According to Jon Katz, “This book is about small things, like getting a new dog that changes your outlook. And about big things, like having a dog lead you places you never imagined going.”
Katz continues a remarkable series of books about his animals, the ones living on Bedlam Farm, in IZZY & LENORE. Life has settled into a routine on the farm, but Katz is a sucker for new challenges. He has heard tales of a beautiful purebred border collie, abandoned on a small farm and relegated to running beside fences every day. His coat filthy, tangled with burrs, and his fur mottled with his own waste, the dog has run the fence line for three years. Watching the fur ball whiz past him, Katz feels the impact of an important happening. This animal is special.
The plan is simple. Nurture the dog, feed him and ready him to be placed in a caring home. But Katz cannot restrain himself from becoming emotionally involved with Izzy. Tough to train and nearly impossible to tame, Izzy seems born with a mission. He responds to loving contact with a human and becomes “Jon’s dog.” Katz is keenly aware that Izzy will lead him to places he’s never dreamed of going.
Long beset with periods of depression, Katz discovers Izzy’s ability to lift his dark moods, a constant and consistent companion beside him. When a nearby neighbor requests that Izzy visit her dying mother, Katz enters a realm of service he had not visualized was possible --- a social but compassionate purpose. The simple act of spending time with a dying woman to brighten her day stimulates Katz. Izzy’s gift is soon opened to others who face death, as he and his owner become hospice volunteers.
The chapters that follow chronicle Izzy’s remarkable ability to minister to those in terrible physical circumstances. Katz travels outside himself, guided by Izzy, to aid these families, relieving his own depression. Engaging photographs throughout the book endear the reader to the renegade orphan turned healer.
But IZZY & LENORE is a story about two dogs, the second being Lenore, the black lab puppy Katz described as “…a creature of light and laughter. Lenore could come…in the midst of a terrible time, and make me smile…” Alert, playful and curious, Lenore follows Katz like a black shadow, a loving companion woven into his daily routines. Not a good hospice candidate, Lenore nevertheless finds merit by simply being herself. Katz allows her to emerge into a sense of worth unlike Izzy’s, but with loving character. Perhaps she, too, will develop the qualities desired for hospice work.
Topping more than 15 previous books, most of which describe life on Bedlam Farm, IZZY & LENORE is Katz’s jewel. Hope is the point word to describe this delightful story. The two dogs work in tandem, each in their own manner, to bring their owner new direction and peace. Katz emerges from his physical and emotional troubles with renewed vigor. His loving characterizations of both pets reveal the depth with which both have entered his life.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on August 18, 2009