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Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farmby Jon Katz
Synopses & Reviews
About that baby donkey. As I was heading down Route 30 a couple of weeks earlier, returning from the hardware store in town, my cell phone warbled. Anthony, working at the farm that day, was calling to say that there was a new donkey in the pasture.
Knowing this had to be a joke, since I had no male donkeys and, to my knowledge, no pregnant ones either, I laughed, fired off some appropriately obscene macho banter-the staple of male conversation hereabouts—and hung up.
It never really crossed my mind that it was true.
When I pulled into the driveway, though, I nearly drove into a fencepost. There was a tiny new donkey, soaking wet from amniotic fluid, hugging close to Jeannette, my most recently acquired Sicilian donkey. The afterbirth was close by and fresh. And Jeannette was snorting like a bull and glowering at any interlopers.
No way, I thought.
Way. Obviously, donkeys have a very long gestation period. Jeannette must have got knocked up just before she arrived last spring. I phoned an SOS to the Granville Large Animal Veterinary Service and ran into the house for some towels.
Jeannette and I are pretty tight, thanks to my daily offerings of carrots, apples, and oat cookies. She let me pick up her newborn-I named her Emma, after my own daughter—dry her off, and make sure her throat and eyes were clear. When I scratched her fuzzy little nose, she closed her eyes and went to sleep in my arms.
I gave Jeannette some cookies for energy, checked to see that she had milk in her teats-she did, a lot of it—and brushed her down a bit to calm her. Then I knelt in front of her and she put her head on my shoulder.
Congratulations, I said. “Who's the father? You can tell me.” But she just went over to Emma and nosed her.
There aren't many donkeys born around here these days. Once, donkeys were the tractors and ATVs of country life, performing agricultural and mercantile tasks integral to farming and commerce. Now they’re generally considered useless-local farmers call them hay suckers—so they're rare. So people from nearby farms soon began showing up to check out the newcomer, alerted by the mysterious rural news network by which everyone instantly knows everything.
In an hour or so, Kirk the vet showed up, gave the donkeys their appropriate shots, said they were fine. He also told me that Emma was, oops, a male. So she became Jesus (using the Spanish pronunciation), thanks to the mysterious circumstances of his birth.
I razzed Kirk about the fact that two large-animal vets had been by in recent weeks and, when I mentioned Jeannette's burgeoning girth, said she’d been eating too much hay and probably had gas.
Truth to tell, I felt guilty about the way I'd been mocking Jeannette for her hearty appetite and swelling belly, never guessing that she was eating for two. Probably she should have had better prenatal care, possibly some supplements. But she'd managed the whole process quite efficiently on her own, it seemed, even selecting an unusually warm February day to give birth.
A cold wave was approaching in forty-eight hours, though, so we scurried to find the heat lamps and bring Jeannette and Jesus into a cozy corner of the barn.
All this made me think even more about why I own donkeys at all.
In Dog Days, Jon Katz, the squire of Bedlam Farm, allows us to live our dreams of leaving the city for the country, and shares the unpredictable adventure of farm life. The border collies, the sheep, the chickens, the cat, the ram, and one surprisingly sociable steer named Elvis all contribute to the hum (and occasional roar) of Bedlam. On timeless summer days and in punishing winter storms, Katz continues his meditation on what animals can selflessly teach us–and what we in turn owe to them. With good neighbors, a beautiful landscape, and tales of true love thrown in, Dog Days gives us not only marvelous animal stories but a rich portrait of the harmonious world that is Bedlam Farm.
Praise for Dog Days:
“Anyone who has ever loved an animal, who owns a farm or even dreams of it, will read Dog Days with appreciation and a cathartic lump in his or her throat.”
–The Washington Post
“Katz proves himself a Thoreau for modern times as he ponders the relationships between man and animals, humanity and nature, and the particularly smelly qualities of manure.”
–Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Katz constructs the perfect blend between self-revelation and his subtle brand of humor.”
“City-dweller-turned-farmer Katz . . . returns with further adventures from his animal-filled upstate New York sheep farm. Charming.”
“The perfect summer book . . . You will not be disappointed.”
–The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A new twist on the American dream.”
–The Christian Science Monitor
–The Dallas Morning News
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The squire of Bedlam Farm shares the unpredictable adventure of farm life. From little Jesus, the newborn donkey who becomes the farm mascot, to the sociable steer Elvis and his enormous sweetheart Luna, the creatures at Bedlam Farm find new ways to challenge Katz. Riding herd on the place is Rose, the workaholic border collie. Not even Rupert the ram can intimidate her. The sheep, the chickens and the cat all contribute to the hum (and occasional roar) of the place. So do the vet, the carpenter, and theanimals' tender-hearted nursemaid. In spite of the aches and pains brought on by his demanding lifestyle and days when Bedlam Farm truly lives up to its name, the author is sustained in all he does by his wife, Paula. Through summer days and winter storms, he meditates on what animals can selflessly teach us.--From publisher description.
About the Author
Jon Katz has written sixteen books — six novels and ten works of nonfiction — including A Dog Year, The Dogs of Bedlam Farm, The New Work of Dogs, Katz on Dogs, and A Good Dog. A two-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, he writes columns about dogs and rural life for the online magazine Slate, and has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, GQ, and the AKC Gazette. He co-hosts an award-winning show, Dog Talk, on Northeast Public Radio. Katz lives on Bedlam Farm in upstate New York with his wife, Paula Span, and his dogs, sheep, steers and cow, donkeys, barn cat, irritable rooster Winston, and three hens.
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