Life and Death on Bedlam Farm

Bedlam Farm Donkeys, Simon

We didn’t know exactly what we were looking for. Jon had given us directions and we had the aid of our trusty GPS, but nothing we could see told us for certain we had actually arrived at Bedlam Farm in upstate New York.

I turned cautiously up the drive, not wanting to trespass uninvited on private property. The only visible sign read “By Appointment Only.” We weren’t sure if it was a clue or a warning. Then we heard the sound that told us we were absolutely in the right place.


Simon’s signature bellow welcomed us to the farm. Looking toward the sound, we saw the faces we have come to know only through the internet: Fanny, Lulu, and, of course, Simon. The three donkeys, shaggy with winter coats, made their way down the hill and in our direction. To our right, a chicken popped out of a small cutout in the barn. Behind us, Izzy, Lenore, and Frieda burst from the house barking wildly; bedlam indeed.

So enthralled were we with the mayhem that we didn’t notice bestselling author Jon Katz approaching until he added his welcome to Simon’s.

One of the unexpected fringe benefits of Shannon’s freelance work is the occasional chance to meet incredibly interesting people. Shannon has interviewed nearly 100 authors over the past several years, and every once in a while our travels take us to places where we get the chance to meet them in person. This was one of those occasions.

I find there is something fascinating about writers and artists. The very best, almost by definition, are more perceptive than the rest of us. They help us see things in different and unique ways. Jon is no exception.

In recent years Jon’s prolific work has focused on his relationships with the dogs that share his life and farm. The writing on his wonderful blog, bedlam farm journal, is poignant, powerful and immensely personal. Some recent entries are so moving they’re difficult to read straight through.

His latest book, Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die, is unfortunately timely. We visited Bedlam Farm at an inauspicious moment. Jon and his wife, Maria, had just decided to put one of their border collies, Rose – an animal Jon credits with literally saving his life – to sleep.

Jon wrote on his blog about the day of our visit:

Rose has never looked at the camera for me, but she did all day Friday, her last day. And I have been thinking about her look, her message to me. I am listening and hearing it, I think, a message in her spirit, her purpose.

This is what I saw, and heard:

I came when you needed me, she said, and it is time for me to leave. I will not be returning, crossing over to the human spirit world, not crossing any bridge with you, or joining you for eternity. Our work together is over. I have other work to do, for, as you have sensed, I am a spirit who lives inside the body of a dog, and I have never belonged only to the material world. We come when we are needed, we go when we are ready. I am ready. You are ready.

In spite of their grief, Jon and Maria were gracious hosts, taking time not only to give us a tour of the farm and introduce us to its inhabitants but also to sit and chat for a while over tea. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet Jon and his family.

Our hearts go out to them, and to Rose.

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5 Comments on “Life and Death on Bedlam Farm”

  1. Jim December 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    Very Touching his note brought tears to my eyes. Will have to make sure mom reads it.


  2. Kevin and Ruth December 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    This brought a tear or two to my eyes. Made me think of Whiskey, who we lost only two months ago. Our hearts go out to them for their loss of Rose.

    Kevin and Ruth


  3. Chris H. December 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    I’ve been a fan of Jon Katz for a while now and love his books. Rose was a star. How lucky you are to have met him.

    Heather warned me (too late) not to read this blog because our lab, Beckham is having severe problems, a torn ACL among them, and we were facing the possibility of maybe having to say goodbye to him this week. But he rallied and we now think we can manage his pain so that he maintains a reasonable quality of life. But we are cognisant of the fact that any decisions we make must be in his best interests, not ours.


  4. jkozak86 December 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Very touching. It’s very hard to lose an animal you grow close to. I very much believe that we are souls living inside of bodies. When you lose someone or a pet, it’s hard to let go and accept and move on. I hope they find peace and it sounds like you had a nice time.



  1. American Safari | Everywhere Once - January 30, 2012

    […] birthday parties or elsewhere in captivity (although we freely admit that the donkey named Simon is a very special critter.) We were lucky enough to have this baby burro cross our […]


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