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The Dogs of Bedlam Farm: An Adventure with Sixteen Sheep, Three Dogs, Two Donkeys, and Me

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,725 ratings  ·  162 reviews
The author of 'A Dog Year' recounts his experiences over the course of a winter spent with his three border collies - Orson, Homer, and Rose - in an aging farmhouse with four decrepit barns, a ram named Nesbitt, 15 ewes, a lonely donkey named Carol, and a baby donkey named Fannie.
Paperback, 265 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Random House Trade (first published October 5th 2004)
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Community Reviews

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The more I read, the more I disliked Jon Katz. I thought The Dogs of Bedlam Farm sounded like a cute book - my husband and I have discussed having our own retirement place in Vermont with a few sheep and our dogs, though we make no pretense of it being a serious venture.

Here's why Katz's story left a bad taste in my mouth:

Katz is praised on the cover for his "lack of sentimentality." I should have stopped right there.

Katz dissuades a friend from rescuing a shepherd-husky mix. Instead, he patroni
First off, I think the only reason this book was a national bestseller is because it has a cute dog on the cover and secondly, because it's centered around animals. Really, this book was just okay. Sure, there were moments of being enveloped in a good story and in good prose, but they were far and between. I found the book to be repetitive, even beyond driving the point home. I surmised the whole point of the book, the lessons, etc. within the first 50 pages. In those same pages, I learned the s ...more
I couldn't hack reading this. You would think I would love a book about animals and farm life, but I found the author terribly self-aggrandizing. Everything was about him. He couldn't appreciate the dogs for themselves, but just how they made him a better person. He didn't write about how wonderful the local people were, but how awesome he was that he could tolerate the local people. Katz could really take a lesson from James Herriot about how to observe and enjoy life and the quirks of the peop ...more
Anna Engel
I really wanted to enjoy "Dogs of Bedlam Farm." After all, there are dogs, donkeys, and sheep in the book. But I agree with many other reviewers that "Dogs" was repetitive, self-aggrandizing, and mostly rather boring. I enjoyed Katz's descriptions of working with the farm critters, but found his interactions with local folk to be mildly insulting. His attitude about his little "experiment" (i.e., buying a farm and raising farm animals) was elitist. He took great pride in making a go of it, but i ...more
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It takes place on a farm with sheep and donkeys and dogs. Sounded like a winner. But it was just okay. It had its moments that were funny and endearing, but a lot of the book was repetitive. James Herriot he is not. The fact that he gave away one of his border collies floored me. I tried to see it from his perspective- that he didn't consider the dog a good fit for him, but in the end I just couldn't understand. Maybe it makes me selfish, but I ...more
Victoria Goddard
I really enjoyed this book. It made me tear up in places, and confirmed my strong desires for a dog and a farm of my own--even if it will be more of a farmlet, really. I also found the discussion of dog training and the relationships between human beings and dogs fascinating. I liked that Jon Katz didn't shy away from the uncomfortable possibilities, and that he launched straight into the heart of what kind of love is there.

I also liked that he began and ended with Augustine's City of God, despi
Usually I don't like animal stories, but Jon Katz prefaced this one by saying that no dogs die. However, some others of his menagerie do, and there are a bunch of heart wrenching episodes. This is one of our book group selections--no idea who chose it. One of the donkeys almost dies, and one of the three dogs, who doesn't seem to fit in with the other two, moves to New Jersey with a family who adores him. Mr. Katz's wife and daughter do not live at Bedlam Farm, but at the end there is mention of ...more
Jan 14, 2015 J.T. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: canine
Jon Katz is a late middle aged man with a restless disposition, a tendency to be irritable, a dysfunctional childhood, and an obsession with dogs. In this book he has just moved to a 40 acre farm in upstate New York, leaving his wife behind in the city. And, in the process, acquires a small herd of sheep and two donkeys. And some border collies.

Training the dogs to work as a team and herd sheep is not easy, in fact it is almost beyond Katz's abilities except on those rare occasions when he can
Lori McLellan
I love reading books where I learn little tidbits of facts. Here are a few from this book:
"The name Bedlam comes from Bethlehem, specifically the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London. Originally dedicated to treating the poor, it began to admit the city's growing number of "lunatics" in the late 1300s.
Bethlehem got shortened, over several centuries, to Bedlam. In the late 1600s the hospital became a bizarre tourist destination, as audiences came to witness the spectacle of the mentally il
Jon Katz gets psychoanalytical in this book recounting his adventures with 16 sheep, 3 dogs, and 2 donkeys on a farm in upstate NY. In the course of describing the trials and tribulations of running a sheep farm, Katz delves into his psyche and that of dog people, farmers, family members, and the many animals that inhabit his farm. His reflections and observations give this book more depth and reveal more of his character than he has shared with us in the past.

For a guy from New Jersey, Katz pr
I never would have known about this book had it not been for a good friend who invited me to come along to the Wisconsin sheep and wool festival – something else I would never have known about had it not been for the fact that my friend is a weaver and was eager to visit the many vendors who were selling hand spun yarns. There were also border collie field trials going on….and to make a long story short, after a few hours watching them work the sheep I was hooked. Which is why my friend recommen ...more
Needed editing! The author repeats the same stories several times. I wondered if he forgot that he already told that story in a previous chapter! Possibly he was trying to write enough pages to fill a book. When his beloved dog Rose got lost he spent 3 pages telling about what could have happened to her, like we stupid readers couldn't have guessed that she might have had a run-in with other animals, or got trapped or got struck by a vehicle. He told several times about what Homer must be thinki ...more
"When Jon Katz adopted a border collie named Orson, his whole world changed. He moved into an old farmhouse on forty-two acres of pasture and woods in upstate New York with a menagerie: a ramn named Nesbitt, fifteen ewes, a lonely donkey named Carol, a baby donkey named Fanny, and the border collies Orson, Home, and Rose. Training Orson was a demanding project. But a perceptive dog trainer and friend told Katz, 'If you want to have a better, dog, you will just have to be a better god-damned huma ...more
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Candy C
I enjoyed this book very much. I loved the descriptions of the farmers meeting at the corner store, dispensing advice or discussing the best solutions for an outsider who bought a farm, and knows nothing about farming. These upstate men are tough, but kind, and very amused by this man who has come into their midst. They will support him, but he must prove himself worthy of that support and willing to support them in return. The decisions that come with owning animals are not always easy ones and ...more
I picked up this book from my local library because I'm a border collie admirer. If it weren't for the fact that I know I can't keep up with their energy level, I'd have one on my couch right now. I'm also very interested in farm life, particularly from the perspective of someone new to it all. I suppose there's part of me that still daydreams about buying a patch of land somewhere and being self-sufficient with my dairy cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. I can dream, right?

Initially, I found this
“Dogs have their own identities and personalities, certainly, but they’re also living and breathing testaments to our pasts, our families, our strengths and frustrations.” This statement from the prologue to “The Dogs of Bedlam Farm: An Adventure with Sixteen Sheep, Three Dogs, Two Donkeys, and Me” encompasses the essence Jon Katz’s true-to-life account of buying a small farm in upstate New York. Transitioning from a Thoreau-like existence in a mountain cabin to the aptly named Bedlam Farm provi ...more
Jon Katz's sincerity and earnestness were the best parts of this book. That, and the intimate look at one 50-something man's ongoing efforts to be himself, a struggle that doesn't come easily to some of us, including me.

If you're looking for a sentimental dog book, this isn't it. Katz loves his dogs as dogs, and his love for his Border Collies lures him into sheep-raising so he can train the dogs to herd. He breaks every rule in the AKC herding book, and questions a lot of conventional "dog peo
Aug 28, 2013 Meghan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Animal enthusiasts
A friend of mine is currently clearing off a shelf of her bookshelf, just reading a book at a time, whichever book comes up next. I thought that was a brilliant way to get through the stacks of tbr books, as I am always passing over certain ones to get to more "exciting" or more "important" reads. And although I modified the technique a bit, I am getting through my small stack of books I've selected for this project. This one was included in that pile mainly because I bought it at least 5+ years ...more
I've now had the privilege of reading several of Katz's books and they are perfect for snowy winter days or lazy days in a hammock. Yes, he writes about dogs, but his books are much more....much more. This book, in particular, had me wondering about my desire to be a gentleman-farmer. It also had we pondering my own plans for this life of mine. But, perhaps, more than anything, it made me want to be better for my two dogs.

This is a heartwarming memoir.
Sharon Epperson
A recounting of a year or so in the life of a somewhat troubled man, damaged by early life in what was evidently a dysfunctional family. In this book he reconnects with a much loved sister - also damaged by the same stresses. They seem to reconnect through what he terms "dog love".

Jon is working on becoming a better human, and appears to gauge his success in how well he is doing that, buy how well his dogs are adjusting and living with him.

He begins this book with three border collies. About mid
Katz' tale was fairly good, the story of his first winter at his upstate New York farm and his first lambing season. He covers his reunion with his sister after so many years over their love of dogs. She rescues Newfoundlands and has many, perhaps too many. It was also interesting to see how the locals reacted to him and his reaction to their ways. And yet I can see the possibility that I will grow weary of his shtick of his background and trust issues and how his personality problems land on th ...more
As a dog lover and spinner I was pretty impressed at how Jon managed as a new shepherd. Running the farm mostly by himself. This book is from 2004 and I was not surprised that his wife is no longer with him. He has had a very dysfunctional life.
Tom Helmick
This was an in interesting and surprising read. Suggested by a Greenbelt walker at the death of his own border collie, I really enjoyed the book and found a lot more in than I was initially expecting.
A delightful tale of the trials, tribulations and joys of a writer who decides his sheepdogs need sheep so he buys a small farm and some sheep. And a donkey, who then needs a companion donkey.
I really enjoyed "A Dog Year" but of course there are dogs that die. This is the main reason I have a love/hate relationship with books about dogs. I always end up sobbing like a baby over a dog I don't even know. While I love what a dog can bring to a persons life they always leave way too soon and sometimes that space is never really filled again.

Luckily no dogs pass on in this book. I know it's shocking! Although, the books is about the trials and tribulations that befall Jon Katz as he unde
John Kues
Wow, what a book. Really enjoyed it, obviously. Katz had been recommended to me some time ago but I never got around to reading him. Then I saw the HBO movie of A Dog Year, and got hooked. Such a troubled man and so insightful (eventually) of his own inner problems. I found myself laughing out loud and also tearing up a lot. Having lived for about 25 years in a rural setting, and working with farmers that had to work a full time job to be able to keep their farms going, I really enjoyed his desc ...more
It was OK. It was a dry read not much went on that was interesting. It was fun to read about how he trained the dogs and their interaction with the sheep.
if you love dogs, you will love this book. It is easy and laid back. You want to sit under the blankets in a comfy chair and go through the tough new England winter right along with the main character/author. wanted a border collie after reading this!!
Ashley Bigham
I enjoy dog books. I think he's pretty foolish in his pursuits and I completely disagree with his love affair with purebreds but the effort and training he puts into his dogs is obviously rewarded.
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Jon Katz is an author, photographer, and children's book writer. He lives on Bedlam Farm with his wife, the artist Maria Wulf, his four dogs, Rose, Izzy, Lenore and Frieda, two donkeys, Lulu and Fanny, and two barn cats. His next book, "Rose In A Storm" will be published by Random House on October 5.
He is working on a collection of short stories and a book on animal grieving.
More about Jon Katz...
A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, an Unexpected Journey, and Me Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm Soul of a Dog: Reflections on the Spirits of the Animals of Bedlam Farm

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“I am not mad here, but clear and calm. I am not transformed, but allowed to be wholly myself.I am isolated, but have never felt more connected to people. I am not imprisoned, but free. I am not cut off from my family and my roots, but am brought back to them. I am not living alone with dogs, but permitting my dogs to lead me somewhere I need to go, and it has been a great trip. We have more distance to travel together, I'm sure, before we are through.” 5 likes
“Dogs are born knowing exactly what they want to do: eat, scratch, roll in disgusting stuff, sniff and squabble with other dogs, roam, sleep, have sex. Little of this is what we want them to do, of course. We ask them to sit, stay, smell peasant, practice abstinence, and be accommodating.” 5 likes
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