“Rose in a Storm”

By Jon Katz. Villard Books. $24.


This is Katz’s eighth dog book – I have read them all – and ranks right at the top of the list, from the standpoint of creativity, depth and panache. In other words, it’s the perfect storm for that dog-loving, adventure reader.


It captures how a border-collie shepherd mix saves a farm during a seemingly everlasting snow storm that takes several animals’ lives, rendering the farm owner Sam virtually helpless after falling off a barn roof while shoveling snow and nearly takes the life of the weary heroine herself, who is circled by a pack of starving coyotes and attacked.


But the attack is fended off by a most unlikely savior that kills one coyote as the rest scurry into the nearby woods and then disappears itself. Even though seriously injured, Rose manages to limp and crawl to the nearby barn for cover and hopefully eventual rescue. At the time, Sam is being treated elsewhere for injuries incurred in the fall, after being airlifted out in the midst of the storm.


At the outset,  Katz characterizes Rose, “She seemed to have a sort of map of the farm inside her head, a picture of how things ought to be. Whenever something was wrong or out of place – an animal sick, a fence down, an unwelcome intruder – she knew it instantly, and called attention to it, sniffing, barking, circling. She constantly updated the map, it seemed to Sam.”


Hence, Sam regards Rose as his “farm manager, while steadfastly believing a working dog is not a pet. Throughout the heartwarming novel, however, their bonding and teamwork strengthens, in the midst of the huge winter storm that sees both removed from the farm at different points for medical care.


We see the best of Rose through the sub-zero storm – nurturing, grittiness and leadership – through Katz’s crisp prose, brisk narrative, rich insight and character development. In the latter category, a battered creature, Wild Dog, emerges. An aging and beleaguered border collie once owned by a former neighbor, Wild Dog (Flash) has been a “shadow in the woods” for many years, but finds its way to Sam’s barn for cover and hopefully food during the storm. An incredible relationship gradually unfolds between Sam, Rose and Wild Dog reflecting Katz at his best.


If you’re looking for a warm, fuzzy read this isn’t it. Conversely, it’s a sober narrative of a farm’s survival and an inspiring lesson in hope and commitment. Katz’s gripping hybrid of energy and compassionate realism is a megawatt page-turner you’ll  steadily embrace with a storm of passion.