BOOKS: Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2007
Dispatches from Bedlam Farm
by Jon Katz
Villard (c/o Random House, 1745 Broadway,
New York, NY 10019), 2007.
288 pages, paperback. $23.95.
Those who have read Jon Katz’s previous books and followed
his journey to Bedlam Farm will welcome this sequel.
As usual Katz writes with passion. Heart-warming stories of
the interaction among him, the dogs, and all the other animals of
Bedlam Farm offer lessons to urban dwellers who live remote from
nature and a natural way of life.
Apart from the familiar border collies, who feature in
Katz’s earlier books, Dog Days introduces two recent bovine
arrivals, Elvis the steer and Luna the cow.
As Jon and Bedlam Farm have developed, so has debilitating
pain in his lower back. Annie, his so-called Farm God-dess, has
joined him to help with the chores.
Annie, with her feminine capacity to identify with animals,
understands the different personalities of each and every animal on
the farm and thereby gains their love and trust.
Jon sees personality in his dogs, but prefers to see
sheep as livestock.
An appealing aspect of Katz’s writing is his honesty
about his own shortcomings, especially in training the border
collies. For example, Katz describes a frustrating training session
with Izzy, a border collie who spent the first three years of his
life in a small enclosure, before Katz rescued him and brought him
to the farm: Annie was walking past, toting water for the
“You see that?” I asked, impatiently. “What’s wrong with him?”
Annie has unusual genes: Guile and anger appear missing from
her psyche. She doesn’t know how to be anything but honest, and her
advocacy for animals can quickly turn ferocious. “What’s wrong with
you?” was her response. I was surprised.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re edgy and angry. You’re yelling at him. He’s picking
up on your anger and it’s freaking him out.”
This was so obviously true that it was embarrassing to have
to hear about it from someone else.
Added to the dramas that play out every day with the animals,
there are the people in Jon’s life: Paula, his wife, who lives
between two worlds, working in New York City but residing on the
farm; Annie, who will teach Jon a thing or two about animals;
Anthony, whose help with rebuilding the barns and house is
essential; and all the people who form the rural community.
This is a delightful book. I look forward to the next book
about Bedlam Farm, to follow up the stories of Rose the wonder dog
and Izzy, the new canine partner in Jon’s life.