25 April

Ninety Minutes At Battenkill Books, Keeping The Book Alive

by Jon Katz
Ninety Minutes At Battenkill Books: Today’s books to sign.

Yesterday, Connie Brooks received 1,000 advance copies of my next book “Talking To Animals: How We Can Understand Them And They Can Understand Us,” due out from Simon and Schuster on May 5. I am signing and personalizing every book sold or pre-ordered at Battenkill Books, a wonderful independent bookstore in my town.

Connie and I mean to sell all 1,000 of these books by publication date, and then plan to sell 1,000 more after it comes out. Connie says the pre-orders, now at about 700, have broken the all-time record for a single shipment of books to the store. The first 1,000 people to pre-order the book get a classy literary, dog-themed tote bag that says “Sit. Stay.Read” with a border collie hovering.

Today, after the sheep shearing, I got an e-mail from Connie and Red and I went running over to the bookstore, I signed about 75 books,  they are all going to be mailed out just before the publication date, we have a lot of work to do.

Red knows the drill, he gets up to greet customers and charm women and otherwise sits by my feet while I sign books. It is a ritual I have come to love. Maria usually joins me, but she has been sick this week with some sort of stomach virus. Hopefully, she’ll be back with me at the bookstore tomorrow.

I am especially proud of this “Talking To Animals,” it is a living memoir of the animals that have shaped my life and my work, a guide to how I have learned to communicate with them successfully, and also an argument for a new and wiser understanding of animals in our world.

Good stuff, I think. I love using the book to support an independent bookstore (as well as my work), and I thank the first 700 people who bought it. We have 300 tote-bags left and will happily order more once we hear the mark. You can pre-order the book here.

It takes a good while to personalize each book,and I try to follow the requests, but sometimes I admit I balk. I don’t do cute dog talk, to dogs or people, and I don’t inscribe lengthy odes to long-lost dogs and cats, not at 10 or 12 lines. I’ll do it for one or two.

I also can’t write words I couldn’t possibly know or say. My inscriptions do have to be genuine.

Otherwise, I try hard to be accommodating to the good people who have bought my book. I see many people are doing some Christmas shopping early for dog and other animal lovers. I signed a bunch of “Merry Christmas” books today. The book deals with sheep, donkeys, dogs, barn cats, chickens and a horse or two, even a 3,000 lb Swiss Steer.

So, only about eight or nine hundred books to go.

You can pre-order it or just plain order it here.

Connie and her staff are quite wonderful and need to thrive, and they also take Paypal and major credit cards and will ship anywhere in the world. I am a loyal Amazon customer, but I don’t wish for them to be the only bookseller in the world. And I don’t wish to be the last writer in the world, either.

Thanks for supporting my work and for helping to keep the book alive.

25 April

Portrait: The Shearer. Jim McRae.

by Jon Katz
Portrait: The Shearer

Jim McRae is a quiet Vermonter, a craftsman, for half the year he rides around the Northeast shearing sheep, sometime he loves. When he works in our barn, he is quiet, almost shy. When he has a crowd, he sings, dances, and shows off his shearing underwear. People like him are one of the reasons I love where I live, he lives his own life in his own way, He spends no time on the Internet, he fixes old film cameras and herds sheep and trains border collies.

He loves everything he does, it was a pleasure to take his portrait. I thought of doing it in black and white, but I think this came out right.

25 April

The Legend Of Zelda

by Jon Katz

Zelda is our proudest and most independent sheep, she has twice broken out of the farm and raced around the neighborhood and knocked me and Red over more times than I can count. But there is no dignity in the shearing arena, Jim put her down and sat on her while she was trimmed and had her hooves done. She also got nicked and bled a bit. There is no pretty way to shear sheep, although Jim makes it look like a ballet.

25 April

Shearing. The Working Dog

by Jon Katz
The Working Dog

It is always a wonder to me to see the range of Red, an exquisitely sensitive therapy dog, a professional and highly skilled working dog. Jim McRae says Red is the only dog he permits to work in barns and sheds with him as he herds sheep, it’s usually too dangerous.

But Red helps out a great deal. Before Jim goes in to grab a sheep, Red holds them in the corner – the command is “hold them.” The sheep stay in the corner and Jim can get the one at a time, without Red the sheep panic and run back and forth in the barn and Jim has to chase after them and wrestle them to the board he uses.

I don’t usually let Fate into the Pole Barn, one dog is enough, and she is not as calm and reliable as Red.

Red is always appropriate, he puts just enough pressure on the sheep to freeze them in place, but never enough to panic them. I l love watching people like Jim work and I love watching Red work with them. He is a remarkable animal.

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