Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Un-"Liking" Jon Katz.

I am not sure why I felt like I wanted to write this post.  I am not even certain that I will publish it.

Jon Katz.  The name stirs up Feelings among responsible dog owners and trainers, especially Border Collie People.  Over 10 years ago , in my other life, I discovered Jon Katz in the basement of an ancient city library that smelled so strongly of old books and old building that I could have lived there.  In my other life, I was just discovering dogs as more than "just pets".  In that library basement I discovered the "non fiction animal" section, and Jon Katz' books.  I was a country girl who knew nothing, nothing, of dogs other than I had grown up with them and loved them.  I was not "pure positive", I had no idea what a clicker was.  I devoured Katz' books and respected his honesty.  I will never forget the scene in A Dog Year when Katz' newly adopted and troubled border collie Devon so frustrates and infuriates him that he loses his temper in the middle of a street and throws a pooper scooper (or coin can, I cannot remember.) at him.  This man is no Silvia Trkman.  This man is clueless and lost his mind over a dog he did not understand.  I have been there more times than I care to admit, and I respected the raw and embarrassing honesty.

10 years gone by.  In those 10 years I learned that Dog People do not respect Jon Katz.  They do not like him.  They do not like his dog rehoming and his dog euthanizing.  I am a person who takes the good and bad of others, to the best of my ability.  I did so with Jon Katz for a long time.  I loved that he took his dogs to work as therapy dogs.  I loved that he respected their animal-ness.

I "liked" him on Facebook when I saw that he had a Facebook page.  I think I have been following him for the past few years.  Out of over 23K Likes on his page, only one of my Facebook friends follows JK's Facebook page.  I have enjoyed some of his blog posts.  But recently I have had a sour taste in my mouth.  Maybe I am finally realizing what others have known for a long time about this person.  Maybe JK was somehow "grandfathered" into my good graces because I so loved his stories when I discovered Dogs.  This was certainly true of the author of Merle's Door, whom a friend described to me as a "dick" when all I could remember of the book was a man and his dog together in the wilds of Wyoming and the good things in their life together and the obvious affection that the author had for his dog.  And my friend is correct.  He was not kind to his dog when he could have been, not by a long shot.

I continued to allow my profile to "like" JK when I heard that he was supportive of Cesar Millan.  I was disgusted but tried to keep seeing the good.  I continued when a recent post caught my eye , "Animal Rights Abuse and the Border Collie."  The general tune of this post (and an incredible amount of posts by JK on the subject, actually.) is that carriage horses are working animals and they need their work to thrive and that it is foolish of animal rights activists to protest this.  And I will admit, I know nothing about horses.  I found the post to be interesting and I do feel that working animals enjoy work.  My own pet dogs certainly enjoy it very much and are restless without at least some form of training in our day.  What I found striking about the post was JK's response to a commenter on his Facebook page.  The commenter took issue not with JK's position on carriage horses and their work, but on his statement,    "If they can ban the carriage horses, and the elephants, and the ponies, and the horses in Hollywood, then they will one day come for Red and all of the animals who work with us and who have shared the joy sand trevails of the would with us since the dawn of time."
Whoah.  Elephants?  Since when is an elephant, a wild animal, an animal that craves work in our urban society? (or circus, infamous for their cruelty.)  This commenter posted a protest on this very subject and they were Very Polite and asked JK to please respond to their comment.  I found his response to be so rude, scathing and dismissive.  A response to the tune of he will not argue on Facebook and that he is at peace with what he wrote on the article.
Fine.  Your blog.  Your right.  And totally conceited.  Especially for somebody that promotes one-paragraph blog posts on Facebook multiple times a day.  You would think JK was craving constant reader interaction because it certainly seems that all he does is take photos of his dogs and farm animals and post them on Facebook.

What I saw today was The Last Straw.  His lab Lenore has been in some pain.  He has posted his second blog post on the subject today titled "Helping Lenore".  Today's post seemed to have been made for no other purpose than to control the way in which people comment on the matter of Lenore: "As usual, I am not seeking advice or the experiences of other dogs or animals."
I could not tell you why that simple sentence pissed me off so much.  There are so many people out there who may have been through hell and back with an animal that they loved.  That the simple sight of a black lab with spinal trouble on Facebook makes their eyes sting with tears at the memory of a sweet dog since passed away.  Is it so wrong of them to want to share their experiences and wish that they could help?  Is it such an intrusion?  I understand not wanting advice, I am sure he gets plenty of it.  Don't we all?

Well guess what, sir.  I don't want to see your experiences anymore either.  You care so little for the experiences of people who care about you, your animals and your life?  You post on Facebook multiple times a day, you take photos of every waking moment in your life so it seems, but you don't have time to respond to well thought out comments, or the heartfelt experiences of somebody's heart and soul?

I won't write a comment to JK.  I have seen his dismissive tone too many times. (and I assure you, it is far more often than the above few occasions that I have mentioned.)
He does not care.  Why should he?  He is a successful writer with his own little corner of the world and he does not have to care.  I look over to Silvia Trkman right now and her little dog La who has a nasal tumor and has been undergoing radiation treatments.  I have not seen one dismissive or cruel comment from Silvia to anybody on her Facebook page or blog.  Silvia is also successful and amazing at what she does but she never ever seems to run short of common courtesy to people who love her and her animals from afar.  I have never seen her cut people off and try to dictate the ways in which they are permitted to express their concern.

So, I am no longer wasting my time caring about the experiences of somebody who has in plain english said that he is not interested in mine, or anybody else's, experiences.  Ignoring people's well meaning comments is simply too inconvenient for this man, he has to prohibit them before they are even typed.



  2. This post is so what I needed today. I don't know JK from Moses, but I have seen this type of thing happen so many times, and your post was beautifully written.

  3. I can empathize with your "final straw" reaction to that single comment from Katz. The man has been blindsided by the changes in the publishing industry and understands that there is a whole new paradigm for maintaining his success as an author. He's embraced social media and tries to use it to build and maintain an audience for himself in a way that publishers no longer will. While this is entirely realistic and understandable, what he doesn't seem to get is the "social" element of social media. In many ways he still embraces the model of the author on the mountaintop, speaking to the masses--not WITH the masses (note that his blog has no comments enabled, meaning it really doesn't meet the definition of a blog--more of an ongoing sermon; but, yes, it’s his website, so whatever). He seems to have a fundamental resentment for other people doing what people do on social media--interacting on an equal footing. I appreciate that he's having to find a new way in his profession after a career that was structured so differently. But sometimes I do want to shake him by the shoulders and tell him to quit fighting the social side of social media—if he’s going to be there, people ARE going to try to interact this (perfectly normal) way.