Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

17 May

Red Can’t Run Any More. Meditations On Loss

by Jon Katz

I’m not sure I ever had a dog whose impending loss was so clear for so long and with so much warning. This is a new and painful experience for me. On our walk and on the farm, we  saw this week that Red cannot run any longer and cannot walk very far without lying down, apparently in pain.

This is the first time he has not been able to walk quickly or run, a new chapter in his decline.

I am not reminded many times every day just how rapidly Red is failing.

Even at the Mansion, he has to lie down several times before moving down a hallway. I’m not sure how long we can even bring him to the Mansion in good conscience, and that is already troubling the residents.

I do need to consider their feelings as well as mine. They are beginning to notice his struggles to move and see and hear. They are sensitive to that.

More and more, I am wondering how long to subject him to this pain and discomfort. He is still well aware of me and Maria, he still insists on being near me, I can still get him into and out of the car.

I do not share the growing idea that our job is to keep the animals we love alive by all means at any cost for as long as possible. As Red’s steward, I must take into account his own pain and comfort and sense of being alive and having dignity in the world.

If Red can’t do anything but lie still day and night, that is not, for me, a meaningful life. I’m not there yet, but I am beginning to understand that his suffering is a constant in his life, not an episode any longer.

I am beginning to feel that I will have decisions to make, along with Maria, in the not too distant futur.

The moral challenge is for me to do what is best for him, not for me. I have lost a lot of dogs I loved, and the pain of that is real. But I also feel strongly that Red’s life is worthy of joy and celebration, I will not make it into a tragedy or misery because it has to end.

Red is connected to more people than any dog I have known. Rose was very much my dog, not anybody else’s dog. Red belongs to a good chunk of the world.

We all have to end, grace for me is dealing with this thoughtfully, honestly, and out of love for an animal who has given me and many other people his life and his heart. Tonight, I’ll try and get him to Bingo at the Mansion, but I have the sense this may be one of his last visits there.

I want to deal with this openly and with care. I want to do for him what he has always done for me and many others – in a loving and giving way.

17 May

The Bishop Maginn Wish List Is Up And Running

by Jon Katz

(This painting, by Paw Lway Shee, is sold for $50)

I’m happy to share the news that the new Bishop Maginn High School Wish List is up and running. They are starting off with a list of badly needed art supplies – the teachers have been buying supplies with their own money.

If I know the Army Of Good, the school will be getting a lot of packages from Amazon early next week.  Bishop Maginn is a non-profit, donations to them are tax deductible. You can print receipts on Amazon itself and you can also write the school if you need additional confirmation of your purchases.

This is the fourth wish list I have recommended, and all have done well. People love making their own choices in their own time about purchases like this, and they like to know exactly what they are buying.

I am addicted to non-profit wish lists like this, it is an amazing new way to give, and it feels good. This is a modest list, 13 items  ranging in price from $12 to $98. Take a look. I bought some of these items this morning (I got a peek at the list, I couldn’t help it) but these are all things Mrs. Silverstein badly needs and has been buying herself.

So the more the merrier. Thanks for your support, I have the feeling this list won’t last too long. We can really make a difference in this school, it has a tiny budget and a great big heart. Maybe that’s the way it works.

Make sure you add the address to your address lists in accounts. Then you just have to click on the right button. If you need it, the phone number is 518 463 2247.

I am collecting money for personal items – clothes, shoes, music for the choir, perhaps a guitar. You can contribute to me (I am not tax deductible) via Paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com or by check, Jon Katz, Bishop Maginn Fund, 2502 State Route 22, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

You can also, if you wish, donate to the school at any time: Bishop Maginn, 75 Park Avenue, Albany, N.Y., 12202.

You can get to the wish list here.

Thanks for helping this school is a very worthy place.

17 May

The Last Word On The Sloth Fight

by Jon Katz

Maria and I have plenty of arguments, but they are not the normal arguments that people have with their partners. They are unique to us. My wife has very particular feelings and sensibilities, most recently we began a three day argument about sloths.

You can follow her version of events here.

What, you might wonder, do sloths have to do with us and our marriage? Well, a lot, as it turns out. A brief synopsis:

Maria often wakes up in the night and wants – demands – to hear a story. I often tell her a story unless I’m too sleepy. They did put her to sleep, although I didn’t always take that as a compliment.

I learned early on that any animal story puts her to sleep instantly, in seconds, almost as if a fairy waved some dust over her, or somebody flipped the sleep switch.

I have this calming and sleep app which I got to help her get to sleep. This app has great stories, many of them about animals, and when I saw the story of “Sienna, The Sleeping Sloth,” I knew I had struck gold.

Nothing makes Maria sleep quicker or more  deeply than a story about an animal that she loves – like any kind of puppy or octopus or sloth. I always started my stories to her with a baby something.

The app worked like a charm.

I would just open the app, start the story about Sienna and wait for her to conk out. It usually took about 15 seconds.

The other night, she didn’t go to sleep. She listened to the story. And in the story, the sloth walks some distance in Costa Rica to help another sloth get up a tree. I fell asleep, but in the morning Maria woke up ticked off, even outraged. The story was upsetting to her.

Everybody knows or should know, she said, that sloths can’t walk normally, their muscles are attuned to hanging on to trees, it is painful and difficult for them when they try to walk. Just check out this video about a man rescuing a sloth in Costa Rica and her gratitude, it has about 8 million views.

Maria was angry about the story, they should have known, she said, it reminded her of some of her nightmares about walking in wet concrete. Not the point of the app, really.

I took the writer’s side. It was fiction, I said.

Made-up stories don’t have to be literal. They aren’t supposed to be literal.  If every story had to be literally true, there would be no novels or fictional movies or drama series on Netflix.

It would have been a much duller story if the sloth couldn’t walk to help out his friend, or if we had to wait an hour for him to get there. They move slowly.

I said she was taking it too seriously. Well, she disagreed of course, and the discussion rages, we have asked a whole bunch of people about it and most just raise their eyebrows.

But I keep telling Maria that writers usually get the last word.

Yesterday I spent an hour trawling the Internet for a stuffed sloth, and I found a good one after awhile. It arrived today and I hung it on the flower pot outside of her studio. She still disagrees with me but she is very happy to have the sloth, she just started beaming.

You can’t win a fight with an artist,  you just have to find a way around it. I lost the battle, but perhaps I won the war.

17 May

Guard Dogs: Protecting The Farmhouse

by Jon Katz

Every Spring, Fred, who works for our heating oil company, comes to clean up the heater in the basement and make sure it’s working well. He knows the drill, and we tell him to just walk into the house if we’re not home or are busy.

And he does, and our tough guard dogs – Red, Rose and  Bud – were just overjoyed to see him. Fred is one of those people who loves and trusts dogs much more than people, and they seem to know it.

He got a warm and lavish greeting the minute he came into the door. Good to know we are safe from intruders. They might get licked to death. (They do make a lot of noise).

17 May

Cynthia’s Decision: This Old Lady Is Brave

by Jon Katz
I am saddened and angry to post these two letters from my friend Cynthia Daniello, who is brave and compassionate. She saved the individual gardens the management of her independent living company was trying to ban, but she could not save the bird feeders or or her beloved feral cat Ginger, who has been coming to her home for food for 11 years.
She has seven days to stop feeding Ginger, and was banned from posting her essays and poems from the community bulletin board or “inciting” the other residents to protest the banning of their individual and personal gardens and bird feeders.
Cynthia is 84 years old, and a brand new blogger. She is about as radical as an apple tree, but the devastated and frightened residents of Joseph’s Dream, her independent living community, begged her to try to stop the arrogant owner of the community from intimidating her and the other residents into acquiescing to these foolish and cruel demands.
I am concerned about her health, she has found long and hard against the awful and callous management of her community. The idea that a corporate person would intimidate women in their 80’s to destroy their hummingbird feeders and endanger the life of a feral cat and bully the residents into planting uniform gardens makes my blood boil.
They have no moral or legal right to tell Cynthia what to say to her fellow residents.
I told Cynthia I would help her to get a lawyer if she wishes, but she is tired and discouraged, as well as angry. I can’t tell her what to do, but I will certainly support her in any way she asks. I recommend her new blog, My Never Ending Story.
You can also e-mail her at story_teller_34@yahoo.com.
I believe this bald efforts to threaten her – officials came to her house to photograph her bird feeders and outdoor cat shelter – are outrageous violations of courtesy and even freedom of speech. The company seems skilled in intimidating needy and vulnerable people in their 80’s and Cynthia is deeply concerned about the fate of Ginger, who has never lived anywhere else, but who trusts her.
I’d love to see this company try to justify this cruelty and ignorance  in public, or better yet, in court. But I also understand that the residents are frightened, many have no other place to live, and even Cynthia, who is tough as nails, is wearing out.  A part of me hopes she will let go.
I’m reprinting the two letter Cynthia sent me, one last night and one this morning: They speak for themselves. I till try to restrain myself. I have called a dozen reporters in the area, but journalism has changed since I was a reporter. No one has responded to this very good and important story.
Here are Cynthia’s letters to me. I wish I could do more. Feel free to contact her. The company is called Metropolitan Properties Management, I have tried repeatedly to contact them and message them, they have never responded. You can see from her letters what they are like.
I’d love to see some proof that five residents are threatening to sue the corporation (see below) over one cat who is rarely even seen. It doesn’t smell right to me.
Thursday evening, May 16, 2019. From Cynthia.
“The meeting with Kathryn is over.
When I arrived at the office door, she asked if I minded if she had someone else there as witness.  I told her I felt it was a good idea.  So there were three of us in attendance.
Kathryn said she wished to speak uninterrupted.  So she did.
Basically I have been given 24 hours to remove the Hummingbird feeder AND the shepherd’s hook on which it is hanging.
I have been banned from posting any of my notices and/or poems on the bulletin board or any public viewing place INCLUDING my own door or window.
I am not to “incite” or encourage any movement which causes unrest.
 Worst of all I have been given 7 days to get Ginger, the feral community cat, off the property.
We went thru the fact that VA passed a law recently regarding the harm or removal of ferals which have been spayed and ear-notched from their community.  She said that does not apply here because this is private property.  I noted that Food Lion market nearby has a large feral colony in back of the store cared for by several citizens.And that is also private property.  That is their decision and not ours was the reply.
She offered to have someone take Ginger to a farm she knows about.  I said Ginger was born here 11 years ago and always lived here–she would try to come back (and likely be killed on the road before getting here.)
She said Joseph was pleased that I had taken down the house I had for Ginger on my porch, but that a neighbor (I know who) had seen me letting Ginger in my apartment and supposed that I was feeding her.  (I am).  She asked me point blank if I was feeding Ginger and I responded to her “I will not lie to you.”  But I never said yes or no.
It goes on from there.
At the end of this day, after many ladies coming in here, all wanting to stay out of trouble, two wanting to keep fighting, I gave up.  We have all taken down the feeders.
Kathryn told me that a group of five or so residents had gotten together and threatened to sue Joseph if he did not get rid of the cat and she said Joseph is very much concerned about law suits.  I held up until around 5:00.  Turned Willie Nelson up loud on my stereo, had 3 shots of Moonshine, and now I feel better.  I am not a drinker–but there are times—
So I lost this one, and Ginger too.  I fear for what will happen to her.  I plan to call the Animal Control Officer tomorrow to see if they can actually remove her, as they claim will be done if I have not done it in 7 days.  Of course anything can be done after dark.
We should not think about obtaining a lawyer.  Would just cause more trouble and cost money that could be far better spent another way.  I hate to lose.  I am not a good loser when I think my cause was just.  However, they have pretty much put a gag order on me-
not that they phrased it that way.  So I guess I will make a last bid for Ginger’s safety, but otherwise drop all other endeavors.
Thank you for your help and support.
This old lady is tired tonight
Thursday Morning, May 17.  From Cynthia.
“Morning has arrived.  I have gone from sad to angry. Now I understand how it is possible for some people to “go postal”.  The complete injustice  when someone or something you care about is threatened or worse.  I don’t understand how a few people can go to a government agency  (in this case Fair Housing) and then prepare to sue over ONE cat that was here before they were.  But 7 of us could not have the right to bird feeders REINSTATED.
I believe the pen is mightier than the sword—so now I have been issued a “gag” order–cannot even speak my mind in a poem!
I appreciate your offer to re-home Ginger.  I don’t think it would work. It took me 2 years for her to allow me to brush her, give her a worming pill etc.  She is about 11 years old.  She was born on this property and has always lived here, “wild and free”-doing no harm in any way.  She does not even use the flower beds as a cat box.  We have all seen her go up the hill in back of the office.  Even Kathryn commented on that.  She is a good cat.  She is also a good mouser.
Wait until people begin complaining of mice in their apartments!
Well I don’t have to tell you, do I.
I no longer have a gall bladder but my mouth is filled with bile.  They have no idea what I might be capable of.  Still “revenge is the Lord’s”, – right?  Where is He?
I will call the animal control officer in a few moments.  Will let you know how that goes.
Thank you for being there.”
Thank you for existing Cynthia, this old lady is brave and wonderful. I am here for you in any way you need me to be here.
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