I wasn't familiar with Jon Katz until I recently read his book A Good Dog, which focused primarily on his Border Collie, Orson. Because of what happened with Orson in that book, it was with some trepidation that I picked up Dog Days. But I'm glad I did. I enjoyed this memoir of Bedlam Farm much more.
While Dog Days focuses mainly on Katz's dogs - Border Collies Rose and Izzy, and Labs Clementine and Pearl - he also gives us a glimpse into the other animals on the farm. There is Baby Jesus, a donkey; Winston, his tough rooster; and gentle giant Elvis, a steer, whose loneliness is eventually cured with the arrival of Luna.
Katz tells us about tough times at the farm: sick animals, brutal winter nights, how his own health issues limit his abilities as a farmer. He does not sugarcoat life on Bedlam Farm and make it seem idyllic. In fact, it is difficult, back-breaking work much of the time, but at all times, he makes the reader aware that he feels blessed and rewarded.
Katz, who gave up life in the big city to settle on this farm in upstate New York, is still learning a little more each day about being a farmer. He takes us with him on that journey. He has some rather unconventional ideas about how to run his farm and care for his animals, and he often has differences of opinion with those who work on his farm, particularly with Annie, the "Farm Goddess" who ministers to the animals. But his love and respect for his animals is always clear, even if his methods are different.
If you are an animal lover, you will probably appreciate this book. Katz writes in a simple, unassuming style, and his stories are sometimes humorous, sometimes wistful, sometimes sad. You feel as if you're a guest on Bedlam Farm as you are reading these dispatches.