by Jon Katz
At the point when Dog Days was written, Katz lived on his farm in upstate New York with a border collie, two labrador retrievers, a flock of sheep, a few chickens, a barn cat, handful of donkeys and several other animals. Some come to live on the farm through the course of the book: a giant steer that is incredibly gentle, another border collie who needs rescuing, a surprise newcomer when one of his donkeys gives birth. Katz is careful about finding balance among the livestock and pets on his farm- he usually doesn't take on animals in need of rescue, but with Izzy gets into another border collie training project. Which is quite different from the prior experience he had with Orson. Both because this is a different dog, and Katz is in many ways a different person now. It's amusing to me that Katz was still viewed as an outsider by many in his farming community- because he didn't sell livestock for a living, and kept animals that were "useless" such as the donkeys. Yet his neighbors often called on him for help when they needed to find or corral wayward animals- his border collie Rose having excellent problem-solving skills in this regard. None of them had working dogs like her, it seems.
He also showed me how the labs could be so lovable. I admit when I read his previous book, his descriptions of the labrador retrievers bored me. The border collies were much more interesting characters. Yet here his labs come into their own, shining with their versatility and accepting personalities. He takes one along for physical therapy sessions and when the dog becomes very close to an elderly woman they continue to visit her for a while even when she no longer goes to the center. He notices that the other lab is a great dog and often gets left behind or goes unnoticed simply because she is so accepting of situations, but he wants to do better by her, so finds a situation where she can get the attention and exercise she needs, without taxing him more -having four dogs on the farm is more work than he can handle, it turns out. It's admirable to see someone who can admit when they've got enough, who can let a beloved pet go to a better home, and still keep the connection to them. I enjoyed this book, and want to read more by the author. He's provided plenty!
Rating: 3/5 273 pages, 2007