19 June

Relax Classes

by Jon Katz
Relax Classes
Relax Classes

Lenore is offering a series of relax classes, she is beyond Yoga or Tai-Chi. She has experience in years of loving strangers, wagging her tail, finding and rolling in unspeakable things and resting in between on her own sofa under her own portrait, as befitting the Hound Of Love.

First, of course, you need your own sofa in a quiet room a bit out of the way. You have to train the other dogs and people to stay off it. Get into a corner, and wiggle onto your back. All hands and feet up, preferably one or more sticking up into the air. Breath deeply, snore regularly, dream of beef jerky or walking behind a donkey or sheep. Take mudbaths. That is just lesson one.

20 June

Relaxing Classes. Second Lesson

by Jon Katz
Lesson Two
Lesson Two

Lenore does not need meditation or Tai Chi to relax, she has it down. Rolling in mud is good. Hanging off the edge of your own sofa is good, you simply stretch out, hang your nose off the edge, and snore louder than the trucks passing  by outside. Once in this position – good to have your belly up, it catches the cooling breezes from the window,  you simply let go, clear your mind and enter a deep and healing state of relaxation. This cures damaged DNA.

3 October

Training: Teaching Red To Relax (And Izzy & Lenore hits the NYTimes List)

by Jon Katz
Training Dogs
Training Dogs

I’ve long felt that one of the most important – and difficult – things to teach a dog is how to do nothing, how to relax. We make our dogs crazy by over-stimulating, over-exercising, over-loving,  over-playing and arousing them. Dogs know how to do almost anything but nothing, and nothing is a critical thing for them to learn, it is the gateway to obedience, health and living mindfully and peacefully with us. I see Lab after Lab turned into ball-chasing addicts and one border collie after another so cranked they can barely think straight.

In my e-book “Listening To Dogs,” I devote a whole chapter to this idea and it is especially important with a dog like Red, obsessed with work, possessing tremendous energy, with sheep out the back door, therapy work regularly and all kinds of people hugging him, pushing treats at him, loving him.

Red knows how to herd sheep, he does not know how to relax, so I am teaching him something all border collies and most dogs really need to learn: how to be calm, be still, do nothing. This is not something obedience classes teach or that dogs learn in the play group or chasing frisbees. It is a long and painstaking process, in Red’s case, daily sessions of calming training, calm, quiet obedience drills, weekly acupuncture treatments and introducing him to activities where he can be still. Yesterday, I took a two-hour photo lesson with George Forss, the brilliant urban landscape photographer, and I brought Red out. He sat by the gate to the pasture in case we had sheep work to do, but then began to relax. I praised him when he was still and eventually he went to sleep and lay still for nearly an hour.

This would not have been possible for him even a few months ago.We are getting there, he is internalizing the idea of being  quiet and still. This is very good and healthy for him. I think we are loving our dogs so much we are making a lot of them crazy, which is why hundreds of thousands of dogs are now on Prozac for various anxiety disorders. I owe it to a dog like Red to help him live peacefully in an alien world.


Good news. My book “Izzy & Lenore,” the story of my hospice work with the border collie Izzy, was offered as an e-book by Random House last month, the price is $1.99 and the book just hit the New York Times Bestseller List for October 13. Thanks. Also, the paperback copy of “Dancing Dogs,”  my first short story collection, is now out, signed and personalized copies available at Battenkill Books. You can also pre-order “Second Chance Dog: A Love Story” from Battenkill Books (518 677 2515) and Maria and I will both personalize and sign it. A book for $1.99 is a remarkable thing to get my head around, the new world of publishing.



5 February

When Is A Camera More Than A Camera? For Me, Right Now

by Jon Katz

I went out on my Leica Patrol yesterday, but I couldn’t drive anywhere; I couldn’t open any of the doors on my car. It took several trips and a couple of hours to get the ice off, but the roads were too dangerous.

I decided to take my Leica, the official camera of the storm this weekend, and walk around the farm. I didn’t get too far. There were a few inches of snow on the ice building up all last night, and I couldn’t see where it was. I also couldn’t see three feet in front of me; the snow part of the storm had arrived.

Predictably, I slipped on the ice near the apple tree and fell forward, the Leica flying from my hand and landing in a pile of frozen snow in the loving arms of the apple tree. Other than crashing my head into the tree itself, I managed to stay on my feet and skip the fall.

My heart did jump into my throat at the sight of my camera sailing into the apple tree with a thud and landing in some frozen snow. The Leica, much more challenging than me, was fine.

I picked it up, dusted off the ice with my handkerchief, and started taking photos. No problems, but I am ordering a stronger and more protective case.

I didn’t have to worry about the camera; the Leica is built like an iron fortress; it can withstand anything but a direct hit from a shotgun or a tank. It’s even waterproof.

I’ve been writing a lot about the Leica and thinking about why this camera is so important to me. I think the answer is that it is much more than a camera to me, but it has come to me to mark a new passage in my life. I am learning and feeling more intensely, as happens in creative lives when the creative spark is lit.

Life is complicated, and for many, the creative spark is not something they can deal with.

I believe all of us  have been given the gift of the creative spark, but only some of us get the chance to use it. Most people on the earth are preoccupied with survival, not creativity.

The Leica came at a critical time in my life. It is an opportunity, and I have seized on it.

It has expanded my creativity and triggered a learning spree, the kind I have avoided all of my life. It marks a passage from one point in my life to another. I’m in an era of change – more creativity, healthier food, brighter clothes,  a healthier me, more education.

I don’t want to be an old and grumpy fart bitching about young people and change. I don’t want my brain to rot from inactivity and lack of challenge. As George Forss put it, art saves lives. Creativity saved mine, and now, it will enrich me as I age.

I will still take risks for my work and work hard to prove myself and justify my existence. The Leica has already entered every facet of my work – the blog, the farm, the animals, the dogs, the residents at the Mansion, the students at Bishop Maginn High School. It is not a tool; it is a spark and a partner in seeing the world anew.

I’m taking Leica lessons and planning to go to a six-hour Leica workshop in Boston in the spring. To use the new AI photo editing tools perfect for Leica’s incredible range and versatility, I’m taking lessons for that also.

These classes mark my first educational experience since I fled college to write about the ’60s and try to stay sane.

My teachers are brilliant and friendly younger men and one extraordinarily smart and younger woman. I have never met these people and probably won’t ever see them in person.

This camera challenges me almost every day to learn, experiment, and pay attention. My new friends are always available to me when I need them in an emergency. But more and more, I am handling my camera energies – there have been many – myself.

I tell all of these gifted people about my dyslexia since it is a problem for teachers. They get it. One of them has it, and we work pretty beautifully together. I am surprised and moved by their patience and understanding. And I am learning.

They get me in a way few teachers have ever called me, and I know how to work around my dyslexia with great skill and confidence. Learning can be fun, and I am learning things I never thought I could understand. I am learning.

I see the Leica as a pathway that has opened me to new and vital creative and personal experiences. It speaks to me: get moving, learn, listen, experiment, it says. You are only as old as you think you are. Creativity needs fuel, always.

The Leica was a significant risk for me, both financially and personally. I traded every camera and lens I ever owned for it and used it, and my Iphone Pro Max 13 camera (which took this photo) and the Leica for all my photography, and I’m happy with both.

The Leica has challenged me to go to another level in photography and observation. I find them exciting, healthy, and enervating. The Iphone camera is a first-rate lens that requires little learning. Photography woke up the artist in me, which was yearning to come out but didn’t know-how.

The camera has brought me to new challenges, and even new friends. I realize friends can come into one’s life in all kinds of different ways. Every day there is a problem that makes me want to call one of these people. Now, I rarely do; I am fixing the problems myself and learning something every time.

In getting the Leica, I cast a vote for my creativity, for confidence in myself, even as it suddenly expanded. I need to be worthy of this camera, an excellent opportunity for me at a point in my life where people are giving up on new opportunities. As one gets older, it is so easy to say; I’m okay, I don’t need more, let go, relax, slow down,  leave learning to the young.

That’s not the life I want or will accept for myself. The Leica speaks to that. The spark burns brightly inside of me, and I appreciate this gift and will use it to the end.

I realized once again as I watched in horror as the camera slid out of my hands and into the apple tree, just how much this new camera has done to invigorate and expand my life, and hopefully, my creativity.

When that stops, it will be the first death of me. The second will only be a matter of time.

10 November

The First Collage Appreciation Cards. Gulp..Maria Did Great…

by Jon Katz

Emily Gold, artist and friend, was kind enough to come to the farm to give me a collage lesson a couple of weeks  ago.

Her own collage work is amazing. She gives very popular online classes on Zoom to people who want to learn and even provides a collage kit full of stuff to get people started. You can check out her blog here.

Last night, Maria and I said down with our cards and paper and pens and pencils and markers and made some cards. Maria did a lot better than I did, which is to be expected, but I don’t dislike my first Appreciation Card, which is on the right front (with the odd little bird).

In seconds, the table was littered with paper and pieces of paper and brushes and all kinds of pencils. A creative mess. We are not as organized as Emily.

It’s going out this week to one of the donors who helped support our refugee projects.

I’m a little tense doing the colleges, I remember Emily’s advice to just relax and let it flow. That’s hard for me but I’m getting there. Maria’s cards are great, but that is to be expected.

I like my card, but I can do better. One of the things I love about collage is this: if you mess up, you just paper the mistake over and incorporate it into the card.

Emily is still making my appreciation cards, and I can’t top that, but I will get better and better and sprinkle in my own cards every now and then.

We had a blast making these cards together. Thank you, Emily, you are the best. As to the Army of Good, get ready, one of these odd appreciation cards will soon be heading your way. I am lucky to be learning to many news things.

Bedlam Farm