Joan Colby's Reviews > A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life

A Good Dog by Jon Katz
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's review
Apr 10, 2011

did not like it

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 sheepherding trainer (what was she thinking…and cynically, despite Katz oblivious genuflections to all his mentors, I think the answer is money). Devon is of course a demon, a hyperactive mischief maker and Katz becomes the worst possible master constantly citing how Devon—renamed Orson on the advice of a mentor who says “Devon” has bad vibes for the dog from his previous life—dashes from his yard to “herd” school buses –and schoolchildren, challenges skateboarders, slips his leash, collar, whatever. Katz! Pay attention to the damn dog.
But Katz is always in a reverie, falling down due to his “bad leg” which becomes a “bad back”—that the 100 or so extra pounds he carries might have something to do with that never seems to occur to him. So Orson inspires Katz to purchase an upstate New York farm, a flock of sheep for Orson to terrorize and assorted other critters. Soon Katz acquires Rose, who proves to be an accomplished border collie, a worker not a pet and Orson is retired to the pet category which also is not a success. Katz spends a small fortune on vets, alternative vets, dog whisperers and shamans to no avail, but it all contributes to fodder for the book he’s writing. Orson’s behavior further deteriorates. Having bitten three people, now Katz determines Orson is “dangerous” and his moral duty, after considering the options of retraining—too much effort—more physical and mental testing—too expensive—confining Orson (Here Katz really irritates me as he posits that to pen Orson in an actual enclosure that he could not escape would be “like imprisonment”—do let’s poll human death row inhabitants on which alternative they would prefer). But Katz has made his moral decision. Death is the only solution he says as he babbles on about the wonderful support the vet (who actually sounds somewhat dubious) is providing. Then once Orson is safely dead he can become that “good dog” and Katz compounds this by having visions and spiritual visitations where Orson thanks him for bringing him peace. Katz concludes that Destiny brought him Orson to gift him with his new way of life. Katz is a master of self-regard and self-delusion while posing as genuinely self-critical. He rejects conventional training as “not right for rebellious spirits like him and Orson.”
Poor Orson whose fate illustrates the axiom “the only good dog is a dead dog.”
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Reading Progress

April 10, 2011 – Started Reading
April 10, 2011 – Shelved
April 27, 2011 – Finished Reading

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