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honest reviews of Jon Katz book

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Well, you must be a total oddball, RDM. :rolleyes: I went to amazon.com and read the customer reviews, and 39 out of the 40 raved about it. Made it sound like the best dog book ever written--in fact most of them said it was the best dog book ever written. You must have been the 40th, in disguise. Now I guess I'll have to read it to find out who's right.




I'm sure they could have, and Julie too. The difference is that (1) it would never have occurred to them that people would pay $22 to read about when they got their first BC, and (2) their account would have reflected the knowledge they now have, and Katz doesn't seem to have acquired the same degree of knowledge.




Yes, but there's no indication that Katz ever came to think what he did was stupid -- it's presented as "Look how crazy this dog/border collies are! If a stranger opens their crate in an airport, they'll go skittering off and they won't come when you call them and they're hard to catch!" Also, I disagree with those who say Katz isn't presenting himself as an expert. He certainly isn't claiming he was an expert early on, when he was helpless in the face of his "problem" dog, but there is an implicit claim to expertise now, as he tells us from the perspective of the guy who won the epic struggle and turned that maniac into a happy, well-behaved dog what the dog was thinking, why he did what he did, what border collies are like, who really understands them, etc., etc. And gets so much of it wrong.





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Well, you must be a total oddball, RDM.
I will never deny this.


I went to amazon.com and read the customer reviews, and 39 out of the 40 raved about it. Made it sound like the best dog book ever written--in fact most of them said it was the best dog book ever written. You must have been the 40th, in disguise. Now I guess I'll have to read it to find out who's right.
Okay. You can have my copy and save yourself the $30.00. I probably won't ever need to read it again. I could have lived my whole life without knowing that Suzanne Clothier used to crawl under the dining room table and bite the legs of her relatives because she wanted to "be" a dog. That's the sort of childhood stuff people should really consider keeping to themselves.


Sadly, that's pretty much all I retained from the book because the rest of it was too dull to stick around my memory banks.



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Okay, I am going home from work, where I write for a meager living, and start my memoir on obtaining my first border collie and how it has changed my life. Who knows if it's for the better? I hope once it's published (I'll certainly approach Katz' publisher) everyone will go out and get a copy and help my financial statement tremendously!



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Bill, Bill, Bill,

Inclining towards a little censorship, are we? So he's an idiot (haven't read the book myself but I'm getting the flavour). Let him parade it in full public view then.

As to memoirs, read Gary Paulsen's book "Winterdance", I think it's called. Might change your views. I Laughed Till I Cried, as they say in the book reviews. They're probably ripping him to pieces on the sled dog boards as we speak but damn, it was funny.

Julie, I'm thinking of writing a book myself: "Old School Methods Are Still the Best: a Guide to Training Sheepdogs in the 21st Century" or something like that. Has a ring to it, don't you think?

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I would actually contribute to a legal fund to fight censorship of Katz's tripe, but I would denounce it as tripe all the same.


Saying that a book is unmitigated crap is very different from saying that the government should not have allowed it to be published. I say publish away -- and I hope that no more copies are sold.

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Hadn't heard of the Katz book until I read about it here, but Winterdance, one of my favorites, doesn't appear to be comparable. Paulsen admits from the start he's a rank amateur who's lucky to have lived through his mistakes, and he pays homage to the sledding experts.

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I ordered it at the library before I read this generous offer, but I'll keep the offer in mind should I happen to like the book. I'm worried that I might -- the amazon.com reviews make it sound a bit like what may be my favorite training book, Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan. It too is wordy, veers uncomfortably into New Age-y language, and is more of a general philosophy book than a how-to book, but its perceptiveness and basic soundness surmounts all this IMO. No point in recommending it, since it's out of print, but if anyone happens to have read both it and Bones Would Rain from the Sky, I'd like to know if you thought they were similar.

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After reading this thread again I feel that I am going to have to re-read the book because I obviosly did not spend enough time analizing it the first time. LMAO. :rolleyes: I have never seen people get so upset about something as simple as a book.... As critictial as some of you have been I think I may be afraid to post on this site now.


I can't help but wonder if the book had been strickly about his labs if it would have caused such a fuss.

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Actually Bill, I got the distinct impression you hated it so much you didn't even want anyone to read it. Not bookburning in the square perhaps, I do grant you that.

I was likewise intrigued by the vehement responses that were posted when I mentioned Eizabeth Marshall Whatever's book. How Bad an Owner she was, Letting her Dogs Run Free, and therefore how one ought not to even think about enjoying her book.

Just a bemused literary aside.


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Gee, I thought that Bill said to take it out of the library if you wanted to read it.


As a good Yankee, that's what I always do. My taxes buy those gooks. Why should I waste shelf space on what I can borrow. Heck, if I really love the book, I can wait and get it when copies arrive at our local "cheap shop" (GoodWill, Salvation Army, AmVets, Aid the Elderly, Oxfam, Save the Children...).

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Well, now I'm going to have to read Winterdance. Any book that makes me laugh til I can't breathe is okay by me.


At the risk of annoying people...

I actually DID like the Clothier book - not becasue it was a fun little read, though I wouldn't say I found it dreary so much as kind of slow reading - but for a couple of other reasons. One, she pointed out training mistakes she made right up front, and owned up intead of blaming it on the dog. Two, it was philosophical, which makes me think, in general (regardless of what the subject is), and tends to point out where I've made assumptions that I haven't even realised I made. I like this. Three, I think she makes a good point - which will doubtless be obvious to most everyone on these boards, but is NOT obvious to the majority of my clients who have training problems - that dogs are masters of body language and we are nothing like as good at it, so quite often owners are misunderstanding the majority of what their dog is saying AND what they are saying back. That isn't probably applicable to most of the people on the board here (well, to me sometimes!), but when I read the book I was thinking a lot more in terms of the ordinary everyday dog owner who has a lot less of an idea what they're doing in training the dog than most people here do. And four, though this will no doubt mark me as some sort of nut case, for some reason it struck me as hilarious when she licked her Aunt's knee while sitting under the table pretending to be a dog. Maybe I was just in one of those moods that day - but it was offbeat enough to catch my attention and make me read a bit more.


What I didn't like about The Hidden Life of Dogs is that I see all too many hit by car, shot by neighbor, kicked by moose, leg-hold trap, antifreeze, dogfight wound (etc) dogs who would not have some to greif except that the owners want them to live a "natural" life - which means they let them run all over the place with no supervision and then are all suprised and upset when something happens to the pet. Many can't understand why we want to charge them MONEY to treat their dogs - don't we love dogs? Shouldn't we just do it for free? Are we just going to let their dogs DIE because the owner can't afford to fix a problem they could have prevented for free? What's wrong with us, anyway?


Unfortunately the fact of having a book published lends a certain credibility to the content - at least for some people. They figure it had to be at least good enough to be published, so it can't be TOTAL crap - and that section of the population will tend to take this kind of book as vindication for their own irresponsibility. I don't think they need to be given any encouragement in this regard. I actually had 2 different clients tell me at different times - while I was stemming the blood loss from their dogs, who were panting and groaning in pain from their injuries, gums white and eyes rolling in distress and shock - that they let their dogs run loose so they could have a natural life "like in that book". The author never intended it as a "how to" book, in my view, but she also (so far as I recall) never pointed out that BTW, this is a totally irresponsible way to manage your dog and don't do this at home. But it's been a long time since I read that book, so I might not recall it accurately. And in any case, there are plenty of people who never even heard of that book who tell us they want their dog to "be free" (which often means "be road kill") and that their dog "never leaves the yard" (Oh, really? Someone came into your yard and shot your dog/ran over your dog/poisoned your dog/trapped your dog in a leg hold trap? No? well, then your dog DID leave your yard, and I'd bet it isn't the first time.) So the problem exists anyway... I just didn't think that book was any help at all in discouraging it.


Okay. I'm shutting up now.

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Just as Katz has the right to publish his tripe, I have the right to review it negatively and to encourage people to leave it on the bookstore shelves. Those who want to read it are free to do so. I read a borrowed copy, and I hope that others who feel a need to read it will do the same.


I would have been just appauled by this book if it were only about labs, but I doubt that it would have crossed my radar screen. Perhaps this isn't all that bad a book as dog books go; I don't know because I don't read all that many.


The Alaska dog doc has summed it up perfectly -- the fact that this swill is bound between hardcovers gives it credibility, and idiots use it to vindicate themselves. And apparently Katz has used it as his jumping off point as a dog expert on radio and tv call-in shows.

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Originally posted by Bill Fosher:

And apparently Katz has used it as his jumping off point as a dog expert on radio and tv call-in shows.

Not to mention on-line. He has a column today in Slate on the delicate subject of when it is time to put your dog to sleep. :rolleyes:



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***And apparently Katz has used it as his jumping off point as a dog expert on radio and tv call-in shows***


And other print media as well. He has an article out in this weeks 'Slate'. Other than the 'dogs have a life span of about 8 years' (paraphrased) the article is okay. But it is not something many people could not have written. It is more of an essay on how he feels about putting an ill or old dog down.


(If I am wrong about the age thing tell me. but Taffy was still in her prime at age eight. I thought only the giant breed dogs were old at that age)



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Well, how many of you read Willie Morris' "My Dog, Skip" (or saw the movie) or his other book "My Cat Spit McGee"? I suppose Katz' book could fall into that genre of book (let's hope it doesn't have a movie made from it). The difference with Willie Morris is that he doesn't make any claims (then or now) about having any sort of expertise about dogs or cats. In fact, he was an avowed cat hater, who tolerated cats for the sake of his wife, and then later came to love Spit McGee. Anyway, I digress....


Does anyone remember "Rascal" or "The Duluth Mongoose" (don't know if that's the real title or a subtitle--I was a child when I read these books), or more recently "Arnie the Darling Starling" (that one gave me a whole new perspective on starlings, a bird everyone loves to hate!) or "A Hummingbird in My House"? I haven't read any of these recently enough to comment on their content--I'm just mentioning them because such books get written because there is an audience of animal lovers out there who willread them. I don't think anyone would now say it's smart to keep a raccoon as a pet, but I surely loved that story as a kid, and I imagine it's a similar sort of thing that attracts readers to Katz' book, for better or worse.


One would hope that people don't read such books for anything other than pleasure (which is what most of the folks here have given as a reason for reading Katz' book), but I suppose that there are the oddballs out there who will take such peoples' experiences as some sort of gospel. All I can say is pity the pets that belong to such people (as illustrated very nicely in AK Dog Doc's post).


And like Bill F. said, if Katz' book hadn't been about border collies, I probably wouldn't have picked it up as many times as I did (before not purchasing it, for reasons stated in a previous post).


It never ceases to amaze me the crap books on which people will spend money, and the authors who become rich because of it. Ain't our free captialist society grand? Bill, that's my way of saying I think you've taken something of a Don Quixote postion here.... (I do admire you for your convictions though!)



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No, of course you're not wrong. Eight is not a typical age for a dog to die.


It seems that Katz has become a regular dog columnist for Slate on the strength of A Dog Year. Readers of the book may find his column at http://slate.msn.com/id/2083699/ , in which he ridicules the rescue movement and Americans' emotional "need" to rescue dogs, pretty surprising, in view of his having built his book and his dog rep around his rescue of Devon, whom he describes in the book as


a mess. His hair was matted and knotted, and underneath the tangle,

he was skinny as a chicken. His eyes indicated near-perpetual panic

as he took in every sight and sound. His nails were long and sharp.

His breath was foul. . . .


He was a split personality, fiercely proud and willful, but at the same

time lonely and defeated, with a sense of anxious despair about him.

His eyes were sometimes deep and mournful wells.


Somehow, in the intense, high-expectation world of the border collie,

a breed that imposes rigorous standards on itself, he had failed.

I would never really know what happened, but he didn't seem to have

been loved, or to have succeeded in his obedience work. He was

ultimately fired and dumped, a triple catastrophe that had to be crushing

to such a dog, one bred for centuries to attach to a single person [sic!] and

energetically undertake important tasks.


He didn't appear physically abused so much as neglected and drained,

like an employee who'd been laid off three times in one year and couldn?t

get a job interview. Yet, certain objects--brooms, fly-swatters, sticks--would

spark terror. He'd shake and hide in a corner.


No, I wasn't reading too much into this, Deanne counseled during one of

our extended phone consultations. [Deanne is Devon's breeder, who is

presented as supremely wise and caring in the book, even though she

apparently didn't even comb out Devon's mats between getting him back

from his previous owner and persuading Katz to take him.] She hadn?t

had Devon back for long, and he mostly had stayed out back in her

fenced-in fields with a score of other dogs day and night, so most of the

problems I was having didn't show themselves. But she'd seen some of

the same behavior; that's why she'd worked so hard to find him a new home.


Long after having sold him, Deanne told me, she ran into him one day at

a competition where he was entered in the obedience trials. He?d left her

proud and spirited, but now he appeared broken and discouraged. She was

worried about him.


"He just looked unhappy," she said. "His ears were down. His tail was down.

I kept asking myself, 'Why would his ears be down?'" This was no minor matter.


Somehow, she urged, I had to persuade Devon that I loved him and would

stick with him, and at the same time--even more difficult since he was

ferociously strong-willed--convince him to accept my authority without further

damaging his psyche.


But without any self-consciousness or irony, apparently, he tells us in the Slate article:


The demand for "rescued" dogs is so great that groups often have to scour

faraway rural areas these days to find abused dogs for people to adopt. . . .


[A] growing number of Americans not only need to rescue a creature, but to

perceive those creatures as having been mistreated. Somehow, our dogs

have joined us in our culture of victimization. . . .


Something buried in the psyches of certain dog-owners needs to alter

animals' fates and leads them to see those animals as having suffered.

Owners of rescued dogs I have talked to tend to have holes of one sort

or another in their lives: "Saving" an "abused" dog can sometimes fill that

hole. It makes the owner a hero: a literal savior. It makes the owner

necessary: This poor abused creature can't possibly live without the person

who saved it from misery and death. And it gives the owner a willing, and ever

grateful, target of endless love.


Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

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Oh Eileen,

Does Slate have "letters to the editor" or something similar? The hypocrisy you have just illustrated is astounding! Maybe if someone pointed it out to Katz he'd have to make a decision to be on one side of the fence or the other when it comes to his public statments. Hmmm...maybe he'll soon be running for president.



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That's it, I'm writing a book. I've never read Katz's books, because I've heard him on NPR numerous times, and he makes my skin crawl. So, Eileen's excerpt is the first I've read and I have to say, he doesn't even write well.


There does seem to be a marketable "books about crazy dogs" genre, with a subgenre of books that are specifically about crazy Border Collies (another one is For the Love of a Dog, which is at times hurl-worthy but at other times quite insightful and touching). Well, I've got one of those, and I write about him all the time anyway. And I could certainly use the money!


Barnes and Noble, here we come!

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My My My, I learn something new every day. I guess I will never cease to be amazed at the absolute greed that befalls some people, seemingly Katz at this point.

But without any self-consciousness or irony, apparently, he tells us in the Slate article:
It appears to me after what Eileen posted and reading the article, the notoriety he recieved after having his book published has gone to his head. He doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference between reality, and his manufactured 15 minutes of fame. He seems to have sucumbed to believing his own press. It proves to me that there is really nothing insignificant in this world. That what is printed does have an effect, for good, and bad respectivly. I'm just sorry he has carried it to the extent that he's now influencing people and has nothing really positive to add for the dogs, that are giving him his platform in the first place. Just my two cents worth.

Swawana, Melanie, Julie, Eileen, and 90% of the people who post here are way more interesting, and way more credibal. May be Eileen should just get premission from all who post, edit it all. And publish the "BC Boards, a glipse in to the real world of BC ownership. :rolleyes: Just an idea

Andrea D.

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So Katz is now discussing when to put dogs down, and stating that dogs have a life span of 8 years.


Tell that to the 11 year old Border collie who still wants to work, and her owner whose heart sinks when he realizes that she can't do what she used to, and whose heart soars when he sees her use her wisdom in place of her fading physical prowess. Even now, she can still clear a 4-foot fence if she has to, but she prefers to have a gate opened for her.


Oh, sure, I can point to my Molly as the example of a long-lived dog, but surely she's the exception to the rule, right? I honestly don't think so. This is a crucial point because if an "expert" is telling people that dogs live to be eight, they are going to be making decisions about whether or not to get a puppy based -- at least partly -- on that information.


Setting aside deaths from accidents and two euthanasias of viscious dogs, I think I could count on one hand the dogs I have known that didn't live into at least their early teens.


There was a golden retriever down the road who somehow got a botulism infection, and couldn't fight it off because she was just recovering from Lyme disease. She was nine. There was a mixed breed that got cancer of the everything very suddenly at the age of about five, though no one was sure exactly how old she really was. There was a German Shepherd mix who developed a brain disorder at about 11 years of age and lost congnitive function and was put down. That's it, in all my 41 years, surrounded by more dogs than Katz for most of them probably.


Hell, a meat cutter could count those dogs one one hand.


I remember thinking at the time that I read A Dog Year that there was very little discussion of the events that lead up to his decision to put the first lab down. If I remember right, the dog was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which he seemed to presume that everyone knew was a death sentence. I don't remember any discussion about how one might remediate the symptoms, deal with chronic pain, etc. In fact, I stort of recall he acted as if his eight year old dog suddenly "came down" with it, and promptly stopped enjoying life, suffering daily afflictions and torment, and was better off dead.


Kane, the father of my Australian Shepherd, lived for about four years with congestive heart failure, and finally died in his sleep at the age of 15. The judicious use of diuretics and careful management of his condition allowed him to be happy and at least somewhat functional to the end.


(Interesting, isn't it, that Katz the expert tells us that the normal life span for a dog is the age at which he made the decision to put his labs down, roughly?)


So the next time an eight-year-old dog starts to become a little old and bothersome, is the owner going to go into the vet and say "It's time for the big nap" because Katz has established eight years as the normal life span for a dog?


Oddly, though, I find myself agreeing with some of his points about the rescue movement. The humane society in my old home town regularly sends a van or two down to Virginia or out to Missouri to get a few litters of pups to bring back to New Hampshire. These pups are "rescued" so that they won't go into kill shelters. I think the breeders of these pups see the volunteers from the Northeast as just another buncher looking for litters. They pay for the pups, just like a buncher does.


I suspect that some of them know the times of year that the supply in the Northeast is short, and are breeding litters just to make the market. If the humane society doesn't come around, a buncher will.

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