They Say That ‘Dog’ is ‘Man’s’ Best Friend
Like most dogs, mine’s an uber-loyal companion. He’s the best four-legged pal I’ve ever had; and I’ve had many. I jokingly tell my human friends that my dog is treated better than a whole lot of people. And sadly, I’ve realized that’s no joke…
My dog is a 120-pound Doberman Pinscher named Oberon. Some people, mostly other dog owners from the neighborhood, believe he’s named after a character in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I don’t have the nerve to admit that rather than taking my dog-naming cues from literary icons, I’ve instead taken them from a craft beer brewed by Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. Oberon Ale is a really outstanding beer. And Oberon Dog is a really outstanding dog. So, I guess the name fits…
The Charmed Life of an American Doberman in Chicago
Oberon came into our lives when he was only 12 weeks old. A quick six years later, I’m told he’s now considered a “senior” for his breed — something I find hard to accept, since he suffers from a chronic case of arrested development. Standing 28” tall at the withers, he’s still more puppy than old man. And that’s how I’d like to keep it…for a while anyway.
Oberon leads a very charmed life. In the summer when I’m hard at work, Oberon hangs out on the balcony of our 38th floor condo located in what some may consider a “fancy” high rise on Chicago’s lakefront. He despises the constant buzz from the engines of small planes dragging advertising banners that encourage beachgoers to buy coconut rum or find love online. And, he shares his displeasure for these intrusions every chance he gets. Something my neighbors really appreciate…
Oberon eats some of the healthiest dog food money can buy. He drinks only filtered water, mainly because that’s how it comes out of the dispenser on the refrigerator door. And, he’s got a whole hoard of organic treats and indestructible toys stashed away in his own oversized ‘goodie’ chest – or what we call the hall closet.
He enjoys being chauffeured around in our late model, gas-guzzling SUV and often drools down the passenger door or sneezes as the wind blows up his nostrils. And when he’s not strapped in for a cruise to the local Forest Preserve, he can be found stretched out in a comfy king-sized bed, head firmly planted on pillow.
When I think about it, it’s all kind of ridiculous, actually.
A Lifetime of Meals, Balls and Scalpels
Over the years, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on food, healthcare, toys and various dog-related accessories, even one that lets me to sling a tennis ball farther than I normally could otherwise. As a puppy, he had a habit of eating things that he shouldn’t, mainly because I’d left them laying around the house rather than putting them away where they belong. As a result, I’ve paid too many surgeons too much money to remove items from places they were never meant to go.
Yes, Oberon really has it great. But, like many of us, I don’t think he’s aware of it.
Blissful Ignorance with Eyes Wide Shut
Most Americans take a whole lot of things for granted; especially those of us lucky enough to have jobs that afford us a relatively comfortable lifestyle. And like most Americans, my American dog is oblivious to how his life could be so different in so many ways.
If you pay even the slightest bit of attention to the news, you’ll notice that things are pretty awful in a lot of places around the world. There’s an ever-increasing number of people who aren’t remotely fortunate enough to live a life approaching that of my privileged American dog.
It’s probably fair to say that some might be envious of Oberon if only they knew how he lived. They may even be downright angry. I know I would be if I hadn’t been living right there in blissful ignorance with him…
Our Global Village is Crying Out for Help
When she was still only a first lady, Hilary Clinton explained that “it takes a village” to raise a child and elevate a civilization to the level you want it to reach. I didn’t fully comprehended how prescient she was when she first turned this phrase into a bestseller. But now, my eyes have opened wider and the picture I’m seeing of our village isn’t very pretty.
As I type this post in the air-conditioned office of my home, my privileged dog is sleeping soundly — belly full of food — on our comfortable sofa. At this same time, there are 43,700,000 people from our global village who’ve been forcibly displaced from their own homes due to war, political unrest, threats of personal violence and ongoing persecution for such basic concepts as their opinions, lifestyles or religious beliefs.
43,700.000 people who can’t eat fancy organic food, don’t drink filtered water, and have no option to sleep in comfortable beds or complain about the roar of single-engine planes disturbing their lazy sun-bathing. 43,700.000. That’s a VERY big number. One that should make us all open our eyes to the reality of suffering and brutality taking place in our village, and one that very seldom makes it to our television screens.
Champion For a Cause
Over the years, I’ve gone to great lengths to take care of Oberon. And it goes without saying that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. But unlike Oberon, the world’s refugees haven’t had me around for the last six years to help them out. That all changed recently when I decided to take Shonali Burke (@shonali) up on her offer to join the Blue Key Campaign as, what she calls, a “Blue Key Champion” – folks who are active online and want to help change the lives of some very needy people.
I first became aware of The Blue Key Campaign after noticing little images of blue keys popping up on Twitter as people began modifying their profile photos in support. Then there was the first Blue Key Tweet-a-thon that I watched on my computer screen one night. It was this Tweet-a-thon that woke me up from my own life of blissful ignorance.
The Blue Key Campaign
If you’re not familiar, The Blue Key Campaign is an initiative of the USA for UNHCR, to generate donations for UNHCR, teh UN Refugee Agency. The UNHCR has more than 6,000 staffers and volunteers working in 140 countries around the world to provide protection, shelter, emergency food, water, medical care and other life-saving assistance to millions of refugees.
I now find myself one of UNHCR’s Champions for the Blue Key cause, assisting Shonali and a host of important people from the business and humanitarian world who, I believe, have way more chops than me and whose skills and online networks are far more impressive than mine.
I wonder if I’m not a little over my head here, as I’m not sure how much of a Champion I’ll be. To be honest, I’m not really sure what I can do to help so many people who need so much. But, my guess is that if I can offer one petulant Doberman a better life than many people can ever imagine, I should be able to do something for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
A Life of Nothing is No Life at All
It’s not my intention to diminish the severe plight of refugees by comparing them to a spoiled American dog. But by introducing you to Oberon and to his privileged lifestyle, I hope to open your eyes to the many things that each of us take for granted every day.
Refugees receiving aid from UNHCR have lost everything. It’s not a stretch to suggest that, without help, they won’t have a chance at a life remotely approaching the level of comfort that we often provide our own pets. And I think that’s just plain wrong. I’m with Hilary. The way we as a civilization continue to treat the rest of our global village must change. And I’ve decided it’s way past time that I start doing something about it myself.
43,700,000 Reasons to Help. Or, Lattes, Leftovers and Little Blue Keys
You can help me help the world’s 43,700,000 refugees right now. And you don’t even need to become a Blue Key Champion. However if you’d like to throw your hat in the ring, I’m sure UNHCR wouldn’t mind. But if you do nothing else, please visit The Blue Key Campaign website and open your eyes to what’s happening in our world. For just $5, you’ll get your own Blue Key and will become part of a growing community of Americans committed to opening the door to a safe and secure village for millions.
There’s a Blue Key With Your Name On It\
In the weeks to come, I plan to keep you updated on my efforts to live up to my new title. And in order to do it right, I need you to help me. If you’d like to support my efforts to change the lives of so many people who have so little through no fault of their own, please think about simply agreeing to do without just once a week. Do without your morning latte today. Take leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Carpool to work another day. And, put those few dollars you otherwise would’ve spent towards The Blue Key Campaign. Doing without and giving will not only open your eyes to the many things you take for granted, but also help open the door to a new life for some very needy person whose life will forever be changed by your choices.
Please get your own Blue Key now. Even Oberon has one. And he’s likely to have a few more by the time we’re through, as I’ve decided he’s going to be doing a little “doing without” himself. Unless he’s smarter than I think, it’s my guess he won’t even notice. But I guarantee you some very deserving person somewhere in the world will as a result.
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