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The Arts

Four-legged teachers

Author Jon Katz comes to Dover Public Library to talk about what he's learned from the animals on his upstate New York farm

The Dover Free Library Dessert Social takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 6, at the Dover Free Library, 22 Holland Rd. Admission is by donation, and includes the talk and book signing with author Jon Katz, and an array of desserts donated by local inns and individuals. For more information, call the library at 802-348-7488.

DOVER—Jon Katz, best-selling author of 26 books, will headline the Dover Free Library’s annual Dessert Social to benefit the library on Thursday, Aug. 6.

In a telephone conversation with The Commons, Katz said he doesn’t like to do readings, but he “loves conversations.”

A longtime journalist and contributor to a variety of publications, including The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, and Wired, Katz has mostly shifted his focus from technology and society to “writing about animals in a thoughtful way,” he said.

Since 2000, he has published nine books about dogs, rural life, and farming; five of them were New York Times bestsellers.

His newest book, Saving Simon, available Aug. 4, sees Katz adopting the titular character, a neglected, malnourished donkey from a failing farm. Convinced he did not want to add another animal to his home, Bedlam Farm, Katz changed his mind after receiving a call from an animal control officer.

As the press release for the book says, “From the moment Jon saw the wrenching sight of Simon, he couldn’t help falling in love with the skinny, mangy donkey who had already suffered so much. Jon immediately decided to take him in."

Although Katz has rescued other animals, his opinions about what he calls “the rescue culture” and the animal rights movement may be controversial to some. He said the rescue culture “sees animals as piteous creatures."

Katz said he has seen farmers, in particular, feeling persecuted by “protesters’ idealized ideas about animals’ lives.” He said there is a prevailing belief that “animals are too fragile to be around people.”

“Most of the people protesting [for animal rights] know nothing about animals,” he said, and as our country’s population moves away from agriculture, we are also moving away from daily relationships with animals other than domesticated pets.

“There’s a growing tension between people who have animals versus people who have pets,” he said.

“As the country gets more fragmented, stressed, and disconnected, people’s need for animals has grown,” but those animals are pets, like cats and dogs, Katz said.

Because of this, Katz said a conversation is necessary to explore “the role of animals in our lives."

“We need to understand them in a wiser way,” he added.

During his appearance at the library, Katz hopes to “have a dialogue about it” with attendees.

When asked why he chose to speak at the Dover Free Library, Katz said the library chose him.

“I always go when libraries invite me,” Katz said, and he does not charge libraries for appearances.

He has spoken at Vermont libraries “four or five times in the last couple of years,” including Wilmington’s Pettee Memorial Library and Chester’s Whiting Library, Katz noted.

The state is “one of the last great reading places,” he said, adding “people read books here,” and they are “really appreciative of writers."

“It’s different when you go to Vermont,” Katz said, noting “It’s always fun."

Will Katz bring special guests?

“If they ask me to, I’ll bring some animals,” Katz replied.

Library Director John Flores told The Commons, “I hope everybody doesn’t bring their dogs,” but laughed when he pondered the possibility of a patron bringing their miniature donkey to meet Simon.

“Maybe we could just walk the donkey through as a surprise,” he said.

Regardless of whether the attendees to the Dessert Social arrive on two legs or four, Flores anticipates “a pleasant evening."

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Originally published in The Commons issue #316 (Wednesday, July 29, 2015). This story appeared on page C1.

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