Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Second Chance Dog: A Love Story by Jon Katz

Publisher: Ballentine Books
Available Now
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers for review
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.
My thoughts:
I haven't read Jon Katz's other dog books, but have always wanted to read at least one. When I was given a chance to read this one I was happy to read a dog story that I knew did not have a unhappy ending. In other words, I knew this dog would always have a home and nothing tragic happened to her before I picked up this book. Those that shy away from dog books for this reason, rest easy. :)

This book was really half of what Jon and, his now wife, Maria went through to be together. One of Jon's biggest obstacles was gaining Frieda's, Maria's protective dog, trust. I have to admit, I wasn't involved in the story until Jon started unraveling Frieda's past and he gained insight into being a generous person to the people he loves. After this happened, I couldn't wait to read how things progressed with Frieda and Maria.

My one complaint is really a general one. Whenever someone, especially dog trainers, adamantly complain and decree that dogs should not ever be anthropomorphized, I usually scoff and then roll my eyes. Why? Because you can always catch them doing just that. In the book, yes, I did catch him several times putting human emotion or reasoning to an animal... and sometimes he even caught himself. I mean I do it all the time, but I don't tell people to "how dare you" not ever do it. I mean, they do have emotion, right? :) Anyhoo... at least this wasn't a major part of this book so it didn't get in the way too much.

I give this book 3 stars. For dog lovers you will really enjoy how he never gave up on a dog that seemed determined to never be a part of the farm's life. You will enjoy the dedication he gave to this dog and his, now wife, Maria.


  1. that's nice! I agree it must be so difficult at the end when the ends are unhappy, I don't think I could take that...

  2. Aw! This sounds sweet. And I really do shy away from dog books, just because they usually die in the end. Yes, I know dogs don't live as long as humans...authors don't need to put it in books and make me cry.

  3. Thanks for the heads-up that all ends well for the dog Melissa! I can't read anything where an animal gets hurt or killed, Old Yeller scarred me for life that way:) Glad the applying-human-reasoning thing didn't take up too much of the book and you were able to move past it:)

    1. It's not that he did it (I do it all the time), it is just the hypocrisy of telling people to never do it and then do it! :)

  4. This sounds like a sweet book. My mom made me watch Hachi and I cried my eyes out.

  5. I always give my animals emotions..LOL Great review, and I am glad the dog was happy :) Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. Oh wow, I watched the video and I wanted to reach out an pet Frieda. I kind of didn't like the author. Was he nice? I know that's such a vague word but come on, dogs are intuitive, at the very least.

    1. I think he was nice. He never gave up on Frieda. She was human and dog aggressive but he worked for a few YEARS to get her to being the dog she is today. :)

  7. Lovely review Melissa, and I am still not sure I could handle this one. After all, bad things have already happened to Frieda, and you do read about that.

  8. I'm pretty much desensitized when it comes to violence towards humans, but animals being hurt is something I just can't stand. So it's nice to go into something confident of a happy ending.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

  9. I have read a few of Katz's books and I always have mixed feelings. I guess some of them were written in his early dog days and I didn't love his methods. Having said that - he's come a long way and his obvious love and compassion for them come through and his methods have evolved.

    Not that he was ever cruel - just stubborn lol


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