A heart is won by many things, but sometimes there is no simpler love than the bond between a human and his or her pet. In Jon Katz’s latest book, The Second-Chance Dog: A Love Story, he finds that sometimes finding love means not only reconciling our past, but also learning to tame the impossible — in this case, a dog named Frieda.
Readers meet Jon, “an aging and troubled man yearning for love and knowing it will never come, [Maria] a troubled artist who had given up her art and lost her voice, and [Frieda] a courageous, fiercely loyal wild dog abandoned by a bad man and left to fend for herself in the Adirondack wilderness.”
The work is set in upstate New York on Jon’s Bedlam Farm. One day after searching for restoration items for his farmhouse he meets Maria, a 40-something artist who desperately seeks some restoration of her own. But the two are not alone. Jon must meet the creature that has howled since his arrival, Maria’s canine companion Frieda, who, given her impression of big teeth and snarls, seems far from affectionate.
As we learn more about Jon it becomes apparent that his life has quickly spiraled into a darkened abyss. At 61-years-old, his more than 35 years of marriage was failing and there he was, being cornered by a ferociously protective dog, all for the sake of conversation with a woman. And yet, there are some conversations worth all the fear in the world, ones that ultimately change your perspective on life forever.
In 19 beautiful chapters, Jon offers a direct style of writing while managing to keep the book colorful, lighthearted and without room for diatribe. While instances within the book are at times unfortunate – chiefly Jon’s troubling marital past, Maria’s artistic decline and Frieda’s outwardly untamable ways – each of them eventually finds their momentum through helping each other. As Maria finds her true artistic passion again, Jon begins to realize that in order to win her heart he must win Frieda’s first.
The Second-Chance Dog is truly a work about love and connection, a showcase that reignites fervor for life with a message to follow one’s heart wherever it may take them. The book teaches readers that it is not just Frieda who gets a second chance to live life to the fullest, but those who, no matter what, never turned their back on her. In the end, every dog has its day and, if you love with all your heart, every human, too.
[Published: 4 December 2013, The Weekender]