Saturday, July 2, 2016

Book, DVD Review: A Dog Year (border collie, hyper dog, farm)

A Dog Year*, based on the Jon Katz 2003 book of the same name, starring Jeff Bridges (HBO Studios, 79 minutes, 2010, $11.79, Rated R [possibly for strong language])

Jon Katz on Dogs

Don’t you just love that play on words? Jon Katz became a dog man and dog book author quite by accident and late in life when he was talked into adopting a rescue Border Collie who was a work in progress, to say the least.

(Katz ended up buying a farm for his dog.)

At the same time, our friendly farm-living writer was in a slump with ‘writer’s block.’

Enter the dog, who inspired the writer (and eventually the movie) to solve both problems. Why not write a book about the dog and the ensuing bedlam? (e.g.,most dogs ride in cars but only Devon, the Border Collie in question, rides on top of cars and not in crate on top of cars!)

Bedlam. . . .

Bedlam Farm is the New York state location (and perhaps the temporary condition) where our author and dog end up.

Ah, I can see the headlines now: “56-year-old Man Finds Himself with the Help of a Canine Therapist named Devon, a Whirling Dervish of a Dog”

Or: “Lovable Curmudgeon - The Story of a Solitary Man with One Shirt (blue) and a Dog with Five Stunt Doubles. . . .” (who needs more than one shirt when one lives alone – with a dog?)

Like John Grogan’s Marley. . . .

The stories of both Devon and Marley have turned the world of dog people upside down. Both are immensely popular, Marley more so, with kids and families. However, they are written by average dog owners, if there is such a thing, not by dog trainers or serious dog people whose hobby is ‘all things dog.’ For this reason, the twain audiences do not meet. Yet.

The world of dog training and canine behavior has changed for the better over the past 20-30 years with the advent of positive reinforcement and the consequent decline in the use of force-based training. In addition, pharmaceuticals and behavior modification now go a long way towards decreasing issues such as thunderphobia, aggression, and separation anxiety. Plus, better socialization of puppies nearly negates many problems that used to result in euthanasia.

However, Marley was written years ago when this information was not known or at least not widely known so all Marley had was a family who loved him. Ditto with Devon, plus Devon had a person who didn’t realize he was lost – it was up to Devon to find him.

*A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me (Random House, 224 pages, 2002, $11.86)

Caveat: DogEvals purchases products for review unless otherwise stated. This DVD was borrowed from the public library. The reviewer has most of Katz’ other dog books and has purchased most of them.

Tomorrow: More essay and more review

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