A fourth installment from journalist Katz (A Good Dog, 2006, etc.) about his life and canine loves in upstate New York.
After three years in residence at Bedlam Farm, the author finally has his bona fides as a farmer: “a sunburned complexion, the hunched crab-walk...frostbitten fingers.” He already has a crew of hardworking dogs—border collie Rose, lovable Lab Clementine and injured Lab Pearl—when a new one enters his life. Izzy, a three-year-old border collie, has been rescued from a farm deserted by its ailing owner; the caretaker had fed him but otherwise left him to his own resources. Though wild and untrained, Izzy unexpectedly shows great sheep-herding potential, and Katz begins to spend more and more time honing his skills. Four dogs come to seem an unmanageable number. Rose is busy with her tasks on the farm, and Pearl works, unofficially, with the author at the physical therapy appointments for his bad back. But Clementine is frequently sidelined, and Katz reluctantly considers a startling solution: sharing ownership of Clem with Ali, a physical therapist who spends her off-hours hiking and playing soccer. It’s a wrenching decision, but Clem blossoms as an “only dog” under Ali’s care. Despite the book’s title, there’s more here than dog stories. Bedlam Farm hosts a herd of donkeys with which Katz shares a nightly snack and some music (the donkeys like Willie Nelson best), as well as an irrepressible, 1,800-pound steer named Elvis, who obeys simple commands when encouraged with apples. Katz’s views of animals continue to evolve. He’s come a long way from suburban pet ownership and now must consider not only the welfare of the animals, but also the welfare of the farm.
An appealing text showing off an author who’s found his perfect genre. Readers can only hope these appealing and thoughtful dispatches will continue.