May 6, 2015

Saving Simon

by Jon Katz

Katz says he steers clear of the animal rescue world, in general. But people knew he had a few donkeys already, so when Simon was pulled off a farm where he'd been left in a small pen to die, they contacted him. The animal was terribly neglected, but with care and tending to he recovered well, became dominant animal on the farm, making his personality known. His wife, his dogs, his other donkeys, an aged pony that lives on another farm nearby, strangers driving down the road and people who come as tourists, all interact with Simon. There are lots of adjustments to make, and they don't all go well. The author likes to point out frequently that animals act on instinct and conditioning, not emotional and reasoning like us- so although he expects Simon to be gentle and grateful after his rescue, once the donkey is recovered he acts like, well, a donkey (which include aggression towards other animals he views as a threat). The story is not just about a donkey's recovery and connection to people, but a lot of musings on compassion. The most interesting (and polarizing, if you glance at the online reviews) aspect of it all is that Katz wonders why we tend to show more compassion and caring to animals in need than to people in difficult or demoralizing circumstances. He approaches the man who was fined for abusing Simon, in an effort at understanding. Unfortunately as in some prior books, when Katz finds that some of his animals are suffering and unlikely to recover from an illness, or that the situation is untenable, he has them put down. A lot of people find this unacceptable. He states his reasons but it's hard to read about.

Rating: 3/5    209 pages, 2014

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