Jon Katz, the Popular Author and Blogger, on Why Dogs Matter to Us (and How They Make Us More Human)

Oct 18, 2013

Tomorrow, Saturday the 19th, the annual Nimrod Conference for Readers and Writers will happen here on the TU campus; it's a day-long writing-and-editing symposium presented by Nimrod International Journal, running from 9:30am to 4:30pm and offering workshops in fiction, poetry, memoir, YA fantasy, writing queries and synopses for literary agents, and more. (You can learn more about tomorrow's Nimrod conference here --- and you can also learn about a special Nimrod Awards Dinner and Celebration, happening tonight [Friday the 18th] at 6:30pm in TU's Allen Chapman Activity Center, at this link.) Our guest is a writer who will participate in tomorrow's Nimrod festivities: Jon Katz is a memoirist, novelist, and blogger based in upstate New York, and his popular books, which often focus on dogs and people and the ways in which these two very distinct camps rely on each other, include "Running to the Mountain," "A Dog Year," and "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm: An Adventure with Sixteen Sheep, Three Dogs, Two Donkeys, and Me." (You can access Katz's website here, by the way.) This review of "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm," which ran in Publishers Weekly when that book first appeared in 2004, summarizes Katz's strengths as a writer: "Katz, whose books [have] earned him many faithful, dog-loving readers, here channels James Herriott's brand of agricultural humanism. It's a classic setup for amusing anecdotes: a 50-something 'suburban rookie' buys a farm in upstate New York, stocking it with three border collies and a small herd of sheep.... This leaves plenty of latitude for adventures --- lost sheep, horrible weather, the dramas of dog training and lamb birthing. Soon, the introspective author realizes that his interactions with dogs are about 'trying to become a better human.' After all, his dogs have unfailingly high expectations of him. The troublesome pup, Orson, becomes the great test of Katz's emotional maturity, requiring consistent discipline and love in the face of awful misbehavior (one of Orson's habits is eating sheep feces). 'If we herd sheep for another decade or so,' Katz writes, 'I might make it: I might become a patient man'.... These stories offer readers a potent stew of triumphs and failures, all tied together by the constancy of complicated, joyful, lovable dogs."