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Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm Hardcover – June 26, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Not only has Katz written 16 books, he cohosts Dog Talk on public radio, freelances for a variety of newspapers and magazines, and operates the eponymous Bedlam Farm in upstate New York—sometimes with his wife, but always with dogs and chickens and sheep and even a few donkeys and cows. Readers familiar only with Katz's suburban mystery novels will find that his farm memoirs set out to do basically the same thing, bring order to chaos. His goal in running Bedlam Farm is to find ways for his various animals and their humans to work together in harmonious synchronicity. Everything requires balance. He must be mindful of his own tendency to anthropomorphize, while remaining open to the emotional bonds his animals invite. He must remember that many awful things—flies, freezing weather, disease—are normal in the lives of animals, even as he struggles to give his animals the best life possible. He has to balance his focus on the farm with his relationship with his wife, who never particularly approved of the farm idea, even if she supported his need to do it. Anyone who loves animals or country life, but maybe can't have a pet or actually live in the country, will find Katz a perfect armchair companion. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

"Trying to assemble a sort-of-heavenly city in West Hebron is not a casual thing." So Katz begins his latest collection of stories from upstate New York's Bedlam Farm, the saga of which began with A Dog Year (2002). Bedlam Farm, a cross between a working and a hobby farm, is the home of the animals that are his inspiration. Jeanette the donkey, who everyone thought was overweight, presented Katz with a surprise foal. A local dairy farmer was embarrassed to admit that he couldn't send one of his Brown Swiss steers to market because he followed him around like a dog, and he persuaded Katz to take him, whereupon he was renamed Elvis. And the dogs: workaholic Rose, the border collie, who can be relied on in all instances for all kinds of work; the new border collie, Izzy, who comes from a troubled past; and the Labradors Clem, who loves everyone but needs one special person, and gentle Pearl, who knows instinctively what everyone needs. A must-read for all animal lovers. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; Reprint edition (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006404X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064045
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,530,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Linda Bulger VINE VOICE on March 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While Jon Katz is controversial in some circles for non-professional dog management, his Bedlam Farm memoirs are captivating and gritty. They detail the activities of the farm's dogs, donkeys, sheep, cat, steer, chickens--and the man himself, who gets by with lots of support from more country-wise locals.

With his flight from urban professionalism well-documented in A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me and Running to the Mountain: A Midlife Adventure, Katz continues the Bedlam Farm series with this book about his third year of "hobby farming" in upstate New York. He's been at it long enough to improve his lambing skills and to establish an Easter tradition (reading from St. Augustine to the dogs and then bringing the sheep down the meadow above the church).

Katz writes without undue sentiment about farm life. He counts himself as a newcomer whose animals are "somewhere between products and pets." (p 29) The sheep-herding border collie, Rose, and the affectionate Labs Clementine and Pearl (the "Love Twins") are his constant companions; when a second border collie joins the menage, things get complicated. His wife lives and works in the city but to Katz's satisfaction is learning to enjoy her visits to the farm.

I found this book more satisfying than the earlier The Dogs of Bedlam Farm: An Adventure with Sixteen Sheep, Three Dogs, Two Donkeys, and Me because Katz is so much more assured in farm matters. An entertaining read.

Linda Bulger, 2008
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It happens that I've never had a dog and living with one is a thought that has occurred to me only rarely. This book hasn't changed my mind about this; indeed, it confirms that I have probably made the right decision.

But Katz's story-telling skills and thoughtfulness shine through in a way that should commend this book to an audience broader than those with specific canine interests and concerns. He writes with heart, and yet avoids sentimentality. There is plenty of humor, but it never becomes slapstick. There is, to the apparent discomfort of some reviewers here, a level of self-awareness that eludes many memoirs. This latter is especially noteworthy because Katz writes tellingly and apparently honestly about himself and his place in the world without becoming locked in a dance of self-absorption.

Whether writers have a high purpose in penning a book like this is not a question that interests me. Nor do I care anything for the little dust clouds of controversy stirred by those with different views (or, quite likely, resentment of Katz's having both the determination to make a mid-life correction and the good fortune to be able to pull it off). What I do care a great deal about is having discovered an author who writes with real grace about interesting circumstances, events, and people.

Elegant writing with heart: works for me every time.
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Format: Hardcover
Jon Katz writes dog stories from the heart. His warm anecdotes of life with multiple animals at Bedlam Farm, in upstate New York, fill the reader with peace. Wrung emotionally and physically from living in the big city, Katz has bought Bedlam Farm and become a gentleman farmer. His choice brings with it new realities. Life on a working sheep farm is a far step from that of an apartment in Brooklyn. His wife Paula, a working woman in her own right, respects her husband's move but does not embrace the radical change for herself. She keeps a home in the city and hibernates to the farm on most weekends.

The reality at Bedlam Farm is that much work needs to be done. Strong border collie stock, led by a dog named Rose, is the heart of the operation. Katz mourns the loss of his first dog-love, Orson, whose tumultuous life is chronicled in A GOOD DOG. Katz makes the best decision for the good of both the farm and the dog when Orson is put down. Orson's memory creeps onto the pages of DOG DAYS but in no way diminishes Katz's love for his remaining animals, of which there are many.

Katz realizes early on that the key to a successful operation is having good people in charge. Trained as a writer, not as a farmer, he sees in Annie DiLeo his strong counterpart. She's compassionate and a balance for his pragmatism. He has the ultimate say, however, when tough decisions are required. When Katz becomes impatient, Annie communicates with the animals. Pearl and Clementine are two lovable Labs, while Rose (and soon Izzy) claims a border collie's right to sheepherding. Elvis, a new arrival to Bedlam Farm, creates a clamor of his own. He's a lumbering piece of flesh, a gigantic, apple-loving Brown Swiss steer.
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The more I read Katz, the more I've decided his often contradictory statements are most likely him bending the truth or altering the facts to illustrate his (often contradictory) points. So in one book, a dog may be described as being a talented herder. In another book, that same dog is then said to not have mastered a very rudimentary skill any sheep dog would need. But in the second book, Katz is now illustrating what a phenomenon his dog Rose is because she immediately mastered that basic skill right out the gate. The fact that many dogs show the exact same ability their first time on sheep is never mentioned because that would distract from Katz's point that Rose is exceptionally gifted.

Examples like this abound even in the same book. Katz appears unaware of his contradictions or else he has so little respect for his readers that he doesn't think they'll notice. Or maybe in his world, whatever he says at a given moment is the truth even if tomorrow there will be a completely different truth.

In Katz's world, anyone who doesn't agree with his approach to training his dogs how to herd is a "Border Collie Snob" (BCS's). He goes on to describe BCS's as expensively dressed people, dripping money, who travel to Scotland regularly. Now Katz lives in a different section of the States than I do, but the working (herding) Border Collie folks I know dress for farm work, never discuss money and don't generally travel other than to herding trials.

Katz goes on to proclaim his approach to training is better than that of BCS's because he doesn't repeatedly click a clicker at his dog when her head is turned just so at the sheep. Again, Katz and I live in different parts of the country, but no one I know clicker trains sheep dogs.
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