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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,038 Ratings  ·  187 Reviews
“Dogs are blameless, devoid of calculation, neither blessed nor cursed with human motives. They can’t really be held responsible for what they do. But we can.”
–from The Dogs of Bedlam Farm

When Jon Katz adopted a border collie named Orson, his whole world changed. Gone were the two yellow Labs he wrote about in A Dog Year, as was the mountaintop cabin they loved. Katz moved
Paperback, 265 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published October 5th 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Sep 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: stinkers
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
Jul 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I got a lot of enjoyment from learning about this fellow's world. His animals are stars, but I am afraid for his marriage.
Mar 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dogs, non-fiction
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
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I enjoyed the book very much. Especially chapter 6 where the author visits a dog rescuer. It really touched me because I know people like this.

In the prologue the author tells us no dogs die in this book. Be advised, if you are the sensitive kind, a few other species do occasionally and sadly meet their ends. Such is farm life.
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the third of his books that I've read, and I like it the best. It has some very amusing moments, and some poignant ones, and I find his self-analysis and analysis of others as being more insightful than in, say, Soul of a Dog.
Pat King
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed it
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
"No dogs die in this book" is the promise that Katz makes in the introduction. He keeps his word but the same can't be said for all of the sheep and a few cats. This chronicles the author's first brutal winter alone on a 42 acre farm in upstate New York. I have mixed feelings about some of the philosophies and tactics that he details. For example, Katz on a few occasions describes in great detail "rescuers" and "dog people". I think it would have gone over better with his reading audience if he ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: animals, dogs
Jon Katz writes about his experiences living on a sheep ranch in upstate New York. It started out really slow and I didn't care for the writing. He talked a lot more about the community he was living in and the people in his life - though not his wife, strangely enough. Anyway, I felt it wasn't enough about the dogs until about the middle of the book. So, when it was talking about the dogs and sheep, I liked it, and when it was talking about mostly people, I didn't!
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading about the year Jon Katz spent on his farm in upstate New York with 16 sheep, 3 dogs and 2 donkeys. He had a very hard winter, but with the dogs for company to help him with the sheep, he survived. As a dog trainer told him, " If you want to have a better dog, you just have to be a better god-damned human."
Aug 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
as other viewers have noted for a man who supposedly loves dogs he gets rid of a lot of them. For instance he got rid of the one that his wife loved - a little jealousy maybe? As he implied he should become a better man to have better dogs - he isn't there yet.
Andy Plonka
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: src
Although Katz is not very knowledgeable about his new "farm" or the animals that populate it, he does his homework and gets it right. The reciprocal good that the animals and Katz do for each other is a beauty to behold.
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Katz is funny, descriptive. The book was well written, and gave me (a major dog lover) much insight on how are dogs are all different, and have different needs.
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it
If the author would have developed a timeline and actually followed it, the book would have been great. However, day one to day -7 to a month later gets really annoying to follow. Frustrating and I really wanted to like his books.
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
“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
Jun 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Mar 09, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lori McLellan
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it
"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
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Candy C
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Anna Engel
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jul 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: essay-collection
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
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
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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...

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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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