22 October

Meeting Zinnia

by Jon Katz

I met Zinnia today. And fell immediately in love.

It isn’t just that she’s cute – most puppies are cute. It’s just that she is my dog, we have been waiting for one another, I think. And she is the dog I was hoping for, and more.

Maria and I drove to Connecticut to meet our breeder, Lenore Severni of Stonewall Farms Labradors. Zinnia was just perfect, exactly the dog I hoped for, and beyond my expectations.

She was calm, affectionate, easy. I picked her up and she put her head on my shoulders (photos by Maria), and I had that very special feeling that this is my dog.

Dogs are such a big part of my life, my work, my farm, my dog therapy, my writing, and my photography. I am very happy to be getting another dog just a couple of months after Red died, a dog I believe will impact my life and the lives of many others.

I was also impressed by Lenore, an experienced, charming, conscientious – and very honest – breeder who sat and talked with Maria and me for an hour, helping me to better focus and understand the process of socialization for a dog like Zinnia.

We talked about food, exercise, training and how to train Zinnia for therapy work. As I hoped, she had matched Zinnia with my plans for the dog, and it seemed a perfect match for me.

I learned a lot from our conversation.

Zinnia is still young, just five weeks old, but she projects a great sense of calm, the demeanor of the grounded and carefully bred working dog.

Lenore, who is articulate and organized: there were three different litters in different parts of her beautiful home – Labs, Springers, and Maine Coon kittens.

There wasn’t a dog hair or smell or stain in sight.

She knows what she is doing, she has been breeding for health and temperament and bone structure for decades. It felt like meeting an old friend. She can comfortably do a dozen things at once.

It was a great pleasure to talk so openly and honestly with her about the process of getting, socializing and training a dog.

She urged me to not leave Zinnia anywhere alone for a month or two after she comes to make sure she isn’t dropped, traumatized or injured.

She reminded me that an eight-week-old puppy is vulnerable, even fragile. Take it slow and be present.

I certainly trust Zinnia with Sue Silverstein at Bishop Maginn High School – we’ve already talked about Lenore’s caution – when I go to teach there, but I’ll postpone the extensive other drop-off socialization plans I had.

I will certainly bring her with me everywhere that it is allowed for a while.

I got home and ordered the special Royal Canin Lab Puppy dry food Lenore recommended. It is expensive but made especially for Lab puppies.

We’re returning on November 12 to bring Zinnia home. I felt a very strong connection with this dog, a kind of bonding affection and trust.

I held Zinnia and moved her from room to room and took her picture several times and she was poised and easy through all of it. It was hard to leave without her, but I am more excited than ever.

Several times, she leaned up and licked me on the chin.

Bud, a rescue dog from Arkansas, has been a great experience for me in my dog life.

This will be another great experience, I can feel it. I doubt I will ever have a dog again like Red – yet another great experience – but I feel the angels have blessed my life and work with dogs.

I think she has the potential to be another great one, a spirit dog come to keep me moving in my life. Maria, who is superstitious about opening up to a dog that is not yet officially ours, also held her and is eager to see her again.

But she was surely warming to Zinnia quickly. I think we’ll call her “Zin” for short.

It is up to me, her steward, to train her lovingly and thoughtfully and show her how to live safely and do good in our world.

It’s hard for me to imagine a more winning combination than Lenore and Zinnia. Getting a dog is an important issue for me, and I feel I’m doing it the right way for this dog at this time.

Maria and I are tired from the day’s drive. When we go back, we’ll get a motel room for the night before. It’s three hours either way and we’ll be busy enough when Zinnia comes home.

Thanks for your interest and support.


  1. OMG, Jon – this photo of you and Zinnia went straight to my heart. It’s obvious you had an instant connection to this little bundle of light and love. Wishing you, Maria, and Zinnia many happy years of companionship.

  2. So very happy for you. I just dropped a dog off yesterday to his new owners – drove 7 hours with him – a big 9-month old German Shepherd – one of the most extraordinary, intelligent, wise dogs I have ever met. And I drove all that way (both ways) because this home I brought him to was the right home for him. He and his new owners bonded immediately. It is an amazing experience to see that – the right people and dog finding each other. I feel blessed to have facilitated that in some small way. Thrilled that you and Zin are right for each other.

  3. I am so happy for you and Maria and Zinnia, of course. This truly is a new chapter that we will enjoy watching unfold.

  4. You make me happy. I flowed your story about Red. It hit particularly hard as our dog was dying at the same time but your resilience is a good example to me and my husband. I love Zin already as well and look forward to lots of photos and stories.

  5. Are you sure she isn’t “Zen”nia? haha.. She’s adorable and sounds just perfect for you and your plans. So happy to see this working out so well for you.

  6. Beautiful photo As always, thanks for sharing your journey. It’s especially appreciated as I recently lost my border collie, Tess, at almost twelve. Your sharing of your experiences with Red–all of them–helped me as we went through the last year or so; it gave me perspective and made me think about the larger questions. Thanks for sharing this new adventure with Zin too, as the cycle of life Andover continues.

  7. What a wonderful way to start my day: pics of two my favorites: Lab puppies and Jon Katz. Thank you for sharing your animals with us. It is a blessing to me. Looking forward to watching Zinnia interact at Bedlam Farm.

  8. I think Lenore is right about leaving Zinnia with someone other then yourself and Maria, at a young age, she needs to listen to you and not be confused by others

    1. We’ll call her Zinn, but not in honor of Howard Zinn, who I admire. In honor of the Zinnia flower, Maria’s favorite.

  9. What a lovely and heartwarming picture! It’s really interesting to learn about Lenore and to meet a great breeder. I’m thrilled for all of you and greatly looking forward to hearing about life with Zin.

  10. Zinnia is enchanting, even at five weeks. I am inspired by how you are taking on her socialization. Looking forward to following her arrival and first experiences in her new home with you and your wife.

  11. Congratulations Jon and Maria! She is absolutely gorgeous! Just remember what you put into your dog you will get back ten fold! Have fun with her.

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