Review

The New Work of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love, and Family

by Jon Katz



Dog lovers who enjoyed A DOG YEAR and RUNNING TO THE MOUNTAIN are
forewarned. THE NEW WORK OF DOGS is not a walk in the park, though
author Jon Katz indulges readers with a few anecdotal romps. This
is a call to arms. Pet people around the world will reluctantly
learn about the underbelly of the dog world, the realities that
lurk outside the realm of most fenced yards, and bedrooms where
dogs and cats lounge like royalty. And it's a hard pill to swallow,
though Katz, through his wonderful writing, softens the blow.

From the cocoon of his home in Montclair, New Jersey, a wealthy
suburb where many dogs and kids are pampered, Katz takes readers on
a sad yet real journey into a world where dogs are thrown from
cars, battered by their owners, and discarded like trash. This is
the story of what happens to them if saints of the dog world,
people who form organizations like Save the Pets, find them. And it
is the story of what Katz calls "the new work" of dogs --- to fill
the emotional voids created by a culture in which television has
replaced community, where work dominates schedules and friendships
fill in the gaps.

THE NEW WORK OF DOGS is a good read by an excellent author about a
topic that will break the heart of any animal lover. With
statistics that startle any compassionate person, let alone a dog
person, the book delves into the realities of the world we have
created --- a world where most dog owners call themselves mommy and
daddy and spent $29 billion on their pets in 2001; the same world
where between 8 and 10 million dogs enter the U.S. shelter system
and close to 5 million are killed "because there are no homes for
them," says Katz.

A true journalist, Katz follows a few dog owners to discover their
motivation for owning dogs. And while they are all good-hearted and
well intended, the discoveries that he makes will tug on
heartstrings when readers realize that dogs have entered a whole
new realm of existence. These are dog owners who have unwittingly
delegated the responsibility of companionship and personal
fulfillment to four-legged creatures whose only charge should be
eating, sleeping, perhaps a bit of obedience training and, well,
relieving themselves.

"…During many interviews, it seemed that the people I was
talking to had holes of one sort or another in their lives; they
were hoping that a dog might fill it," says Katz, who did a
tremendous amount of research for this book that prompts readers to
delve further.

What readers discover in this 223-page book is that, while some
dogs are loved more than ever before --- in the form of hired dog
walkers, gourmet dog food, and high-end pillow beds --- they are
purchased to alleviate emotional needs of their owners, an unfair
prospect for the sweetest of canine companions. A widow who will
ultimately remarry and relegate new-found best friend to a small
yard without daily walks, a workaholic who is unable to relate to
his children or wife, a single woman who focuses her attention on a
small dog after being continually disappointed by friends. These
are some of the folks you meet in the pages of THE NEW WORK OF
DOGS, a book that is difficult to pick up and even harder to put
down. It is a story that will stay with you.

Reviewed by Heather Grimshaw on January 22, 2011

The New Work of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love, and Family
by Jon Katz

  • Publication Date: June 8, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Pets
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0375760555
  • ISBN-13: 9780375760556