The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘dogs’ Category


The first story I saw this morning on Yahoo news was about nine Golden Retriever comfort dogs who have come, courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities to be with the residents of Newtown, CT as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives after last Friday’s tragedy.

This brief video should help you start your day in an upbeat way.


This has been a disturbing few days.  I thought about the children who were slaughtered and about the kids I trained in my church choir.  They were a little older – but not much, and I cannot imagine how I would have reacted had this incident happened at their school.  Actually, I could.  I would have been a basket case.

Feeling a little low as I contemplated the “evolution of man” I thought about the warmth and joy I knew as a child when I could always rely on my family for a hug, a kiss and some genuine concern.  It has been a long time since they have passed and I have made my way – though always mindful of the sense of security I had when they caressed me and made my fears disappear.

My folks were simple and they raised a child who was simple.  But the simplest and most sincere of all of us are our canine friends – and I am blessed that I have known and cared for many of them.

It has been two weeks since my new found family of Golden Rerievers have been with Gracie and me.  Both of us miss them terribly.  And as I had a few errands to run (some of which were fabricated to maneuver me to their neighborhood),  I took a moment to stop by and see if their owner and they were home.  As luck turned out they were.

When I walked in I was assaulted with affection from all three, but most especially from Kali, the baby.  During the forty-five minutes I sat on the couch in the living room, she only stopped licking my face and standing on my lap long enough to get some water so that she could recharge her tongue.  Her father lay with his head in my lap, as contented as anyone, dog or human could be, despite the fact that his offspring kept pummeling his face in her attempt to express her love for me.  And mom jumped up as often as her progeny would permit to share her affection.

Frankly, I both basked in this display of feelings and I needed it.  I rapidly went from a nadir of despair to an apex of hope – all because of a family of dogs who are not reputed to be the smartest of animals.  That spot at the top of the pyramid, we humans have reserved for ourselves.

I have never heard of any dog who pulled a trigger and slaughtered a bunch of human children. 

I have never heard of any dog who was treated well and didn’t return that kindness ten fold.

I have never seen a dog who wasn’t honest and devoted to those whom we describe as “master.”

To paraphrase Will Rogers, “I never met a dog I didn’t like.”  More importantly, there are few dogs I have met who didn’t like me.

Perhaps it is that, like them I am an uncomplicated individual.  I’m honest – or at least try my best to be – and I live without a great deal of drama. 

Each of us needs to ask ourselves whether we are part of the solution or part of the problem.   Do the ways we treat others promote joy or anger? Because I believe that our interactions are cumulative on those we encounter. Even hard-hearted Scrooge could be turned from selfishness to generosity.

We need to be involved in a passionate way – much as Kali did on seeing me – exploding in an honest, unsolicited display of loving action.  Each of us needs to examine his or her life and ask, “Am I a mindless, emotionless robot?  Or am I a feeling, caring person?”

And if we say that we are compassionate, do we demonstrate that in our everyday activities and dealings with others?  Even to the little children. For in some small way, each of us helps mold them into becoming what they will become – either saints or shooters.

This post is reblogged from allaboutlemon whose work I have followed for most of my own blogging experience. The five minute video brought both a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

allaboutlemon-All Around, In, And Out Of My Own Universe

Let’s watch this very inspirational video and all our disappointments will turn into a joyful new direction.



Drink up your favorite coffee and have a great weekend!




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Let’s begin at the beginning which we know is a very good place to start.  My love affair with dogs started very shortly after I made my way into the world – kicking and screaming and annoyed at the bright lights in the delivery room which had disturbed the comfortable warm, dark and secure accommodations I had previously enjoyed.

A short while later I went to a new place that I would call home until the time that I went off to college.  It was a small apartment filled with an amazingly loving and wonderful buff colored Cocker Spaniel named Taffy who would act as a surrogate guardian for my parents and grandmother.

Mom and this guy called Dad had disappeared for about a week on something that was called a honeymoon.  They had been married on Flag Day and ten days and a year later I popped into the world.  This was back in the days when the sequence of events was getting married and then having children.  Even then, (although we had not yet invented the word), there were people who were dyslexic and got these instructions backwards – but they were relatively few in number and polite people didn’t talk about them.

Now Mom had gotten Taffy as a puppy – but by the time of her marriage he was twelve years old and very devoted to her.  She was concerned that he might be jealous of this new addition to the family.  As it turned out, she had nothing to fear.  Taffy considered it his duty to take care of this baby, sleeping by the side of my crib, ever vigilant should anything or anyone disturb me.

Perhaps he saw in me a kindred spirit.  Maybe it was the fact that I pooped and piddled with abandon in those old fashioned cloth diapers which Mom and Grandma had to wash out and launder and then reuse.  Perhaps those smells reminded him of the others of his kind whom he knew only by the aroma that they left on the fire hydrant down the street.  In any event, Taffy assumed the role of my protector and guarded me with all his might.

After awhile my parents decided to introduce me to the wonders of Central Park.  I had a big English stroller carriage and Taffy and I would ride in it together.  I would gum his ears with my mouth and do the same to his nose.  He reciprocated these affronts to his dignity by showering my hands and face with licks and then would resume his rest at the foot of the carriage, always attentive if a stranger came too close to his baby.

Taffy lived to be nearly seventeen.  I was in the apartment but sleeping when he passed away near my little bed.  My parents removed his body before I awakened and had it cremated.  When I got up that morning I remember looking for him.  That was when I first became aware of the principle that where there is life there is also death.  I remember crying inconsolably at the loss of my very devoted friend.

A week later my folks came home with Taffy’s ashes – and a new addition to our little family.  This was a pure black Cocker Spaniel puppy whom they named Ace.  And after Ace there was Andy and a succession of wonderful companion dogs with whom I have been privileged to share my home and my heart with the sole exception of the four years I lived in college dorms.

One of those dogs was a gift, some were rescues, all have been wonderful friends.  Whether it was the two goofy Irish Setters, Finney and Tristan, the wonderful Newfoundland/Belgian Shepherd mix, Josh, the German Shepherd mix, Dusty, the Golden Retrievers, Dickens and Spenser and now, my Lane Bryant girl the Irish Wolfhound look alike, Gracie.  They have all been the most constant and devoted companions.  And, of course, now there are the three Golden Retrievers for whom Gracie and I have been surrogate parents for much of this past year, Bubba, Bébé and Kali.

I had expected their owner to ask us to care for them over Thanksgiving as he was hoping to visit relatives out of town.  As it turned out that trip did not occur and so Gracie and I celebrated the holiday together.  But on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I received a call from him to let me know that he wasn’t feeling well and thought that, if I could, it would be better for them to stay a few days with me rather than with his girlfriend and her three dogs.  So I arranged to meet her at the dog park to pick up the kids.  Gracie and I hadn’t seen them for just over two weeks.

When we got to the park, I could see Kali was the closest of the three.  Her parents were at the far end and were facing away from Gracie and me.  She suddenly spotted the two of us and took off in our direction, running and barking in her very treble voice.  This caused mom and dad to turn around and they too began running toward us at full kilter.

I would have to say that this reunion lasted for at least five minutes, all three of them showering their affection on both Gracie and me and raising such a ruckus that four people who were passing by the outer fence of the park stopped to watch the whole thing.  One of the men in the park came over and said I must be the “Dog Whisperer” of Las Vegas.

I don’t know why dogs seem to have an affinity for me or I for them.  Perhaps it is because we are cast from the same mold of simplicity.  They ask for so little.  A home, some food and water and a little bit of love.  Yet they return so much loyalty and affection for what we bestow on them.  And as for me, the gratitude I see in their face after they have enjoyed a meal, followed by one of them curling up in my lap is the greatest gift I could imagine receiving.

If all our world leaders had a companion dog as a guide to teach them their ways this might be a more harmonious planet.  For in the end, we make the choice if we should follow a path of anger and hatred and war – or whether we should walk down the road letting the simple joy of loving be our guide.


I was bad, really bad.  Perhaps the more appropriate term is lazy.  Although I again have the three goldens with Gracie and me, I didn’t have the energy yesterday to bake the dog biscuits that they love.  And to make matters worse, I was nearly out of the other little goodies that they get each morning when we come back from the park.

It was too early to stop by Pet Smart to pick up a stash, so I stopped at my local supermarket to see what they had in stock.  Well, they had the treats I normally include as part of the kids’ morning mix, but they were significantly more expensive than at Pet Smart.  So I looked for a short term alternative on the shelf and found one.  As they were on sale they were quite inexpensive and appeared to contain a preponderance of natural ingredients.

As with products I buy for my own consumption, I checked to see whether they were made in the U. S. A. or if, like so much in the pet food department, were a product of China.  I looked all over the package but was unable to find the country of origin listed.  The only statement was that they were “distributed by Del Monte Foods’ Pet Division”.  The term “distributed” led me to believe that they probably were not made here.

When we returned home, (the kids patiently sat in the car waiting for me to get them their goodies), I called the number listed on the package to speak with Del Monte’s customer service department.  The young lady in New Jersey was very helpful and assured me that this product was indeed made in the USA.  And that’s when I learned something.

I’m not sure what law Congress passed that applies, but as my contact at Del Monte put it, “Only products which are made in foreign countries must indicate the country of origin on the packaging.  If you see a product with no indication of where it is made, you can rest assured that it was produced here.”

I wished I had known that earlier as it would have saved me five minutes scrutinizing the package and the time it took to call her and for her to answer my question.  I did suggest that since there is a lot of printing on the package, it might be helpful to the consumer if they simply added the statement, “Made in the USA” to the package, removing any question from the mind of the consumer who cares about that sort of thing.

She agreed and said she would “Pass that suggestion along.”

Well, the good news is that the kids liked their new treats.  And the better news is that I got motivated to bake them two batches of their biscuits.  That is good news for them and for me.  (I have gotten in the habit of eating a couple of them every morning for breakfast).

Don’t laugh.  They are not as hard as Milk Bone biscuits.  In fact, they have the consistency of scones.  And all of us find them rather tasty.  They go very nicely with my morning coffee – and I’m looking forward to breakfast tomorrow morning now that I’ve laid in a new supply.

For those of you who have companion dogs, I have included the recipe below.  If your dogs are like this pack, they will love them – and you may as well.


Dry Ingredients

1/2 cup of original Oat Meal flakes

1/2 cup of yellow or blue Corn Meal

2   cups of flour (I use equal parts of garbanzo, barley, brown rice and whole wheat flours).

1   Tbsp. of Toasted Wheat Germ

1    Tbsp. of Toasted Sunflower Seeds (unsalted)

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients until thoroughly blended

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup of filtered water

1/2 cup of oil (Safflower preferred)

2  large eggs or 1 jumbo egg

1 Tbsp. of pure vanilla extract

2 Tbsps. of honey

3 Tbsps. of chunky peanut butter (almond or pecan butter make a nice variation)

In a large mixing bowl with a wire whisk blend all wet ingredients thoroughly.  Add dry ingredients and blend until all liquid is absorbed.

Turn out dough on a wooden board and form into a ball.  Roll out until about 1/2 inch in thickness and cut into shapes.

On a lightly greased baking sheet place cut out biscuits and bake in a 400 degree oven for twenty minutes.  (I normally make two batches at a time and exchange the baking sheets from one level of the oven to the other after 10 minutes so that they bake evenly).  Turn oven off.

Let rest in the oven (door ajar) for another 10 minutes.  Put trays on a wire rack to cool.  Store in air tight containers.

(I have no idea how long the shelf life of these biscuits is because two batches only last us about three days).

“Bone Appetit!”


Who would have thought that the dog park was going to be a hot bed of political activity?  But with Nevada being one of the key “battleground states” as political analysts have described it, that is what has happened.  Or perhaps, to use one of Jimmy Durante’s lines, “Everybody wants ta get inta the act.”

A few days ago I noticed that someone had pasted some little stickers in various places in the large dog park.  The stickers simply read, “OBAMA SUCKS”.  Several of the stickers have been removed from where they were placed but several remain.

As I approached the group that comes equipped with puppies and lawn chairs and enjoys hobnobbing on the little rise in the park, the subject of these stickers was in hot debate.  The group, people who mostly support the President, were indignant at this insult to his Greatness.  Generally I try to avoid getting involved in these discussions because I am, if not out thought in these conversations, certainly outnumbered by about a six to one ratio.  However, I was unsuccessful in this attempt last night.

One of the more strident members of the group asked me directly if I had seen these stickers, to which I replied that I had.  “And,” she continued, “What do you think of someone putting them up on public property?”  I responded, “I guess we’re dealing with someone who is perhaps overly enthusiastic.”

This woman said that she had removed “both” of them and looked at me with a true sense of righteousness.  It was at that point that I mentioned that there were several more in the park to which she might want to turn her attention as well.  Apparently she was unaware of this and looked appropriately disturbed that this public property defacer had done yet more damage to our dog park – and her political sensibilities.

One of the other members then began a rant about right wing fascists – and I confess that pushed me beyond the limits of my usual calm and composed demeanor.  I asked them, “Would you have been equally upset and removed the stickers if the word ROMNEY were substituted for OBAMA?”   “Of course,” they responded.  “It’s a violation of park rules to place any sign.”  To be honest, if the stickers were anti-Romney ones, it is more likely that they would have begun building a shrine beneath them.

“So then your objection is not based on the content of the stickers but is based on the infraction of the rules for the use of the park by the public?”  “Exactly,” replied the lady who made the fascist statement.  “Well, don’t you think some of those rules are pretty silly,?” I asked, setting up my straw man argument.


“You mean even if they are dumb, we are supposed to obey all of them?”

“Of course.  You can’t pick and choose.  If you don’t like something you have to get it changed.”   At least on that point we were in agreement.

“Well, let me ask you a question.  I know that you’re aware that the very first rule posted regarding the use of the park is that ‘No alcoholic beverages are to be brought to the park and consumed here.’  That is the reason (together with a warning from one of the Park Marshalls) that you folks no longer bring wine bottles with you for your evening gatherings.  But you now bring alcohol from home and consume it from individual containers.  Isn’t that a violation of a rule which should also be observed?”

As the rancor began rising among the group I realized that it was time to pick up the pizza I had ordered for dinner which provided me with a convenient reason for taking Gracie and leaving them to “mull” over my question.  So I wished all of them a good evening and left them to “stew” over my comment.

I guess it’s a good thing that you can choose your acquaintances.  I might have to go on a search for a couple of replacements.


It’s amazing to me how much I learn about human life from what our dogs exhibit in the conduct of their own.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who sees this – but, perhaps, I’m the only one who is looking.

My visiting Golden Retriever father, Bubba sired four litters.  He is now neutered.  Although he is one of the most gentle creatures, constantly looking for a gratuitous caress or insisting on one by marching between a person’s legs so they cannot ignore him, he doesn’t do well with un-neutered male dogs.

The dog park, with its requirement that all animals over the age of four months must be spayed or neutered in order to use the facility, should be a safe place to take all four of these creatures on our three outings a day.  But it isn’t.  During four of the last seven days, there have been one or more un-neutered males at the park.

I guess it’s possible that the people who brought their dogs didn’t see the sign specifying this rule.  But in most cases I honestly doubt that.  And because I believe that the dogs in my charge have the right to enjoy their time in a non-threatening environment I have felt obligated to point out to these folks the fact that they are violating the rule.

One gentleman apologized and said he didn’t realize that and immediately left with his dog.  The other three found excuses why this rule didn’t apply to them.  As a result, seeing that they were going to stick around, I took my charges and left.  I have decided that if I see them again, having brought this to their attention, I will call the Park Marshalls and let them do their job.  I’m sure they will bring a greater sense of urgency to this than I have been able to achieve.

Since I first met the three golden family about six months ago, Gracie and I have enjoyed their company as guests for almost half that time.  Of course, mom, dad and baby already had a bond – but that bond now includes Gracie.  It is remarkable to me and to others how, when they are visiting, she literally has a smile on her face.  And I think that of the three, she has most closely bonded with papa, Bubba.  The two of them, when we are home, can usually be found sleeping next to each other.

On an evening visit to the dog park the other night, a neutered male, I think an Australian shepherd mix, came in.  He was about three years old and extremely playful.  But he also wanted to do the dominance game with Gracie.  We had completed four laps around the park and were seated in the shade for a few minutes before we began the drive home.  Bubba was sitting in front of me and I was petting him.

When he saw this dog jump on Gracie he stood up and began snarling and barking and snapping his teeth.  Fortunately, I was able to grab his collar.  He definitely had blood in his eye and I know that there would have been an awful incident had I not been able to hold him.  The shepherd continued trying to mount Gracie and Bubba kept up his protest until the other dog’s owner came over and pulled him off.  When she had walked him a safe distance I took the four of them home.

It is clear to me that Bubba has identified Gracie as a member of his pack – or in human terms, family.  He is the alpha dog and he is going to defend his family from any intrusions or threats from others.  He is a devoted papa.  While I certainly don’t want any dog fights to happen, it does make me feel good to know that Gracie, who hasn’t a mean bone in her body and I doubt would know how to defend herself, has him to look out for her.

Then I thought about my childhood – and how I had my own father who would have done anything and everything necessary to protect me from harm.  Dad was a slight man, only about 5’ 8” and 160 pounds, but I know that if I were threatened he would have turned into a giant.  How fortunate that Gracie has Bubba and I had my father to provide for our security.

And then I think about all those children who are abused, left to fend for themselves without a protector – a father figure – a role model.  Although when we speak of child abuse we generally think about the infliction of active physical damage, I would argue that neglect and abandonment convey their own very deep scars.  Those may be invisible but they cut like knives through the makeup of the children of our one parent families – whose numbers are increasing daily.

Could the disintegration of the basic family unit be one of the reasons that we live in an increasingly more self-centered society?  Could it be one of the reasons that our children and young people engage in more and more horrible random acts of violence?  Could the abdication of principle and morality explain so much of what is happening in world?  And can our continuing along this path lead to anything other than our own destruction?

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