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.

My Always Evolving Journey With Food

I would be no more inclined to tell a person how to eat then to tell them what to feed their dog. The best I can do is to show by example.

When I got my first dog, Nicholas, a Golden Retriever, it was a long time ago. I was young and living in San Francisco. I worked downtown and I ate whatever I wanted and whatever was convenient. I didn’t stop to read labels. It didn’t matter how much fiber or sugar was in a product. It didn’t matter what country it came from. I barely looked at the price. I admit, I fed my dog commercial puppy food from the neighborhood supermarket. It’s the same store where I bought my own meat and vegetables. It seemed that both he and I were doing well until I noticed that as he grew he had bouts of dry flaky skin and his fur wasn’t shining no matter how often I brushed it.

When my own health failed me, I moved to Sonoma County for a slower pace. It became vital to my health to start eating better. I ate less meat and bought organic vegetables whenever I could. I learned about alternative therapies and herbs to boost my immune system. While investigating these medical options for myself I decided to take Nicholas to the Forestville Vet Hospital where the doctor practiced a holistic approach. The vet educated me about the common ailments that Goldens get like chronic skin problems. He informed me how commercial brands could be having a negative impact on Nicholas’ health.  I was skeptical at first. But if I was eating healthier food why not try it for him, too. I bought the brand of dog food that the vet suggested. Unbelievably, Nicholas’ skin rashes soon disappeared. His fur seemed to glow. Any extra money I spent on Nicholas’ food I saved on the vet bills and more importantly he seemed happier. Sure sometimes he still got fleas. Occasionally a hot spot flared up but his skin and fur definitely improved. I saw it with my own eyes. Since then I’ve never gone back to commercial brands.

For many years I used this same specialty brand that the holistic vet recommended. I even had it shipped to Boston when I was visiting my family there because I couldn’t find it locally. My father thought I was nuts. But I was aware of the problems that can sometimes develop when switching food. It can happen to humans so why not dogs. Nicholas lived to be 15.

When I moved to Palm Springs with Willy, my second Golden, I could not find a pet shop that carried my brand. I convinced the owner of Bones and Scones, a small local store, to special order it for me. Things worked out fine until one day I noticed the kibbles covered in a white powder. I thought this odd but it smelled normal and Willy still seemed to like it. When I mentioned it to the shop owner she told me to check their webpage immediately. It was then that I discovered that there had been a recall.  It really upset me to learn that a trusted brand had had a recall and I had not heard anything about it. I felt terrible that I had put my best friend at risk.

Having been a customer of Bones and Scones for a few years I trusted the owner and asked for her advice. She told me that she had just returned from visiting a family-owned company in Kentucky and was impressed with what she saw. The ingredients were natural and without any fillers so a dog didn’t have to eat so much to get his/her nourishment. I had my new brand!

I have been loyal to this brand for over ten years now. My current Golden, Morgan, loves it and the senior mix has helped to keep the weight off. On this evolving journey I have now come to believe that food is medicine. Recently, when Morgan and I returned east to visit my family it was great to discover that the local health food store where I bought my own organic vegetables now also carried Morgan’s food. I took that as a sign that we were in good hands.

Another thing that I like about my parents’ neighborhood health food store – they have free organic parking!

All Is True

We recently attended the opening night movie of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, All Is True, directed and staring Kenneth Branagh. The cast also included Judi Dench and Ian McKelllen, all actors that I admire. But the film lacked any of Shakespeare’s cleverness. Afterwards, my partner and I attended the premier party.

We found a table and devoured the delicious food, getting plenty in a doggie bag for Morgan. A short time later, three Latinas sat at the table with us. After the initial greetings my partner asked them if they enjoyed the film. At first I thought they would say they didn’t. Imagine my surprise when each of them said they liked it.  I chimed right in that I thought it was dull and tedious and lacking in any of Shakespeare’s wit.   They responded by saying that they related to Shakespeare’s daughter and what she went through as a woman.

A cold breeze settled upon the table – What more could three Latinas have in common with two older white gay men? – until the Latina sitting closest to me asked me about the dog design on my brown corduroy holiday pants. I responded that they are Golden Retrievers; that I’ve had three of them. She immediately reached for her phone and suddenly I was looking at pictures of her beautiful Golden boy. Now we were best friends. Shortly, the other two women showed their pictures of one’s chihuahua and the other’s Australian shepherd.

Feeling a connection to these fellow dog lovers, my rigid opinion of the film melted away. I realized that they did have a point. Back then women couldn’t be published, so when Shakespeare’s daughter wrote her poems and stories she used her brother’s name. When this fact was revealed to Shakespeare he refused to believe that his daughter was so talented. Now, 400 years later, women are still fighting to be treated equally in the work place.

We left sharing each other’s Facebook pages and wished each other well. We laughed at how our furry friends had given us something meaningful to share in common. Dogs transcend age, gender, race and all the other isms. I think that’s why we humans love them so much. Our dogs don’t judge. Our best friends break down barriers.

All This is True!

Choosing a Name

One of my favorite things to do on FB is looking at all the pictures and videos of our furry companions. I love seeing them in all their different situations. Swimming in the water. Jumping around ready to chase a ball. Rolling on their backs. Lying in bed with the one they own and hanging out with their bros and sisters. I especially love learning all their different names. It made me smile last week when I found two Goldens with birthdays on the 4th, named “Freedom” and “Indie”. I think it’s clear what motivated the names of these two Goldies.

It made me think about how I chose the names for my boys. I called my first Golden, Nicholas.  He joined our home three weeks before Christmas, so I thought of St Nicholas. Then I added Nickelby after the Dickens character, Nicholas Nickelby.

Willy, my second Golden was named after his breeder who had long straggly hair, a lot like Willie Nelson. I dropped the “ie” and made it a “y”. I added the name Shakespeare to make Willy Shakespeare, keeping in tradition of famous English writers.

When our current Golden (Morgan), rescued us, he was named Sparky by the rescue group.  Since I had a neighbor with a dog named Sparky I decided that that wasn’t a good match. Our new boy was rather wild, like a pirate, so we named him after Captain Morgan of the Jamaican rum company. Captain Morgan was basically a pirate who eventually cleaned up his act and was Knighted. Much the way we hoped for with Morgan – a pirate soon to become Golden royalty. We decided to name him Morgan McGillicuddy after McGillicuddy’s Soda Fountain Shop where I grew up in South Boston.

What about you? Tell us how you chose the names of your four-legged family member(s)?