Roundup: Dog Fears, Melissa & Doug, Art Aid …

Dogs are joyful: As of October 1, they are allowed back at Compo Beach.

But the other day, longtime Westporters Stefani Cohen and Cathy Malkin noticed a young child crying, afraid of the dogs.

The women kept their pets at a distance. But several other owners allowed their dogs to run up to the family. Upset and frustrated, they left the beach.

Stefani and Cathy see that scene often, at other places too like sports events and outdoor restaurants. Up to 20% of the population — adults as well as children — have some fear of dogs.

They know that with exposure therapy, it is possible to overcome a fear of dogs. In fact, they’ve written a book: “Overcoming Your Child’s Fear of Dogs: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents.”

Now they’re presenting an online workshop about it (Tuesday, October 17, 7 p.m.). The material is appropriate for all ages. It covers an understanding of cynophobia, strategies to face that fear, ways to stay safe around dogs, and the importance of noticing a dog’s body language to tell when to interact and when to stay away.

In addition to anyone fearful of dogs, the webinar is aimed at therapists, dog professionals, educators and parents.

The cost is $27. Click here to register, and for more information.

A fun sight — but not for everyone. (Photo/Dan Johnson)


Melissa & Doug — the beloved toy company founded by Melissa and Doug Bernstein in 1988, in their Westport basement and his parents’ nearby garage — has been sold.

Spin Master announced yesterday that they bought the Wilton-based firm for $950 million.

Spin Master was attracted by Melissa & Doug’s trusted brand of early childhood toys, and timeless products. They are sustainable wooden toys, without screens. Last year’s net sales were $490 million.

Click here for the full story.(Hat tip: David Loffredo)


It’s always hard for artists to make ends meet.

Some Bridgeport artists are in serious straits. Lynn Flint is doing what she can to help.

She’s running a 1-day estate sale at her home. Proceeds will help them meet immediate needs, including rent, food, fuel and art materials.

A member of the Bridgeport arts community will be there, offering information on the arts (who will have their own open studios in November).

So I am having an experimental one day only estate sale in the ground level area of my home since I am handicapped and can no longer run up and down stairs.

It’s Saturday, October 26 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), on Belaire Drive. A sign on Saugatuck Avenue (near the Norwalk border) will direct art lovers to the sale.


In just over one year, Club 203 has become one of Westport’s most important non-profit organizations.

Yesterday, the Westport Rotary Club learned about the town’s social club for adults with disabilities from co-founders Stacie Curran and Sharuna Mahesh. They told moving stories of the need for such a group — and the joy and bonds created at every monthly meeting.

A host of Westport groups and businesses have hosted Club 203 activities, in a town-wide showing of interest and support.

Stacie Curran (left) and Sharuna Mahesh of Club 203, at yesterday’s Westport Rotary Club meeting. (Photo/Dave Matlow)


Speaking of Rotary:

Rick Benson — one of Westport’s more energetic and productive members since joining in 1989 — recently received a huge honor.

In Toronto, Rick was recognized with a zonal Donald MacRae Peace Award. It celebrates members who demonstrate the advancement of international goodwill, understanding and peace through peacemaking efforts or humanitarian activity of international significance.

Rick is a previous recipient of local, district and zone honors — and the Rotary International Service Above Self Award, in 2020.

Rick Benson, his wife Totney, and his Donald MacRae Peace Award.


STAR Inc. and Voices Center for Resilience present a special program: “A 22-Year Journey from 9/11 to Today: Helping Families and Communities Prepare for Emergencies” next Wednesday (October 18, 7 p.m., Westport Library).

Mary Fetchet — founding Director of Voices Center for Resilience — lives in New Canaan. Her son Brad died in the September 11 attacks.

She will share her personal experience and perspective on preparing communities in advance of a tragedy.

A panel discussion about emergency management in Westport will include 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, emergency management director and Deputy Fire Chief Nick Marsan, Deputy Police Chief Ryan Paulsson, Human Services director Elaine Daignault, and state Department of Emergency Services representative Robert Kenny.

Attendees will receive a tip sheet and emergency management packet.

For more information and to register,  click here.


Trick or treat!

Halloween is less than 3 weeks ago. These guys — at the corner of Clapboard Hill and Devon Road — can’t wait.

Then again, maybe they have all the time in the world.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” Saugatuck River photo comes from Sunny Sherman.

Her words are as meaningful as her picture: “It’s hard to forget the horrors happening in Israel right now. But I thought you and your readers might like to enjoy (unfiltered) what I am blessed to see almost nightly.”

(Photo/Sunny Sherman)


And finally … in response to Stefani Cohen and Cathy Malkin’s upcoming webinar (story above):

(“06880” is your hyper-local blog. If you support local journalism, please support us. Just click here — and thank you!)


12 responses to “Roundup: Dog Fears, Melissa & Doug, Art Aid …

  1. What is also needed, and l think needed more, is training for people who allow their dogs to run up to people when those people don’t have a dog. And especially when the attention isn’t wanted. How could dog owners ignore a crying child?? Maybe when dog owners go to renew their dog licenses they can be reminded about this. If I’m walking and l see a dog, l always ask the owner if l can let their dog.

    • I came here to write this, too. Exposure therapy is certainly one solution. Another solution is keep your dog further away from me and my family.

  2. Hooray for Stacie Curran and Sharuna Mahesh!! Through Club203, and so many other endeavors, they have brought meaningful social activities and joy to so many who identify with a disability. Excellent work, friends; I’m inspired by you!!

  3. Congratulations to Rick Benson: a terrific guy who does terrific things!!

  4. Congratulations Rick and Stacie! Thank you both for showing what it means to be selfless in your passions for giving back, and giving.
    The beauty of your giving is the amount of time and work you both put in to making a difference in the lives of others.

  5. Katherine Calise

    I agree, if I want to pet your dog I will ask. Keep them away from people who are just trying to enjoy the beach!!!

  6. I love animals. I have never had dogs, but had several cats in my life. I like dogs, some are just so adorable, fuzzy ones, french bulldogs, pugs, others as well. However, I’m not comfortable with German Sheppards and Pit Bulls, have had bad experiences with both, not personal, but close enough that I’m weary of those 2 breeds, so I don’t appreciate if they were to approach me and not being on a lease.

  7. We have two small dogs who love the beach and we keep them on leashes. Please respect people who do not want to be near your dogs. They may just not like dogs or they may not want to be close to a dog that day. It may have nothing to do with fear.

  8. Totney & Rick‼️
    Well done and much praise 👍🏼👍🏼
    Go Army Beat Navy ‼️😂

  9. Is it it just too difficult to keep your dog on a leash? Tell me dog owners, what’s the deal with letting your porch run wild and frighten people?

  10. Andrew Colabella

    Congratulations to Rick!!! looking forward to the Compo Beach playground build in fall 24′ and everything else you do.

  11. Dermot Meuchner

    I’m glad I taught my kids to embrace dogs and run away from people.

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