Friday, September 18, 2009

Jon Katz - Izzy and Lenore

Jon Katz’s “Izzy and Lenore” was not exactly the fun, doggy lit romp I was anticipating. I got more than I bargained for with this one: it’s not just tear-inducing, it’s enervating.

It touches a lot of spots most of us (and I’m definitely in the group) would rather leave in the dark until we’re absolutely forced to confront them: depression, death, loneliness, solidarity and the roles our dogs play in the middle of the confusion that is a well-meaning human being.

Certain animals seem to manifest in our lives at key-junctions: for Katz it was a border collie rescue, named Izzy, so magically attuned to the needs of humans he pushed the author into fulfilling his wish of becoming a hospice volunteer – with a canine aide.

The dying patients that Izzy visited make up for most of the moving chapters in “Izzy and Lenore”. They are mostly elderly, but there is a middle aged man and a little boy. Interestingly, there is only one truly distressing case – a man who has yet, along with his family, to accept that these are his last days. For all the others, acceptance, seems to have brought about a merciful serenity.

Not all dogs are as wonderfully perceptive as Izzy, but they fulfill equally important roles in our everyday lives: as Katz plunges into depression he decides to self-medicate with the addition of a black lab puppy to his menagerie.

It’s not easy to give an opinion on “Izzy and Lenore” not having read any of the author’s previous best-sellers – and it’s even harder because I genuinely thought this would be a happy-go-lucky, shelter-to-sofa, kind of story and well, it wasn’t. It was hard to read at times but absolutely amazing and moving.

I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone – it certainly gave me the blues.

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