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Gus's Year

The Small and Big Lessons of Life on Bedlam Farm

The New York Times bestselling author of Talking to Animals chronicles the seasons of life on his farm, a time during which he discovers profound and heartwarming life lessons through his interactions with the animals and the rural community around him.

After a lifetime living and working in urban environments, John Katz decided to leave city life behind and buy a farm in upstate New York. He vowed to live as a farmer, dependent only on his land and animals and to reconnect with the natural world. All too soon however, he discovered that Mother Nature is as unforgiving as she is bountiful, and that struggle—not comfort—is often the key to finding lasting peace.

Alongside his faithful companions—his beloved border collies Red and Fate, his small herd of sheep, and a few horses and donkeys—Katz finds new ways to look at the world, making sure he and his flock survive not only physically but spiritually. In eleven essays, spanning one year, Katz’s experiences shed light on concepts like mercy, pride, aging and community. As the seasons progress, we meet the newest addition to the Bedlam Farm family—Gus, a wild-eyed Boston terrier puppy who wins Katz’s heart and convinces him that small dogs—and people too—can go far beyond their perceived limits.

In training Gus, doing therapy work with the elderly, and connecting with refugees in his community, Katz shows that even in a fractured, contentious world we can still escape isolation and argument, one animal or one good deed at a time. As The Boston Globe said of the author’s work, “Katz’s world—of animals and humans and their combined generosity of spirit—is a place you’re glad you’ve been.”

Photograph © Maria Wulf

Jon Katz has written over twenty books, including Talking to Animals, Soul of a Dog, Izzy & Lenore, Dog Days, A Good Dog, and The Dogs of Bedlam Farm. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Rolling Stone, Wired, and the AKC Gazette. He has worked for CBS News, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Katz is also a photographer and the author of a children’s book, Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm. He lives on Bedlam Farm in upstate New York with the artist Maria Heinrich; his dogs Izzy, Lenore, and Frieda; and his barn cats, Mother and Minnie.

More books from this author: Jon Katz