Books & Writing

Second Chance Dog

The Second Chance Dog: A Love Story

From New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz comes a wise, uplifting, and poignant memoir of finding love against all odds, and the power of second chances for both people and dogs.

“I had no idea that Frieda would enter my life and alter it in the most profound way, but that’s one of the beautiful things about animals. They change you, and you almost never see it coming.”

In 2007, a few years after purchasing Bedlam Farm in upstate New York, Jon Katz met Maria Wulf, a quiet, sensitive artist hoping to rekindle her creative spark. Jon, like her, was introspective yet restless, a writer struggling to find his purpose. He felt a connection with her immediately, but a formidable obstacle stood in the way: Maria’s dog, Frieda.

A rottweiler-shepherd mix who had been abandoned by her previous owner in the Adirondacks, where she lived in the wild for several years, Frieda was ferociously protective and barely tamed. She roared and charged at almost anyone who came near. But to Maria, Frieda was sweet and loyal, her beloved guard dog and devoted friend. And so Jon quickly realized that to win over Maria, he’d have to gain Frieda’s affection as well.

While he and Maria grew closer, Jon was having a tougher time charming Frieda to his side. Even after many days spent on Bedlam Farm, Frieda still lunged at the other animals, ran off into the woods, and would not let Jon come near her, even to hook on her leash. Yet armed with a singular determination, unlimited patience, and five hundred dollars’ worth of beef jerky, Jon refused to give up on Frieda—or on his chance with Maria.

Written with stunning emotional clarity and full of warm yet practical wisdom, The Second-Chance Dog is a testament to how animals can make us better people, and how it’s never too late to find love.

The Second Chance Dog will be published by Ballantine on November 12, 2013 but is available for Preorder.

2 April 2014

Poem: The Heart Is Right To Cry

The Heart Is Right To Cry

The Heart Is Right To Cry

The heart is right to cry,

when even the smallest drop of light,

is taken away,

When even the smallest drop of love,

goes cold.

We may kick and stamp our feet,

and scream in protest,

Once a day,

in the morning,

the donkeys and I

will speak in the silent language,

we look into each others eyes,

and they say to me,

"Hey, friend," we see  you

know the joy and wonder of

our existence,

this will free you from

the earthly thing, from

the sorrows and worries

of people."

26 March 2014

Poem: The Divine Old Dog Takes A Morning Walk

Divine Old Dog Takes A Walk

Divine Old Dog Takes A Walk

The Divine Old Dog's Life Changes,

Day by day,

each morning,

she takes a walk along the road,

until her legs begin to drag,

and tremble,

she can no longer jump into the car,

or hop up onto the back seat,

or walk up a steep hill,

or make her way through the path

in the woods,

where she lived in the hope of a chipmunk,

to chase.

We do not tell the Divine Old Dog what she must do

for us,

any longer.

We listen to her,

and she

will tell us,

what we need to know.

16 February 2014

Donna Wynbrandt: Portrait Of An Artist At Work, In The Artist’s Corner

Portrait Of An Artist

Portrait Of An Artist

Sometimes on Sunday afternoons, the artist Donna Wynbrandt comes to the artist's corner at the Round House Cafe in Cambridge, N.Y. and does some of her sketches. Donna is a wonderful artist, she is an outsider artist, she works outside the conventional realm of galleries and artistic expectations. She gave me permission to photograph her, and I sat near her for an hour or so as the light poured into the cafe, and I caught the artist at work. Donna is one of the most interesting people I know and one of the most driven and prolific artists. She lived on the streets of New York for many years, then she and George Forss met while he was peddling his photos on the streets of Manhattan.

Donna and George have had one of the greatest of love affairs, each has helped the other weather so many storms. Donna has learned to cope with mental illness and powerful medications, she nearly lost her mind last week when something went wrong with some of her meds, with George's help and her own determination she has worked her back almost to normal, back at the cafe sketching some of her wonderful art. I love photographing her today, I think I saw the pure artist at work, she and Maria are close friends, their share an artistic soul, a way of looking at the world, the experience of pain and fear. Maria asked Donna if the two of them might sketch together at the Round House on Sundays – this corner is a gathering place for readers, artists, singers, of whom the are many in my wonderful little town.

Scott Carrino has made the Round House a gather spot for writers, artists, farmers, merchants in town, local residents. It is telling that Donna, who is exquisitely sensitive, feel so welcome there. She did a sketch called "Olympic Judges" that I hope to buy from her. Donna sketches everywhere, just as George takes photos everywhere, the couple share a creative soul. I admire Donna, she is brave, honest, and creative.

I had the pleasure of photographing the two of them as they laughed, talked, shared the experience of making art.  I'm putting an album of the photos up on Facebook. I treated this photo with software that enhanced the colors, I did so because I thought this image perfectly captured Donna, the riot of colors, the swirl of activity. It is, in fact, a Donna poster, a Donna painting, a Donna sketch.

21 January 2014

Poem, Mother Earth’s Lyric: They Ignore Me, She said.

Mother Earth's Sonnet

Mother Earth's Sonnet

I looked up at the dark sky tonight,

the sky sucking up all of the light,

the cold all of the warmth,

I saw Mother Earth winking at me,

your eye is so wise, I said,

hoping to win her favor, the eye keeps turning, turning,

needing to see me, demanding my attention,

why so cold? I finally blurted, it is  barely dusk,

and the black and the cold cutting through me,

dimming my spirit,

sending my poor animals into their stalls.

all you can do tonight, she hummed,

ending each word with a hint of a lisp,

is give them some grain, get them inside.

I am sorry for them, they are blameless

in our world, the only creatures who listen to God,

and follow his dreams.

You all ignore me, she said,

even you, you write your poems,

your words, take your photos,

you skate right by,

no better than the rest.

And she sighed,

and covered her heart with her hands,

folded them right across her chest,

What is more sovereign,

more pure and utterly alone,

she said, than God,

up here with me,

singing his beautiful and awful song.


20 January 2014

Sickness Poem For The Sick And The Poor: A Great Saint Waves His Arms In Joy

For The Sick And The Poor

For The Sick And The Poor

Lying in bed today:

I thought what the great saints thought,

what the founders of every faith thought,

what all of the good and true men and women of the world think,

I thought of the sick and the poor, I felt a taste of their

loneliness and and struggle,

a brush against my cheek,

a cloud in my sky.

They were in bed with me,

I heard their sighs.

The world becomes very timid,

when we think of the sick and poor,

we blame the poor for being poor,

we profit from  the sick for their suffering,

the prophets hide their eyes in shame,

if we judge our own humanity by the way,

we treat our animals,

how do we judge ourselves,

by the way we treat the sick and the poor?

Should not all suffering and sadness and pain,

be like this:

The sky pulls a mirror its swirling pocket,

And practices love and mercy,

for us to see,

and cautions us,

not to look away too far,

not to be blinded,

by the sun,

the great saints are waving

their arms,

in joy,

and supplication.

Can we see ourselves in the mirror?