Friday, October 22, 2010


From the time I can remember I have always loved dogs. My Dad was not enamored of dogs, so I didn’t have many while I was growing up. Those that I did have were either put down or given away. I grieved silently as each one departed from my life. I decided early on that when I struck out on my own I would always have a dog. Except for a stint in the Navy and my years at college, that has pretty much been the case.

To me dogs are extra-special beings. They embody so much of what we should be. Their love is unconditional and total. They readily forgive and offer us endless chances to prove our love for them in return. They protect us. They are loyal to us. They give without limits and ask very little in return. I find it of particular interest that “God” spelled backwards is “dog.” My experience with dogs has convinced me that is no coincidence.

There are few dogs I don’t like and, of those, my caution is probably because I don’t understand the breed or the animal. I have reservations about trying to cozy up to a Doberman, a Pit Bull Terrier or a Rottweiler. Dog experts tell me there is no such thing as a mean dog. Rather, it is the way we treat them that makes them our adversaries.

My family and I have had a variety of dogs over the years, each one a personality unto itself. We loved each one of them, and our hearts broke when we had to part with them. However, we just couldn’t quite live without one, so we always got another. I would find myself perusing the want ads looking for one that needed a good home. Before the scab had barely formed on the wound caused by the loss of the previous one, there was another to take his place. Not one has ever been a disappointment. Each brought his or her particular personality to our home and hearts, but all were the wonderful, loving and giving creatures peculiar to their kind. The tremendous sense of loss we feel when one leaves us is, I suspect, the result of the unconscious realization that we always got more than we gave in return.

It was about ten years ago that I was going through the want ads in the Sunday paper when one ad in particular caught my eye. It was for a Schipperke that was available for adoption, free of charge. I found that rather odd given the rarity of the breed. I had only seen one in my entire life; a puppy in a pet shop. When the owner let him out and he had the run of the store, he was the most animated and adorable dog I had ever seen. That brief exposure stayed with me.

The Schipperke is unique among dogs. They are 10 to 13 inches in height and weigh between 12 and 18 pounds, on average. They are jet black with a heavy coat. The head is shaped like a fox’s, with small dark brown eyes that have a devilish but questioning expression. They have small pointed ears.

Schipperkes are full of boundless energy. They have a temper, a great spirit and are protective. Although wary of strangers, they are devoted and loyal to their families. The dog is territorial and protects it’s environ against all intruders.

Schipperkes readily accept other pets in the home, and they are intelligent, curious and mischievous. They can (and do) try the patience of a saint, but when the dust settles, whatever stress they may have caused is readily forgiven and the love of the breed takes over.

The origin of the Schipperke was as a captain’s dog on the barges in Belgium and was a popular breed throughout the country. Today, they are canine companions to those who have a particular affinity for this kind of dog.

Back to my discovery of the ad in the Sunday paper. I called the number and inquired as to whether or not the dog was still available. I was assured he was and I made an appointment to go and see him. From the moment the woman opened her door, I knew he was meant to be mine. He was four years old, pedigreed, neutered and a sterling specimen of the breed. I was asked if I wanted the papers. Given that he was no longer able to procreate, that seemed rather superfluous so I declined the offer. I noticed there were no tears or remorse in giving him to me. I wondered why but it was too early to draw any conclusions. He immediately became apprehensive as he was put in the car and occupied the seat next to mine. I experienced that gnawing feeling of sadness that comes with seeing the confusion surrounding that supreme act of rejection he could never have understood.

I left and merged into the traffic that would take us home. All the while, he remained standing in the seat. I reached over to pat him and to let him know that, even though those who had just banished him from their lives didn’t care, he was mine to be loved for the rest of his life. He bit my hand. Time to back off and take it slowly. We arrived home and I took him into the house. He took a stand on the couch in the Family Room. He was insulated from the back and both sides. He felt safe from an imposing family of four, another dog and a cat. His growls served notice on us all that we were indeed the enemy.

His given name was “Bear,” which just did not quite fit. Therefore, I chose an endearing term from German and he was known from that day as “Schotzy.” He soon settled in and became one of the clan. There was never an altercation with the other dog or the cat. They were all in it together. He quickly surveyed his newfound castle and the limits of his kingdom on the acreage where we live. He never strayed from those boundaries in the ten years he was with us. He would regularly check every square inch of ground to make sure everything was in order.

Typical of his breed, he was fiercely independent. He had his own special places to hide, but never for long. He loved to ride in the car with his muzzle into the wind. He would bark at passersby, but more to let them know he was there than to serve as a warning. When we returned home, he would bound out of the car and run for all he was worth back up the road from whence we had come. As to where he was running, to this day I have no idea. All I know is that it wasn’t far because he would immediately return.

Everything was on Schotzy’s own terms. If he wanted to stay outside in the weather, he did. If I wanted him to come into the house, he would pause and have one more drink of water just to remind me who was really in charge. He would sometimes stay in the house. At other times, he would stay the night outside within the confines of the fenced portion of the yard. He was always on guard against a band of marauding coyotes (boogies) that might venture onto the property. He would bark into the wee hours of the morning to let them know he was on duty.

Wherever one of us might be, he could be found sleeping somewhere close by. He would lay between my feet when I was watching television to the point of self-induced paralysis. I would, of course, suffer the agony in order to accommodate him. He was my constant companion when I was working on the computer. He loved to have his head rubbed and his ears scratched. In the morning, when I would let him out, he would run for the same small Alder tree to sniff it and leave his mark before venturing on to the first inspection of his realm.

During my long absences in Saudi Arabia, Shotzy never forgot me. Upon stepping out of the car, as soon as he heard my voice he would run to greet me. When we went to Seattle to visit the kids, rather than me taking him for a walk, he was the one who would take ME for a walk. The song “I Did It My Way” could well have been written for him.

Schotzy was in good health and active. However, on the morning of April 21, when I opened the door to let him into the warmth of the house, he appeared to be fast asleep on the deck where he always laid to keep tabs on his precious estate. When I approached him, I realized he had died peacefully during the night. His passing has left a horribly painful void in my life.

We called a vet and he wanted forty dollars to cremate him with all other animals and road kill. That didn’t do much for his memory in my view. Given the speed with which I was given the pitch, I had no confidence that I would get his remains back if I asked for them. Veterinarians are becoming as greedy as their medical counterparts. So, I dug his grave at the base of his favorite Alder tree, laid him to rest in his own blanket and tied a yellow ribbon to a branch above where he is buried. I have cried a lot these past two days. The night he died, as I was drifting off to sleep, I could hear the coyotes screaming into the dark void of the night. Schotzy is gone and the boogies are back.

People who are familiar with the breed generally say they wouldn’t want one for a pet because they are so difficult. Those who have had one often give qualified answers or hedge their bets.

It will take some time before I start perusing the ads for pets in the newspaper again, but I know in my heart I will eventually return to those pages. Would I consider another Schipperke? I will ask myself if I really want to go through all that he was again. I would probably skim over any ads for Schipperkes that might be looking for a good home in favor of an easier breed. On reflection, I would go back to that ad and ponder it, knowing that one encounter could be hazardous. Curiosity and a faint tug at my heartstrings would take over and my first sight would cause any resistance I might have to evaporate. I would be hooked all over again.

A Schipperke is not just a dog; it is a life force all its own that is utterly irresistible. Life for them is just one big adventure and one endless playful game. I suspect those who would say no to that experience have lost the child within. Those who still have it will be sorely tempted to accept the challenge.

Schotzy, I know, forgave me for all the times I was impatient and indifferent with him. Much to my chagrin and regret, I got the best of the deal. Rest in peace, My Dear Schotz, and may God see fit to let us meet again in that better world where you are and where I hope to be one day.

Cowboy Bob
April 23, 2007

It is obvious I wrote this some time ago. I had not yet started writing a blog, but there was something almost sacred about the words I wrote at the time, so I filed it to be read again at a later time. As I re-read this just now, a lump welled up in my throat all over again.

I have another dog. She is a mixed breed from the SPCA and what a gem she is! As loving and beautiful as anyone could hope for. However, whenever I walk past that Alder tree, I am overcome by a certain reverence and longing for that canine love by the name of Schotzy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"What Is To Become Of The Grand Experiment Called America?"

I don’t know about you, but as I look ahead to the midterm elections, I am overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness.

When I reflect on the political cesspool we call “government” in Washington, D.C., it is so apparent that any virtues associated with its collective endeavors have long since vanished. There is no honor, no decency and nothing within their power that could even remotely foster a sense of anything short of shame. They are a grotesque lot, at the very least.

The Supreme Court has decided that legislating is a legitimate endeavor worthy of the highest court in the land, no longer limited to their role in interpreting the law and ascertaining the intent of the law. They were successful in 2000 when they stole the election on behalf of George W. Bush, cloaking their evil scheme in the black robes of righteousness. Having gotten away with that, they gave it another go when they ruled in favor of Citizens United, literally giving away the foundations of our democracy, without the slightest pangs of conscience, to domestic and, yes, foreign corporations.

Congress, of course, is a joke. The Senate, with its imperious aura of superiority over all other deliberative bodies in government, projects a false notion of wisdom and fairness, all the while having elevated thievery to a new art form. Squatters rights is a given in that House. Their system of so-called “rules” that undermine the remotest notion of rule by the majority is a devious ploy that only serves political ambitions, rather than the interests of the people. Their obstructionist games since 2008 would be humorous, were it not for the untold damage it has done to this country and the millions of people who suffer the agonies of the damned because of their unabashed corruption and calloused inaction.

The House, being on a short leash of 2-year terms in office, knows full well they can be thrown to the wolves in a twinkling and quickly lose any hoped for opportunities they may harbor to lace their pockets at the expense of those who elected them to office. Those who dare to stand on principle and advocate for the American people are summarily marginalized or demonized. Despite their best efforts to legislate for the American people in the last couple of years, the Senate has managed to stymie those efforts by freezing any progress on their efforts. Is this government as it was intended to be?

Then, of course, there is our resident Community Organizer and his administration at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Lofty speeches and the adroitness with which he speaks out of both sides of his mouth are nothing short of spectacular. Ideals that are quickly translated into giving away the store in favor of dirty politics is now commonplace. However, the style of decision-making by consensus is never more than a pathetic compromise, at best. Contrary to what we have a right to expect in the White House, which is a real leader that exercises decision-making on what he genuinely believes is in the best interests of the people, we get backroom deals that serve no one except those who stand to benefit most.

Special and vested interests have become the owners of government. They permeate virtually every facet of what is supposed to be a system that serves every American seeking a fair and just government, with liberty and justice for all.

With this introduction, I began to wonder, “How in the world did we get to this wasteland of a free society from the ideals of the Founding Fathers?” In order to get from a set of ideals dedicated to freedom and fairness, how did we arrive at where we are today? It could not have been possible without a lot of deception, dishonesty and manipulation, all wrapped in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and, of course, supported by the Supreme Court. I decided to probe a bit and was more than a little surprised at what I found.

I discovered that oligarchs are nothing new to the scene. The preponderance of those who founded this nation was themselves, affluent members of the gentry of their day.

Thirty-five were lawyers or had benefited from legal training. Some had become judges. That speaks volumes, but I will leave the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about that august fraternity.

Thirteen were businessmen, merchants or shippers, which could well have been oligarchs of their day.

Six were major land speculators. Speculator? Investor? I see little or no difference with those who have followed them to the modern day.

Eleven speculated in securities on a large scale. Sound familiar?

Twelve owned or managed slave-oriented plantations or large farms. I cannot help but wonder if they too, relied on a pool of cheap labor (slaves) the procurement and suppression of which was supported by an enabling and complicit government.

Only two were small farmers who, surely, must have been closet socialists.

I could not help but wonder if they really were the democratic idealists of their time, or were they laying the foundation for what we were destined to become? Wealth, power and privilege seem to have the same genesis, regardless of the time in which it was spawned. They have the unique ability to consistently rationalize their suppression of the human condition so that it emerges as a manifestation of the highest ideals, most of which could be attributed to Mother Theresa herself!

Throughout recorded history, it can be safely said that royal lineage, wealth, privilege and power have greased the gears of human misery. Nothing has changed. The Third Reich rose to power with the full support of wealthy German industrialists, and a willing and compliant political and military establishment, all touched by the hand of God Himself. The persecution of every minority imaginable was merely the price of purity in ideology and empire. Not just from the blood, tears and lives of their Jewish victims, but gypsies, homosexuals, members of the clergy, etc., as well. Has anything really changed or is it just a matter of degree?

True respect is never conferred. It is always earned for the price of what we call “character.”

I cannot help but wonder what new insights might emerge were a group of graduate students, from appropriate academic disciplines, given the opportunity to develop a PERT Chart on the evolution of our system of government from its inception to the present day. Could they identify significant events in that history which might shed some light on where we went wrong, and what led us to the present-day catastrophe? If all that brought us to this point was within the limits of the law, then I think there would be just cause for questioning their so-called wisdom. Could those same students produce a map of what it would take to get us back on track and restore integrity to our government? Could the social, economic and political nightmare staring us in the face have been averted had better minds prevailed?

I have always placed great stock in the press as the vanguard of the people. I, also, believe that it was crystal clear that the Founding Fathers intended to foster and protect a free press that would serve as our watchdog on government. However, except for a few courageous and staunch holdouts that are literally begging for money in order to survive, the mainstream news media and the thousands of what we euphemistically refer to as “journalists” have become more a part of the problem than the solution. Can you imagine the cadre of all those sycophantic purveyors of news, who rub elbows with the rich and famous in New York, Georgetown, Beverly Hills, etc., giving up their prestigious positions, multi-million dollar salaries and opulent lifestyles in order to champion the needs and interests of the common people of this country and the democracy they trust to serve them? Get serious. Real journalists are a vanishing breed.

Sadly, the fertile soil in which the seeds of true democracy once germinated, then took root and flourished, has become an arid plain to be exploited by the scions of big business and the unbridled greed that is endemic to our entire political and economic structure.

The faculties of natural curiosity, critical thinking and genuine discourse seem to have died with the advent of our addiction to materialism, hedonism, electronic toys and the inherent belief that “fun” is a basic human fight. We are no longer one people but, rather, a collection of vested interests pursuing our own individual and group agendas at the expense of the common good. Despite laws that may be on the books, those who don’t agree with those laws don’t bother with seeking redress through the judicial or legislative process but, instead, deliberately break those laws because they simply don’t agree with them. Is that consistent with the democratic process and an orderly society? Is that consistent with original intent?

We are devoid of any real desire to be fully informed about the salient issues of the day. Our faculties for remaining vigilant against the forces that seek to destroy us have become atrophied. We are much too willing to believe without questioning. We are ripe for buying into that which is the most expedient and the least controversial. Beyond that, it is too much effort. There are more “fun” things to do with our time. We are suckers for every type of deception skillfully practiced by the opinion makers in advertising, entertainment and the “news” media that seem to intensify in numbers and crescendo leading up to national elections. We believe, not in what is, but in what we deem truth to be. It doesn’t get much more hazardous to a civil society than that. As has been aptly observed, “The world exists, not as it is, but as we perceive it to be.”

We are a nation of people that emulates the trappings of power, influence and affluence. It is as if we vicariously transport ourselves into their world of opulent splendor, insatiable appetites and all the decadence that goes with it. We are awed by fame, fortune and privilege. We allow and accept all they have and flaunt, while remaining silent as they disparage the very institutions that serve and protect our common interests and the values that champion the cause of middle class Americans. Labor unions, a fair wage for all those who labor, the right to a decent standard of living, a college education for our children, access to health care and the comfort of knowing we can retire without the fear of living out our declining years in abject poverty are all made to appear as unclean and subversive. Let us not lose sight of the fact that all that enables the rich and powerful to live as they do comes at the expense of those who labor in their service. History bears that out, and still does.

I rather suspect more luxury cars, more homes than one can afford, and more designer clothes have been purchased to impress others than to meet the needs of those who covet them. What is wrong with being proud of whom and what we are? What is wrong with fighting for what is right and just because we have earned it? Surely, the working people of this country are legitimately entitled to the rewards that flow from their many contributions to our broader society.

I believe it is possible to change an idea or a belief system, but how do you change the fundamental values upon which an entire society rests? Does it take another horror on the same scale as those of the myriad brutal dictatorships that have existed throughout recorded history?

We live in perilous times. My biggest fear, come election day, is that we will unwittingly succumb to all the lies and deception to which we have been subjected and, instead of ensuring honesty, integrity and diligence in our government, we will end up opting for the tyranny of vast wealth and power, believing it is, instead, the only way to our salvation.

Then the curtain will slowly descend, the lights will dim and we will sink further into the abyss of a darkness of our own making, the attendant hopelessness and an even more uncertain future.

Surely, we deserve better.

Cowboy Bob
October 13, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

“Revisiting The Wisdom of Molly Ivins On Hatred"

I have recently been engaged in a project that is long overdue. I don’t know if that is because of a homing instinct for the grave or because I have finally come to my senses to the fact that I simply cannot read and re-read all of those long-forgotten treasures I have kept hidden away. However, there are a few that I have re-read that have hit me right between the eyes.

One of my favorite sources of writing has been some of the great syndicated columnists of my time. Two stand out, in particular, as giants among their peers. One was Charles McCabe who wrote a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, titled “The Fearless Spectator.” He was imbued with that rare talent which is surely a gift to the Irish from God Himself. An ability to manipulate the language like no others, and the ability to touch the human heart with the elegance of his prose. Much of his work was published in a few books, all of which I heartily recommend. You might find them available on

The other who stands tall as my second favorite, was Molly Ivins. She was a syndicated columnist for one of the great newspapers of our time, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Sadly, the angel of death paid his/her visit to her much too early in her life, thereby depriving so many of what had become a regular diet of wisdom and insight. However, thanks to my proclivity for saving newspaper clippings, I found the following among those treasures. What astounded me was how relevant it is today as it was when it was first published. When that was, I haven’t a clue, but I am grateful I had the good sense to save it. Molly had that great gift with which so many of the giants from Texas possess; the ability to tell it like it is and making every word worth savoring.

I hope you will enjoy this column, and will be as moved by her words as I was with my long overdue second reading of her brilliance.

How many straights chose to become heterosexual?

By Molly Ivins

Well, the gay folks had a fine march in Washington, D.C., but I think they missed a couple of bets. Jack Gordon suggests that they should have stopped en route and had a ceremony thanking the feds for naming that fine new building right there on Pennsylvania Avenue after one of their own. That’s the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

Speaking of whom, there was a great example of why we don’t want to force gays to stay in the closet.

And I would have liked to see a banner reading “Ban Heterosexuals from the Military -- Remember Tailhook.” I trust you all took a look at the charming little report on that incident.

I suspect that finally ventilating all the myths and misconceptions about gays is a useful exercise, even for those who would prefer not to think about them. “I have nothing against gays,” my mother is fond of saying. “I just wish they’d stay in the closet.” But we all know by now -- or should -- that that state of affairs was cruel and unjust and led to terrible abuses.

Of all the odd misperceptions current about homosexuality, perhaps the oldest is that it is a choice, that people choose to be homosexual. That strikes me as so patently silly. Did any of us who are straight choose to be heterosexual? When? Did we wake up one morning when we were 15 and say, “Gosh, I think I will be a heterosexual”? For heaven’s sakes, how can anyone believe that people choose to be homosexual? “I think it would be a lot of fun to be called ’queer’ and ’sissy’ for the rest of my life, so I think I’ll be gay.”

Last time I checked, the experts were still leaning toward the view that homosexuality is multicausational (isn’t that a dandy word?). Most gay people I know believe they were literally born that way, that it’s like being left-handed or brown-eyed. But in at least some cases, there is apparently some developmental influence as well.

The best description I ever heard of sexual orientation came from Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University, who used to draw it on a horizontal scale going from one to 10, with one being completely homosexual and 10 being completely heterosexual. Money says that very few people are either one or 10 and about as few are five (totally bisexual). Most of us fall into a clump ranging from about six to eight, while there’s a smaller clump of homosexuals ranging from about four to two.

Because homosexuality occurs in many species of animals (stickleback fish always struck me as the strangest case) and because it has appeared in all human cultures throughout history, we must conclude that it is what statisticians call “normal aberrant,” (and isn’t that a dandy phrase?)”

I actually saw a letter to the editor last week declaring that homosexuality is a symptom of the decadence and decline of civilization and that it didn’t exist among primitive people such as American Indians. Au contraire, as we say in Lubbock. Aside from the insult to Indians, there were indeed gay Indians before the white man came, and at least in the Plains tribes they were regarded as sort of endearingly special.

Among the less charming counter-demonstrators at the Washington march was the group from Kansas carrying signs saying “God hates fags” and “Death to fags.” It is true that the Old Testament contains an injunction against homosexuality; it’s in the same list of laws given when the Hebrews were a wandering desert people and were forbidden to eat shellfish. I always thought Christians were supposed to be followers of Jesus Christ, and Jesus’ injunctions to love one another -- to love even the despised and the outcast -- could scarcely be clearer. Hate is not a Christian value.

And, of course, there are the gay fundamentalists. We all know of scandals involving gay preachers, and if you wonder what it’s like to grow up gay in a religious environment that stigmatizes gays, I commend to you a truly funny book called “Strange Angel -- The Gospel According to Benny Joe” by Ben Davis, who grew up near Dallas and would have become a fundamentalist preacher had it not been for his sexual orientation.

As a matter of law, I do not see that we have any choice but to seek to ensure that gays have full civil rights. They are citizens, they pay taxes; as Jesse Jackson said Sunday, no one gives them a break on April 15. They serve honorably in the military, ban or no ban.

It has been my observation that some gay people are absolutely wonderful human beings, and some are complete you-know-whats, and most are somewhere in between. So I suggest we all grow up and get over our small-town prejudices (I can never remember whether it was “Queers wear red on Friday” or “green on Thursday.” Lord, didn’t we grow up with some silly ideas?). In our fair land, no one can force us to be tolerant. But neither can prejudice be allowed to keep people out of jobs for which they are qualified.

I suppose some people will continue to feel entitled to hate gays. As the psychiatrists have been telling us for a long time, hating them seems to be a function of being afraid that you might be one yourself.

---- Molly Ivins

“Man attacks most vociferously that which he most fears within himself.”

Cowboy Bob
October 2, 2010