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‘Dancing Dogs’ book review

“Dancing Dogs: Stories” by Jon Katz

I am bored with fictional dog stories.

So much is the same – naughty dog loved by human, saves a life or two, dies.

If you like those types of predictable stories, you probably won’t care much for “Dancing Dogs” by Jon Katz. (affiliate link)

I enjoyed “Dancing Dogs” so much I had to purposely take breaks so I wouldn’t read the whole book at once. I allowed myself a story or two per day, and I can’t wait for future story collections from Katz.

Some “Dancing Dogs” stories will make people a bit uneasy, probably angry. Most people are likely to be challenged to think, disagree, grow. That’s what stories are for. If you don’t want to experience emotions, don’t read this collection.

One story, “The Surrender Bay,” intertwines different perspectives as people anonymously surrender their animals to a shelter. It’s typical for Katz to focus on the human side of a story, in this case highlighting the shame and loss involved with giving up a best friend.

I didn’t cry while reading “Dancing Dogs.” I’m not much of a crier, but I have sobbed over other books by the author.

On the other hand, some of the stories in the book are light and funny.

“Luther and Minnie in Heaven” paints the picture of what heaven might be like for dogs. In “heaven,” dogs have the freedom to pee and poop everywhere, have unlimited sex, fight violently, eat rotten garbage, roll in dead things, tear apart screen doors. And, by the way, there are no humans.

Much of Katz’s writing also celebrates working animals, not just dogs but also a cat, a rooster, a donkey. My favorite story in the collection is “Barn Cat.”

From “Barn Cat”:

Few of the other animals out in the meadow or the woods could see the way she could, or be as still for so long. Her patience and focus were extraordinary. She could feel movement even before she heard or saw it. She sat, her body stiff, eyes widened, ears straight up and pointed forward. She waited.

Unlike most other animals, she spent her life alone but did not understand the concept of loneliness.

I had to read that story twice, and I’ll read it again.

I recall a beautiful post the author published on his blog earlier this year, a short story called “The Last Rescue Dog.” The story reached me. It’s witty and quite real, and I know it bothered some people deeply. To me anyway, the story relates to some of the stories found in “Dancing Dogs.” If a few people are uncomfortable, then – as a writer – you know you’re on the right track.

Any negative reviews on this book will come from people who are looking for entirely uplifting, feel-good dog stories. Although you will find some of that in “Dancing Dogs” you will also experience suspense, sadness, guilt, anger, fear and love. That’s what I would want from any good book.

If you read “Dancing Dogs,” let me know which story you enjoy the most.

Note: I received a free copy of Dancing Dogs in exchange for a potential review. The book is available in both print and ebook format. It is the author’s first short-story collection.

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