23 June 2017

Video: Coming Home: Gus Steals Fate’s Favorite Toy Right Off. First Look

By: Jon Katz

I feel like one of those strange people posting puppy videos on You Tube, perhaps that's because I am one of those people. Gus has a great first day. We picked him up at ll a.m.,  Robin Gibbons gave us a wonderful gift bag to take home, she is sweet and classy.

She was also have to have her house back and get some sleep. We took Gus on a whirlwind tour of the town, poor dog, we went straight to the Round House, the Battenkill Book Store, and then the Mansion Assisted Care Facility. Gus is a bit hit, as most puppies would be.

We showed him the donkeys (he was not much interested)  introduced him to Fate, who tried to terrorize him briefly but seems to be accepting him well, except she doesn't want him playing with any of her things. She barked at him a few times, but then settled down.

We had a joyous hour out in the yard scratching bellies, getting to know one another. I put the camera aside this afternoon, I just wanted him to get a chance to bond with me and Maria, which seems to have happened already. He is a calm and loving creature, and quite playful. He is already beginning to come when called, does not yet know his name.

I'll put some photos up, we are happy to have him.


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Two Crates. Here Comes Gus, The Wizard Master

By: Jon Katz

Two Crates

We set up Gus's crate yesterday, we partitioned it off to help with his housebreaking, and because the crate is a place to rest and sleep. (Fate's crate is on the left, she happily rushes inside when we go out.)

There will be food and fresh water during the day – Gus will be fed there for a few  weeks to avoid confusion and conflict with the other dogs and to help him acclimate – there will be some puppy chews and some soft toys.

His name is Gus, but I love calling him the Wizard Master, he looks just like Yoda. It's 10:30 here and we're going to get him at ll or so. We'll drive him around a bit to show him to some friends and bring  him on home. More later.

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Two Nations: No Intercourse, No Sympathy

By: Jon Katz

Two Nations

It has long been said about politics that it is essentially about how the rich can oppress the poor, keep them powerless, and take their money. My first editor put it another way as I began my journalistic career by covering a press conference at the Atlantic City, N.J., City Hall: "son," he said, "just about every story you will cover there is the same story – the rich screwing the poor, again and again."
This seemed hyperbolic to me, but I came quickly to see the wisdom of it. Today, it is even more true when when I first heard it, or perhaps it is fairer to say it is as true.
The famed British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli struggled with the gap between the rich and the poor, and it is believed that gap is growing wider and faster in America than almost any other so-called civilized or "advanced" nation.
 Disraeli described the divide in this way: "Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor."

If you close your eyes for a minute – I did – you can imagine Disraeli doing a stand-up in Washington, saying the very same thing about America  today.
Former basketball star Charles Barkley, of all people, echoed Disraeli recently when he said succinctly that "all politics is about rich people screwing the poor." How curious when Charles Barkley has more clarity and vision than the people we elect to lead our country.
I feel as if I am living in two nations, between whom there is no longer any real intercourse or dialogue, who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts and feelings as if they were dwellers on different planets, or inhabitants of different zones. The rich and the poor, the left and the right.
Perhaps the rich are finally coming out into the open, and screwing the poor without abandon or apology, perhaps there is no longer any reason to hide behind faux compassion or the idea that we are all responsible for one another, even if we can't transform reality or work miracles.
We used to at least pretend that is unacceptable to screw the children of the poor, nobody is pretending about that any more either.
My family and my faith and my journalism and my live have taught me that the benchmark of humanity, of every major religion on the earth, of every human I have ever respected or admired, has been concern for the poor, even as many of understand there will always be the rich and the poor.
Pope Francis speaks to my heart and faith and my conscience when he says "we have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them."
You can read other quotes from Francis about the poor here. He also asks us to consider how much money each of us really needs to live in this world. I, for one, have less money than ever, and have never felt richer.
Today, in our upended culture, it feels as people of faith are largely silent, and people who profess to be of faith are acting out the world's oldest story, they have abandoned the poor.
There is an inseparable bond between my faith and the poor and vulnerable. Selfishly, it may be that show me how to be a human, something I have always aspired to be and will never stop  pursuing.
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The Dream Scepter. The Boundaries Of Creativity.

By: Jon Katz

The Dream Scepter

For some creative people – me, I think – inspiration comes most from the outside. For an artist like Maria, it comes from the inside, deep inside of her subconscious. When I sit down to write, I usually know what I am going to write about, if not exactly what to say. I am  affected by what i see, by what people say to me, by what the dogs and animals so, sometimes by the news.

Maria has no idea what she is going to create when she goes into her studio on some days, she can't explain it, doesn't talk about it, her conscious self doesn't really even know. Her work is an assortment of dreams, memories, fears, passions, feelings, and they all come in her quite individualistic work. Maria is not like anyone else, she is herself.

Yesterday, I went into her studio and saw this quite surprising new creation, she told me she had no idea what it was, and said I should stop asking her about it, she didn't have any answers.

It struck me as a staff, something a Roman general might be carrying when he marched into Rome, or something more spiritual, a kind of goddess or mystical image. Today, on her blog, Maria called it a "Dream  Scepter," the first time I heard or saw her put a name on it.

And several people have already inquired about buying it. (I don't know if it is for sale or not.) Maria has this idea that people will make up their own minds about what it is and what it means, she doesn't tell people what to think, an ideal with both share. I know it is not like anything I have seen her do.

Maria and I are close, obviously, but we have very separate spheres. Mine is my writing, hers is her art. I think she is closer to my writing than I am to her art, mostly because I like to show her what I am writing often, and I value her opinion about it. She never tries to edit me, but she will tell me if something touches her, and that is valuable to me. She has good instincts.

I have nothing to say about her art as she prepares it, I have no expertise, and I am not invited. That is a good and healthy thing, because people who are close need to be especially careful about boundaries. It is easy to get identities mixed up.

Maria never gives me ideas about my writing, and I never make suggestions to her about her art. This work really surprised me, and I just didn't know what to make it it. This morning, I was carrying it around the farm like a flag, it has a lot of mojo. Your idea is as good as mine. I hope she decides to keep it, I think it would be happy in a corner of the living room, or next to my muse in my study.

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22 June 2017

Friday. Doesn’t Gus Look Like Yoda, The Wizard Master?

By: Jon Katz

Doesn't He Look Like Yoda?

Some people were angry with me for calling our puppy "Gus," but looking at this photo, I wonder if we shouldn't have called him Yoda? Is it just me, or does he look like Yoda's spawn, perhaps he will teach me the force, perhaps he is a wise teacher come to save me, and has taken the form of a Boston Terrier puppy, Gus has the wise eyes of Yoda, the wizard master of Star Wars.

Everywhere I went in town today, everybody I met asked me when the puppy was coming and wished me well. This, of course, is what I love about a small town, you may or may not be liked, but you are almost always known. We have set up our pens and crates and readied our toys and treats.

Maria and I talked about Gus this evening, and Maria confessed she didn't love the puppy period, she loved the period when they grow up. I do love the puppy period, it gives me a chance to work on my dog training, something I love. So we are a good team, Gus will spend many happy hours in Maria's lap, I can promise you that.

The housebreaking and training campaign will fall to me, Maria is just not into it, you know how artists are. One of us zigs, the other zags. We work well together, she can assemble a crate in a flash, I can figure out what to put in it.

I am not nervous about getting Gus home, but I am excited.

We will go straight from Robin Gibbons house to the Mansion, where Gus will meet the residents, I will bless his career as a therapy dog,  then to the Round House Cafe, where he has already been named an honorary cafe dog. Then, I think to the book store to meet Connie and her mother Marilyn, and then home.

I suspect he may be tired by then, we will feed him in his new temporary home, the downstairs crate and then take him outside for some facetime (inside his pen) with Fate and Red. Fate will have a meltdown, I imagine, we'll see, she is the Queen Of The Hill around here, and will have to yield some territory.

He will be tired tomorrow, but will probably yowl all night for his mother and brothers and sisters. A rite of passage for puppies. I will close the bedroom door.

Getting a dog is a big deal for me, for two decades it has been the focal point of my work and much of my life. Dogs have sparked, witnessed, inspired or challenged me at every point at which I have evolved as a human being. I believe dogs are spirit dogs who come for a reason, Gus has yet to reveal his purpose to me, many of you will probably see it before I do.

I do think there is some wisdom in those eyes, it's just how I feel. Every dog I have owned has changed me, most often for the better. I see dogs as the magical helpers who saved me and guided me on my hero's journey. One got me to the country, another kept love alive, another brought Maria to me, another took me into hospice and other therapy work and brought me to the Mansion, a dog is now the official mascot of the Bedlam Farm Warriors Soccer Team (really?) and another is arriving tomorrow.

I can't wait to see what he has in store for me, what he will teach me, how he will guide me. Am I putting too much on a dog? Some people will think so, but then, if you listen to some people, you will crawl up into bed and just wither.

Maybe I am overthinking, but I'm passive about it. Dogs have taught me patience and perspective, he might just be one of those fun dogs who lighten up life. And we have pure joy and fun together, always, me and my dogs.

I have always been a border collie and Lab person, I have not usually considered small and non-working dogs to be serious. The big touch men in trucks I have met up here – I consider many my friends – adore their small dogs in ways that surprise and puzzle me. Will that happen to me? I don't know.

I am most at ease with the border collies. They share my work ethic, high-strung nature and obsessiveness. We think alike and get  each other. We are always asking, "what's up?,"what's next," "when can we get to work?"

I got suddenly ill early this afternoon, perhaps some medications, perhaps something I ate, the pain in my stomach was severe and I was soaked in sweat and ill, I thought for a moment I might have to go to the hospital. Fate and Red instantly sensed something was wrong, Red came up to me and Fate climbed up onto the chair to sniff and lick my face and whine a bit.

I got better and was tired but okay, and I thought, this is why I love border collies so much, they miss nothing and see everything and know what is real and what is not. I wonder if Gus will be capable of that kind of connection?

I am eager to see what Gus asks of me, and what he requires from me. Those things are  hard to see when you're in it, I am getting older and I expect  Gus to grasp that in some way. Dogs sense these things.

I am always looking to be a better human, every day I wake up and ask myself how to be a human being?  More than any human, dogs have helped me stumble along on that path.

And what if Gus is a wizard master, if the look is real?

So yes, another chapter in that journey tomorrow, another magical helper, perhaps, on the hero journey. What is the Kingdom, for me? It lies in the realization of the divine spark in my neighbors, my friends, my enemies, in all of us, and yes, our dogs as well.

See you tomorrow.

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