Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion
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In this heartfelt, thoughtful, and inspiring memoir, New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his beloved rescue donkey, Simon, and the wondrous ways that animals make us wiser and kinder people.
In the spring of 2011, Jon Katz received a phone call that would challenge every idea he ever had about mercy and compassion. An animal control officer had found a neglected donkey on a farm in upstate New York, and she hoped that Jon and his wife, Maria, would be willing to adopt him. Jon wasn’t planning to add another animal to his home on Bedlam Farm, certainly not a very sick donkey. But the moment he saw the wrenching sight of Simon, he felt a powerful connection. Simon touched something very deep inside of him. Jon and Maria decided to take him in.
Simon’s recovery was far from easy. Weak and malnourished, he needed near constant care, but Jon was determined to help him heal. As Simon’s health improved, Jon would feed him by hand, read to him, take him on walks, even confide in him like an old and trusted friend. Then, miraculously, as if in reciprocation, Simon began to reveal to Jon the true meaning of compassion, the ways in which it can transform our lives and inspire us to take great risks.
This radically different perspective on kindness and empathy led Jon to a troubled border collie from Ireland in need of a home, a blind pony who had lived outside in a pasture for fifteen years, and a new farm for him and Maria. In the great tradition of heroes—from Don Quixote to Shrek—who faced the world in the company of their donkeys, Jon came to understand compassion and mercy in a new light, learning to open up “not just to Simon, not just to animals, but to the human experience. To love, to risk, to friendship.”
With grace, warmth, and keen emotional insight, Saving Simon plumbs the depths of the bonds we form with our animals, and the rewards of “living a more compassionate, considered, and meaningful life.”
Praise for Saving Simon
“Heartwarming . . . a touching tale.”—USA Today
“Highly recommended . . . an enjoyable and thoughtful work.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“[Saving Simon] handles the emotional highs and lows of living with animals with empathy and thoughtfulness, forcing readers to re-examine their own meanings of compassion and mercy.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The message of this true story will linger with the reader long after the book has been placed on the shelf.”—Bookreporter
“[An] uplifting and insightful memoir . . . Katz’s fans and animal lovers of all kinds will no doubt be delighted by Simon’s heartwarming story.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Jon Katz
“With wisdom and grace, Katz unlocks the canine soul and the complicated wonders that lie within and offers powerful insights to anyone who has ever struggled with, and loved, a troubled animal.”—John Grogan, author of Marley & Me
“Katz’s world—of animals and humans and their combined generosity of spirit—is a place you’re glad you’ve been.”—The Boston Globe
“From Toto to Marley, our canine friends are a sure bet in the literary biz. But no one seems to speak their language like Jon Katz.”—San Antonio Express-News
From the Hardcover edition.
People often associate the country with beauty and industry, and cities with poverty, but there is a kind of grinding, soul-shattering poverty you see off the main roads in upstate New York and other rural areas that is heartbreaking. In the country, poor people and families are up against the elements in a very direct way, and it is never more wrenching than in the middle of a brutal winter when they struggle to stay warm. A neighbor shocked us by telling us that five people lived in that.
Said, and would I say good-bye to Simon for him? He loved that donkey. Oh, and one more thing. Their new home didn’t take dogs. Would I possibly take their dog onto the farm and care for him? Or if not, would I find him a good home? The dog, a five-year-old golden retriever named Jake, was a mess. His fur was matted and he barked obsessively. I did find a home for Jake with a family down the road, but I heard later he got loose and was struck and killed by a car. Simon never saw Bryan again,.
Might make a difference: Lulu and Fanny, and now, it seemed, our latest hero, Simon. I kept seeing the fox all day, walking back and forth at the top of the pasture, keeping his eyes on his potential dinner. I imagined he was eager to bring food back to his offspring. He was also on to me. Whenever I went outside of the house with the rifle, he vanished, and when I was gone, he reappeared. There are all kinds of predators in the country, but none as cunning and determined as a fox. Every farmer.
On My Mind,” Carol’s lip quivered—this is how donkeys show contentment—and her eyes closed and she just seemed calm and serene. I came to love those moments—the big barn creaking in the wind, the barn cats skittering around the hay bales, Willie Nelson’s gravelly but soothing voice echoing off the big old rafters in the roof. The music connected us somehow. It got to Carol, reached some unfathomable part of her. I got some greatest hits albums—she especially loved “Good Hearted Woman,” “Momma,.
Of the feeder gave him some protection from the flies and gnats. We covered the barn floor with straw, and as soon as he was strong enough, we hoped to get him inside, but for now, the softer ground outside seemed more comfortable than the concrete of the barn. He seemed at ease in my presence. This was somebody’s donkey, I thought. He was used to people—trusted them still. A soft breeze came up from the valley. We paused to drink it in, both of us at ease. I brought a bottle of water to sip,.