15 November

The Mansion: The Power Of The Comfort Doll

by Jon Katz

This morning, I purchased my fourth comfort doll for a Mansion resident, the Little Peanut Baby Doll from Ashton-Drake, it cost $129.99. I was uncertain about the “comfort doll” movement in memory and elder care, some people argue it might be infantasizing.

But when I see how the residents respond, how much these life-life replicas of newborn infants mean to them, I am completely sold on the idea. This is a very strong investment, a powerful small act of great kindness.

Last week, I brought Ellen a comfort doll from Ashton-Drake, and Alice, a much older resident, told me she couldn’t bear to hold it, she would cry. Would you like one of your own?, I asked.

“Oh yes,” she said, “I never imagined having one of my own.” Helen, a reticent, shy very sweet resident did hold Ellen’s doll, and she said she would also love to have one, she never had anything like that in her life, she said.

These comfort dolls have become a fixture in the Mansion. They calm the residents, comfort them, give them a focus and mission. They are talking point, an activity, a responsibility.

The aides are unanimous in telling me these dolls are making a positive and substantial difference in the lives of the women who have received them.

And they rekindle the very powerful drive to nurture that exists in many women and in many men.

Two of the male residents have asked me about these dolls, but it is clear they would feel embarrassed to have one or ask for one. I wonder if there is an equivalent of the “comfort doll” for them. As with many men, they hide their emotions from the world.

These are the things we in the Army Of Good can to do till the holes in the lives of the Mansion residents, many of whom feel abandoned and left behind.

I see that for many of these women, to nurture is to be alive in a way some had thought they could never be again.

As the holidays approach, I will step  up my search for comfort and inspiration. The Karaoke Machine is ready to go, we’re just looking for good times to bring it into play.

Today I’m bringing a big box of underwear, sox, tights, nightgowns and a bathrobe over to the Mansion. It’s cold her now, and we’re doing a thorough check on what it is that the residents might need.

Thanks so much for your support.

15 November

Video: Training Bud In The Bitter Cold

by Jon Katz

But spent all of his life (until recently) in Southern Arkansas, he had never experienced snow, ice and bitter cold until this week. At first, he was so unwilling to go out he started to eliminate in the house.

That didn’t work out for us, so I took him out on a leash a few times and let him out in the back, where there is shelter – a dog house – if he needs it. He started going outside again. He adapts, which is what most dogs do, given the chance.

Given a choice, very few dogs would prefer eliminating inside of a house. So this morning, in the bitter cold, I took Bud out to the pasture and Maria and I took turns calling him, asking him to stay or sit.

It was  too cold – about 9 degrees – to stay out long, and Bud was distracted at first. Then he settled down and was sharp and responsive. Bud is a food hound, so we are being careful to reward him with praise half the time, we are decreasing our use of food so that treats aren’t his only incentive.

The idea is that he thinks there might be food, even if there isn’t. It was a good session, we are nearing the point where he is internalizing commands, just where we want him to be.

The cold will not be a problem for Bud, I think. We’ll just make sure he isn’t outside long. BT’s do not have the long coats or body density and fat (or long snouts to warm air) that border collies and other dogs have.

This doesn’t mean he can’t come outside – he was out in the pasture for 30 minutes on very cold frozen ground without shivering or wanting to go in. He is also very happy to snooze by the stove fire.

14 November

First Responder: Surgery In The Morning

by Jon Katz

When we put out the call for people to “support” an hour of “Talking To Animals” for $25, five people responded. Maria was the First Responder, and I love her for that. Anne Sweeney, Susan Popper, Bev Graham and Eileen Petersen were the others.

Thanks all.

Thursday morning, I head into Saratoga for some more surgery. A friend e-mailed me, he said “it sucks getting old, doesn’t it,” and I admit I wanted to strangle him.

Old talk  kills more people than disease, I believe, and corrodes the soul and the spirit. I never speak poorly of my life, or groan that getting old is hard and sad.

Nuts to that, I am doing much better as I get older than I ever did before. And I am happier, healthier and stronger. Grandma Moses was right, you get out of life what you put into it, and if your story is that growing old is a nightmare, that is what it will become.

Anyway, I’ll be off early in the morning, and back before the end of the day. It’s bitter cold  here tonight, I hope all the people  reading this are warm and dry, wherever you are.

My thoughts and  heart goes out to the thousands of people who have lot their homes in the great fires raging in California. I am sorry for your suffering.

14 November

Catching Fire, I think: Our Sixth Broadcast. I Loved It

by Jon Katz

Thomas Toscano, the “Maestro.”

At our small and impoverished community radio station, we don’t have marketing surveys or Nielsen  ratings, we have to figure things out ourselves.

How are we doing? Very well, I think, but it’s just a guess.

I was once the Executive Producer of the CBS Morning News, and I understand the importance of chemistry and the need for an audience in media, community radio or CNN. We knew exactly who was watching, for how long and when.

With my  broadcast “Talking To Animals,” we are  having fun but flying blind. I suppose that is the fun part of it. We are just winging it, but coming up with some creative ideas to grow the show.

The corporate media know exactly who is listening and watching, and Thomas Toscano and I really have no idea. If you judge the show by e-mail messages and the steadily increasingly flow of live calls, there is some evidence we might be catching fire.

We are getting calls from all over the country, they are getting through the station’s medieval telephone system. People are e-mailing me (and calling) from every part of the country. Most are blog followers, but not all.

Their questions are very good and relevant to the lives of animals. Five people signed up for our new “support an hour” program, at $25 each, we made more than $200. At WBTN, that is big money.

In the first weeks, calls were few and far between, today they came steadily, like planes waiting to land in a busy airport. The callers are almost unfailingly intelligent, courteous and interesting.

As a former producer, I know the importance of “chemistry” in any media pairing, radio or TV. Thomas and I have it, we bounce off one another in just the right ways at just the right time.

He is very much a pro, and I like to think I am as well, I’ve done an awful lot of radio shows.

Chemistry is critical.

The show has a nice balance to it. Me and Thomas talking and sparking off of one another, calls coming in regularly and at sane intervals, my e-mails surprising and very timely, our discussions revealing and interesting.

The calls came in from California, Virginia, Ohio and Illinois. The word is getting out.

We are a safe place, shy people feel safe enough to call. The stories of the callers are fascinating to me.

We are launching a new “supporter” plan where by anyone can buy or “sponsor” an hour of the show by sending $25 to the station online or by mail. Five people signed up right away today, Thomas was in shock. We made $225 for the station.

You don’t have to be General Motors to have a voice on our show. This is the people’s media, a thrill ride every step of the way.

Thomas and I like each other, and I suspect that shows. That chemistry is essential over a two-hour period, I noticed today that when my voice got tired or hoarse, Thomas would just take over until I could get a drink of water.

This show was the best from my vantage point it felt the best and I am told it sounded solid. Next week, we pick it up again, Wednesday from one to 3 p.m.

The number is 866 406 9286, or, if you are local, 802 442 1010. You can e-mail me with your questions anytime, jon@bedlamfarm.com.

Today, the show was just what I had been hoping for. I will work hard to keep it going, I  have this feeling we are just getting started. Our conversation about dogs and diets is just getting underway.

14 November

Thanks For The WBTN Chairs. They Came Today

by Jon Katz

Thomas Toscano wanted me to thank the Army Of Good for buying two new office chairs for WBTN from the radio station’s Amazon Wish List, he said they were the first new chairs bought for the station in decades, possibly ever.

He was very happy to be assembling them, as he is not only the station director but their handyman.

The chair I  set in has seen some hard times, rolls of adhesive tape try to keep the seat intact. Thomas was excited, and when I left the station he was busy assembling the two chairs, which cost $49 each.

The gift cards are being  offered three different ways – for $10, $25 and $50. Hopefully, they will add up to things the station desperately needs.

Thanks for supporting the station and their Wish List. We are doing good.

At the Moment, supporters of the station – the Army Of Good – have purchased about $160 dollars in gift cards from the new WBTN Wish List.

Thanks, they will soon be adding more items. They deeply appreciate your support. This, the people’s radio, is a good cause.

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