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Soul of a Dog: Reflections on the Spirits of the Animals of Bedlam Farm

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,282 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Do animals have souls? Some of our greatest thinkers—Aristotle, Plato, Thomas Aquinas—and countless animal lovers have been obsessed with this question for thousands of years. Now New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz looks for an answer. With his signature wisdom, humor, and clarity, Katz relates the stories of the animals he lives with on Bedlam Farm and finds remar ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published May 19th 2008)
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Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthrozoology
I love it when liberal arts city folk move to the country, acquire animals, discover love, and then feel the urge to get philosophical about it all. The books they write are wonderful.

In this case, the deep question at the root of the book is: Do animals have souls? Katz has obviously done some of his own soul-searching on the subject. He ponders what it would mean for animals to have souls: he ponders why the question matters so much to some people. In the end, his conclusion is an intriguing o
Kristen Nace
Apr 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is second book I've read and really enjoyed by Katz. In this book he describes varioius animals he lives with on his farm in upstate NY. he ponders whether or not they have souls and also briefly touches on humans' changing relationship wtih animals etc. What I like about Katz is his obvious deep love and respect for his animals, without romanticizing them. He makes the case that we should respect them for their dog-ness, cat-ness etc and that we do animals a disservice by anthropomorphizin ...more
Melissa Norton
Aug 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another thoughful dog book from Jon Katz. More introspective than his other books, Soul of a Dog examines human-animal relationships as observed on Bedlam Farm and its environs. Izzy's work in hospice, Rose's work with sheep, and even Henrietta the hen's personality traits are represented in well written and insightful essays. And as always, Katz turns a keen eye on himself and his foibles as he chronicles his life on Bedlam Farm.
Aug 23, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Really? 4* average? I need to become an author then because I could have written a better book about my dogs. I'm a sucker for a good animal book but this isn't it. Couples (wannabe) academia with vignettes from his farm life with cows, donkeys, sheep, cats, goats, and dogs. Not cohesive or particularly entertaining. Doesn't do it for me.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A visit to Bedlam Farm and everything that goes on there. A mindful connection to the people and animals.
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
The title is ill chosen, since each chapter focuses on a different animal or group of animals at Bedlam Farm: Elvis the steer, chickens, goats, cats, sheep, burros. Of course, the most interesting is Rosie, the workaholic border collie and Katz's "right hand" on the farm. The story includes the author's own soul searching as he struggles with depression, so he is actively trying to figure out what a soul is. I didn't agree with all of his conclusions, but it makes interesting reading.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely stories of life on the farm. The animals all have their own personalities. Interesting take on animal souls. Read this for book club.
Jun 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dog lovers
This book, written by Jon Katz, attempts to answer a question we will never really know the answer to: do animals have souls? It has been pondered by many of the world’s greatest thinkers, Aristotle and Plato included. Despite that and my own beliefs on the matter, I was interested to read Katz’s take on it.

Katz lives on a farm in upstate New York and (up until recently) shared his life with sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens, steers, cats and dogs. He uses experiences with his animals to explore
Joan Colby
I enjoy Katz's style though I often have a conflict with his conclusions regarding animals. In this book, he investigates whether animals have a soul, by which he means self-awareness and personality. He cites philosophers such as Augustine and Aquinas who both thought of animals as automatons who were put on earth by God to serve man. Modern day behaviorists harbor similar ideas about animals claiming that since individualtion cannot be adequantly measured in species other than humans, it canno ...more
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, as I liked the stories of the animals and farm life. The animals have their own personalities, such as the donkey who liked Paul Newman popcorn, including the bag! I also liked reading how the animals used devious measures to obtain more food. The stories were both heartwarming and humorous. I listened to this through Audible; the narration was good, but I wish that the chapters corresponded to the tracks.

The author asks the question throughout: do dogs have souls? To me, th
Bill Sleeman
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-faith

Not too long ago my “men’s class” at church spent some time on a study devoted to Noah, the various animals of the ark and humanity’s duty to these creatures. Why did God have man put so much effort into saving animals when He could just as easily have created them anew? Was there a lesson about the role of man's dominion over the animals in the charge God presented Noah with? In the class the mostly dog owners (in true librarian fashion I was the only guy to own up to being a cat person) insist

“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.” – A.D. Williams

This book was not as good as previous Katz books I have read/listened to. But I still loved the message and the stories that he told about his animals. The parts that did not sit well for me was all the theological talk about what defines a soul and do animals have one. But I understand that was the nature of this book so it was going to be in there. I am just not
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge fan of Jon Katz and his wonderful books about his animals at Bedlam farm. In this book, he talks about the age old question of whether animals have souls. He provides thoughts on the subject from philosophers such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and even what the Bible says in the book of Genesis. In each chapter, he talks with great love and admiration of all of his own animals... from the goats to the sheep to his barn cat,Mother to his dogs..Izzy, Lenore and Rose.I had the feeling ...more
Oct 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dog-books
I'm not as enchanted with Katz's work as I once was.

This book is great, beautiful, thoughtful, poignant... A fast and easy read, filled with new stories of our favorite farm characters in typical Katz fashion. It poses the question "do animals have souls" and then compares and contrasts various situations, animals and outlooks, without drawing conclusion or hitting the reader over the head with any one concept. That part is very well done, gently prodding the mind, studying the beliefs posed in
Kelly Hager
I haven't read any of his books (up til now, obviously) but had heard a lot of good things. I'm not sure if this is indicative of his others, though, as this is a series of anecdotes about his life on a farm (where he has a slew of dogs, cats, donkeys, cows, sheep and chickens) that centers around the question of whether animals will go to heaven.

It wasn't really answered, but for my money, yes. I want no part of a Sammy-less heaven.

A preacher Katz spoke with said that they aren't going to go to
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, animals
Even though Jon Katz is known for being a dog book author, this book is mostly about other animals in his life, and the relationships that he has with them and they occasionally have with each other. (there's a chicken that gets along with a donkey, for instance) He ponders the question of whether dogs have souls, or any other animal, for that matter. He Intersperses different philosophers and behavioral experts views on animal souls with the different stories and his own personal thoughts, in w ...more
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldnt-finish
I am a long time fan of Jon Katz. Following him through and a few earlier books; I was pretty disappointed that a lot of stories I had previously read on were "reinvented" within this book with a more God/soul/meaning of life perspective that didn't exist when I first read them.

There didn't seem to be a natural flow through the book, almost as though previous stories were adapted to fit into this new perspective on life. Concepts were often rehashed, ad nauseam which surprise
TheIron Paw
Another example of Katz showing his understanding and empathy for animals. Each chapter describes the "soul" of a different animal on his farm. He does this very well without anthropomorhizing his animals - he celebrates their differences from humanity. My only complaint about the book is that Katz doesn't seem to have a consistent idea of what he means by "soul" - sometimes he seems to simply mean character or personality, other times the meaning of the animal, or at times, the religious defini ...more
I enjoyed this book like i enjoy most books by Katz. They are great stories and express true heart. This was a great book because it took you to Katz's farm and you got to hear about his animals that he has talked about in other books. This book was analytical as to whether animals have souls or not and the answer was a resounding YES. Each story demonstrates how each animal has it's own personality and how their personality shines through them. Animals are just like people in the way that every ...more
Mar 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, dog, farm
Do dogs have souls? I don't care. Luckily, Jon Katz weaves plenty of here and now in with his musings about whether we'll see our pets in heaven. His close observations of herding dogs, companion dogs, barn cats, cattle, sheep, donkeys, goats, and even a rooster named Winston and a hen named Henrietta, are what kept me reading. I understand his need to understand his animals--I certainly spent a lot of time analyzing my cats when I was growing up--and I think it's probably a good pursuit for a l ...more
Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not entirely sure why this is entitled Soul of a Dog when most of the stories involve various farm animals. The story was good and it really does make us think about the role of animals in our lives and their ability to stimulate, frustrate, console, and amuse us. There are some very good stories that will surely resonate with most of us, but may also surprise - I was certainly surprised at how much character, personality and intelligence many of these animals demonstrated...especially chick ...more
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Katz did not disappoint. There were two particularly beautiful and moving stories about different friendships Katz has had. I got to know gentle Izzy and workaholic Rose better than I knew the dog I had as kid. The driving force of the book though was the idea that dogs have this uncanny and unmatched ability to mirror ourselves back to us. Katz owns some of these incredible dogs, who through lots of treats, training, and time have become exactly what he needs them to be, even if he doesn't unde ...more
Ken Luchterhand
Good book. Not excellent. I liked how he addressed each of his animals and how they might have a soul because of their love and devotion to man.
I didn't like that it ended with a snowstorm and I was questioning how this might tie in with the main subject.

But, overall, I wished that he had taken a stance on the subject of whether or not animals have souls. He showed how loving and devoted animals are to man, but he didn't complete the sentence by telling us why they deserve to go to heaven.

In my
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book I've read from this author. The book is really good and after reading this book I truly believe that animals have a soul. They are integrated into our everyday lives and give so much without asking for anything in exchange, except to love and care of them. I've had dogs and cats over the years and each one of them had their own personality's . So the big question is do you believe dogs or have a soul? Read this book and it will give you a little insight into discovering t ...more
Alice Law
This is a lovely journal of Katz and his bonding with the farm animals(especially his beloved Border Collies and lab). The writer sees the dogs as his partner, motivator and inspiration. Their devotion to one another is something words can't described.

The down side for me is, this book isn't exclusively revolve around men's best friend, it also described the unique behavioral of other farm animals such as Ewe, Chicken, donkey and sheep... well, it's a rather let down for dog lovers like me. Neve
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen S
Reads like a journal of his own quest to discover if animals have souls. It is written as a series of short stories about many of the animals on his farm. I loved the stories and his direct and plain writing style. Some of the stories made me laugh and some made me cry (not hard to do when it comes to animals.) Overall, it really gave me an interesting take on his life on the farm, the good side and the bad side of it and how animals, friends and neighbors make up his community (with or without ...more
Feb 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author asks many questions in this book but offers few answers. I think he just makes it possible for the reader to come to his own conclusions about whether animals have souls and what our definition of a soul is. He seems to think that his animals are all brilliant and special in some way but don't we all? I think that our animals become what we need them to be, comforting, loving, supporting us and most of all teaching us acceptance of ourselves and other creatures.
Apr 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that I need to simmer with. Lots of great thoughts here that I need to process and formulate my own opinions on. My gut tells me that all lifeforces carry souls - some more obviously so than others. I know the nuns from my elementary school are rolling over in their graves or nursing odd twitches most likely on my behalf, but life itself is too wonderful for there not to be some sort of payoff. For everything.
Jul 16, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
I found "A Dog Year" to be deeply moving and insightful and hoped for the same from this book. Unfortunately it never quite gelled for me, possibly because each chapter is about a different animal or species. The parts did not feel greater than the whole. To be fair, however, I listened to the audio version and the narrator took Katz's introspective and thoughtful prose and read it like an edgy, hardboiled detective novel which interfered with my enjoyment.
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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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“There's a vulnerability about Rose, even a sweetness in her eyes, but there's no mistaking her priorities. Smart, tough, determined, she is essential, but rarely the dog that people melt over or want to take home. Yet she's a great dog.” 6 likes
“An old tradition holds that at the Last Judgment, the non-human creatures of the earth will be called by God to "give evidence" against each human being. The idea pops up in books and stories about the Creation, deemed a myth, but a persistent, imposing, even haunting one: We will be judged by the very creatures so dependent on us.
So I treat, and will continue to treat, my animals - the dogs, cats, sheep, donkeys, chickens, and cows - with that in mind.
They will give evidence. What would I want them to say?”
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