In this gripping and deeply touching book, bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his lifetime dog, Orson: a beautiful border collie-intense, smart, crazy, and unforgettable. From the moment Katz and Orson meet, when the dog springs from his traveling crate at Newark airport and panics the baggage claim area, their relationship is deep, stormy, and loving. At two years old, Katz's new companion is a great herder of school buses, a scholar of refrigerators, but a dud at herding sheep. Everything Katz attempts - obedience training, herding instruction, a new name, acupuncture, herb and alternative therapies-helps a little but not enough, and not for long. "Like all border collies and many dogs," Katz writes, "he needed work. I didn't realize for some time I was the work Orson would find."
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 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . An unusual love story
Posted July 22, 2010 by JoB , St. LouisWonderful journey of a man and his unusual dog. Although I did not agree with his ultimate decision, I will always remember their journey together through life. Reach down and hug your "best friend. Lesson learned...
2 . A must read!
Posted September 08, 2009 by Joyce , DetroitI loved this book! If you even 'like' dogs, you will love this book too. Fast read.
June 25, 2007
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Excerpt from A Good Dog by Jon Katz
Carolyn Wilki told the five of us to spread out into a circle in her pasture, with our dogs. We were an odd group, a motýley mix of dog lovers and our anxious border collies and shepherds arrayed near an aging stone farmhouse in eastern Pennsylvania in the blazing summer sun.
The other four people did as instructed, along with their dogs. I didnýt.
Devon and I were in our third month of working with Carolyn, a respected and fiercely opinionated sheepherder and dog behaviorist. Sheýd suggested that we join this herdýing class in addition to our weekly lessons. So we had, with trepidation. Iým not generally a joiner; I donýt have a good history with groups. And Devon was not a dog who played well with others, either.
Once we were mostly in formation, Carolyn brought out her antique metal box filled with small figures of dogs, sheep, and fences. I groaned.
Carolyn was fond of her toy farm creatures, which sheýd shown me on our first visit, and loved to demonstrate the balýlet that constituted sheepherdingýhuman, dog, and sheep all moving in relation to one another. She would haul her box out and carefully place the components in their appropriate positions on a picnic table or on the grass. Then sheýd sketch out herding and training moves like an NFL coach diagramýming complex patterns for offense. The papers she handed her students when class ended were filled with Xýs and Oýs, squibbles and arrows. The Xýs were dogs, the Oýs were peoýple. If the Xýs went here, sheýd explain, then the Oýs would go there. The sheep were usually the squibbles.
Devon and I were rarely where we were supposed to be. He herded sheep the way he herded school busesýforcefully, impulsively, explosively. At least the sheep could run.
This role-playing was not the sort of thing either of us was especially good at. I was allergic to being lectured to, had hated just about every class and teacher Iýd ever had, and the favor had been returned. Poor Mr. Hauser actually wept in front of my mother when I had to take his math class for the third time. Neither of us could bear the idea of going another round. Authority issues continued to plague me through my adult life. One reason that being a writer suited me was that most of the time the only jerk I had to put up with was me.
Devon had similar issues with commands and obedience. Training seemed to either upset or excite him, and learning to herd sheep seemed unlikely to be an exception.
You are a ewe,Carolyn told me, pointing to an O on her diagram, and placing one of her tiny white plastic sheep along a toy fence. You will stand over here and wait to be approached by a dog, she said, gesturing to an eighty-year-old woman in a sun hat holding a terrified sheltie on a leash.
Everybody else seemed willing, even enthusiastic, about acting out these herding moves. But I didnýt want to be a ewe. Devon looked up at me curiously; I knew there was no way he was going to do this, either.
In fact, he suddenly charged after the sheltie, chasing him under Carolynýs truck. I pulled him back, made him lie down, and he settled to watch the proceedings.
As Carolyn passed by, dispensing instructions, I whis-peredýhoping to avoid a sceneýthat I didnýt want to be a ewe, or to play this game. Carolyn did not suffer fools or rebels gladly. I donýt care what you want,she muttered.Do it. It will be good for you.