Journalist Katz, creator of suburban detective novels (Death Row, 1998, etc.) and introspective nonfiction (Running to the Mountain, 1999, etc.), goes completely and passionately to the dogs.
At the start of his Year of the Dog, the most meaningful canines in his life were Stanley and Julius, two notably sweet Labrador retrievers. When they died—mourned mightily by their owner, their buddy, their pal—their places were taken by Devon and then Homer, a couple of young border collies, members of a particularly touchy breed. The intense training of Devon, at first almost feral, in the Jersey ’burbs quickly developed into a battle to determine who was to be the alpha male. Devon and Jon browbeat each other repeatedly, and for a while it was touch and go. But after many serious conversations and a few fierce confrontations, the dog conceded the test of wills to the writer. Still, Devon continued high maintenance, willful and stealthy, leaping into a raging river and regularly raiding the fridge just for the hell of it. Homer, by contrast, was notably laid back, but he actually proved capable of herding sheep, as border collies were meant to do. Sheepherding may not be an imperative in Montclair, New Jersey, but since Katz promised his collies the opportunity, he is conscientious in following through. He pays proper tribute to his wife and daughter, but this tale is practically all Katz and dogs. There is much canine psychology and anthropomorphism, of course, as “the boys” commune with their biographer through ear wiggles, barks, and limpid looks. In the interest of further male bonding, the author is even learning the rudiments of the shepherds’ calling. It’s enough to leave like-minded readers panting.
A surfeit of tail-wagging, face-licking love.