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February 05, 2009

One Honest Man

moon.bmp Last night, I couldn't sleep.

I woke around 2 a.m. After pouring a glass of water I attempted to snuggle my way back into the waiting arms of Morpheus. But the moon was in my eyes, so I slipped out of bed and silently shut the door to the bedroom. The spousal unit was breathing so softly I could barely hear him but the rest of the house had that hushed silence snow brings to the woods in midwinter. It felt like a caught breath, or the charged drop in pressure just before a sudden storm: an emptiness so pronounced it takes on a shape and substance all its own.

Not a thing was stirring. Not even a Weiner Beast.

My dog is dying.

There has been something wrong with him for a long time - something the experts can't seem to pinpoint. We've spent thousands of dollars on surgery, tests, drugs. He's been by turns dramatically worse, better, up, down, fair-to-middling. He has his good days, weeks, months, and his bad ones. Lately he's taken to throwing up everything he's fed. He is, despite what one might expect, quite good natured about this.

I suspect throwing up is an activity dogs secretly enjoy, particularly when they manage to hornk all over an expensive oriental rug or you've just changed out the cover on their bed for the fourth time.

Hornk. "Surprise, Mom!" And you thought there was nothing left, didn't you? The tail begins helicoptering as he looks up at you conspiratorially, inviting you to enjoy the moment along with him. For a moment, there is a mental vision of 16 pounds of lean, mean Weiner Dog lifting off smoothly from the floor - butt-first - flitting about the room like some demented Remote Control Fruit Bat from Heck.

It's surprising how helpless and out of control you feel picking up an old friend at the end of the day. Carrying him down the steps to his little house. Feeling his bones through his skin; savoring the almost unbearable sweetness of a cold nose touching you softly on the cheek, behind the ear, delivering a benedictory snort or two into your hair for good measure.

But then I'm prone to helplessness and inappropriate mental visions these days. I can't, for instance, read about the travails of our 44th President without imagining a modern day Diogenes wandering the streets of Washington, looking for just one honest man. Boy, is he in the wrong place:

Call it All the President’s Men II: Tom Daschle! Timothy Geithner! Charles Rangel! If they were Republicans, imagine the hiding the Contessa Brewers of the world would be giving this trio of refugees from the IRS, how high the dudgeon, how spluttering the outrage over the free car and driver, the IMF monies, the undocumented nannies, the apartments in Harlem, and the unreported vacation-home rental income. Taxes? We don’t pay no stinkin’ taxes! Somewhere, the ghost of Leona Helmsley is smiling and stroking her pet Maltese, “Trouble.”

Luckily, there’s the tried-and-true Sandy Berger DefenseTM: It was an honest mistake! Good ol’ Sandypants, the pride of Millerton, N.Y., skating out of the National Archives with classified material and then, you know, destroying it. Why, no less an authority on felonious behavior than Billy Jeff Blythe III excused Berger by chalking it up to simple sloppiness. Yes, that’s just the quality we need in a national security adviser—sloppiness!

In the same way, the Tax Trio has basically said: oops! Daschle, in fact, has pronounced himself “disappointed” by his erroneous tax returns. “I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns,” said Tom Thumb in a contrite, heartfelt note of apology to his former Senate BFFs. “I apologize for the errors and profoundly regret that you have had to devote time to them.” There—all better now? Good thing he’s not a lobbyist or, you know, married to one, or his nomination would really be in trouble.

There are times when I honestly wonder whether America has lost its collective mind. Capitol Hill is burning while Andrea Mitchell plays the world's smallest violin:

...it was an emotional conversation. He was clearly- it sounded as though he were tearful, overwrought."

...this does read to the public as though the Republicans went after this man, someone that the President very much wanted, and brought him down."

Even usually steady conservatives seem to be awash in a sea of sentimentality. Common sense, like Elvis, seems to have left the building:

Washington is falling to the level of a Web-based video game. Everyone is expendable. Treasury secretaries and presidential advisers are a dime a dozen. Put differently: The job-protected and gerrymandered lifers are driving out the competition. More often than not, Washington's worst people are destroying its better people.

In his report, Mr. Conyers cites a catalogue of good-government laws that flowed out of Richard Nixon's impeachment: the Federal Campaign Finance Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Independent Counsel Act, the Ethics in Government Act, and the Presidential Records Act.

Whatever the original rationale for such laws, the rankest impulses in politics soon turned them into weapons to take down officials in a government one can't overthrow by other means. You could fill the whole House chamber with men and women who since Watergate have been driven out and bankrupted by them. Criminalizing policy differences has become the modern version of bills of attainder.

President Obama has to decide whether to pursue prosecutions of former Bush officials, especially the CIA's terror interrogators. He must realize that the exterminating angels, who come in two colors -- blue and red -- are ready to chase down him and his appointees.

Thus arrives the Geithner Exception. Getting to be Treasury secretary may be more than Mr. Geithner deserves. This is an opportunity, though, to admit that giving someone's government a chance to function, assuming that's any longer possible, is a greater public good than witch-burning. Amid an economic crisis, the new president said Mr. Geithner had his confidence. Now he has him. Let voters and the markets judge their performance, not the phony and ruinous moral outrage of the Beltway.

There is no doubt that sandbagging the opposition's nominees has turned into something of a national pastime. And yet in his dismay over the waste and wreckage occasioned by what has hardly been a rancorous process by Washington standards, Mr. Henninger overlooks a critical aspect of the Obama nomination debacle.

When the Democrats swept into power in November of 2006, Nancy Pelosi gloated:

"The American people voted to restore integrity and honesty in Washington, D.C., and the Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history."

Promises lay thick on the ground like rice after a wedding party. A kindler, gentler sheriff was in town: the Democrats would restore civility and bipartisanship, raise ethical standards, restore the public's confidence, and get government working again. A year and a half later, Congressional approval ratings had dropped to their lowest levels ever. Despite serving alongside a chief executive who issued the fewest vetoes of any modern president (and had the highest percentage of his vetoes - 33% - overriden) the Democrat-led 110th Congress was a do-nothing disaster of epic proportions:

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal summed up Congress’s actions since inauguration day in January 2007: “In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session — 294 so far — than this one.” Only weeks before, Time made a similar observation: “The 260 laws passed by the 110th Congress represent a 30-year low, and they include the naming of 74 post offices, not to mention the nonbinding resolutions designating July National Watermelon Month and recognizing dirt as an essential natural resource.”

...According to the RealClearPolitics poll average, only 18 percent of the electorate approves of the 110th Congress. And a recent Rasmussen poll discovered that only 9 percent of respondents “say Congress is doing a good or excellent job.”

Apparently impressed with the performance of their new Congressional overlords, the American people looked upon the Change they had wrought and decided it was Good. With the infinite wisdom only Americans seem capable of, they voted for even more change! (More of the most honest, most open and most ethical goverment ever!) One can perhaps understand even this: despite the lowest approval ratings in history, about 40% of American voters believe the Republicans are still in control of Congress. It's a fair bet these folks aren't registered Republicans.

But regardless of party, American voters have a right to expect certain things from their public servants. It's not too much to expect, for instance, that those who make and administer our laws should obey those laws. While zero tolerance policies benefit neither party, we have a right to expect persons in a position of public trust to pay their taxes.

And if mistakes are made, they should pay their back taxes. All of them (not just the ones they're forced to pay). It sends the wrong message when leaders choose lieutenants who openly flout the laws they are expected to administer on our behalf. At a time when public trust in government and public servants is at its lowest ebb, we cannot afford further erosion of our public institutions.

The sad thing is that Mr. Obama has brought much of this upon himself with unnecessarily strict rules that cannot survive the collision with real world conditions. Washington resembles nothing so much as a group of unruly children. Knowing this, the experienced parent makes a few clear cut rules that are enforced vigorously and with consistency. Mr. Obama seems committed to the opposite course, issuing numerous rules during his first month in office that critics claim are full of loopholes.

A bit of advice: you're going to be criticized no matter what you do, Mr. Obama. Pick a course you think is right and then stick to your guns. If your ideals - and your ideas - are worthy, they are worth fighting for and both the country and your party will be a lot better off with a leader who boldly charts a course and says, "Follow me". Don't let the naysayers drag you down with them. And don't try to game the system. I don't think it can be done.

Just do your best and put the rest in the hands of God, or fate, or whatever you call that ineffable force which controls our destiny. The job you're in is too big for you to do anything else. The benefit of this stance is that you might finally come to understand the man who just left the office you now occupy just a bit. Heaven knows you're going to need a bit of the steel that stiffened his spine in the days to come.

It's just a thought. I don't agree with you on most issues, but I can respect a man who is straightforward with me. I suspect the American people feel the same way I do, regardless of their political affiliation.

Perhaps that one honest man you're looking for is the one who looks back at you from your mirror every morning. I hope so.

Posted by Cassandra at February 5, 2009 06:28 AM

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We have Border Collies in our family. I understand.

Posted by: Pogue at February 5, 2009 10:46 AM

Dogs are amazing.

No matter what you do, they love you.

Posted by: Cass at February 5, 2009 10:57 AM

Oh, thanks. Remind me of Little Girl. Shadow. Whiskey. Sebastian. Mickey. Gabby. Ninja. Little Guy. And then throw in politicians to spoil the moment by making me barf like the Wiener Beast.

You horrid, horrid harridan!

Sigh. Okay. I don't mean the harridan part.

That's the payback for the love, though. The loss. If it weren't for the loss, the love wouldn't mean so much.

Hell, around here we shed tears for chickens for heaven's sake.

And then have chicken cacciatore. Store-bought chicken, but, well, y'know.

There's chicken, and there's... family.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at February 5, 2009 11:34 AM

That is funny.

He is sleeping under my feet right now.
Such_a_dork. A skinny dork. But a dork all the same.

Posted by: Cass at February 5, 2009 11:57 AM

Brandy. Valley. Cracker. Pinney. J.R. Tia. King. Max.


Mom's a dog breeder but our dogs were ALWAYS family. Always.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at February 5, 2009 12:21 PM

Cass. I've gone through this too. It never gets any easier.

My thoughts are with you and the Wiener Beast.

Posted by: Schnauzer at February 5, 2009 12:23 PM

Give him skritches from us. We love goggies.
He is well loved and well cared for, and returned that love and loyalty many times over. He will be in good company, not just now, but forever, and I do believe we will see our pets again.

Posted by: Cricket at February 5, 2009 12:30 PM

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. I believe that the reason they are with us for such a short time is to teach us about the unconditional love they instinctively know how to give.

The largest piece of my heart I have to give, goes out to you, my friend.

Posted by: DL Sly at February 5, 2009 12:44 PM

Oh, Cass. I just hugged my dog as a reflex act of sympathy. They are sweet, even when they're throwing up or peeing on the entrance mat.

Posted by: Deb Conrad at February 5, 2009 12:50 PM


Posted by: Cassandra at February 5, 2009 01:32 PM

I grew up with a Weiner Beast. My father gave my mother a dachshund for their first wedding anniversary when they were at Hertzo Base in Germany. Towards the end, we were back in Germany, living in a 3rd floor apartment in base housing. He couldn’t make it down all those stairs without relieving himself, so my brother and I (who shared the dog-walking duties when not at school) would have to stick his hind end in a plastic garbage bag and carry him down the stairs and outside. I remember once I lost my balance and slide down half a flight of stairs on my knees. Luckily, Shorty was okay, and all I had were bruised knees. I knew he wasn’t doing well – he’d wander behind the couch and get stuck – he couldn’t see where he was going, on top of the bladder control issues… Then, I went on the 6th grade ski trip to Scheffau, Austria. When I got back and his bowls were no longer on the kitchen floor, I knew without my parents having to say anything. They had decided to put his down while I was gone.

We were without a family pet until I was in college. Another Weiner Beast. My sisters were the ones who grew up with Max. He died last summer. I had put him out in the backyard and when I went to check on him, he was gone. He’d been in a bad way for a while, and I was just glad it was me (though I’d have preferred it to be someone else) and not my sister, who found him.

Then, there is also my beloved cat, Sophia. My best friend adopted her, one of her brothers, and her mom from the pound in San Angelo. The first time I saw her, I fell in love with her – she was a tiny little thing back then. My best friend decided she really couldn’t have 3 cats, so when I got my first apartment (I had graduated already, and was back in Austin, but she was still in school), I took Sophia off her hands. I lost Sophia on February 28, 2007. She died in my arms as I slept. I knew she wasn’t doing well, as she wasn’t recovering from her cancer surgery the week before, having stopped eating. Took her to the vet again, they gave her fluids and something to stimulate her appetite (while was also a sedative – I lost another cat after having it been given a sedative – I WON’T do that again…). She died early the next morning.

I still have 2 dogs. They are both 12 now – they are litter mates. I see them getting older – more gray in their muzzles; Abby doesn’t move as well anymore – she can’t really jump up on the bed anymore, and is slow going up the stairs. I hate thinking that there are fewer days ahead of them both than there are behind… I also still have a cat, Junior. He’s 10 now. I got him after I bought my house in Arkansas, and Sophia was lonely for feline companionship – she’d been living with 3 other cats when I had my best friend as a roommate in that old rent house. The pound told me the kitten was a she, and I was going to name it Fiona. The vet informed me otherwise when I took him in the first time. I could still have him for many more years to come – cats can get to be 20 or more years old. I hate to think I’d only have him for about 4 more years. Sophia was only 14 when I lost her…

Pets are family. No one will ever convince me otherwise…

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at February 5, 2009 01:55 PM

God gave us dogs to remind us that we should strive to become the kind of people they think we already are...

Posted by: BillT at February 5, 2009 02:54 PM

"...the kind of people they think we already are..."

Whew! Thank goodness mine have such low expectations.

Posted by: DL Sly at February 5, 2009 04:06 PM

I am sorry to hear about your Wienerschnitzelhund. They love you unconditionally, and they leave you too soon.

I'm sending good homeopathic vibes to his tummy. Carbo veg on it's way.

Posted by: MathMom at February 5, 2009 07:00 PM

The best pet cat we've ever "enthroned" is pushing 16 years old. She's fine at present, but I worry about her.

I'm already tired of Obama using the excuse that "I won the election" for carrying out all this foolishness. Being from Illinois, you have to put up with a lot of governmental nonsense; it's so sad to see the "Illinois/Chicago Way" imported to the rest of the country.

Posted by: Barbara at February 5, 2009 10:32 PM

I wish I had the words Cass. I've been through it very recently myself (as you know), and it's never easy. I'll be praying for you and him.

Posted by: MikeD at February 6, 2009 11:58 AM

I read your title and think aawww a sweet poetic post about her spousal unit then BAM! to the chest ... "my dog is dying" I'm saddened and think aawww it about her dog. My 3 labs laying at my feet, are wondering why so sad, they're always good at observing my mood and quickly comfort me with big wet kisses.

Then BAM! to the gut I'm reading about... Politicians. My labs are now perplexed at the sudden mood swing but are ready to boost my spirits with the swings of their coffee table clearing tails and a mouthful of tennis ball.

So sorry to hear about your old friend.

Posted by: Mrs G at February 6, 2009 02:28 PM

Dog? Nay lass, the pup is just a furry child that God (not G_d) has entrusted to you to care for and love, and in return you get love. Unconditional love.

My bride and daughter presented me with a buff cocker spaniel pup, and she was my shadow for years. When I went off to DS, I got a letter that said she was not doing too well....but me in Saudi and her in GA, there was not much I could do, except asked my wife to put me on speaker. I told the pup I would be home in a while. Bride said she seemed to understand - tail stub wagging - and held on until 3 days after I came home. That hurt. Lots.

I said never again, but after a while, we all missed that love....and a red and white cocker came into our lives. She too "crossed the bridge" taking joy and happiness with her little body....but her soul and spirit are still with us.

Right now, we have a black and tan cocker - she is starting to show her age and have some problems, but the love is there - both ways. There is nothing I would not do for her. God gave her to me to protect and care for. To do less would violate the trust. And if I have to make that decision....I hope that I can forgive myself.

Thanks for letting me unload a little....I'm sure you have been there before. I hope you have the strength (and the funds if needed) to make the little weinerdogs life the life that it would want to give you.

Pax Vobiscum.


PS - "Pet" owners - I do not work for or have any business interest in this company, but I heartily endorse pet insurance. I have VPI, and can tell you its a big relief to pay $200 for a spinal surgery instead of $2800 (oh, and thank you VA Tech Vet School for your great work!!!)

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at February 6, 2009 07:40 PM

I had to go through this 2 years ago. Heart breaking. I am so sorry.

Posted by: KJ at February 7, 2009 01:26 PM

It never gets any easier to watch the aging process in our fur babies BUT much as it hurts like hell to let them go (and yes, I have had to make that call many times, and always held them in my arms as they go.) As I told my teen bratchild one time: we owe them the best decision we can make for them, after all the years of unconditional love...and yes, honesty.!)

My 16yr old shep/husky - my two legged bratchild's twin - laid on the vet room floor and we looked in each other's eyes as he went on ahead. I swore never again, BUT years later the infamous bratdog - then a 9 week fuzzy puppy - adopted us.

I truly believe that being owned by furbabies teaches us, and our children, many valuable lessons and I wouldn't trade one minute with any of our furbabies.

Gonna stop now ;)

Posted by: brat at February 8, 2009 06:11 PM

we love them as if they were children, and they love us back ferociously and unconditionally. when the time comes remember you are sending him to god.

Posted by: bob T at February 8, 2009 07:45 PM