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Dogs, Katz and Jeff Bridges

March 13, 2011
By KATHRYN SPIRA, For The Leader-Herald

I finally got to see the HBO movie "A Dog Year," starring Jeff Bridges as Jon Katz. The movie, based on Katz's book of the same title, is about his experience with a rescued border collie named Devon.

You may remember I previously wrote some columns about Katz, who lives east of Saratoga Springs and is an author of several books about dogs. I got to meet Katz at a reading in Saratoga in 2007 at Border's Bookstore. I gave him copies of the columns I had written about him and his books. After we talked for a while, he invited Herman and I to visit his farm. Herman and I are planning to do this in the spring. But first I am going to e-mail him that I saw a "A Dog Year" and a copy of this column.

The movie release was supposed to be in August 2008, but due to changes at HBO, it came out in September 2009 on HBO instead of as a theatrical release. I finally got to see it through Netflix, since I don't subscribe to HBO. Imagine Bridges, who won the Oscar for best actor in 2010 for "Crazy Heart" and was nominated again this year for his role as Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit," playing you if you were Katz.

Article Photos

Author Jon Katz is shown with his dogs at Bedlam Farm near Saratoga Springs in this undated photo.
Photo submitted

Terry and I watched "A Dog Year" recently. Katz had taken in a rescued border collie named Devon he heard about from a devoted reader of his books, and who thought Katz knew a lot about dogs because of what he conveyed in his books.

It seems Devon had many issues, ranging from fear because of prior abuse to not being housebroken. He also chased vehicles, especially school buses, recklessly getting to them through house windows with Katz chasing him down the street. In the film, Devon even jumps on top of a moving car with Katz hopelessly trying to stop him.

Just as it seems Katz is ready to give up on the dog, he has a breakthrough with him.

As depicted in the film, Katz had writer's block, his wife temporarily left the home in frustration with her husband, and their daughter was away at college. He already had two faithful labrador retrievers when he took in Devon. The last thing he needed was another dog. Or so he thought.

At the same time Katz was trying to reign in Devon, it seemed to both Terry and I that Katz was trying to reign in his own life too.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone, even if you are not a dog lover, because it isn't just a dog film. It's about how we can find our true selves while trying to change another.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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