"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 into an old farmhouse on forty-two acres of pasture and woods with a menagerie: a ram named Nesbitt, fifteen ewes, a lonely donkey named Carol, a baby donkey named Fanny, and three border collies.
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 goddamned human." It was a lesson Katz took to heart. He now sees his dogs as a reflection of his willingness to improve, as well as a critical reminder of his shortcomings. Katz shows us that dogs are often what we make them: They may have their own traits and personalities, but in the end, they are mirrors of our own lives-living, breathing testaments to our strengths and frustrations, our families and our pasts.
The Dogs of Bedlam Farm recounts a harrowing winter Katz spent on a remote, windswept hillside in upstate New York with a few life-saving friends, ugly ghosts from the past, and more livestock than any novice should attempt to manage. Heartwarming, and full of drama, insight, and hard-won wisdom, it is the story of his several dogs forced Katz to confront his sense of humanity, and how he learned the places a dog could lead him and the ways a doge could change him.