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honest reviews of Jon Katz book

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I've seen some mixed reviews, thanks to the search option, on the book "A Dog Year" by Jon Katz. I just bought this book and thought it looked interesting. Some folks are saying this writer is full of crap. Other people love the book. I'm just looking for some honest feedback before I delve into this book. I don't have a lot of free time, especially when our two bcs are awake and playful. I read mostly before bed and am just wondering if this one is worth my time. Thanks! -MA

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This book is easy to read and not very long! You should give it a try! Jon is on Public Radio and recently announced that he bought a small sheep farm for his BCs!

Barb Scott

PS If you start reading it and don't like it, you don't have to finish it!

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Don't waste your time. The book is unmitigated junk written by someone with little understanding of dogs in general, and even less of an understanding of Border collies.

 

Don't buy it -- the thought of Jon Katz getting royalty checks rankles me. If you must sample it, take it out of the public library.

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Much of what you'll read in the book is what you'll read on these boards -- what it's like to love your dogs and be deeply absorbed by them, what it's like to have problems with your dogs and try to solve them with varying degrees of ineptitude or success, reflections on living with dogs. I cannot honestly say that Katz does a better job with this interesting-to-all-of-us subject matter than the average poster on these boards. On the contrary. I have to agree with Bill that Katz shows little understanding of dogs in general, and even less of an understanding of border collies beyond the cliche level.

 

There's some specific discussion of the book at http://www.bordercollie.org/boards/index.p...864&hl=katz in the Sheepdog Training and Trialing Forum.

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I read the link relating to the book and the topic on sheepherding. Wow, a lot of dislike for this book! I guess now I have to read it out of sick curiousity.

I thought it looked interesting because I enjoy reading about the dog-human relationship that happens when we deeply love our dogs. My husband and I don't herd with our bc's, so I'm not as interested in that aspect of the book (if there really is any).

The last dog book I read was "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell. I liked this one and would like to read it again. I am always looking for different perspectives in the way we communicate and interact with our dogs on a daily basis.

Another book I saw mentioned in a different post, which I'll admit that I don't like is "The Secret Lives of Dogs". I'm hoping the Katz book isn't like that one. -MA

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Probably you mean The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas? No, the Katz book is not much like that. That one is an anthropological (or I guess you'd have to say a caninological) study of dogs by someone who, like an anthropologist studying a native culture, observes without interfering. I suppose Katz does some irresponsible things with his dogs (and along those lines I don't think much of his faking a claim that his dog is a service dog, but that's because I know people who have a genuine need for their service dogs and I hate to see their status jeopardized by bogus misuse of the privilege), but his book is not going to tick off people who go berserk over Thomas, the antithesis of Responsible Dog Ownership.

 

Since the subject has come up, I want to say a word in favor of Thomas, since I'm sure nobody else will. She is a professional anthropologist of some repute, and she is the author of a moving, insightful, and gracefully-written study of the South African Bushmen called The Harmless People. It's off-topic, but I recommend it highly.

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I appreciate the feedback. I have started the book and have mixed feelings about it. While it is entertaining, I agree that he doesn't seem to know much about border collies. I dislike his constant reference to them as "wild and unstable". I'm not very far into it. I'm hoping it will get better. -MA

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My husband and I read the book recently and just enjoyed a "dog" story. I don't think I ever felt Katz was an expert. I just liked hearing about the year with 4 dogs. I wouldn't take anything he wrote as the gospel of BCs. But it was a nice light read before bed.

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That's great to hear. I am trying to keep an open mind about it as I read and just focus on the story. In some ways, Devon kind of reminds me of our puppy and the labs are like our gentle, older bc. The homecoming when he initially brought home Devon brought back memories of Lady's "Who is this and when will he be leaving" attitude when we brought home Chief. Glad we're past that! -MA

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I read the book and enjoyed it very much. I think Jon Katz was like alot of us that got into BC's in that he didn't really relize what he was getting into intialy and there is alot of trial and error. I am sure that some of us (I Know myself) would have not have lasted thruogh what he went through with Devon. Personaly I say read the book, enjoy it and don't try to overanalize it.

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Thanks, Mutt. I read it all today while curled up in my recliner. This was a fast read and prety entertaining. I did enjoy it, but wouldn't consult Katz for bc advice. There were some situations that I can relate to. Caring for and supporting any dog, let alone a high maintenance one, can come with frustrations. Treating some of those frustrations with humor and sharing the stories is a great outlet. Just ask my friends at work who have to endure listening about Chief's latest antics. -MA

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I haven't read the book yet but a friend of mine is livid over it. Is it true that he basically got the dog as research for the book?

 

Maria

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I read the book and enjoyed it. I wasn't looking for advice, I was just interested in his perspective and the story of his dogs. Particularly how he went from having one breed of dog (golden labs?) to a totally different kind.

 

Above all, it seemed to me that he wanted to do the best he could for the dog, he just didn't have much of a clue. And in many ways, that's not so different from me. I feel blessed we found the animal behaviorists / trainers that we did and that I stumbled across these boards.

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Maria, I don't know whether he got the dog as research for the book or whether it's all as simple as he tells it in the book: a breeder he didn't know who was a fan of his insisted the dog belonged with him, and he complied. I suppose most authors do a lot of things with books in mind. That in itself wouldn't bother me.

 

He does seem to have decided to carve out dogs as his area of expertise now. He's since published another book called The New Work of Dogs, which I understand is about how dogs no longer work as herding and hunting assistants and the like, but now their work is to tend our damaged psyches in the alienated, Bowling Alone modern world. And I hear he has started work on one that's going to explain the relationship between women and dogs. (Gosh, he'd better hurry up and get it out -- that's something I really ought to know about, and who better to tell me? :rolleyes: )

 

Guess it was a wise decision on his part to approach me about promoting A Dog Year after all. Look at all the new readers I've gotten for him! :eek: All I can say is -- support your public library!

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I've heard interviews with Jon Katz on NPR. I read the book and enjoyed it. Listening him talk about it, I don't think it was ever, ever meant to be any sort of reference book. It was a story of him and his dogs. period. He, himself, admits he was clueless about border collies.

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Why in the name of God is it okay for someone to write a book on a topic he admits he is clueless about? Particularly when he doesn't disclaim any of the horrible, potentially-fatal mistakes he made. In some cases, he simply writes them off as Border collie weirdness -- as if it's not his fault that Devon escaped in the airport.

 

I am not about to write a book about tractor repair, although I bumble through it as best I can when I have to. I'm sure it would be humorous to some people. While the methods I use may be quaint, ineffectual, and even dangerous, at least my publication of them with some imprimatur of knowledge on the subject would only endanger tractors, not living dogs.

 

If he had presented the book as an opportunity for folks to learn from his mistakes, the book would at least have some redeeming quality. But he doesn't. He has the sort of shallow relationship with his dogs in which the surface is barely scratched, but he seems to think he's really got it nailed. It's bogus. It shouldn't have been written, and it certainly should have been published without major revision.

 

Personally, I don't see what's fun or entertaining about it. I was clueless about dogs at one time. I don't think it was a fun time for me or for the dogs I was interacting with then. I certainly wouldn't want to immortalize it and publish it as a memoir -- except as an opportunity for others to learn from my mistakes to avoid having to make them for themselves.

 

I hope that those of you who enjoyed it don't start to think that it has shed any light on the relationship between dogs and people. If it has, you have a long, long way to go.

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Geez, who knew this book was so controversial?! In no way while I was reading, did I ever think I would gain knowledge or insight about dogs from this book. Before I got it, I also didn't know so many people had such strong feelings, negative or positive about it. While in the bookstore, the cover caught my eye and just paging through it, I wasn't bored enough to put it back on the shelf. This wasn't the best human/dog book I've ever read, but it also wasn't the worst. I think he was irresponsible at times, clueless at other times. However, I don't think this was a wasted read. I don't expect anyone to give me profound insight about my connection/relationship with my dogs than what I already feel inside. They mean the world to me and I am very certain our bond is like one of those special relationships that exists without needing explanation. I don't know if Katz has the same feelings about his dogs. It really doesn't change my connection with my dogs either way. When I need to know something about training or correcting a behavior, I would consult a book written solely about dog training. This was just simply a light read that I enjoyed on a Sunday afternoon. -MA

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I've been giving this some thought as a result of this thread. I have to say that, when I first read the book, I was surprised that something so commonplace would have been accepted for publication--thousands of people every year have experiences like this with their dogs, and it seemed to me that there was nothing particularly noteworthy or insightful about the author's treatment of the subject. Actually, part of what I disliked about the book, I think, was the author's complacent assumption that whatever he thought or did in his daily life with his dogs, however mundane or misguided, would be fascinating to others. It's fortunate that I don't have to make my living making publishing judgments, however, because it seems lots of people bought it and liked it.

 

So then it occurred to me that I don't think I have ever read a bad review of a dog book, and very rarely has someone told me they didn't like a dog book. (The one exception that comes to mind is the Elizabeth Marshall Thomas book, which I've heard several people say they hated, but their criticisms are always directed toward the author's approach--treating her dogs as objects for detached scientific observation--rather than what she wrote. She didn't train her dogs, she let them roam, she let them breed, etc., etc. -- bad person! It's her methodology people react negatively to, not her book.)

 

So . . . I wonder if the natural audience for dog books--people who love dogs--is mostly going to like any book that deals with a loving human-dog relationship, no matter what its other merits or demerits might be. Is the subject matter so close to our hearts that we're going to enjoy it (except for curmudgeons like me) even if it's totally ordinary, or even has a lot wrong with it?

 

How about it -- can anyone think of a book someone wrote about his/her dog(s) that you didn't like?

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Originally posted by Eileen Stein:

How about it -- can anyone think of a book someone wrote about his/her dog(s) that you didn't like?

I did not like "And Bones Would Rain From The Sky" by Suzanne Clothier, if that counts. I found it totally dreary.

 

RDM

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Hmmm...as for Katz' book, I just wish I had thought to do it first. Then I wouldn't be having to think so hard about how to come up with the money for a sheep farm!

 

I picked up the book on a couple of occasions at various book stores but it just didn't grab me and I never spent the money for it, nor have I read it. FWIW, I am an extremely avid reader, rarely without a book in hand (or two) that I am reading, but Katz' book just never grabbed me in any way that made me want to read it in the few times I perused it at the bookstore.Interestingly, I often find books that are reviewed on NPR to be pretty good (and Katz has certainly been on NPR), so maybe it was just some sort of "other" sense that made me decide not to read it. Probably when I saw that he had chosen to thake the "herding lite" road with his dogs. Anyway, I don't think I've missed out on anything literaturewise.

 

 

J.

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Thanks Eileen, actually the fact that he is clueless is what made my friend so livid. According to her, he's writing himself as the second coming to dogs and their relationships with humans even though he understands nothing. At least that was my understanding of her rant.

 

I think that people do automatically give the benefit of the doubt, and generally positive acceptance, to issues close to their heart. I'm always griping about Animal Planet, while there are a few good programs, often times the programming just doesn't have a clue, at least in my opinion.

 

Maria

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I've read Katz's book, and (gasp) I liked it! As others have said, it was only entertainment. I was not looking for training tips or deep insight into the breed. While I was reading it I never once thought, "Gosh, this guy really knows what he's talking about!" I was more likely thinking, this guy could have been me, with all of his surprise at the breed, dogs in general. I liked reading if for the same reasons I like talking to owners of border collies - we have shared interests and love to hear/experience the breed. His book reminds me of the poll "Why a BC?" because it's about how people's lives were turned upside down after bringing home a four-legged black-and-white (or red, or merle, etc!) furball. I bet a few other people here (Melanie, Shawna, etc) could have written a similiar book about when they got their first BC, with just as positive results.

 

The reason I think so many people like this book is because they relate to it - they can see themselves in it. Some of us may not be as ignornant to let a scared dog out of its cage while in a busy airport....while some of us might have done the same thing as Katz did (I can't say for certain what I would have done, I would be tempted to open the cage to see a dog I had heard so much about, but hopefully common sense would have gotten the best of me).

 

As far as dog books that I didn't like, I picked up "Pack of Two" at the library and sat down on Sunday to read it, but just couldn't get into it. I kept wondering when the storyline was going to pick up, but she just kept talking about how people don't understand her connection with her dog. I'm probably the only person on these boards who didn't love this book.

 

Betsy

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I have to admit to a general prejudice against memoirs as a literary genre. There are few people whose lives are so interesting that I want to read their own accounts of them. The authors, of course, have a vested interested in how the main characters are portrayed. This book is, at its heart, a memoir, and it suffers from all those problems that are inherent in the genre.

 

But even setting all that aside, I guess I can't find entertainment in a memoir in which the author makes assumptions and assertions about something that he knows so little about when that subject is so near and dear to my heart. When so much of what he describes in the book is factually wrong, displaying cluelessness about his subject at best and a dangerous disregard for its nuances at worst, any entertainment value is lost.

 

Those of you who found it entertaining, what was it? Some have alluded to having lived through a similar experience of being thrust into the ownership of a dog for which you were unprepared. Were any of you stupid enough to open the crate of a scared dog in an airport? To teach it to chase traffic? How is this entertaining? All I could think of the whole time I was reading those parts was, "That poor dog. That poor, poor, dog!"

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I did not like Bones Would Rain From The Sky either and I think "dreary" is a good description. I liked Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. I really like The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell and keep a copy in my car for when I am waiting somewhere and have some time to read. I can pick it up and open it anywhere and enjoy what I am reading, and learn something, too.

 

I liked Jon Katz's book, too. I don't see what is wrong with one person presenting his experiences with his dogs. It's been a while since I have read it, but I don't recall him presenting himself as any kind of expert. The fact that he was willing to publicly expose his major mistakes would seem to be in his favor.

 

And on a final note, yes, I probably liked it because I came to care a great deal about Devon and wanted the dog to find his place and have a good life. I hope he did.

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