- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Villard (September 26, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 140006189X
- ISBN-13: 978-1400061891
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 236 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,736,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life Hardcover – September 26, 2006
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From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Katz's previous books have detailed his life with dogs (A Dog Year, 2002, and The Dogs of Bedlam Farm, 2004), the place of dogs in modern society (The New Work of Dogs, 2003), and what dogs have taught him (Katz on Dogs, 2005). When he first laid eyes on highly intelligent but anxious Orson the border collie, he watched as the dog streaked through the Newark airport upon being released from his shipping crate. Under Orson's influence, the author moved from suburban New Jersey to a farm in New York and began a new life of dog training, sheepherding, and writing. Orson was Katz's "lifetime dog," the one he felt a powerful, life-changing connection with--but Orson was a difficult dog. In a lyrical series of vignettes, the author writes of his working border collie, Rose (the personality opposite of Orson); the rooster, Winston; sheep; donkeys; and the impossible Orson, whom Katz thought was destined to work sheep but whose work became the author. This is a lovely memoir. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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But Katz is always in a reverie, falling down due to his "bad leg" which becomes a "bad back"--that the 100 or so extra pounds he carries might have something to do with that never seems to occur to him. So Orson inspires Katz to purchase an upstate New York farm, a flock of sheep for Orson to terrorize and assorted other critters. Soon Katz acquires Rose, who proves to be an accomplished border collie, a worker not a pet and Orson is retired to the pet category which also is not a success. Katz spends a small fortune on vets, alternative vets, dog whisperers and shamans to no avail, but it all contributes to fodder for the book he's writing. Orson's behavior further deteriorates. Having bitten three people, now Katz determines Orson is "dangerous" and his moral duty, after considering the options of retraining--too much effort--more physical and mental testing--too expensive--confining Orson (Here Katz really irritates me as he posits that to pen Orson in an actual enclosure that he could not escape would be "like imprisonment"--do let's poll human death row inhabitants on which alternative they would prefer). But Katz has made his moral decision. Death is the only solution he says as he babbles on about the wonderful support the vet (who actually sounds somewhat dubious) is providing. Then once Orson is safely dead he can become that "good dog" and Katz compounds this by having visions and spiritual visitations where Orson thanks him for bringing him peace. Katz concludes that Destiny brought him Orson to gift him with his new way of life. Katz is a master of self-regard and self-delusion while posing as genuinely self-critical. He rejects conventional training as "not right for rebellious spirits like him and Orson."
Poor Orson whose fate illustrates the axiom "the only good dog is a dead dog."
If you can't manage a dog like Orson on a farm, where can you manage him? And where does it say that those people had the right to swarm all over his farm uninvited?
Needless to say I was very disappointed with the book. I have six rescue dogs of my own, I know they aren't perfect and need work and to his credit Mr. Katz did seem to work with Orson, but some of his work did seem misguided.
The work with the Shaman was interesting but at the end it seemed like it was just thrown in to make him feel better. I won't be buying any more of his books.
I seriously contemplated mailing the book back to Mr Katz and demanding a refund.
Plain and simple I think Mr Katz not only let Orson down repeatedly during his troubled life ... but in the end he gave up on him in a way
that Orson could never ever contemplate, then to capitalize upon it
but writing a book about it only seals my opinion of the author ...
a man much much less than his dog, and unworthy of that dogs love, trust
and lifetime companionship.
I shall not buy another Katz book again.
Most recent customer reviews
He killed his dog rather than pen him.Read more