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Review of a Dog Story or Memoir

A Dog Year: Twelve Months,
Four Dogs and Me
, By Jon Katz | Click to order this book

This new book about the special relationships of dogs and people offers a look at the personalities of working dogs with a fresh set of eyes.  Author Jon Katz is not a dog writer by specialty, but rather is a writer on diverse topics appropriate to his calling as a journalist and magazine writer. His experiences with two different breeds of dogs -- Labs and Border Collies -- offer readers great insights on working dog personalities. Click for full book review.

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A Dog Year:
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The Dogs of
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Review of a Dog Story or Memoir, continued

A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs and Me
By Jon Katz | Click to order this book

As Jon’s story begins, he's leading an idyllic life as a book and magazine writer with two stalwart canine companions, his yellow Labrador Retrievers Julius and Stanley. Calm, devoted, steady dogs. And at the start, I wondered where the drama in this book would come from for this pair was so well behaved.

Never fear. Jon is convinced to adopt a Border Collie male named Devon, and thereby hangs the tale. From the first time Devon escapes when his crate is opened just a fraction of an inch, we know Jon is in for a whole new life. As the pair struggles to build a workable relationship, we laugh, cry and discover compelling insights about the instincts, behavior and just plain smarts of working dogs.

And what dogs mean in the life of a man who, by self-admission, is not the most social person on the planet. [Read an interview with Jon Katz here.]

But wait. There’s another Border Collie coming, a pup Homer, who adds yet another dimension to the book. By contrasting the personalities and working instincts of Devon and Homer, as well as the two Labs to the Border Collies, Katz gives us deeper insights into the specialized working breeds.   We see similarities in dogs of the same breed, but recognize that they are not made from an identical mold.

Active Dogs in a Civilized World

While Jon likely set out simply to share the joys and sorrows of his year with four remarkable dogs, a year when his daughter has headed off to college, leaving he and wife Paula as empty-nesters, A Dog Year is much more.  It offers a unique look at the relationships between humans and active canines in 21st century suburban America. How is this ancient relationship of people and dogs being transformed for our new world?

Jon's dogs have two special advantages:   Jon's cabin up north in New York and his commitment to the full development of their canine working dog instincts and skills. These elements expand the scope of the book's adventures and add depth to the relationship between Jon and his much loved dogs.

The book is getting rave reviews and little wonder, for it is alternately fun and fascinating, hilarious and heart-warming. I very rarely say this, but this is a book that every dog lover deserves to have, to read and reread, whether for the pure pleasure of it or for its many lessons.  This small volume is a gift to dog lovers, dog owners, dog trainers everywhere.

AUTHOR: Jon Katz
in 2004 is the author of thirteen books, six of them novels and seven works of nonfiction, with his three recent books focusing on life with dogs. Recent dog books are The New Work of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love, Family and The Dogs of Bedlam Farm. A member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, he is a contributor to to Bark magazine. Among his earlier books are Geeks and Running to the Mountain. A two-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, he has written for The New York Times, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, and Wired. He currently writes about technology, media, and culture for the Web site, and is a contributing editor to public radio’s Marketplace.  He lives in northern New Jersey with his wife, Paula Span, a reporter for The Washington Post, and their college-student daughter, Emma Span. Jon Katz can be e-mailed at or

Review by Barbara B. Petura, Webmaster
Member, Dog Writers Association of America

PUBLISHER: Villard Books, a division of Random House,
New York, 2002.

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