8 January

Update On Gus: Optimism, Experimentation, Success

by Jon Katz
Update On Gus

I wanted to give you an update on Gus, and thanks so much for caring about him., your good wishes are much appreciated.

I feel like we’ve turned a corner in some ways, even as I am acutely aware that megaesophagus is unpredictable and takes its own form and shape. I think one new stop – dropping some olive oil in his food has helped.

The food seems to be going down easily and staying down. Gus’s feces look strong and firm, another indication his digestion is working.

Maria and I hold him for 10 to 15 minutes, and we are serious about that. Gus loves sitting in laps, and his time with Maria especially looks like a healing meditation to me.

He eats his food one small chunk at a time, while standing on his hind legs and swallowing with his head up. He is a circus dog, he can do that easily. I think that has helped.

Dr. Fariello has prescribed two small doses of daily medication – an antacid before eating, and an anti-nausea pill before sleeping. I can’t say if those are helping or not.

Two other big changes: no more running freely in the pasture, we are sure some of the stuff he was eating out there is bad for megaesophagus, which is all about texture. Only soft, wet  foods get through the esophagus easily.

Dr. Fariello has requested that we give Gus some pumpkin mash from a can, and I gave him too much the other day, and he regurgitated his food  twice. I decreased the amount sharply,

I’ve also cut out all treats – Fate, Red and Gus, and nobody seems to be suffering. My bank account is pleased. Once in awhile, if Gus is sleeping or in his crate, I slip some rawhide to Fate or Red, and when those bags are used up, there will be no more.

This trial and error approach – in league with a good vet that I can talk to – works for us, and I think, for Gus. We generally stay offline and a way from amateur diagnosticians, it it too easy to lose focus.

The bottom line is good this week, I think. Gus’s care has changed our schedules and routines, but not radically. We spentd all together about one additional hour (between the two of us) taking care of Gus – holding him, preparing special foods, etc, administering medications.

In the last three days, he has regurgitated twice, both times within a few minutes of each other. Otherwise, no spit-ups at all.  In the past week, he’s has two additional episodes. That is very manageable for us, and I think for him.

And a drastic improvement. He looks and appears healthy, alert, affectionate and playful. Dr. Fariello says he is in great health.

Instead of running around outside eating junk, he is spending a lot of time sleeping on Lenore’s couch, Red dozing beneath him. That is nice for me too.

So far, there is no need for a custom-made feeding chair or special collar. If it stays the way it is, this would be a good outcome. If he grows out of the disease, which sometimes happens, that would be great. If it worsens, we will go back to square one and strategize again.

That’s where we are, if Gus worsens dramatically, or he shows any signs of suffering continuously, that would be something we will deal with directly.

For now, things have stabilized and Gus is doing well.

8 January

A New Day: Thawing, Oprah, Refugees, Gus, Geraniums

by Jon Katz
A New Day Today : Ali and Sifa, above, and Oprah

We woke up to a new day today at Bedlam Farm: a refugee family got their groceries, from the Army Of Good, we are setting up the Geranium garden inside the Mansion today, Gus has not regurgitate his food for two days, the temperature was above zero when we woke up for the first time in weeks, and Maria and I were both moved to tears watching a video of Oprah Winfrey’s call for  a “New Day” for decency and dignity at the Golden Globe Awards.

A lot to take in for one day. The most rewarding was our visit to see Sifa and her eight children in Albany yesterday, we brought  $259 worth of groceries, the first in a series of monthly food visits to refugee families in need in New York State. I need to get snow boots for three of her children.

It was almost a miracle to be able to walk outside and breathe, Maria was overjoyed, she worked so hard in the bitter cold to keep things going, and I was some help, but not too much. There is an audible sense of relief and release up here, Ed Gulley is dancing again along with most of the farmers in America.

The Community Of Cold, thawing out all across the country, feels the same way I’m pretty sure.

Our work with Gus on his megaesophagus is progressing, the new regiment and protocol seems to be taking hold. Hopefully, we’re heading into a third day of normalcy, I’ll write more about it later. This is not a straight line.

Perhaps the most surprising emotion of the day for me was how deeply Oprah Winfrey’s speech about women (and implicitly, other things) touched me and Maria. I was astonished to find myself tearing up, I used to think of Winfrey as a sort of sappy but very smart and gifted interviewer and entertainer, a bit to woo-woo for me sometimes.

It is a New Way for women, it seems, and that can only be wonderful news for me, a species of human that is in desperate need of change, sexually, morally, emotionally. I hope she is right, it lifted my heart to hear her say those words, it would make a beautiful campaign theme.

Mr. Trump has changed all of the rules, and I have been appreciating Winfrey more and more for her intelligence, compassion, eloquence and dignity. It no longer seems strange for an outsider – a billionaire entertainer and movie star, to want to lead. And you know what? It would be good to have a true outside-of-Washington spirit in the White House who cared about other people, and not just money. I can imagine her reaching out to more than one kind of people, even to me.

A few years ago, I might have laughed at the idea of her running for President – she was, after all, a TV entertainer, a talk show host, she had none of the experience or political skills we always associated with our Presidents. I was on her show once, when I wrote Running To The Mountain, and her decency and warmth were striking.

I don’t dismiss her in that way, and haven’t even before her speech last night. In a sense, she would be a perfect candidate and President right now, a successful, powerful, articulate black woman beloved by most women and good men, who preaches compassion and inspiration, not hatred, greed and division.

She has always worked for good, not anger or grievance. She could be one of those personalities strong enough and articulate enough to lead us out of this nightmare, and also remember the rural people and workers who have been left behind.

What a message to send to the country and the world.  Ms. Winfrey, I believe, might drive back the angry and nasty old white men who have seized the government and congress and look forever backwards, hate science, fear immigrants and refugees, and have abandoned Mother Earth to human greed.

Many people object to their policies and hypocrisy, I object to their lack of caring and honesty.

Winfrey would grasp the value of the immigrant experience, rally women, minorities and immigrants as well as many people like me, who are looking for honesty and compassion in their leaders.

I believe she would also grasp the pain of working people in rural America, who have been forgotten and betrayed  Republicans and Democrats, and who are being betrayed yet again. History is a cruel companion, it just keeps repeating itself.

In our country, I  believe nothing will work well until we can come together with some common purpose.

Imagine the good she could do for our tattered race relations, and the hope she might give to the poor and the vulnerable. I bet the refugees I see going hungry would get their subsidies back from a government that once cared about some things other than money and tax breaks for the rich.

It is remarkable how the past year has changed me and my view of leadership.

Oprah Winfrey makes perfect sense to me right now as a President. I believe she would lift the spirits of a dispirited country and work hard to bring people together again, rather than to keep them apart.

She seems to remember that we are caring and moral nation, not a heartless and cruel people.

I am older now, and it is not for me to tell the next generation what to do or how to do it. I hope to be able to mentor and support the forces of good and compassion, but it is not for old men like me to tell the young what to do.

Women will and should decide for themselves how far to take their revolution and to what end, my generation had its shot and failed pretty miserably.

Time for people who think in a very different way, and time for men to be held accountable in an unsparing and relentless way for the mess they have made of our country and the world and the crimes and violence they have committed against women.

Time for me to get out of the way and wave the flag from the sidelines.

If our country must be led by billionaires, and Super Pacs, then so be it, they are people too. But at least let it be led  by a billionaire with a heart and soul, a woman of great talent and accomplishment, a fierce intelligence and drive, a sense of moral courage, and the ability to inspire and heal.

It is up to Winfrey, of course, not me,  but I hope she does run for President in 2020. I suspect and hope her speech Sunday night will one day be seen as the kickoff of her campaign.

And imagine her on a debate stage next to the nasty old man with the angry face and manufactured hair do. Oprah knows just how to look for the camera, and knows a thing or two about reality TV. In making her decision, I hope she thinks about all those young woman and boys and girls in America seeing the true soul of our country saved and lifted up again.

I’m hoping also that she grasps the historical significance of a black woman rising up in 2020 to rescue the country from itself, and from this fever of cruelty and bigotry. For a successful billionaire with so much heart and smarts,  the door is now open.

I am eager to see if she will walk through it. I was not really crying for Oprah, I was crying for my country, and it’s soul, which gave me and my family life on this earth and welcomed us all. I sense some of that soul in her.

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