate", but when it came to spending a few thousand for Orson to get a thorough vetting over, to build him a secure fence around an acre or two, or to even hire a competent dog trainer or a dogwalker to give him the supervised exercise the dog needs (riding on an ATV not much for an energetic border collie), Katz tells us it is immoral to spend that kind of money on a dog when there are people in his hamlet who live in tar paper shacks and hunt for food. Apparently not immoral, though, to spend the same funds on flowerbeds or repointing a fireplace, on ATVs or MTV.
He tells us he can rescue fifty dogs for what it would cost to take Orson to one specialist. But he's already told us in previous volumes he doesn't believe in rescue dogs, in second hand dogs, but in getting "good" dogs from "good" breeders.
This guy was too cheap and lazy to take his dog to even one canine veterinary specialist when the dog's behavior worsened, or to build him a decent fence with a beware of dog sign, to hire even one good dog trainer. All of those things -- vet care, training, fencing -- are basic responsibilities that come with owning a dog. But he didn't leash his dog when necessary (something he has a history of never doing), never put up proper fencing (Orson regularly got out of his NJ fence at home and even the puppy Clem was nearly mowed down by a semi at the farm), never supervised Orson properly around visitors. And then he was astounded when there were incidents. Orson changed his life, apparently, but he couldn't be bothered to make the necessary allowances for basic dog ownership.
This has been his pattern through multiple years and books. When his two labs got sick, when he decided Homer his second border collie didn't love him enough, when Orson gave him trouble, he got rid of them or they got the quick needle. Nor is it limited to dogs. Winston gets plenty of page time in this book. Yet his first response when the rooster becomes ill is to go for his gun. With a neighbor's care it survived to roam the farm again. Surprise, sometimes a pet's care actually takes time, or costs money. Sometimes you have to accommodate a less than perfect animal. But not Katz.
Responsible pet owners don't justify euthanizing their pets because in the past poor people have shot their dogs when they get ill -- as Katz rationalizes for not getting Orson a thorough vetting. Or because there are poor people living in tar paper shacks, so how can he spend money on a dog. That's a mind boggling excuse from someone who used, exploited and down right set this dog up to be the "bad dog of Bedlam" so he could write lucrative books about the relationship, and who has spent money freely on just about everything else on his playfarm.
When you take in a pet, you commit to reasonable expenses -- a good fence. A leash. When the dog gets sick or his behavior inexplicably changes (or not so inexplicably given his mishandling and virtual torture of Orson) you get it vet care. And yes, sometimes it does require xrays, or a specialist. People with a lot less means than Katz do it routinely. And their pets are not even their cash cows.
What is amazing is that this guy had the means, partially funded by Orson himself, and yet he did not make one single responsible effort -- even while he crows about how he loves this dog. Not even to give it to a rescue organization - which wouldn't have cost him a penny. I suppose he didn't want them to succeed where he so publicly failed.
He does try "shamans" and animal communicators. Perhaps he thought it would make interesting copy. How does he justify that with the poor people in the tarpaper shacks, and without trying conventional medicine? But without changing his own behavior, which without a doubt contributed to this dog's problems, you couldn't expect much. Then, when the dog doesn't magically turn around, he dumps it like all the others.
The story of another bad dog owner. Except he then crows about his lost soulmate, his sorrow.
The only sad thing is that if this dog had been taken in by any reasonably responsible person or rescue organization, someone who'd provide an adequate fence and give him exercise, vet care and not taunted him continually with situations that he knew were triggers for the dog -- letting workman and delivery people continually come through the front fence with Orson loose when he knew Orson had a problem about that, this dog would probably have had a happy, healthy life.
You get the impression he got this dog, like the farm, as a mid life crisis egoboo. The badder the dog was, the more it fit his constructed image of them as the two misfits, "soulmates", something he craved after getting tired of his "elderly sedentary labs" as he described his former two dogs. He screams at the Orson; he abuses him, he doesn't provide Orson with a secure fence and he gets hit by a car, and it all makes salable copy. Then he and his wild dog go to the farm and it makes better copy. Then having encouraged or allowed Orson to get this out of control, he continues to set him up in adversarial situations rather taking the precautions any sane person would make. He doesn't fence the dog securely from visitors, because it spoils his view of it as the "bad dog of Bedlam" who needed to be free. Then when the dog predictably fails in this chaotic environment, he makes a swift decision to kill him.
Anyone who's ever owned a sharp shepherd could tell Orson could have been managed with a little effort. He deserved that much. But it's obvious this guy not only knows very little about dogs, but cares very little about anything but himself. (Even as he fires up the throttle on his ATV in the middle of the night, and gloats that there's no nearby neighbors to be disturbed, he seems totally oblivious that he just left his sleeping wife) The efforts Katz needed to keep his dog safe were possible. They were within his means. But they were efforts he couldn't be bothered with.
He talks about how with the money he would save on not treating Orson, he could save fifty dogs. But there's no mention of even a portion of the proceeds of this self serving book going to border collie rescue, to save even one dog. Or to the "poor people in the tarpaper shacks". Instead he quickly writes a check for a replacement dog to one of his "good breeders".
Orson may have changed his life but he didn't hesitate to ruin the dog's life, to set him up in situations that he knew made him unsafe, to let him get hurt, to not get him care, to kill him for falling into the trap Katz set, and then pander to readers for sympathy. All while raking in royalies.
This book reminds me of those people who let their dog roam loose in the streets, when wail crocodile tears when it gets hit by a car, who dump a dog at a shelter so riddled with fleas or mange that its skin is bare and bleeding, but drop in two weeks later to ask if it got adopted, and say how much they loved it. There are plenty of ignorant, lazy, selfish pet owners in the world, too irresponsible to keep animals. Katz is their poster boy.
252 of 282 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2007
I have been a fan of Jon Katz since I read "A Dog Year." I loved "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm." I expected this book to be a tribute to the dog that brought us those books, a final tribute about a man's love for his dog. I expected the ending to be a sad one, but the actual ending was far beyond sad - it was heart-breaking and unbelievable. I honestly thought this man loved his dog, but I see it differently now.
This is a story about a man who gave up on his dog, perhaps always intended it to be so. Perhaps a story about a man desperate for another book, another heartwrenching tale. Perhaps he tricked us all. After all, as he so eloquently writes, "I am a writer." Maybe he is still suffering the "Midlife Crisis" he wrote about in "Running to the Mountain." I can see in Jon Katz a man who makes rash decisions just because he feels like it, because he wants different circumstances, and this book proves it so.
He writes in a loving, heart-warming manner of his loving, close, committed, special relationship with Orson, the dog he wrote about in "A Dog Year." Then the tables turn and he writes of his horrifying "CHOICE." Might I add SELFISH. In horrifying DETAIL he tells the tale of Orson's fate and he doesn't stop there. He writes about how much better his life is without this dog. This dog whose work was Jon Katz, but Jon Katz did indeed fail him, though he reasons and justifies his actions as best as he knows how as a writer. I feel like he lied to all of us who loved his previous books. He fooled us, but most importantly Orson.
If any of you enjoyed "A Dog Year" or "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm," I advise you not to read this book. Those two books touch the heart, caused me to be a better guardian, one in which I could relate to since I have herding dogs of my own. But how could I ever read those books again after reading this one? I can't and won't. It was all just a big lie.
That poor dog never had a chance in the first place.
193 of 218 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2006
I feel exactly the same way as the previous reviewer. My husband and I don't have border collies; we have dachshunds. Dachshunds can also be very protective of their owners and territory and also have a very strong prey drive. We have a dachshund that bit one of my neighbors while we had the dog out for a walk. Their cat was out and my dog went after the cat and bit the neighbor instead (he was in such an overexcited state he literally did not know what he was doing). Note: my dog was on leash when this incident occurred. He is never off leash outside our property. Luckily this lady was an animal lover and she was absolutely gracious about it.
The incident taught me a very hard lesson...but a necessary one. I had to be absolutely vigilant about my supervision of this dog. How I introduce him. Where I walk him. I changed the leash from a regular 6ft leash to a 4ft slip lead (NOT a choke chain). I have also applied some local trainers' ideas about noticing the early signs of excitement in my dog and learning how to channel the dog's attention so that he never gets to the excited state. It has been over 2 years since the incident and we have had no other incidents. But, as I said, my husband and I are vigilant about our supervision. I do not take lightly the fact that my dog bit someone. I think I lost sleep for a month when it happened. But, that memory now serves as a constant reminder to me to maintain my awareness with my dog and be constant in my supervision - which really all dog owners should do with all dogs.
I have all of the Orson books and I, too, was enjoying reading them. I thought, here is someone who understands what I am going through in dealing with an anxious dog. When I went to get "A Good Dog", I was so excited because I had enjoyed the other two books. The writing was so lovely and the author seemed to have such a deep love for his dogs. I was a couple of chapters into the book and I could sense where it was heading. I skipped ahead to the last chapters and was absolutely devastated.
For this man to euthanize his dog when he himself says that he owed Orson so much for saving him in so many ways is (in my opinion) unpardonable. To think that Orson could not be given to another person to try to rehabilitate is absolutely arrogant. I have to even sympathize with another reviewer that wrote in and asked why wasn't Cesar Milan contacted? At least Cesar Milan always works to rehabilitate the dog - not put the dog down. But it didn't have to be Cesar Milan...many other trainers could have at least tried to work with this dog.
My suspicion is that the arrogance of the author extended too far. How would it look to the public if he contacted another dog trainer? Didn't he write a book about common sense dog training? (And to think I almost bought that book...) I am sure that it would be just too humbling for him to try to consult another trainer on the issue - especially another well publicized trainer. Wouldn't that say that he didn't know what he was doing with his dogs?
And did the author try to communicate with his "public" by putting a sign up that says "don't pet the dog when he is behind the fence"? Even to friends. I know that this can be difficult. But, with my dog, I tell my friends who come over...do not rush up to the crate or gate and try to pet the dogs. Let me introduce you first. It is difficult for me to do that, but worth it to me. This saves my dogs and any unfortunate incident with friends and neighbors.
In the end, I just wish the best decision had been made for the dog. This dog that the author owed so much...that he "loved" so much. I think I had the hardest time with the scene at the end of the book when the author talks about the Dog Star and about how Orson knew it was time to go and about how Orson was at peace. I wish I could have taken comfort from this scene, but unfortunately it just left me with the feeling that the author was somehow trying to absolve himself from this terrible decision that he made.
(Note: I do understand that there are some dogs that are truly a danger to society. I also understand that it is necessary sometimes with truly dangerous dogs to put them down. I understand that Orson was a much bigger dog than my 16 pound doxie and could potentially cause much more harm than my dog ever could. But, I think that we sometimes label dogs too quickly as "dangerous"... I do NOT believe from what I read that Orson was truly dangerous. I do not think enough was done for him. I believe that if an offer had been put out to some trusted trainers that someone would have taken him. I wish for Orson's sake that this had occurred.)
49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2007
I read Jon Katz's previous books and have loaned those out to friends and family. I have recommended him to other dog owners as a good read. I even started looking at border collies with new insight. When I saw that he had a new book out, I requested it for a Christmas present. I couldn't wait to read it. Even the cover was beautiful. I remember setting aside some quality time to read. First I found a lot of the reading repetitious if you've read the previous books but I reasoned that maybe he had first time readers who needed to catch up. Then I found a lot of the book more absorbed with Katz instead of Orson (who I had come to love). I started having misgivings about halfway through. I remember when I got to the page where he took Orson to the vet that I just closed the book and vowed not to read anymore. I did go back days later to read the conclusion and like everyone else I will never read another book written by this man. I feel betrayed. I thought he didn't try hard enough. I personally have a dog that has a nipping problem. All my family and friends have been warned. I don't let her out by herself unless she is behind a 6 foot fence because she also jumps low fences. I know her limits. If you have a dog like this you adjust your behavior if you love them. It seems Mr Katz didn't want to change. He wanted his dog to change. He never should have had a difficult dog like that. He should have stayed with easy going Labs. Don't buy this book if you love dogs. I won't be recommending it to anyone either.
49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2007
After reading A Dog Year, I was looking forward to reading more about Devon. I was very disappointed with not only the book, but the author as well.
Our family adopted a formerly abused Border Collie to save him from euthanasia. This was out second adoption of a troubled dog and we've learned from experience how to make our pets, guests and ourselves safe while giving them a loving, forever home. When the time came with several of our ill pets, we made the tough decision to take them to our Vet for a humane euthanasia so I do not believe in keeping animals alive past their time.
It appears that Katz created in his mind a justification for his action with Devon (I won't call him Orson-that name didn't help him in the end, either) by setting up his four alternatives as the only alternatives. He then wrote the book to rationalize his decision. To Mr. Katz: please don't adopt any more troubled animals. There's a difference between a troubled animal and an unredeemably vicious one. Devon was let down by people his entire life. You, despite your naming him your soul-mate, were no different.
71 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2007
This book begins with a recycled (if you've read "A Dog Year"), if selective version of Orson's past, then an account of his present troubles and finally Katz's solution.
Lots of workmen, gardeners, visitors on the farm have renewed Orson's nippiness, He's always been anxious and uncertain about men driving up, coming through the gate or house, particularly carrying tools. In spite of knowing this, Katz sets out on a host of renovation projects, including one in the "dog's room" and leaves Orson unsupervised with these men continually coming in and through. Though there are escalating incidents, Katz continues the renovation, leaving Orson loose to challenge and be brushed aside by workmen, gardeners, deliverymen, visitors. Katz seems mystified as to why Orson gets more and more rattled and aggressive. He takes Orson to the vet, does some tests, but decides not to explore conventional medicine further because it's expensive and "it might not show anything". He tries alternative medicine. Before long, a hunter coming to the farm reaches into Orson's dog pen to pet the over-stimulated dog, and this time Orson gets more than a sleeve. Though the hunter seems unphased by it, though this has been one of Orson's triggers, Katz now becomes unglued (reminiscent of his panic when Orson chases school buses "we can't go on like this, he sobs"). Back then you wondered why he didn't just more securely fence and supervise his dog. Now you wonder that too. This was as predictable as a train wreck. And could have been easily preventable. But instead of supervising and managing the dog, Katz decides killing his soulmate is the only option.
There follows a lot of strange justification as to why this is the only choice, none of it convincing. In fact, it sounds like Katz at his drama queen worst. He goes through the immoral expense of getting Orson conventional vet care, the unnnaturalness of keeping a dog behind a secure fence, his noble mission to protect humanity from a dog who seems in Katz's mind, to have metamorphisized from a nipping border collie suffering from stressed induced aggression to a killer whale.
Then follows another predictable scene (if you've read previous books where he euthanizes his two labs, and gives away Homer) where he narrates the last hours while he and his happily unaware dog enjoy themselves, before the unhappy event. Then a storm of maudlin pathos, a la Katz, about how Orson is happier dead, his "mysterious" (to the author) problems now solved, but how Katz is suffering.
It's hard to understand the purpose of this book. It reads, almost suspiciously, like he decided to euthanize the dog and wrote this book to justify it, because the case he makes is so out of proportion to the events, which he struggles to enlarge the better to ennoble this shoddily made decision. Suspiciously, he leaves out much of Orson's progress he described in his last book, and only recounts his problems. He takes his dog to the vet, but declines extensive tests, even though a dog whose behavior changes is usually a sign of illness. He doesn't consult a competent animal trainer, who could handle a case of sudden aggression. He doesn't consider managing Orson's environment, which seems to be the real problem -- and the real solution.
He's put up ten acres of pasture fence for the sheep, and Orson supposedly has a "roomy dog pen", but he balks at puting up a more secure fence for the dog that he bought all this for, his supposed soulmate and forever dog. He has one discussion, not with a trainer or behaviorist, but with a friend. After discussing how they could build an elaborate fence with electric shock, (??) he dismisses the idea with "it would be a prison". Since a simple six foot fence that someone couldn't reach over would do, one wonders how this would be a prison, or how he rationalizes the dog would be better off dead. Every solution is half explored, if at all, then quickly abandoned for reasons that don't convince.
How can you buy a farm for dogs, sheep for dogs, ten acres of fence for the sheep, and then refuse to put up even one acre of secure fence for the same dogs, particularly if one is your "soulmate"? How can you not consult with one good trainer, much less a vet? In the last book, Katz talks about how Orson is so improved, great with kids, visitors, calmer. That is all suspiciously left out of this book, the better apparently to make the case for euthanasia. Anyone else might have at least put the renovations on hold, given him a chance to recover in quieter atmosphere, built up the fence. But Katz seems to have decided Orson is now a threat to humanity and has blinders on to anything but his noble mission to save it by killing his dog. This book is a justification for euthanasia.
It really seems like he got disenchanted with the dog, the same as with Homer and his two labs, and then wrote this self-serving account to justify euthanizing him. It certainly doesn't match with his last descriptions of Orson in "Dogs of Bedlam Farm". It's not a complete account of his life, unless the last book is false. It's a slanted case for euthanasia, and not even a complete or honest one.
While no dog should bite, many owners would realize this was a sign of either a health or behavioral issue and would have tried to address it, at least to supervise the dog around visitors and raise the fence height. To make adjustments to keep their dogs with them. But Katz doesn't. In spite of having prated repeatedly about his "contract" with Orson, he reads philosophy to justify his decision for euthanasia, all interspersed with how expensive, immoral, and litigiously dangerous it would be to keep his dog. He might get sued and lose his Orson inspired gains. He might not be able to welcome the hordes of visitors coming to pay him homage now that his books are popular. He decides that his contract with and love for his dog doesn't justify making any adjustments to his plans or taking any steps (since he's taken practically none) to keep Orson safe from strangers and vice versa.
Hard as it is to imagine anyone purporting to love their dog/soulmate but euthanizing it for convenience rather than keep them safe, it's still harder to justify writing such a self serving and dishonest justification for these actions. You hate to feel like he wrote this book solely to make a profit off the dog's death. But he so quickly gets rid of his dogs when they get ill or he comes not to like them that you wonder if he's just using them for book fodder, and one or two predictably get plowed under with every new contract. Even more offensive is that he blatantly exploits his so-called grief for sales.
Because he rushed so to euthanize the dog, Katz's chapters on his grief read unconvincingly. He gloats about how peaceful his life is now, with Rose and his two complacent labs. Reading this litany of all Orson's shortcomings, so different from the last book which talks about all his progress, the reader comes to suspect nothing this man writes is really true.
You get the feeling he'll put up this nice marker for Orson (he has the stone cut even before he kills him), and visit it daily to convince himself of his great love for his dog. He'll buy the headstone, rather than the fence, a trainer for aggression, or vet care. He'll look at the headstone and say, "oh, how I loved my dog." Right. Very convincing.
A reader not given to this delusion has long come to the conclusion that Katz's dogs are the newest endangered species.
As a book, the writing was poor, self-indulgent, histrionic, often repetitive. The narrative failed to convince, inherantly deceptive in an account that reads very one-sided. The facts certainly get skewed somewhere. This book fails on a number of levels. It's sad, but not sad in the way the author intended. It's sad someone so completely clueless and self-serving had his dog killed for his own convenience, and believes that if he trots out his grief and quotes philosophy, and cuts him a nice headstone, he's become noble in the act. And makes a nice profit too.
But if you believe dogs prefer headstones rather than fences, if you believe euthanasia is the best solution to a dog's problems, then this is the book for you. In that regard, it's got it all: an outdated cliche of poor training, poor management, incomplete vet care, the predictable irresponsible owner's solution to a badly cared for dog. And then the account of how the owner loved it. It's a classic in its own way.
59 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2007
Jon Katz possesses the trifecta of traits for the incompetent dog writer: he's ignorant about dogs, he's dishonest about his relationships with his own, and he's a poor literary stylist. Although these weaknesses are present in all of his dog books, nowhere are they more apparent than in A GOOD DOG.
Before Katz began expounding on dog culture, he tried his hand at expounding on technology culture as a writer for HotWired and Slashdot. Slashdot readers did not take kindly to him, charging him with seeking to co-opt a subculture that he was not part of and did not truly understand, and asserting that his writings were uninformed gibberish. Katz's presence was irritating enough to cause some Slashdot folks to create special filtering software to block out his posts, as well as a "katzdot" drinking game that included, among other things, instructions to drink whenever Katz used the first-person singular pronoun. Undaunted, Katz decided to set up shop in another culture, this one with a more satisfying critical mass of people possessing a fondness for his new subject (dogs) without the same pesky, inconvenient level of knowledge about it that had troubled him on Slashdot. Although those with a deep understanding of dogs and dog training have always recognized Katz as a fraud, there apparently are enough casual pet owners and dog lovers out there for his uninformed gibberish redux to have been accepted with much less of the Slashdot backlash.
Katz's general ignorance about dogs in general and border collies in particular is very evident in A GOOD DOG, in which he describes slowly destroying his high-strung border collie by subjecting him to noisy construction for months on end, refusing to relocate him during that time, deciding that building a higher fence for the dog would somehow constitute a prison, and then (surprised that the dog would bite after living in what was essentially a war zone) euthanizing him after very weak, fumbling attempts to solve what was a very solvable problem. Katz's dishonesty about his dogs is also evident to any of us who actually know something about the working border collie. Katz, for instance, has continually claimed that his border collie Rose is from "working lines." I am quite confident that she is not from any lines that any of us with *real* working border collies would recognize, and I challenge him to post her pedigree to prove me wrong. Katz also writes that the four-month-old Rose, unassisted, went into the woods and single-handedly retrieved wild sheep for a grateful owner. I am also quite confident that this never happened, and I challenge him to upload video of Rose working to Google Video or YouTube to show the world how unfair I'm being. When faced with charges such as these, Katz responds with a twisted appeal to populism, arguing that the "border collie snobs" can't possibly tell him anything about *his* dog, akin to the parent who insists that his child's finger paintings are Picassos despite what any "snobbish" established artists might say about it. It's certainly pleasant to exist in a fantasy world with no external checks on veracity, but it's not a luxury afforded to many writers.
In short, don't buy this book. If you want to read about real working border collies, look up Donald McCaig's works. If you want to read about the relationship between dogs and their human beings, there are any of a number of choices that do not conclude with the pompous moral elevation of tragic incompetence.
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2007
I bought the book after seeing the author on a TV interview with a beautiful border collie at his feet and listening how this dog changed his life. I too have a rescued Border Collie that's been thru training and is a full time job but is the best dog/family member I've ever had. I had all to do to not fling this book into the fireplace when I got to the chapter of how he put him down. And the pathetic next few chapters to rationalize his decision is nothing more than self serving. Admit it Mr Katz, you made a bad decision and I hope you never adpot another animal you can't handle.
50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2006
I guess confessional books about one's miserable failures as a dog owner are all the rage these days. Certainly rage is what I felt as I read Katz smugly citing Hannah Arendt and Kant as moral authorities on why it was good and right to kill the dog he'd neglectfully set up to bite three people. While neither philosopher had a particular interest in dogs, I can see both spinning in their graves at being cited as sources of effortless absolution by someone who made a problem he created "go away" and then proceeded to make some more money off of the experience.
Gee, bribing with meatballs and pet psychics didn't work. This is supposed to show us that Katz "tried everything." I suppose consulting a competent results-based trainer AND ACTUALLY TRAINING THE DOG would have been far too radical a step for Katz. Balanced, traditional training and a crash course in ethology could have reformed this animal, and it is no trade secret how it works. Or, just perhaps, SUPERVISING THE BLOODY DOG. Nevermind that he'd already milked the dog's short, confused life for enough literary lucre to buy a nice little hobby farm, and is now doing so with the animal's utterly preventable death.
I don't have a lot of patience when my clients tell me that Bobo "oops, slipped his collar again" and ran off, or that they "forgot" that it wasn't safe to leave him unattended in the front yard where he could munch on leg of UPS man. I have no patience with them because there is no excuse for that kind of self-indulgent, willful incompetence. A dog is the responsibility of his owner, period. An owner who continually abrogates that responsibility -- as is clearly evidenced in Katz's stories of Devon/Orson's serial escapes and attacks on people and machines -- should not be permitted to have a dog.
It's very nice for Katz that Devon/Orson "changed his life." Must feel really good to have blithely forgiven himself (without benefit of learning or repentance, apparently) for failing to provide leadership, training, and appropriate management to the dog, and then killing him when the inevitable happened. Hope those royalty checks are worth it.
I used to have a quote from Jon Katz on my business website, something from his first dog book about how valuable it was to hire a dog trainer. Sure wish he'd taken his own bloody advice. That quote is a goner.
Katz sets himself up as an expert, someone who has some special insight about dogs. I'm sure not seeing it. The dullest and most disengaged of my paying clients does better than Katz with a little help. I don't see a dog owner with insight here -- only a writer who has given himself permission to profit materially from the tragedies that he caused.
Arendt had a phrase to describe human beings who did unspeakable things without ever owning their personal agency. When she encountered Eichmann, she said she had confronted "The banality of evil." And THAT is where Arendt belongs in this book.
An addendum: I had no idea that there was "discussion" of Amazon reviews. I am gobsmacked that Mr. Katz, who has had great swaths of forest felled publishing whatever it is he wants to say (ostensibly about dogs) has taken time out of his navel-staring schedule to *argue with reviewers* as well as provide me with gender-reassignment surgery. He's set his story out there; I think readers are perfectly capable of evaluating that story and drawing their own conclusions about the "moral center" of the autobiographer.
I'm just happy that the people who love me have a better record of caring for the other beings they say they love. I'm not as afraid of becoming inconvenient and helpless as some other people's relatives might be.
As for Mr. Katz's claim that he never presented himself as an expert on dogs -- perhaps we could be forgiven for that presumption, since we are evaluating the insights of the author of something titled *Katz on Dogs.* Were I to publish *Houlahan on Computers* and fill it with my rants about how buggy my laptop has become, so I'm throwing it away and buying a new one, I imagine that the computer-literate would find some fault with that claim to authority.
47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2007
It's not asking for what Jon Katz calls a "Disney" ending to wish that Devon/Orson had had a long and happy life.
Patricia McConnell, Suzanne Clothier, and Pamela Dennison are just some of the authors who have written movingly and objectively about how human beings communicate with their dogs and about responsibility in human-canine relationships and life-and-death decisions. Pamela Dennison's training diary "Bringing Light to Shadow" shows day-by-day how she was able to rehabilitate a human-aggressive border collie through positive methods and management, her skill as a trainer, and her absolute commitment to her dog.
Pamela Dennison and Jon Katz both at times worked with the same trainer at a farm in Pennsylvania. (And a "Jon K." and his border collie appear briefly in one of Dennison's diary entries.) Near the beginning of "A Good Dog," that trainer tells Katz that he's stressing his dog. Katz says he understood that training was less about his dog's obedience and more about Katz himself learning to be calmer and clearer in communicating with his dog. He also decides to follow his own training methods.
Two hundred pages later, in a "Postscript" about his decision to euthanize Orson, Katz writes that, in addition to Orson's genetics and early life, Katz's own personality and actions "may" have had an impact on his dog. Coming after injuries to three people, the death of his dog, and page after page about Katz, that "may" is shocking.
Dogs are the closest observors most human beings will ever live with. Any dog owner constantly affects his dog's behavior even by default. Many readers have pointed out the dishonesty and arrogance of Katz's self-justifications. In the end, real people were injured and a real dog died. Whatever Katz may have intended to say about his "lifetime" dog, this book shows that it's quite possible to love a dog and still fail him terribly: much much sadder than a Disney ending.