Sunday, August 30, 2009

Protecting Our Stuff

Did you hear that the "Today Show" has hired Jenna Bush? What a pitiful, miserable, gilt-laden, zirconium studded, steaming pile of crap. Glenn Greenwald has a great, great piece about it on Salon. Read it.

Why are American conservatives so vicious? Were they all born into the kind of red-dirt poverty that made them determined never to be tainted with the scent of poor people ever again in this lifetime? Are they all closet bubbas, are all conservatives to poverty what a closet queer is to homosexuality--so ingrained with it, so permeated by it, so deathly afraid of it, so hideously ignorantly persuaded of its moral depravity that they will do anything, anything to distance themselves from it, including deny the very fundamental values of common decency and civilization?

I have in mind their psychotic displays of outrage over the mere suggestion that we are our brothers' [and sisters'] keepers. (Um, that's from the Bible, you know. Gen 4:9.)

All this reminds me of a dream I had many years ago. Both my grandfathers were ministers, so when I tell you that I dreamed that my mother's mother was a Socialist, and this was in the 1960s, maybe you'll understand how unlikely a dream it was. Only, in my dream, my grandmother came to me and said that the ideals of Socialism are much closer to the ideals espoused by Jesus (and the ancient oral tradition represented in Genesis) than the ideals espoused in capitalism. No kidding. Gee. Go figure. Put THAT in the face of the next GOP thumper son-of-a-bitch you run into.

(I have some distance to go to before I learn to love my enemies.)

Speaking of a good take on all this, here's a short essay by my buddy, Pamela Penman, reprinted here with permission.

We're Only Borrowing
Monday, August 17, 2009 at 12:59pm

You know the old adage, "you can't take it with you?"

Why do we read this once in awhile, agree heartily, yet fall back into the same routine--making money and stuff the center of our world?

My 3 year old asked me why I had to go to work yesterday.

"Do you like sleeping inside?" I asked her.

"Yes..." she tenatively replied.

"Mommy goes to work to get the money to pay for the house, and to buy the food that we need to eat." That was a bit too much for her, but it satisfied her for the moment.

I didn't tell her that I also work so that we can travel, so that I can give her the experiences which will be so central to the big kid and adult I want her to become, so that she can have not only shoes on her feet--but the really good kind which will support her growth. I didn't tell her that I have a Louis Vuitton fettish, or that I like to eat meat at every meal, or that I like to be surrounded by comfort and beauty.

Stuff. There's a certain contentment to having it.

Not that I've got a lot of it. But I like to be able to get it.

Every now and then something happens, though, which causes me to ask my self--why the hell do I do it? Why do I work my backside off? I watched the death of Edward Kennedy, I feel the seasons changing even today--another summer lost to the digital photographs which I took in vain to attempt to stop time. The ache in my throat and the sting in my eyes as I hold my daughter on my lap--her body stretched out now nearly to my feet, yet her hand still wrapped around my fingers. I reevaluate the cost of working and missing every single moment and breath that she takes.

Why do you work? For some of us, it's a question of just surviving, for others it's about status and feeling good about ourselves, and for others it's about more stuff--better cars, being more financially secure, better neighborhoods, better schools. But are we ever really more financially secure? Do we ever get "there?"

The answer might have been less obvious 10 years ago, but now we know, that no, we are never financially secure. That is because our spending tends to run parallel with our income and because tomorrow, God forbid, something could happen that could wipe all of that security away. Forever. Far fetched? Look around. Homes are foreclosing, folks are losing their jobs, savings accounts have been cut in half or more.

Everytime I go through this exercise, this soul searching, this regret over how fast time passes, I find myself coming to the same conclusion. I have to work, there is no choice, and I must love every day I have with my daughter. But I am ever so grateful that I have never felt the need to work for more "stuff."

The truth is, the stuff we have is borrowed; it doesn't really belong to us. It's on temporary loan. We can't take it with us.

So why do we get so protective of our stuff? Why does the very notion of helping others who have less than us enrage us to the point where we want to see proof that those who have less have worked just as hard as we have before we bend down to offer them a kind word or a bite to eat? Why must we insist on making sure that we're not being tricked by someone who might just be looking for a free ride?

I ask these questions in the heat of the current debate on healthcare, and the innuendos about socialism and the end of the American Dream.

And then I'll ask one more question--what is the American Dream?

Is it the ability to take advantage of those less fortunate on whose backs we build our wealth? Is it the false notion that "if you just work hard enough, you too can build your own wealth?" Is it the notion of once you get there, you don't look back and don't help others less fortunate than you because you mistakenly believe that the only reason they're down there and you're up here has all to do with you and your work ethic?

Isn't the American Dream the idea that given the proper tools, we can live independently? So how can those who don't have the tools (sound mind, education, inner drive to succeed instilled by parents or caregivers who valued this) even possibly aspire to the American Dream?

And if everyone cannot live the American Dream, perhaps we should rename this concept. Maybe we should call it, "the American Dream for Those Lucky Enough to Have been Born into the Right Circumstances."

Protecting our stuff is the single most critical reason for the mess we're in today.
Pamela Penman

It's very much worth a thought.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brava's Spirit

Another side of Brava -- taken the day before her amputation surgery, July 2009.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brava Raffle Correction

I spoke too soon. Please look on any gift to Brava's fund as a simple gift. You will not be entered in a drawing for the painting. The reason? We do not yet know enough about AZ gaming law to set up a raffle, and we do not want to violate any state gaming laws.

Please consider the raffle a future, separate event unrelated to this appeal. Thank you for your understanding and your patience.

Sid, red-faced in Phoenix

Brava: The Story of a Miracle

Brava (shown here the day before her surgery) touches everyone she meets. People seem to recognize her huge spirit and enormous courage, and are drawn to her. Her eyes are so soft and loving, and she is so receptive to people that she’s like a four-legged angel. She makes me want to try to be as loving and forgiving a person as she is a dog. It’s risky saying that out loud, I know, because I also know I can’t possibly live up to that. But I’m just saying: That’s the effect she has on me, and I believe that is her gift to us all. She’s an incredible being, and she is a miracle.

This is what I know of her story. Directions for how to contribute to her care follow at the end of this post.

On July 21, I learned that a gorgeous, well-bred red Doberman, cropped and docked, was on the execution list at a Phoenix animal shelter. Later I learned that she had been left chained in a yard, unattended. For days or weeks, the chain wrapped around her right rear leg, strangling her foot. She must have chewed it off then, for when I rescued her that day, she had been walking around on a raw stub for so long that her leg had begun to atrophy.

What I saw almost made me scream: a stump with three inches of exposed, baked, dirty raw flesh. There was no skin and no fur; just naked meat and protruding bone. Someone had allowed her to live like that.

Somehow she escaped. She became a stray. Someone called Animal Control. “Velvet”—we know her slave name—had been micro chipped. Animal Control found her owner, who denied responsibility, said he couldn’t afford to care for her, and turned her over to the shelter to die. But she survived.

The 20-mile journey from the shelter to the vet seemed to take forever, though I was driving 80 mph or more. Most of the way she was kissing my cheek, and laid her head on my shoulder. I swore and cried and swore and cried. Who could treat any living being so horribly?

I fell in love, and named her Brava.

Next came the awful amputation, and a very tough recovery. We almost lost her the day after because of bleeding. But she survived.

Oh, but there was more in store for Brava. As if all this weren’t enough horror, her IV tube was allowed to tangle around her inner thigh for hours until it wore a trough-like gash an inch wide and six inches long. Brava was again severely wounded. Our vet was livid and I was sick and cold with fury. Those responsible were terminated. But she survived.

We thought we were on the road to recovery, however after a week, Brava still had not stood--very unusual for canine amputees. Was it Exhaustion? Anemia? The hideous IV wound? The shock of surgery? The endless pain? Whatever it was, she couldn’t stand.

She tried: One morning I saw her rise to a sit and then stand for about 20 seconds before collapsing. She flashed me the biggest, proudest Dober grin, and I cheered her. We thought she'd soon be walking.

But then the IV wound split open, revealing raw muscle beneath her skin. I rushed her to the vet, expecting stitches, but en route, Brava began to bleed heavily from the surgical site. It was Von Willebrand’s Disease. The techs and I spent three hours putting pressure on the bleeding site to try to stop the blood flow, but there was nothing we could do. Brava was rushed to an emergency vet where she spent the next two days in intensive care, very, very close to death. But she survived.

So far she has survived, but Brava faces critical challenges in the days ahead.

Brava’s medical care already exceeds $3500. We expect additional costs of at least another $1500, for a minimum total of $5000. If you will help, please know that you are helping a miracle come to be. Her teaching is love despite everything, and courage in the worst of it. Her example is the purest nobility of spirit and heart. Brava belongs to all of us, and is the best of the best of a wonderful breed. I'm pleading with you to be a part of her recovery.

Those who wish to contribute may do so in any of three ways (scroll to the end of this post). If you have questions, please contact me privately at

1. Valley of the Sun Giant Schnauzer Rescue is my mentoring 501c3 rescue organization. I’ve worked under their auspices since I began Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue of AZ in January. If you wish to use a credit card to make a contribution to Brava’s medical fund, please use the orange PayPal button on the left side of the Valley of the Sun Giant Schnauzer Rescue website home page. Scroll down to find it. VSGSR will keep a tally of contributions for Brava. These funds will be totaled and used to pay for the enormous North Valley Regional Animal Hospital costs, where Brava was sent for emergency intensive care from the afternoon of August 8 through the morning of August 10. Contributions to Brava made via VSGSR are tax deductible.

2. OR, you may make credit card contributions directly to Brava’s home vet, Deer Creek Animal Hospital, by calling 602-404-0066 and designating ‘FOR BRAVA.” Deer Creek will keep a tally of contributions for Brava. These contributions will go directly to retire Brava’s still-growing Deer Creek account. Deer Creek Animal Hospital is incredibly supportive of our rescue and the Giants’ rescue, and her vet, the incredible Suzanne Higgins, walks on water.

3. OR, if you wish, you may send a check made payable to Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue of AZ and designated “For Brava,” to Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue of AZ, PO Box 97425, Phoenix, AZ 85060. I do maintain a totally separate bank account for rescue purposes.

4. Please contact me privately at, and let me know your name, address, and amount, and where you contributed, so that I can (1) cross-check the numbers with the VSGSR tally and the Deer Creek tally; and (2) can send you a thank you and acknowledgement.


Any donation, no matter how small, will mean a great deal to me and to Brava.

Thank you from Sidney Oliver, Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue, and Brava.