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Monday, May 16, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Izzy & Lenore"

Izzy & Lenore, Two Dogs, an Unexpected Journey, and Me

-Jon Katz
 2008, Random House, Inc., New York, New York
 ISBN: 978-4000-6630-8

But Not as Eloquently...

This past March, my husband Andy called me from home as I drove back from 10 days in the city, most of which were spent caring for my Mom as she recuperated from hip-replacement surgery.

"I've been reading Jon Katz's book, Izzy & Lenore," he said.  This was an unusual book choice for him; he typically enjoys vegging out before bed with a good spy novel.  "Well," he continued, "Katz is a good writer, and it's nice that he is a hospice volunteer, but he has nothing on my wife."

What? I asked.

"All the stuff you do.  And have done.  Raising Future Leader dog puppies.  Caring for your mom, and your nieces.  And look at your own volunteer work for hospice, massaging all those people.  You could write a book as good as Katz."

I pulled over because my eyes suddenly welled with tears.  I'd been feeling a bit guilty spending so much time away from Andy, caring for others.  He would never ask me not to, but I sensed that he wished I was more available.

I guess I was wrong.  How can I not love this guy who always comes through for me?

However, as far as book-writing goes I'm not so sure I can write so from-the-heart as Jon Katz does in his book, Izzy & Lenore.  Katz has written several books about his dogs and life on Bedlam Farm in upstate New York, but it is in this book that he shares his personal journey with depression.

Over the course of one year, Katz finds renewal from his newly-recognized mental illness through several avenues--his creativity with photography and writing; a reconnection with his older sister; his rescue of Izzy, a near-feral border collie who possesses an uncanny ability to comfort the dying; the entrance of Lenore, a well-bred, sweet black Lab puppy, who immediately begins to lift his mood.  And shares all with his reader.

Smiling down a this affectionate, attentive creature, I realized that getting Lenore was already lifting my fatigue, brightening my funk, reminding me why I was up here in the country, and what I loved. (78)

Katz renders his volunteer hospice visits with precise imagery.  His descriptions of hospital beds set up in living areas are consistent with my own hospice experiences.

Izzy surveyed the room, his gaze lighting on the hospital bed set up in the middle of the living room.  Also increasingly familiar: living rooms serving as convenient places for sick people, a space where they can be comforted and monitored by family, friends, doctors, nurses, and social workers.  It keeps them in the middle of the activity, not shut away, and provides easy access to kitchens and TVs. (114)

Izzy, and Lenore too, are remarkable examples of the connections we humans share with dogs.  There are things they sense, or seem to just "know."  Dog lovers, perhaps, will not be surprised at Izzy's skill in "reading" his hospice patients, consoling them with soft, furry doors into their memories.

Fans of Katz will want to read Izzy & Lenore to get a closer look at the man of Bedlam Farm.  Dog-lovers should read Izzy & Lenore for a compassionate perspective of the incredible bond we share with these amazing animals.

(And thank you, Andy, for loving me so!)

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