Life on the Golf Course – Part 4

We remember this past April fondly for several reasons. But before I tell you why, I want to share with you some local folklore. You’ve been hearing the name Tahquitz (tah quits) Creek Golf Course a lot in my blogs and posts. It’s the name of the golf course where we live and walk. What does Tahquitz mean, you ask?

Legend has it that Tahquitz was once a guardian spirit over all shamans, of the native Cahuilla Tribe who have inhabited this valley for over 2500 years. However, he turned evil and began using his powers to harm the Cahuilla people. Their chief banished him to the canyon now called Tahquitz Canyon where he roams as an evil spirit hunting for people’s souls.

Fortunately, we have not encountered Tahquitz on our wagon-walks, thus far. I credit Morgan for keeping us safe. They say that dogs are very intuitive, sensing danger that humans cannot. Things like storms and earthquakes and even tsunamis.

On some of our wagon-walks Morgan will suddenly start barking for no apparent reason. I don’t see anything or anyone near us. But a few seconds later we’ll turn the corner on the golf cart path and discover a dog and a human companion not far from us. On some walks we’ll see little desert cottontails running for cover. These desert rabbits like living on the golf course because they eat grass. In his younger days, he and Angel Cody loved to chase after them. It was funny to watch as they were never quick enough to catch one.

But there are times when Morgan barks when nothing is there. No dogs. No rabbits. Nothing but him barking. Could he sense the spirit of Tahquitz lurking close by? It’s these moments when I feel lucky to have Morgan protecting us.

We remember this past April fondly because it was the last time that it rained. For several days storm clouds covered the San Jacinto Mountains, entirely. The runoff surged down Tahquitz Canyon flooding the wash running through the golf course. With so much water the mallard ducks moved in with their ducklings. Morgan loved watching them from creekside.

April was important to me because seeing him so happy and full of energy, I began to trust that Morgan was going to be with us for a much longer time than I previous thought. This was a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. I was really able to enjoy our time together. I could fully delight in the adventures we were still having.

We’re all fortunate to have our canine guardians to protect and guide us through these challenging times.

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Life on the Golf Course – Part Three

One of America’s iconic children’s toys is the red Radio Flyer wagon. Designed and handmade in 1917 by an Italian immigrant named Antonio Pasin. The first version was made of wood and he named it the Liberty Coaster in honor of the statue that welcomed him to America.

Starting the summer before last, just before we went “Back East” to vacation with my family, we had noticed that Morgan was having difficulty walking. Normal outings were taking twice as long, and we needed more rest stops. This made our visit more challenging as our young and active nieces wanted Morgan to be part of all our activities. It was here that I first wondered if I could teach Morgan to ride in the girls’ Radio Flyer wagon which they generously offered to us.

When vacationing on Cape Cod, we stay at the Provincetown Inn, which is a fair distance from Joe’s, our favorite coffee shop near the center of town. Every morning we would wake up early and walk with Morgan to Joe’s in order to secure one of the coveted outside tables. The only way we would make it on time this year with Morgan’s new difficulty walking was by having him ride in our nieces’ wagon.

James wasn’t convinced that Morgan would take to it. But I knew better. All we had to do was cushion it with his favorite blanket and he’d love it. It’s true the first time we put Morgan in the wagon he looked around with a puzzled expression of concern. But by the second ride our little Prince was wondering why we had waited so long to haul him around in it. Of course, all the attention he got from admirers riding down Commercial Street added to his enjoyment.

We didn’t know it at the time but teaching Morgan to ride in a wagon has made it possible for us to extend our time with him. When he collapsed in February and could barely move, we thought it was the end. However, it became evident that Morgan wasn’t ready to cross over the bridge quite yet. I knew it was time to purchase for Morgan his very own Radio Flyer wagon. And riding around in it seems to have given him a new lease on life.

When everything shut down in March, including the local golf course, we were able to take him on long invigorating wagon-walks on the golf cart paths with nobody around us.  It was like having your very own private park. The wagon-walks have been beneficial for all of our spirits in these challenging times.

Morgan now wakes us up every morning at six am with a loud bark, ready for his wagon adventure. We are grateful to Antonio Pasin for creating what is now a vital part of our life. Can you believe that the red Radio Flyer wagon is now over a hundred years old?  May we all enjoy such a long productive life and bring joy to children and child-like people across the world.

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Life on the Golf Course – Part 2

When our vet told us to make arrangements for Morgan because there was nothing else he could do for him, I was devastated. Saying good-bye is never easy. It crushes you. I’d done this twice before for my first two boys, Angel Nicholas and Angel Willy. I remember the agony I felt when Nicholas was no longer able to walk, and no longer wanted to. Then again, when Willy suffered from congestive heart failure. Nighttime is always more difficult. During the day you can find something to do. Even if it’s just sweeping the floor.

Since we no longer had a back yard, we thought we were going to need to cremate Morgan. The thought that someone was going to take him away from me and bring him back in a box made me distraught. I spoke with our Golden friends, Doug and Al, Rocky’s Dads. They offered to let us bury Morgan in their yard. They had four Goldens already buried in their upper garden and said there was room for Morgan. It was a kind gesture and it brought me some comfort. I told them we would probably be traveling north soon.

I had lifted Morgan onto the bed so he’d be more comfortable. Throughout the day I checked on him at least several dozen times, hoping for a change. I sat with him. I laid next to him. But Morgan remained in this sad listless condition. Twilight was fast approaching.

I was in the kitchen making our dinner. When I checked on Morgan again his head was up off the mattress. What a wonderful sight it was to see. As suddenly as he fell into that lethargic state, he snapped out of it and his famous smile returned. Food had always been a motivator for Morgan so he must have really liked the smell of the tomato sauce that I was cooking.

As relieved and grateful as I was, I wasn’t convinced that we had much more time with Morgan. Even though he was now alert, we still had to carry him in and out to do his business. I wasn’t sure what to do. I certainly didn’t want him to suffer or be in any discomfort just to keep him alive.

I reached out to some friends and the general consensus was that Morgan was not ready to leave us. So we decided to buy him a red Radio Flyer wagon to ride him around in for our morning walk. Thus, began our daily wagon-walks with Morgan.

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Life on the Golf Course

Not in a hundred years could I have seen myself living on a golf course.  And I never expected to be grateful that I do. High season in Palm Springs starts in January when all the movie stars show up for the Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala, which we annually attend. Over the years we’ve been fortunate to meet Clint Eastwood, Sean Penn, Ron Howard, Helen Hunt and Tom Bosley, to name a few.

This past festival (pre-covid), we were lucky enough to find a place to stay right on the Tahquitz Golf Course as everything was sold out. We were familiar with the golf course. Our longer-time friends and followers may remember that we started coming to here with Morgan and Angel Cody when it got too hot to hike up into the surrounding mountain trails. On the green grass the temperature for our evening walks was several degrees cooler and we often ran into the rain showers of the sprinkler systems which cooled the boys off even more.

We had a fun January, with daily walks around the fairways filled with banana treats. During the afternoon we took in a film or two at the festival. Our favorite was Stage Mother – a hilarious comedy about a Texas church choir director inheriting her late son’s drag queen club in San Francisco. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AvSoHSYLeA Another favorite of mine was Miss Fisher’s Crypt of Tears from Australia. It’s based on the Netflix series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I was looking forward to the premiere and was surprised to see the theater packed with devoted fans dressed up in 1920s flapper costumes.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ1JC9ue8Y8

On January 30, as we were packing to vacate, Morgan stopped walking, literally stopped walking. We came home from a late afternoon outing and he just lay on the floor and wouldn’t move. We rushed him to our vet who refused to give Morgan additional shots. He told us they weren’t helping him anymore and there was nothing else he could do for my Golden boy. He advised us to make arrangements.

We decided it was best to extend our stay in Palm Springs for what we thought were going to be Morgan’s final days.

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Not My First Pandemic

I got my blood work results back from the lab at Eisenhower Hospital today and the news was good. My A1C, the marker that determines diabetes, is 5.9. That’s nearly normal. My viral load for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is undetectable and my T-cells sit at 700 which is within the normal range.

HIV has had a profound presence in my life for nearly forty years. Ever since 1981 when the first opportunistic infections appeared such as Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that develops from the cells that line lymph or blood vessels. I can remember waking up at night worried that I might get sick. Back in those days, AIDS was nearly always fatal and no one knew how it was spread. To date, HIV has killed 750,000 Americans alone.

I remember dressing like astronauts to visit friends in the hospital sick with AIDS. Like today, hospitals in major cities were overwhelmed with patients. In San Francisco, where I Iived, those early AIDS patients were put in isolated rooms and left there. It’s the truth of those terrifying times. I can only imagine how many died alone without the comfort of family or friends. I didn’t suspect that the nurses or attendants there were homophobic. They were just terrified like the rest of us of dying themselves. Evangelicals like Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority in Virginia, routinely stated, “The AIDS virus isn’t just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” I wonder who his son will blame for this pandemic?

I feel sad and angry that so many people will die needlessly in this COVID-19 pandemic. I honestly believe it could have been stopped. It should never have gotten to this point. It doesn’t surprise me with regards to the current administration’s lack of urgency.

It was six years into the HIV epidemic before President Reagan gave a speech in 1987 about AIDS.  Only after his friend Rock Hudson died in 1985 did Reagan take it even remotely serious. Nearly 90,000 Americans died of AIDS while Reagan was President.

For 15 years, from 1981 till 1997, I worried that I would succumb to HIV. Why would I think otherwise after I watched the love of my life die in 1987? I remember vividly the day when the first KS lesions appeared on his body. I was sure that I was next. It wasn’t until 1997 when safer medications became routinely available that I began to hope that I might survive.

Now, there’s a new pandemic. And many of the leading AIDS doctors and scientists and activists are now being interviewed on the nightly news, sharing their experience in the fight to cure AIDS from years ago.  It’s surreal, honestly. Dr Fauci is one of my heroes in the HIV battle and now here he is once again the face of knowledge and understanding about the novel COVID-19 virus. The man most of the country trusts for advice and a strategy.

Dr. David Ho, of Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, was a leading scientist in finding HIV treatment. Now he is leading the charge to find treatments for the corona virus.

Gregg Gonsalves, a Yale University epidemiologist and health care activist was also an AIDS activist. He was part of ACT-UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. I was a member of ACT-UP as well. Time Magazine called ACT-UP “the most effective health activist (group) in history” for “pressuring drug companies, government agencies and other powers that stood in their way to find better treatments for people with AIDS – and, in the process, improving the way drugs are tested and approved in the U.S.”

Now, thanks to all that past research and programs at the NIH and the FDA that were funded to prevent AIDS, that research is now being applied to the novel COVID-19 virus.

We can thank ACT-UP for this triple drug combination attack against this virus. We’re hearing phrases like “viral load”, protease inhibitors, attacking the virus at different places! The HIV medication Kaletra is being tested against COVID-19 along with other AIDS medications. All of these are familiar terms. I thought that these words were in the past; that they were behind me. Now here they are again on the nightly news.

The coronavirus has a lot of folks freaked out, and rightly so. But I have to admit, I’m not that worried about my own health. I live a life framed by a pandemic all ready. I can’t worry any more than I already do about HIV.  I’m not careless or nonchalant about it. I am wearing gloves and now we have protective masks to wear out of the house.

I’m confident we will get through this new pandemic if we listen to experienced experts such as Dr. Fauci and take this threat seriously. Stay home, stay safe, and as a pandemic survivor I can tell you there is hope.

 

 

Do You Let Your Dog in the Kitchen?

Now that we’re all sequestered together, and restaurants are closed, it means most of us are cooking our meals at home. Last night we broke down and ordered a mushroom and caramelized onions, 18-inch pizza to pick-up from Bill’s Pizza. Probably the best pizza joint in Palm Springs. It was pretty good. Not good like Back East but good enough in a pinch. Pizza is best when it’s right out of the oven. So we ate the first two slices right in the truck. Morgan was in the back and must have smelled something delicious because he barked and then we felt guilty. So I reached back into the covered bed of the truck and gave him a bite of a cooled down section. That kept him happy until we got home.

But for the most part we’ve been cooking our meals at home. We’ve had a lot of soups that we keep going for a few days, adding ingredients as we go along. One person who loves to see us cooking is – Morgan! He sits right by the edge of the kitchen area and watches us intently. We swear that he licks his chops in anticipation. We call him our little sous-chef.

We only allow him to sit at the edge of the kitchen because I’m always afraid that I might drop something on Morgan or trip over him. My kitchens have always been small and it worries me.

So, here’s my question – Do you let your dog (or cat) come into the kitchen?

My answer to this question is “No.” Now, I’ve seen some Facebook posts of Goldens licking the pots and pans in a dishwasher and they are precious. So, I want to be clear with everyone that I ask this question with no judgement. Only curiosity. And to hear the funny stories.

Tell us the rules in your kitchen and where your best friend(s) likes to hang out when meals are being cooked?

America’s Favorite Breed

It’s incomprehensible that a Golden Retriever has never won Best in Show in the 143 year history of the Westminster Dog Show.  That’s improbable. The odds of this happening is greater than the odds of me winning the lottery and I don’t play the lottery. If you watched this year’s competition you learned that a Golden Retriever specimen like Daniel doesn’t come around that often. And almost never makes it to the semifinals to compete for Best in Show.

This year’s Best in Show was won by Siba, a Standard Poodle. I got nothing against Standard Poodles. I know them to be highly intelligent non-human persons. I got nothing against clipping a dog. I clipped my Golden, Morgan, in the summer (not as severe as Siba). It was just a trim and I still got some unpleasant comments from other dog owners thrown my way. Which I didn’t like. No one should tell another person how to care for their companion. I don’t mind clipping a dog even to make it look as ridiculous as poor Siba. But I do have a problem with the Westminster Kennel Club allowing a dog to enter the contest “poofed out” like her. And I have an even bigger problem with a judge who chooses a dog coifed with a giant bouffant hair don’t over five other dogs flawlessly groomed like Vinny the Fox Terrier, Conrad the Shetland Sheepdog, Bono the Havanese, Wilma the Boxer, and my namesake, the handsome Daniel the Golden Retriever.

No offense to you Siba. I blame your human guardians. They did this to you. I also blame the AKC for allowing this in their contest. Maybe without that ornamental hair costume Siba would have won. But I doubt it. This is so blatantly biased and unfair to the remainder of the contestants.

I think the AKC ought to add a new category – The Best in Groomed – if that’s how they want to justify a haircut like Siba’s. I think the groomer ought to be the star along with the dog. Before the show someone one can ask Siba, “Siba, who does your hair?”

Something ought to be done. There ought to be a rule!!!! I felt so strongly about this that I wrote a complaint on the comments section of the AKC website.

I’m calling for all the fans of the breeds that lost to Siba to follow my action and send in a complaint. Maybe there was cheating like what’s going on in baseball right now. Maybe someone in the crowd was blackmailing the judge. Maybe a fan of one of the less popular breeds didn’t want the Golden to win. Afraid that this would make them even more obnoxiously popular.

I can understand the jealousy. After all, when you turn on your television any time of day who do you see starring in commercials? Golden Retrievers! They’re in car commercials (with the Labs), real estate, gardening, medications, baked beans, insurance, banking, and on and on.

But I can tell you one breed you rarely see in commercials – the Standard Poodle! You don’t see them selling cars or homes. No Siree. It’s the Golden Retriever! And with children – ok the Labs are in some commercials for children. But they’re not our nemesis!

All you have to do is walk into any hospital and see which breed is visiting patients and comforting relatives. It ain’t the Standard Poodle!

It’s been a week since this injustice has been perpetrated and I’m still upset. I’ve decided that sending a complaint to the AKC is not enough. Henceforth, I’m contacting my Congressperson, someone who I got to include animal welfare in his web site, to open a Congressional investigation into the AKC contest rules to see if there is some sort of redlining against America’s favorite breed. Rules that deem only a poofed out, stuffy and uptight breed, like Siba’s, can win Best in Show.

What’s your take on the results of the WDS?

 

Animal Testing

We recently went up to Santa Barbara because James’ film was playing there. James has a lot of friends in Santa Barbara, two of whom work at the university. They are brilliant scientists. We visited their office on one of the days. Morgan was with us. The first thing I saw when we got out of the elevator of their building was a sign that read: Animal Resource Center. My heart dropped. I wanted to leave immediately. I knew I didn’t belong there. We stayed for a brief time. But the words on the sign have haunted me since. Though I didn’t say anything to the two friends who worked at this lab, my feelings for them have changed.

It’s easy to push away the horror that these “rodents” – rats and mice – are subject to.  The words we use to label things and animals and people are important. Weeds are anything we want to use Roundup on. In the last century bald eagles and golden eagles were considered vermin so they could be shot and poisoned nearly into extinction. We do the same for people by calling them alien.

All of my other blogs that I have previously written involve Morgan, dogs and Golden Retrievers. And that is what motivates this one as well.  I unequivocally oppose the Golden Retriever muscular dystrophy studies at the Texas A&M University. It makes sick. It makes me outraged and sad that there are these sweet crippled animals held captive in a lab. These poor Goldens are bred to have muscular dystrophy and are forced to live out their lives in pain and distress. The lucky ones are euthanized (killed) when they are six months old.  As I stood there in front of the sign in Santa Barbara, with Morgan next to me, I could not not be reminded about the Goldens in Texas. Here’s a link to an article from the Dallas Morning News from this past August about this cruel situation.  https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2019/09/12/texas-am-researchers-quietly-bred-sick-dogs-in-hopes-of-finding-human-muscular-dystrophy-cure/

But it isn’t just Goldens. I have also been following and taking online actions for the group called White Coat Waste Project. They are actively trying to end dog experiments at the VA. The dog of breed they focus on are beagles. They also work to free monkeys. Universities in Michigan use dogs for testing.

How can I reconcile my love for Morgan and all dogs, and think that testing and experimenting and keeping these other dogs in cages to be alright? I can’t. Many of us consider our pets to be family. I do so as well. This could have been Morgan. I cannot accept testing on family members. And for me it doesn’t stop with dogs or cats. It includes monkeys, where macaques and marmosets are mainly used.  But we also know that rabbits are used in many other tests, cosmetic products for one example. I just discovered that Purina uses 1400 cats and dogs in tests for their food. That is so hypocritical. Do no wrong Purina!

Where do we draw the line? At what species is it okay to test and experiment on? And who gets to decide this? These animals feel pain and fear. These animals have not agreed to this arrangement. This is a form of bullying. The mighty rule over the weak and meek. We don’t test on lions and wolves and other more ferocious animals. We use the weakest. The most peaceful.

There’s no point is discussing advances in medicine. There’s a group called Physicians for Responsible Medicine who claim that most animal tests are never approved by the FDA. They rarely lead to any advantages for humans. Several thousand diseases affect humans, of which only about 500 have any treatment. A novel drug can take 10 to 15 years and more than $2 billion to develop, and failure occurs about 95 percent of the time. They advocate that this money would be better spent finding alternative research options. Mainly using computers.  I’ve been HIV+ for forty years. I don’t want them testing on animals to find a cure for me. There are computer models that can do the job now. The past is the past. We can’t change it. But we can change the future. The current system is not working. Cures are not coming quick enough. It’s time to end all animal testing. That’s my opinion.

As I sit here writing I still wonder if I should have made my displeasure known to these friends. I chose not to at that time and place. I feel guilty about it. I chickened out. I’m upset with myself that I didn’t speak up. It’s so easy to not speak out for those without a voice. When I did AIDS activism all those many years ago I did it to speak out for those who couldn’t. For those who were too afraid. Or too sick. Now I feel that same way about animals.

I wonder what’s going to happen if and when I see these two friends again. How long can I remain quiet? I know I’ll try to avoid them. But sooner or later it will probably happen.

Here’s my request. Before anyone responds to this article please remember to be kind to each other. There will be no attacks, no foul language, no vulgarity. Keep your comments focused on your own opinions and not on anyone else’s. Any inappropriate comments will be deleted right away. I won’t tolerate any offensive comments on Rescued By Goldens Facebook page and I won’t tolerate it here, either.

Here’s some other information I wanted to include. So far, Oscar nominated actor and director, James Cromwell, has protested these tests. Paul McCartney has protested these tests. Pamela Anderson has offered to adopt all the dogs. Miami+Tennessee quarterback and alumnus, Ryan Tannehill, has sent a letter to the Dean protesting these tests. A growing chorus opposes these cruel tests.

All Dogs Work!

It’s Labor Day! The unofficial close of summer. It’s a day when we honor the workers of America. But since this is a dog blog I like to remember all the dogs in America. Because let’s face it – all dogs work! Now, I’m not talking about only those that are ADA classified assistance dogs or therapy dogs or even emotional support dogs. We all know how important those canine workers are. I’m talking about regular every day dogs that are there for us humans all the time. Dogs like Ms. Victoria in Muncie, Indiana. I’m talking about Miss Dakota in Omaha, Nebraska. And Sargent in San Jose, CA. And Clara Bell in Georgia.

Just think about all the things your dog does for you every day. When you first open your eyes in the morning and see your best friend – Don’t you get a warm and fuzzy feeling? Who better helps you clean the dinner dishes? I know when my plate has left over food Morgan is ready and willing to do his part. And who would you rather take a walk with on a cool fall Sunday afternoon? Or cuddle with on a cold winter eve? You don’t have to give me the answer because, let’s face it, I already know who it is. But you could tell Morgan and me how your pup works to make your life better here below in the comments section.

Morgan and I wish everyone a happy and safe Labor Day this year.

To Love An Older Dog

Morgan will soon be turning 12. We rescued him when he was about one year old. Now his face is turning that whiter, sugary look. I know it well. My first Golden, Nicholas, lived to be nearly 15. His face turned almost completely white.

I’ve often said that there’s nothing more comfortable than an old dog. I still believe it’s true. An older dog is like stepping into your favorite slippers. There’s a deeper kind of love with an older dog. It’s different than when you get a puppy. A puppy is adorable and energetic. The love is lighter. It’s more fun. Every day is a new surprise. With a puppy they roll and jump. They run and slide. With a young dog the trick is to keep him/her from charging ahead too fast.

It’s gentler with a senior dog. You try to coax them along; making sure he or she keeps going. Morgan has always been an active dog. We still make sure to exercise him twice a day. Our vet says, “Keep him moving. Keep the muscles active.” The commercial on TV says, “A body in motion, stays in motion.” One thing I’ve learned about an older dog is that they refuse to do anything they don’t like to do. Kind of like older folks. So I know he likes the walks along the golf course. And out at the beach in the park above the ocean cliff. I treasure these walks as much as I enjoyed the hikes up to the surrounding peaks when we all were younger.

Over the years, patterns have developed. You know each other well. You know what each other likes and needs. Morgan has always enjoyed barking at other dogs.  He would bark at every dog we met. At first we were upset by this. Then we noticed how much he and his BFF, Angel Cody, loved to bark at each other. Their tails up wagging with happiness. We’ve learned to accept this about Morgan.

It goes both ways. Morgan has learned to accept that it takes us forever to get out of the house. When we take Morgan out with us in the car, he refuses to get in until we start the engine. Why? Because he knows that we forget things and go back inside two or three times before we really drive away. He knows us as well as we know him.

Having an older dog is precious time. Share with us a special moment that you’ve had loving an older dog.