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A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  2,588 ratings  ·  288 reviews
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Jon Katz'sGoing Home.

“People who love dogs often talk about a ‘lifetime’ dog. I’d heard the phrase a dozen times before I came to recognize its significance. Lifetime dogs are dogs we love in especially powerful, sometimes inexplicable ways.”–Jon Katz

In this gripping and deeply touching book, bestselling author Jon Katz tells t
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Published November 28th 2006 by Villard (first published January 1st 2006)
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Dec 21, 2007 Willa rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Absolutely noone!
**Spoiler Alert**

Look into the eyes of the dog in the picture on the cover of this book and you are looking into the eyes of a troubled dog whose adoptive owner (Orson was a rescued dog) gave up on him and was too lazy to do the things that would have truly helped Orson. This is a horrid, horrid book about a horrid, horrid man who prides himself on being an amazingly wonderful dog lover, but who in the end MURDERS his dog because he just can't be bothered to take the time to ensure the dog's saf
Bev Sykes
Katz has taken a lot of flak for his story of Orson, a trouble dog ultimately put to sleep for attacking three people, but I found this the story of a man fiercely devoted to trying to change the behavior of a "broken dog," to the point of buying a farm and spending hundreds of hours doing everything he could to discover how to fill the dog's life so that he would not feel the need to lash out unexpectedly. This is written with great love, and having been in the position of having to make that d ...more
I read the book based on the fact that the book reviews dealt more with the morality of euthanizing dogs versus the merits of the storytelling.

I really enjoyed A Dog Year (by the same author) but did not enjoy this book. It wasn't because of the very sad and conflicting ending, it was because Jon Katz's storytelling was self consumed and overly self indulgent. This book was not about his dog it was about himself. I really enjoy his other books, but think he missed the mark here.
Moral of the story--don't rescue a troubled dog if you can't do the work, don't take on more than you can handle, and don't quit on your dog like Katz did to Orson. Jerk.
Joan Colby
As usual Jon Katz managed to annoy the hell out of me so why do I persist in reading his dog stories? I guess I hope he’ll eventually have some insight on his relationships with canines, and occasionally he makes steps in this direction recognizing that the acquisition of border collies was a springboard to a change in life for a man bored with his suburban existence. Fair enough. Katz’ Labs weren’t providing that challenge so he obtained a known problem: Devon, on the recommendation of a sheeph ...more
Steffany Cartellone
After I finished this, I immediately called my friend Dori and told her to read this book. Sometimes I think my love of animals is strange and then I read a book like Katz's and realize I am not the only one. I cried so hard while reading this book and when my beloved kitty died in September, re-read the ending again and cried all over again. The tears were of pain but also a wonderful realization that something so small had touched your heart and life forever. I also read Dog Days: dispatches f ...more
I enjoyed the parts of the book dealing with Jon Katz and his life, especially his life on his marvellous farm. I did not enjoy so much the parts of the book covering the story of his beloved border collie Orson. The poor dog just had too many problems. I don’t know if anyone could have solved them, and I don’t know if the kindest thing to do was try and solve them. But that is easy to say retrospectively. You don’t know that until you try, and Katz - in his fairly offbeat way - tried really har ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
In another book, Jon Katz states right up front, "No dogs die in this book." So forewarned by the fact that no such disclaimer appeared in A Good Dog..., I opened the book with some trepidation. Yet, as soon as I began reading and until I turned the last page, I could hardly put it down. What makes this such a special book is not only its touching and sometimes hilarious descriptions of what it is like to live with a psychologically wounded, behaviorally impossible, and totally engaging dog - bu ...more
Not all dog stories are automatically heartwarming. I became so annoyed with the actions of the author in the story I couldn't finish this book. Mainly because my eyes got sore from rolling them so much. I felt so sorry for Orson. His owner is so willfully clueless about dogs it burns. He's willing to buy an entire farm, ostensibly 'for' his dog, and yet can't make himself see that dog as an individual - he can apparently only treat him as a cliche, either angel or monster, with only a passing n ...more
Tony Lacey
I had trouble getting through this one, it started out fine but about half way through the book, I felt like I was digging through a six foot wall of snow with a tea spoon, slow, tedious and laborious. But, despite that, I plodded on and was pleased I did so, it reveals how strong the human/canine relationship can grow to be, it shows the trials, Joy, success, hardship and heartbreak that taking on dogs with unknown histories can lead to. and how heart wrenching the decision to let go can be.
See my review for A Dog Year or whatever the name of the other Katz book is. This one retells all the same stories anyhow, so why should it get its own review? Oh, and, HE KILLS THE DOG. JESUS CHRIST ALL MIGHTY HE KILLS THE DOG.
Pris robichaud

The Broken Parts of Me, The Broken Parts of Orson, We Healed, 15 Nov 2006

"Two things fill the mind, with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heaven above me and the moral law with in me". Immanuel Kant

"Owning and loving a dog is a very individual experience. Orson's story was complex, his behavioral problems probably stemming from multiple sources.' Jonathan Katz is a writer and a writer of prose where Orson is concerned. Thi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
An almost four. Jon Katz has written many books about the animals he has owned. Especially dogs. this one is mostly about Orson. Orson is a border-collie he got when Orson was about three years old. Orson was a very wild dog. even for a border collie. he had a tendency to chase. buses, trucks, people etc. he also tended to snap at and even bite. he was very anxious dog. Jon Katz tried very hard to tame this out of control dog. took him to Veterenerians, even a vet that specialized in holistic me ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I learned to expect that most books about dogs end badly and I am bound to cry my eyes out...
No, seriously, this book (and others by this amazing man) restores my faith in humanity because I realize that I am not the only one who is touched deeply by things I learn from the experiences I have with my companion animals as well as how they directly express love and pyschic, spritual wisdom through their sweet personalities.
Here is a sample,
"Lifetime dogs intersect with our lives with particular i
Angelica Taggart
This is a non-fiction account of a man and his beautiful Border Collie, Orson, and the joys and troubles they had together. As Jon Kat wrote - this dog changed his life - in a big way. The story is about both him and Orson.
You'll want tissues at the end. I certainly did, as it touched on experiences I'd had - but with a Bengal cat.

Michael Huang
Not always polished, and at times drifting into unnecessary details of the irrelevant; yet the book is overall a generally touching story of a man and his dogs that animal lovers can appreciate or relate to.

To be perfectly honest, this would be a 3 star book, maybe 3+ on a good day, but given that my sweetheart daughter gingerly recommended it to me, it earned its 4 stars.
Feb 26, 2008 Kattie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Recommended to Kattie by: it was a gift
Like other reviewers, I too had problems with this book. At times it drove me to frustration. There are some slow areas. I too had problems with the author's decision to put the dog down. He describes Orson as his version of a "heart dog" but doesn't really get to why. The dog drove him nuts and misbehaved but still loved his owner deeply. He owned much more affectionate labs (a breed he admits is his favorite,) but we never really get to the root of why Orson was so special, so needing to be "f ...more
I have little to add to the many reviews. I agree with the person who said this was more about Katz than about Orson but that's ok. I was more interested about the relationship between the writer and his troubled dog and curious to know how he handled it. Rescuing and raising a dog with issues will require a lot of difficult decision making and, although I might not agree with all of the decisions Katz made, he was clear in his relating how he came to make them. Worth a read only if you, too, ha ...more
I liked it. It gave a very realistic, non-Disney look at one man's relationship with a difficult dog. He explores what the dog means to him, and the amount of work he's willing to do to make Orson (the dog) happy, including buying a farm and sheep to keep him busy.

Katz has to make a heart breaking decision about his dog, a beautiful border collie with some personality difficulties. I hope I never have to make the same kind of decision, but if I do, I hope I do as well for my dog.
The author shows a love for his dog that only dog owners can understand. However, at times that seems a little over the top and he repeats the same ideas over and over again in different chapters. It gets a little too new-age, touched by an angel at the end for me but it is a nice idea...that are dogs can watch out for us.

The author has to make hard emotional choices and I liked that he made rational ones. This book is a "get the tissues" ready type of book so be prepared.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sherie Weber
Jan 11, 2008 Sherie Weber rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
As a person living with a true "animal" I thoroughly enjoyed all of the ups in this book - I even laughed out loud and woke my husband from a sound sleep - The downs brought tears to my eyes and it all evened out eventually - This is a story written from the author's heart and soul and any person who lives with pets will certainly be touched by this life story
I enjoyed this book for the most part - literally until the last couple of chapters. John Katz is a likeable guy for the most part and a good writer, even if he's a skeptical, cantankerous old fart. Unfortunately, I just had to read this book until the end. I should have stopped, but I thought maybe that since there were several chapters after the low point (Spoiler: He has Orson put down), that there must be some writing at the end to at least make up for that part of the story. Nope. He went a ...more
While I didn't enjoy the writer's style, I related strongly to the story. I cried uncontrollably because it touched me on such a personal level. Anyone who has ever had a "once in a life-time dog" will understand what Jon Katz had to overcome when making such a difficult decision.
Tough to finish. I really like this author and most of his other stuff but this was a struggle--I was blubbering like a baby by the end. Being the local "dog nut," I can empathize but I don't think I would have chosen the path the author did.
Katz has taken a lot of flak for his story of Orson, a troubled dog ultimately put to sleep for attacking three people, but I found this the story of a man fiercely devoted to trying to change the behavior of a "broken dog," to the point of buying a farm and spending hundreds of hours doing everything he could to discover how to fill the dog's life so that he would not feel the need to lash out unexpectedly. This is written with great love, and having been in the position of having to make that ...more
As a true dog lover I wanted so badly to love love love this book.

I've tried 3 times to start reading it and have finally concluded that I just can't do it.

Not interested.
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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 Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, an Unexpected Journey, and Me The Dogs of Bedlam Farm: An Adventure with Sixteen Sheep, Three Dogs, Two Donkeys, 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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“She lived upstairs in the farmhouse; guests and visitors occupied the B&B rooms downstairs. She kept crates tucked all over the house, in which herding dogs-border collies and shepherds-slept while waiting to work, exercise, or play.

These working dogs, I'd come to learn, led lives very different from my dogs'. Carolyn let them out several times a day to exercise and eliminate, but generally, they were out of crates only to train or herd sheep. While they were out, Carolyn tossed a cup of kibble into their crates for them to eat when they returned. I asked her once if she left the lights on for the dogs when she went out, and she looked at me curiously. "Why? They don't read...

Still, they were everywhere. If you bumped into a sofa it might growl or thump. Some of her crew were puppies; some were strange rescue dogs.”
“The true heart of Carolyn's farm was her kitchen, where sausages and pungent dog treats lay scattered over they counters, along with collars, magazines and books, trial application forums, checks from her students (Carolyn, not big on details, often left them lying around for months), leashes, and dog toys.

Pots of coffee were always brewing, and dog people could be found sitting around her big wooden table at all hours. Devon and I were always welcome there, and he grew to love going around the table from person to person, collecting pats and treats. Troubled dogs were familiar at the table, and appreciated. If we couldn't bring our dogs many places, we could always bring them here.”
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