Stevie Wonder-ful . . . Updated

Photo by Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press

As Shepard Fairey’s iconic HOPE portrait came to represent Barack Obama’s candidacy for President in 2008, Stevie Wonder’s music and exuberance came to symbolize the the campaign’s soul. His music (songs like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “Higher Ground”) was heard at nearly every campaign stop.

Honestly, I think very few folks can resist Stevie Wonder’s music, or deny his incredible talents. Already one of the most decorated artists in pop music history, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with 25 Grammy Awards and an Oscar, on Sept 2, 2008, the Library of Congress named Wonder the winner of its second Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Monday night Wonder received the award, also performing a new piece commissioned by the library for the celebration.

Stevie Wonder reminisced Monday night about getting “talking books as a little boy from the Library of  Congress” before premiering a new song commissioned by the library, which will award him its Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. I didn’t know that anyone would ever ask me to do it,” says Wonder about the instrumental composition Sketches of  a Life, which he played on two pianos and his signature harmonica, accompanied by a 21-piece chamber ensemble. He began working on the piece in 1976 and finished it in 1994, the day Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa.

Sketches draws upon his life experiences, including memories of his late mother, Lula Mae. “I can hear her voice, I can hear her joy, I can hear my cry of missing her,” he told reporters before the show in the library’s Coolidge Auditorium. “Those cries are really tears of joy, knowing that we are closer than ever to becoming a united people in the United States.”

The audience of about 450 included Wonder’s wife, two sons and brother, plus members of Congress and the family of  George and Ira Gershwin, for whom the award is named. They gave the new composition a rousing standing ovation. Wonder thanked the crowd for influencing him: “You’ve allowed me to see that you’re able to see beyond color and to see into the soul of the heart.”

Wonder’s work had been initially recognized by the Library of Congress in 2005, his 1976 double album, “Songs in the Key of Life,” added to the National Recording Registry. This collection honors recorded works that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”

In writing this post, I learned that Stevie Wonder undertook the study of classical piano, and later, music theory. Such classical leanings, however, are not surprising.

At the Library of Congress last night, the Motown legend spoke of a longtime “love for classical music” — of listening to Stravinsky, Bach and Beethoven. And then Wonder ambled onstage at the library’s Coolidge Auditorium and gave the world-premiere performance of “Sketches of a Life,” a classical composition that he began writing in 1976, when he was still at the peak of his pop-songwriting powers.

Accompanied by a 21-piece chamber ensemble, Wonder alternated between piano, electric keyboard and his trusty harmonica during a largely autobiographical work in nine movements. His melodic gifts were on generous display during the nearly 20-minute piece, though the chords tended to be darker and more haunting than the ones Wonder usually writes. The music, though, was no less lyrical or soulful.

He’s hardly a classical purist, of course: “Sketches” leaned at times toward pop show tunes and jazz. One movement was something like chamber funk, with Wonder vamping on the clavinet as the ensemble’s sound swelled. Another segment was basically a blues-jazz instrumental, with Wonder taking off on a lyrical harmonica run over piano chords and a swaying beat — all while jazz legend Herbie Hancock nodded his head in the audience.

Still, Wonder seemed comfortable with the form, and even displayed impressive restraint for a newcomer in the classical sandbox, staying away from bombast and saving the musical flyover for the triumphal, regal finale, which was full of horn fanfare.


This video below of Pavarotti & Stevie Wonder additionally shows Stevie’s comfort with classical performers. When asked about his own personal heroes and influences, Pavarotti was included. This song, “Peace Wanted Just To Be Free” from the 1998 performance, Pavarotti & Friends for the Children of Liberia, is just fabulous. Be sure to catch the end where you will see how genuinely moved Pavarotti was by Stevie’s performance.

“The Gershwin Prize was created to honor an artist whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation,” James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement. “Stevie Wonder’s music epitomizes this ideal.”

The prize, which was created last year, commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins. Essentially, it is the pop music corollary to the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The first Gershwin Prize was awarded in May 2007 to Paul Simon.

Tonight, some mighty lucky folks will be able to experience Stevie Wonder and many other performers at the concert, In Performance at the White House.

President Obama might turn a few heads if he broke into song tonight while presenting Stevie Wonder with the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. But Wonder would be unfazed.

During inaugural festivities in January, “I gave the president my harmonica,” Wonder says. “He said, ‘I can’t play this thing.’ But I said, ‘You could do anything.’ ” ….

Wonder remembers discovering George Gershwin through Sam Cooke’s rendition of Summertime. “Later I found out that came from Porgy and Bess, and was amazed to learn about all the different places and genres” his music drew on, and the diversity of artists who embraced it. “You have jazz musicians playing it and opera singers doing it. That’s incredible music.”

President Obama greets Stevie Wonder on Wednesday night during a concert in the East Room of the White House held to celebrate the musician being awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama greets Stevie Wonder on Wednesday night during a concert in the East Room of the White House held to celebrate the musician being awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Thankfully, the concert will be broadcast tomorrow on PBS at 8pm EST. It looks to be amazing. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated Stevie Wonder’s life and music, bestowing upon him the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

In an interview with Rolling Stone last year, the then senator said: “If I had one musical hero, it would have to be Stevie Wonder. “When I was at the point where you start getting involved in music, Stevie had that run with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness’ First Final and Innervisions, and then Songs in the Key of Life. Those are as brilliant a set of five albums as we’ve ever seen.”

The show features performances from: Wonder, India.Arie, Tony Bennett, Wayne Brady, Anita Johnson, Diana Krall, Mary Mary, Martina McBride, Rickey Minor, Paul Simon, Esperanza Spalding,, and Mary Mary.

This was part of President Obama’s presentation of the award:

So, it is my extraordinary privilege to present the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular song to an artist who has stirred our hearts and our souls for a generation, whose music knows no boundaries, an inspiration to us all.

Stevie has always drawn on the incredible range of traditions in his music. From them he’s created a sound that at once uniquely American, uniquely his own, and yet somehow universal. Indeed, this could be called the American tradition – artists demonstrating the courage and talent to find new harmonies in the rich and dissonant sounds of the American experience.

Tonight’s prize is also personal for me. As Stevie knows, I’m a huge fan. And he has been a great supporter. When I was first discovering music, just like Michelle, it was Stevie’s albums that I found and his songs became the soundtrack of my youth. Through them I found peace and inspiration, especially in difficult times. And I think it’s fair to say that had I not been a Stevie Wonder fan, Michelle might not have dated me. We might not have married. The fact that we agreed on Stevie was part of the essence of our courtship.

And I’m not alone. Millions of people around the world have found similar comfort and joy in Stevie’s music, and his unique capacity to find hope in struggle, and humanity in our common hardships. This gift that music affords us, transporting us from the here and now, relieving us of our burdens, even if it’s just for the length of a song. And this gift given to us by artists like Stevie is something we can all share.

Here is another video of Stevie showing his versatility, in a magnificent duet with Tony Bennett:

I cannot wait for the Library of Congress to add the audio file of their “Sketches of a Life” commissioned piece. Hopefully, it soon will be posted soon on its Web site.


Presidential Puppy Watch … Senator Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dog influence

August 26, 2009 update here.


Well, it seems like Senator Kennedy has made a huge influence on the Obama family. The number one pick these days is a Portuguese Water Dog.

Speaking to PEOPLE at the White House recently, Michelle Obama leaned in and confided: “You’re getting some scoops here.”  So, when? In April, Mrs. Obama says – after she and the President take daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, on a vacation for spring break.

Here’s a sample of a typical family conversation on the matter: “So Sasha says, ‘April 1st.’ I said, ‘April.’ She says, ‘April 1st.’ It’s, like, April!,” Mrs. Obama recalls. “Got to do it after spring break. You can’t get a new dog and then go away for a week.”

And what kind of dog will soon be frolicking on the South Lawn? Mrs. Obama says the family is looking for a rescue Portuguese Water dog who is “old enough” and a “match” for the family dynamic. Temperamentally they’re supposed to be pretty good,” she says of the breed that Sen. Ted Kennedy has also lobbied for (he has two Water dogs of his own). “From the size perspective, they’re sort of middle of the road – it’s not small, but it’s not a huge dog. And the folks that we know who own them have raved about them. So that’s where we’re leaning.”

The only thing still up in the air is the name. And Mom’s not feeling it with some of the names her girls have come up with. “Oh, the names are really bad. I don’t even want to mention it, because there are names floating around and they’re bad,” Mrs. Obama says with a laugh. “You listen and you go – like, I think, Frank was one of them. Frank! Moose was another one of them. Moose. I said, well, what if the dog isn’t a moose? Moose. I’m like, no, come on, let’s work with the names a little bit.”

I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy. I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

I hear that the Senator is currently convalescing in Florida, spending wonderful, warm days by the water with his beloved dogs by his side. But, he remains very busy communicating with staff by phone so that he can still guide his much desired health reforms to eventual passage.

The 2006 book, My Senator And Me: A Dog’s Eye View Of Washington, D.C., is a lovely children’s book that highlights his guy, Ch. Amigo’s Seventh Wave (nicknamed Splash). One gets to follow Senator Kennedy and Splash through a busy day in D.C., from press conferences to meetings with school groups to committee discussions to a floor vote.

Kennedy’s introduction to the political process is clear, informative, and loaded with child appeal, in part due to his choice of a furry narrator.

I went looking for some fun Portuguese Water Dog images and came up with this great one of Docker,  the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America’s 2007 Superdog Winner.

Am/Intl CH Floodtide's Meet Me At Dockside CD AX AXJ RE CWD GROM CGC "Docker"

Am/Intl CH Floodtide's Meet Me At Dockside CD AX AXJ RE CWD GROM CGC "Docker"

It actually reminded me of this 2006 photo of President Obama following his 50th town hall meeting in Massac County.

A true comic book lover and collector I hear, he had posed in front of the Superman Statue in downtown Metropolis, IL, known as the home of the DC Comics super hero.

And, in October 2008 Obama joked at the Al Smith dinner that was actually sent here from the planet Krypton by his father Jor-El to “save the planet Earth.

Eerily, given the current economic crisis and the need to manage two wars, I’d say that statement was pretty much on the mark.

Sunbear Squad Watch Tip of the Week: February 22nd

The Sunbear Squad has resolved to make a difference for neglected and abused companion animals. They are transforming animal lovers into animal welfare defenders — with knowledge, tools, and inspiration.

Watch Tip: Watch out for “outside” pets during cold winter months˜they need more food to maintain weight. Can you see the hipbones? Call the authorities! Be a Good Samaritan for

Be Sunbear Squad Informed
5 Simple Things
Bill of Rights for Pets
Risk Factor List
Learn about Abuse
Action Guidelines

Be Sunbear Squad Active
Neighborhood Watch
YouNet FAQ
Start a Squad
Free Materials

Be Sunbear Squad Prepared
Wallet Card
Roadside Rescue Kit
Disaster Plans
Reciprocal Fostering
SCRAPS Breathing
Be Sunbear Squad Inspired
Roadkilled Blessings
Be a Good Samaritan
Inspirational Sayings
Avoid Dog Slang
Humane Awards

100 days, 100 songs, 100 locations, 100 dances.

Interesting, but definitely not as cool as the originator’s Evolution of Dance, which I included below as well.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Evolution of Dance (114 million views)


Evolution of Dance II (~4 million views)

I jumped the gun.

Sad to say, but my too-trusting, naive nature (being a school psychologist will do that to you) took a serious bruising yesterday when I wrote about Obama finally getting his puppy.

A newspaper clipping detailing the news was sent to me by a very trusted friend, so I simply believed it was on the up-and-up. Yes, the photo looked photoshopped and I could not find anything online about the event, but it just never occurred to me that a joke was being played.

Unfortunately, this person later revealed that it was merely a hoax, that was meant more as wishful thinking on her part.

I’ve been online 12 years without ever taking such a hit, so I guess I should consider myself lucky.

As a wise sympathizer told me, just be sure to check and re-check such posts from now on, and confirm before publishing. Of course, we all know, that darned hindsight is always 20/20.

Please accept my humble apology.

Nothing more important than family …. furry or not

Micky and Loki

He may have thanked his dogs in his Golden Globes acceptance speech, but he brought his beloved Chihuahua, Loki, to the awards ceremony at the Venice Film Festival in September. ''Loki is the love of my life,” he told The New York Times.

Mickey Rourke’s beloved Chihuahua, Loki, died on Monday night at the age of 17. Micky provided this heartfelt statement: “Loki is deeply missed but with me in spirit. I am very blessed she fell asleep peacefully in my arms.”

The Wrestler star strokes Loki on an Italian TV show in November. In a recent interview he said that he likes little dogs because you can hold them close, smell their fur and feel their hearts beating.

The Wrestler star strokes Loki on an Italian TV show in November. In a recent interview he said that he likes little dogs because you can hold them close, smell their fur and feel their hearts beating.

Eco-friendly Zen inspiration . . . for your furry ones

"Compassionate" Cork/Bamboo Adjustable Collar & Leash

According to Gallup 2008 environment poll, 55% of Americans have made minor changes in their lives to protect the environment and 28% have made major changes. Those changes include buying green.

That’s why we were very impressed with BMBPET’s new 2008 line of eco-friendly collars and leashes which feature organically dyed and sustainable bamboo fabrics accented with an array of earth cork overlays. This ZEN inspiring line features names are just as wonderful as the collars and leashes themselves: Wisdom, Compassionate, and Awakening. This image shows the Compassionate collar and leash.

The adjustable collars and leashes in this line are available in three sizes. And, BMBPET’s eco-friendly Aura Collection is the winner of the Pet Product News International Editors’ Choice Award for 2008!

Did You Know These Facts about Bamboo & Cork?

Bamboo fabric, which is a natural textile made from the pulp of bamboo grass, is not harmful to the environment as it doesn’t require any pesticides or herbicides. Bamboo can be replanted each year, actually adding nutrients to the soil, as opposed to cotton crop, which drains the soil of nutrients. And, it is very fast growing, growing 75 feet in 45 to 60 days.
Bamboo fabric has a silky, smooth feel. The fiber is naturally smooth and round without chemical treatment, meaning that there are no sharp spurs to irritate the skin.
Bamboo fabric is light and strong and also antibacterial. That means it retains no odor even after getting wet!
Bamboo is highly water absorbent, able to take up three times its weight in water. In bamboo fabric, this translates to an excellent wicking ability that will pull moisture away from the skin so that it can evaporate.
Bamboo fabric is a natural, breathable fiber so it stays cool even on the hottest days! It actually has insulating properties and will keep the wearer cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
Cork, which is recyclable and can be molded into any shape, is a harvested resource leaving the forest undamaged.
The harvesting of cork does not harm the tree and a new layer grows, making it a renewable resource.
Cork, which is naturally anti-bacterial and thermally insulative, is as durable as leather and as versatile as fabric!
Cork is waterproof, stain resistant and dust, dirt and grease repellent.

Come check out all three choices in this inspirational line. I think they are simply fabulous! And, please remember that all profits from my nonprofit foundation’s store go towards funding cancer research and treatment for working dogs.

A little help from a Japanese friend

I recently put up a very cute video from Japan of two Golden Retrievers. But, being in Japanese I could not understand exactly what was going on. The part I got was that one Golden did a great job listening but the other was just a total character.

Well, these furry kids’ mom (who has a Golden Blog) updated the video with a fun English commentary. Enjoy!

Just love those tales with happy endings.

Sampson went straight back in the water after nearly drowning there recently.

Sampson went straight back in the water after nearly drowning there recently.

I do hope this family is careful now with this crafty guy, who certainly does relish his freedom.

‘Seaway’ Samson brings Margaret strength
By Melissa Townsend, Australia Goldcoast Bulletin, February 17, 2009

Sampson reunited with Margaret Maroney at Benowa

Sampson reunited with Margaret Maroney

A GOLDEN retriever rescued from the Broadwater after getting into trouble in 4m high waves on Saturday was reunited with his owner yesterday. Margaret Maroney was overjoyed to see her beloved dog Samson when her son Nathan brought him to visit her at Pindara Private Hospital.

Ms Maroney, from Mount Tamborine, is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and her son has been looking after Samson for her. “I’m so happy he’s here,” she said.

He said the highlight of her day was being wheeled through the park next to the hospital with her son and the dog close by.”She’s always been an animal lover and she’s had dogs all her life,” he said. “We grew up with dogs.”

Ms Maroney bought Samson from the pound about six months ago, before she became ill with cancer. When she found him, he had already been surrendered to the pound twice, but she liked that he was a fighter. She named him Samson after the biblical character whose strength lay in his hair. “He’s quite a strong dog and that’s why we called him Samson,” said Nathan. “If you look at his paws, they’re massive. They’re paws of a strong dog.”

The two-year-old pooch was at the designated dog beach at The Spit with Nathan on Saturday when he took off towards the dunes after some seagulls. “He just loves to chase these seagulls,” said Nathan. “Any other sort of bird he doesn’t worry about.

“When he’s chased them before he’s never run off on me, but the seagulls were in a feeding frenzy down near the rockway. “The last I saw of him, he was in the rockway about half a kilometre away.” Thinking Samson would return, Nathan waited a few minutes, but soon became worried when he didn’t. “It was very
rainy and there was no use trying to call because my voice would just get blown away with the wind,” he said.

For an hour, he searched the treeline and the dunes, but to no avail. His initial thought was that someone had stolen Samson. “I looked through the sand dunes and it crossed my mind that he could be in the water because he does like the sea,” he said.

Little did Nathan know Samson had chased the seagulls into the Broadwater near the Seaway. The dog had become stranded in seas reaching up to 4m and was close to drowning. Luckily a member of the public called Volunteer Marine Rescue and a crew arrived in just four minutes. With some heavy manpower, Samson was lifted into the safety of the vessel and taken back to base.

Meanwhile, Nathan undertook the dreadful task of calling his mother to let her know Samson had disappeared. “I was pretty upset with myself for losing her dog,” he said. Nathan left messages with the Animal Welfare League and local vets, in the hope someone would bring Samson in to be scanned for a microchip. “I prayed to G-d that Mum would get her dog back and G-d came through,” he said.

The circumstances in which he was found were certainly bizarre. “He’s a very cheeky dog and very mischievous, but he’s very loyal. “I’m very grateful.”

Despite the ordeal, Samson was out enjoying the surf yesterday afternoon with Nathan. Several times he looked up to the sky longingly at the seagulls, but this time Nathan was right on his tail.

Click on the photo below to see a video of Samson swimming in the surf.

Meet Jamie, Explosives Detection Dog

Jamie, an English springer spaniel, has been sniffing around Afghanistan for the last three years. He is now teaching his new handler a thing or two about finding explosives and weapons. Jamie was rescued as a young puppy by the Army nine years ago and was then trained as a search dog at the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in Melton Mowbury, Leicestershire. He can detect the slightest hint of explosives or weapons.

This British team is really pretty incredible.

Hildy G. definitely knows Tom is ‘man’s best friend’ — Updated

the official mascot of the Geoghegan for Congress campaign.

Hildy G -- official mascot of the Geoghegan for Congress campaign

Found out that Tom got the DFA endorsement. If you voted in the poll for him, thanks so much!

Thomas Geoghegan is a Chicago labor lawyer and author. A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, he has represented the United Mine Workers, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, and currently works at Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan. Right now he is in the run of his life to take Raum Emanuel’s vacated seat. The progressive group Democracy for America is conducting a poll to decide which candidate to support in the primary. If Tom Geoghegan (pronounce by rhyming with Reagan) comes out on top, DFA will ask their network of hundreds of thousands of progressives committed to grassroots change to contribute to help Tom to victory on March 3. Now through Monday at midnight, you can cast your vote for Tom.

It takes less than 60 seconds to record your vote for Tom in this poll, and ask your friends to do so as well. The poll can be found here.

Tom is incredibly bright and talented, the two books that he’s written (Which Side Are You On? and The Law in Shambles) uniformly treasured by folks working so hard to make a difference. Some folks think he is actually too intellectual for this job, but then, consider how successful this quality has been for our current quite wonkish President. It is sad that many have seemed to penalize the ultra-bright, but I am cheered by the success of numbers guru Nate Silver (who just computed his Oscar picks btw).

But, back to Tom. You must read the following story about Tom by Kathy G. It will surely tell you all you need to know about why I feel so strongly about him and my need to show such support.

Tom Geoghegan has an exceedingly long list of good deeds to his name. This is the story of one of them. It’s the tale of how one small dog battled the entire Leviathan bureaucracy of the University of Chicago for her home, her family, and indeed, her very life. And how, amazingly enough, she won that fight — but only because her case was championed by one Thomas Howard Geoghegan.

I’ll begin at the beginning. Once upon a time, my husband and I had two dogs, Hildy, a small beagle mix, and Django, a large dog who is part German Shepherd. Hildy is a lively pup, very bright, friendly, and easy to train. She has never been aggressive and we’ve never had any serious behavioral issues with her.Django, alas, was another story. He was a sweet boy at heart, but troubled. He was restless and hyper, and had the unfortunate habit of aggressively pawing at people. In the few months we had him, we never did manage to housebreak him, and taking him out was like walking Godzilla on a leash. His tail was cut off, and we theorized he’d been abused, or used in dogfighting. We tried to train him ourselves, and we worked with our terrific vet, Tom Wake, on finding a medication that would calm him down. To this day, I sorely regret not hiring an outside trainer to work with him.Well, you can see where this is going. One day, six months or so after we adopted him, he bit the guest of a resident of our building. The bite did not break the skin or require medical attention, but still, it was unprovoked, and so obviously that raised red flags. The resident complained about this incident to our landlord, which is the University of Chicago. I was aware of the complaint, but stupidly, I assumed it wouldn’t result in anything more serious than a warning and, perhaps, restrictions on when and where Django was permitted to leave and enter the building.

Two weeks later, I was stunned to receive a hand-delivered letter from the landlord ordering us to get rid of both our dogs in ten days, or face immediate eviction! The moment I read it, I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. In the manner of many couples without children, Mr. G Spot and I dote on our dogs. They are members of the family, and an inexhaustible source of entertainment, companionship, and unconditional love. The rhythm and structure of our days is formed by the tasks we carry out to care for them: feeding them, and taking them for their morning, afternoon, and evening walks. The idea of losing them was heartbreaking.

And I have to say, I didn’t see it coming. Oh all right, I probably knew in my heart that Django was in serious trouble, but on the conscious level at least, I was in blithe denial of that fact. And I certainly never so much as imagined that they’d make us give up Hildy. After all, what she did ever do? She was a sweet little dog, an innocent bystander who was being condemned without a fair hearing, her reputation smeared because of guilt by association. The outrageous injustice of it made my blood boil.

After reading this anguish-inducing missive, the first person I called was Mr. G Spot, who was out of town. I couldn’t reach him. And then, in full panic mode, I called Tom Geoghegan. Partly that was because he’s one of our closest friends, but mainly it’s because he’s a lawyer. What I wanted from him was simply a referral for a lawyer who dealt with landlord/tenant disputes, or pet issues. But what I got from him was much, much more.

He asked me to fax the letter and our lease to his office, which I did. Then he and his legal team set to work. The person who actually did the grunt work and handled the details of the case was Tom’s wonderful associate, Mike Persoon, or “Spoon,” as everyone calls him.  He was out collecting petition signatures to get Tom’s name on the ballot for this election.

Tom’s law firm sent a letter to our landlord urging that they let us keep both dogs, and offering to  negotiate terms (with my husband and I agreeing to make them wear muzzles, only use certain entrances, etc.). The letter was referred to the University of Chicago legal team. There were negotiations and lots of back and forth.

Now let me interject right here, that the University of Chicago is a fearsomely powerful institution. It rules Hyde Park with an iron fist. It has remade and swallowed up entire neighborhoods. Trust me, you do not want to mess with these fuckers. Because when it comes to a community’s rights, or an individual’s rights, vs. the behemoth that is the U of C, the individual, or the community, is bound to lose. Every bloody time.

So, as you might suspect, those mofos had written the lease to within an inch of its life, and basically it allowed them to do whatever they damned please in terms of pets. Even though we technically live in a building where pets are allowed, that is considered a “privilege” which can be revoked at any time, at their discretion.

This being the case, we did not stand the ghost of a chance of keeping Django. After much soul-searching, heartache, sleepless nights, and angst-filled consultations with our vet, Dr. Wake (who btw, along with Tom and Spoon was one of the heroes of this drama, and went above and beyond, going out of his way to lobby the university to allow us to keep both dogs), we decided to give up Django, but do all in our power to keep Hildy. This was wrenching for me, and to this day Django literally haunts my guilty dreams. But we came to the conclusion that it was the least bad thing to do.

And, as a result of Tom’s agreeing to take on the case, and Spoon’s hard work and mad skillz as a negotiator, that, in the end, was what we were allowed to do. Furthermore, we got an extension of sorts for Django — we were able to keep him until we found a place for him in a no-kill shelter, which we eventually did.

I don’t know what in the world we would have done otherwise. Moving would have been unaffordably expensive and a huge hassle, and Mr. G Spot in particular was opposed to it. Placing a dog in a no-kill shelter is a difficult and time-consuming process; there are always far more animals needing placement than there are slots, especially when the economy starts to tank. The prospect of having to take Hildy and Django to the city pound to be euthanized horrified us, but it was a real possibility. It’s no exaggeration to say that Tom and Spoon may have saved both their lives.

And btw, there’s no way I could have negotiated this outcome myself. I refrained completely from communicating with the landlord about this manner, because I was so emotional about it, and I was afraid that if I tried to discuss it I’d be too tearful, or too angry. Or both.

And the kicker here? After Spoon negotiated this outcome, we asked Tom to send us a bill. And he stubbornly refused to take a dime. This in spite of the fact that the time the firm spent on this case meant fewer billable hours from paying clients. And also in spite of the fact that a small public interest firm like Tom’s tends not to be rolling in dough in the first place.

So, what is the takeaway from this story? What is the point I’m trying to make here?

Well, I think this little anecdote illustrates something important about Tom — about his values, about the way he approaches his legal practice, and about what kind of Congressman he would make.

In the matter of this little dog drama, why did Tom act the way he did? Well, it’s not because he’s dog person — he’s not really an animal person at all. But there were a couple of things going on, I think.

First of all, when it comes to capacity for empathy, Tom ranks pretty highly, and he obviously wanted to relieve my distress. Secondly, he is a stand-up guy who is there for his friends.

But it goes beyond that. Unlike so many in the elite professional class to which he belongs, Tom has a strong aversion to sucking up to rich and powerful assholes. On the contrary, his life has been all about service and helping people in need. And his innate sympathies are always with the powerless, the screwed over, the dispossessed and disenfranchised.

The underdog, if you will.

So you see, when it comes to a fight between one undersized and insignificant mutt, on the one hand? And a ginormous, filthy rich, and scary-powerful institution like the University of Chicago, on the other?

Tom’s gonna be on the side of the dog. That’s fundamental to who he is.

You can donate to Tom Geoghegan’s Congressional campaign here; volunteer here; join the two Geoghegan Facebook groups here and here; and follow Tom on Twitter here.

Golden Retriever Kobie stars in movie, Dog Gone

Golden star loves limelight
Kobie is part ham, all dog on the movie set

By THERESA HOGUE, Gazette-Times reporter

He may be a star, but Kobie the Golden retriever isn’t standoffish. In fact, he’s anxious to meet anyone offering a pat or a snuggle. The 7-year-old Corvallis dog has been in show business for a few years, and his biggest production so far, “Dog Gone,” just came out on DVD. But whether he’s the animal star of the show, or simply a background performer, there’s one thing Kobie loves: Being on set.

Here is a great commercial that Kobie starred in as well.

Come learn more about Kobie at our foundation’s site where we have detailed several Golden Retriever stars. Just click here.

A Family Tradition

Every year my sweetheart slaves over the aisles of card marts, endeavoring to find the perfect card. Of course, it is always Golden. But, this year he outdid himself. It was Golden (for our Alfie) and kitty-respecting (for our Cindy) and mushy as well. Oh, and I almost forgot, he always provides his and the furkids’ signatures . . . (be sure to click on the card to see)

Click on this card to see the mush & drawings within!

Click on this card to see the mush & signatures within!


Come twitter with me

What my landofpuregold page looks like at twitter

Twitter is a social messaging utility for folks to stay connected in real time through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Answers must be under 140 characters in length and can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the web.

My foundation’s twitter page is at To join the conversation, just go to