17 October

At The Mansion: Talking About Loneliness

by Jon Katz

I went to the Mansion Tuesday afternoon to bring Ruth her new fuzzy bathrobe (I received two nightgowns for her today). She was sitting with Madeline, who was reading, and she and Ruth invited me to sit down and talk. I was happy to do that.

Ruth thanked me again an again, she said she wouldn’t have any winter clothes if it wasn’t for me (and the Army Of Good.) Joan joined us.

Sometimes, the Mansion residents ask me exactly who the Army Of Good are, and they are amazed when I tell them I really don’t know, I have only met a very small number of them, most live far away.

Ruth said she was sad, her “hubby” Ken died a few weeks ago. I’m not sure who brought up the subject of loneliness, I think it was Madeline, who grew up in a Bronx orphanage and has spent some time in institutions in recent years.

Madeline ishe is in her 90’s and is most often found doing New York Times Crossword Puzzles. She is often alone.

“We get used to loneliness here,” Madeline said, “this is a great place to live, and they take great care of us. But most of us don’t get many visitors. Some of us don’t have families living anymore, mostly, we have lost our spouses and sometimes, our kids live far away or don’t have time to visit.”

She said she dealt with loneliness by finding her own things to do. “You have to be able to be okay by yourself,” she said. Ruth was in a different place, she said she was lonely because of Ken.

And because her friend, her “Ma,” Peggie, had gone off to Cuba. Joan,  who was struggling to follow the conversation, said she missed her husband.

It’s an irony of assisted care, the residents are surrounded by other people, but Madeline said the people that she had shared her life with were rarely there, or never there. It’s the kind  of loneliness, she said, that activities can’t make go away.

There is a sense of community at the Mansion, the residents do look out for one another.

There is also an inevitable and perhaps unavoidable sense of loneliness that comes from being on the edge of life, and leaving so many of the things you love behind.

In a sense, the residents are helpless, and quite alone at this point in their lives. I feel very much at home when I am with them, perhaps it is because there is a loneliness  in me as well, I connect with it.

We had the nicest talk, the four of us, each in our own place, each with our own emotions. Yet there was a connection between all of us as we sat and talked, an openness and a comfort.

If  felt special to me, and I hope, to them.

Note: Some good people are sending used clothes and books and personal items to me or to the house without talking to me first. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t. In general, I prefer to buy the residents new clothes because of their durability or color, and there are many sizing and safety and medical issues relating to their clothing.  If not, I can go to local thrift stores and measure things and check their condition.

Most of the used things people have sent are not relevant to the resident’s needs.

Also, we have plenty of books for them to read now, and the residents who wish to go out in the winter (a small number of them) have what they need. I am reluctant to give  them  used things, most of them don’t fit or need some work, others don’t meet medical and health requirements  and have to be  given away.

Last week, a huge box of used books, including coloring books already drawn on with many torn pages came. I can’t bring things like that to the Mansion, and don’t want to, I know the sender meant well. Another person send me photos of her attic stuffed with boxes of clothes and said she was willing to ship all of them to the Mansion.

That is not the kind of thing we can use, I do appreciate the thought.

If we do need something, I will ask for it, and thanks so much for  caring. If you have any questions about sending something, new or used, it would be better if you contacted me at jon@bedlamfarm.com.

I’ll give you an honest answer. Thanks.


17 October

The Call-In Show That Nobody Called: Bring It On!

by Jon Katz

How does it feel to host a call-in show that nobody calls?

I can tell you. Only person called my new two-hour show debut on WBTN  radio today, we chatted about her congenial Chihuahua for a few minutes. I didn’t want to let her go.

The  show was exciting for me. But I’ll be  honest, we were not exactly swamped with calls.

Thankfully Thomas “Maestro” Toscano and I clicked anyway, we are both troopers, and we talked easily with one another – good chemistry. And we had some fine discussions about dogs and horses, training and communicating.

I had a nasty head cold and a cough, my voice was just about giving out by the time we got to 3 p.m. I sounded like Froggy The Magic Twanger.

I could talk about dogs and animals for me, but I did miss the interaction with other people, animal people are always fun to talk to. People stir things up, I get sick of myself when I talk that long, even me.

I can talk about animals for days on end, but would rather not.

I will admit, though, that I was surprised that nobody else called. On our pilot show last week, there were non-stop calls, and I got a lot of e-mail from people who listened last week today.

They said they loved the show.

So this is show business, yes?

There’s no business like show business,

Like no business I know

The opening when your heart beats like a drum

The closing when the customers don’t come

You’re broken hearted, but you go on!”

Ethel Merman, There’s No Business Like Show Business.

I read a bunch of e-mail questions, that was engaging and interesting for me.

I enjoyed it, I think it went well.

And I well understand that anything in life worth doing is difficult, there are few instant triumphs in the world. The game is on.

I did a lot of research and homework, I hope it was helpful to the people who did listen. I have no idea how many people that might be.

We talked about everything from dog vaccinations to controlling dog barks to the New York Carriage Horses and the elephants in the circuses.

I was puzzled by the lack of calls but in no way discouraged. I do love a challenge.

It’s been a long time since the station had any callers at all, and I know it will take hard work, perseverance and commitment to make the show successful.

The station’s equipment is quite old and frail, their staff is thin and overworked, and they are, to say the least, underfunded.

I was wearing new headphones – the old ones were disintegrating – that a blog supporter purchased on the WBTN Amazon Wish List over the weekend (thanks!) and the Wish List has already sold out twice. The Wish List will be re-stocked tomorrow (Thursday). Check on it if you can, they need everything.

While I was on the air, the Post Office arrived with a big stack of Amazon boxes.

So people out there are paying attention and donating,  but perhaps were shy about calling.

Or perhaps I’m dreaming to think this can work. We’ll see.

At one point in the show, Tommy, the Executive Director (he was a child prodigy) looked at me and he beamed at the new headphones: “this,” he said,”is the beginning of the re-building of the station.”

I hadn’t looked at it that way, but I have been spoiled at the easy attention I’ve always gotten, the crowds I could always draw.

I’ve got some work to do. I want the show to work.

I know the subject is good, I know I can speak well about it, and I know there is enormous interest. We just have to put it all together. And that is not going to happen in a day.

There’s always next week.

It did occur to me that the call-in lines may not have been working or were inadvertently turned off – you never know there. But that was perhaps rationalizing –  I’m pretty sure there was only one person in America who called me.

Look on the bright side: more than 350 million new listeners out there.

This broadcast is a great challenge for me, the station has been nearly left for dead. I appreciate a challenge, and I have no illusions that just because I host a radio show, people will instantly come.

But there are 75 million owned dogs in America, and more cats. This is the right broadcast.

I have to work hard and roll with the ups and downs, and there will be many, no matter what happens. I am absolutely committed to work hard to make this work, I believe the world very much needs a program like this, and once people get wind of it, it will work – hopefully.

And the station is wild about the financial and Amazon Wish List donations that have been coming in steadily. It is good to know you are all out there, whether you call me or not.

This is a good cause, and I will stick with. Next Week, Wednesday, 1 to 3.  You can call at 866 406-9286 or e-mail me your animal questions to jon@bedlamfarm.com. And you can live stream the show next week here.

I’ll  remind you.


17 October

Stewardship: A Good Life For Bud, For Dogs

by Jon Katz

Whenever I remember, I ask myself this question: What it is that I want for my dogs?

I always have the same answer. I want a good life for them. Some people feel this can only be accomplished if  you save a dog from a bad life and then give him a good one.

But I feel this moral obligation no matter where I get a dog: a breeder, a shelter, a rescue group, off the street. I get a dog from all kinds of different places, and in all kinds of different ways.

They all deserve the same thing, in a sense, they all need to be saved.

I wish to give every one of them a good life.

A purebred dog deserves this as much as a rescue dog, Rose deserved it as much as Bud, Lenore as much as Red.

There is, I know,  a particular kind of gratification from pulling a dog out of an awful situation and into a good and loving one. I also know that is often a selfish thing, as much for me as for them.

But one is no better or worse than another. I see all dogs as being rescued from a poor life, transported from one place to another, a good life.

I resist the many temptations I am offered to be divided from other people, to label myself, to let others label me, to see my feelings as superior to yours, as my choices more righteous than yours.

Animals don’t do that to one another, only grasping politicians and the people who blindly follow them.

My dog theology centers not on the shallow debate over rescue or purebred, but on the idea stewardship, first expressed, like so many moral ideas,  in early Christian theology.

“God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it (Genesis 2:15) or Corinthians 4:1-2: “Let a man consider us as stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. Or Luke 12:47-48: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”

The idea of stewardship has evolved from the Bible in our contemporary world, and it has become an inspiration to me.

There is nowhere in my life that I take the responsibility of stewardship more seriously than in caring for animals.

The angry people who have occasionally accused me of cruelty, even abuse, have no comprehension of what stewardship really is when it comes to animals. There are many ways to show mercy.

Dictionary.com defines stewardship as the responsibility and overseeing and protection of something worth caring for and preserving.

A steward can also be a person who acts as a surrogate of another or others, and aren’t we all surrogates for our pets and animals, none of whom can speak for themselves in our language?

My goal when I get a dog like Bud is simple. To give him a good life.

And Bud is now having a good life. He is well fed and comfortable sheltered. He is being trained to live safely and lovingly in our world. He feels safe and cared for.

He has places to rest and find peace, and other dogs to be with and play with and learn from, as is the almost universal need of dogs, who are pack creatures.

I not only love him, I train him, and care for his health, and give him the medicine I understand that he needs. He has access to the places he needs, and is learning to live in safety and trust.

Maria feels the same way.

I am faithful to this, I take it seriously. It’s my job to give him a good life, to let him run freely when possible, have work to do, and the attention  he needs to feel loved and secure. I think dogs can feel pride and approval, even if they don’t quite know what either is.

It is stewardship even to find the things he needs to chew on and learn to be calm and at rest. And to offer him praise.

Being a steward means being a surrogate: I will speak for him when he needs me to show up, and be sure to show him mercy and spare him unnecessary suffering and pain.

I will not assume he will tell me what he wants, I know it is my job to do that, to speak for him, to understand what he wants and needs and take responsibility for both.

Watching Bud on the sofa tonight, looking so much more peaceful and at ease than when we first saw him two weeks ago, I felt good. When there is real stewardship, if feels solid, it feels good.

I feel much of me will be required for this dog, and much has been committed, and much more will be asked.

I commit this, it is what it means to be a steward.

17 October

Live Today! Talking About Animals. My Radio Show

by Jon Katz

My new radio show about animals, a longtime dream of mine, goes live today on WBTNAm 1370, a community radio station in Bennington, Vt. The broadcast will be live-streamed from anywhere with just a click,  I very much welcome calls.

In the new world, any radio broadcast can be or is a national broadcast. The internet is a boundary crusher.

WBTN is a struggling community radio station, I am hoping this broadcast will not only be meaningful for me, but will help the station get back on its feet, they have been neglected for a long while, they need just about everything.

You can call me between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., the calls are free from anywhere in the country: 866 406 9286. If you live in the stations listening area, the number is 802 442-1010. (There is a seven-second delay, please turn off your radio if you call.)

I have about 40 questions that have been e-mailed to me by my blog readers, I will take the first minutes of the show to read some of them and answer them as best I can.

I even have my own theme music, Van Morrison’s wonderful “Bright Side Of The Road,” one of my favorite songs.

The theme and show intro was put together by the station’s Executive Director and only visible employee, Thomas Toscano (photo above),  an opera singer, conductor and composer who has devoted much of his life to saving WBTN. I hope he makes it. I hope I can help, he has been very enthusiastic about my show.

My idea for the broadcast is to be one of the first, if not the first,  intelligent shows about dogs, cats and other animals. I want the show to be a thoughtful conversation between me and you, not a raging argument. I think this show is necessary. I think animals deserve a thoughtful and open discussion of their lives and problems.

The animal world, like the political world, has been polarized by polarizing and arrogant ideologues and people who believe everything they read online must be true. We can do better than that, and we will, for as long as it lasts.

The first topic I want to take up today is the subject of vaccinations, one of the most controversial topics in the pet world. I’ve been researching it all week. I have lots of others in the pile.

If you like the broadcast and support the idea of community radio in the Corporate Nation, please think about helping the station. We’ve started a WBTN Amazon Wish List (sold out already.)

You can donate to the station online if you wish to support it or my show. Or you can send a check to WBTN, 407 Harwood Hill, Bennington, Vt., 05201. I hope the Army Of Good will join me in helping them survive. There are very few places  in America now where ordinary people’s voices can be heard on any media, our culture is being Corporatized by big companies and big government.

Red is coming with me. I hope to hear from you, I hope you can listen, or check in at 5 p.m., when the show will be repeated. You can hear it live here.

Just click on “live.” This show will be broadcast every Wednesday, 1 to 3 p.m.

17 October

Red At Work, Morning Graze

by Jon Katz

Red at work is a beautiful and inspiring thing to see. He is faithful to his work, and also proud and dignified Sometimes, he is content to sit and watch over the sheep.

On this beautiful fall morning, he stood guard while they grazed, always ready to move. Dogs have been doing this work for thousands of years, it is always a beautiful thing to see.

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