Michael & Me

I've been part of an interesting turn of events over the past few days. I am elated, humbled, and in some ways mystified by all that has happened. Allow me to start from the beginning . . .

I don't have HBO but regularly listen to "Real Time with Bill Maher" on podcast. Michael Moore was a recent guest. I am a fan of both gents. It occurred to me that I didn't have Michael Moore in my Facebook news feed, so I logged in, found his page, and clicked the "like" button. Not long thereafter, he posted that he was having a little contest on Twitter. His goal was to reach 900,000 Twitter followers and, once that milestone was reached, he would choose a random follower and donate $10,000 to the charity of that person's choice.  Now, I have to confess that I am not the most prolific Twitter user. And, generally speaking, my tweets are far from witty and/or insightful. My most recent tweet was an offer to give away my foster puppy to the first taker (way to change the world and raise awareness of important social issues, Claudia!). However, I didn't find it too arduous to log in, find Michael Moore's Twitter page, and click the "follow" button. Voila! Recently Dr. Oz launched a contest in conjunction with Weight Watchers. The winner will receive one million dollars. I glanced briefly at the rules (you must refer a friend, visit a doctor, etc.) and deemed the contest to be "way too much work." So, if I'm not willing to do half a dozen things in order to win a million dollars, it's pretty clear that my motivation has its limits. But, clicking a button? That I could do.

Fast forward to Monday evening. I was out and about, running some errands. I did a home visit as a favor to a friend with St. Bernard rescue and then headed to a hardware store to buy some paint stripper for my secret project. As I milled about looking for gloves (so as not to have my flesh stripped off along with the paint), I felt/heard my phone buzzing in my purse. I looked at the screen and saw several messages sent to me via Twitter. The first one said, "Michael Moore is now following you on Twitter." Seriously? Maybe he wants my puppy. Then I had a direct message from Michael Moore (or maybe someone who works with him - I'll just pretend it was the famed filmmaker and muckraker himself) asking me to call his office. The phone number was provided.

I stared at the phone for several minutes. At first I wondered if the message was somehow related to the Occupy movement - perhaps some sort of campaign to encourage smaller cities to get involved. But then I allowed myself to form the thought .  .  . what if I won? I bought my stripping supplies and headed to my van, where I promptly called the number I had been given. I talked to a very nice gentleman named Jon who informed me that I had indeed won the contest. The last thing I won was a stamp collecting book in the sixth grade, so I needed a little time to absorb the news. I WON TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A CHARITY OF MY CHOICE. Then I did what every 41-year-old woman does when she has big news to share. I called my mama. And then I called just about every person who has the misfortune of having a phone number stored in my Blackberry.

The only stipulation for accepting the offer was that I had to agree to allow my name to be released publicly. Done. As far as choosing a charity, well, I didn't have to think too hard. I volunteer for a non-profit, a rescue organization for Boxers. As a matter of fact, I am its treasurer so I know all too well how quickly our bank account gets depleted. Right now we have a dog in rescue with a shattered femur and a broken jaw. She underwent a four-hour surgery on Monday and we are expecting to incur at least $2,000 in expenses for her. We also have a dog in rescue with Diabetes Insipidus. The treatment for his condition is, oddly enough, an eye drop called Desmopressin. Because of the high dose he is on, we spend a couple hundred a month just to cover the cost of his prescription. I could go on and on. The bottom line is that this unexpected gift is very much needed and very much appreciated. The dogs in our care, no matter how we cajole and beg, refuse to seek gainful employment. So, we have to hold fundraisers and such to cover the cost of their care. I think you'll agree that having someone give you $10,000 beats selling candy bars any day.

The formal announcement was made at noon EST on Tuesday. Michael Moore posted it on Twitter and on Facebook. It was an odd feeling, seeing my name posted in a public forum. I'm usually more of a behind-the-scenes sort of person. There were several tweets related to the contest, to me, and to the charity. Then, much to my surprise, he posted a link to my blog. More specifically, he posted a link to an entry I'd written about patriotism. I have to admit I was proud of that particular blog post. I was a little giddy just knowing that Michael Moore had read my writing. Again, I am assuming it was him personally and not someone who works with him because he and I are :::like this:::, you know.

Then came the backlash. I don't think of myself as naive, but I did not have any inkling such a thing would happen. On Twitter and Facebook, people with (apparently) too much time on their hands started posting vitriolic statements about Michael Moore, me, and my charity. I suppose he's used to it. I suspect he even welcomes differing viewpoints because it's better than the alternative, which is rampant apathy. The main beef, after the contest announcement was made, seemed to be related to the fact that I chose a charity that benefits animals. What I couldn't understand was why people were taking him to task over it when I'm the one who got to choose the recipient organization. The comments on Twitter were the worst - perhaps because you can retain some degree of anonymity there. The ones on Facebook were mostly positive.

To respond to a few of the not-so-positive comments:

Animals over people  I'm not sure what sort of logic leads someone to make this leap: She cares about animals; therefore, she does not care about people. I don't even know how to respond to that, in all honesty. My guess is that no matter what charity I chose, someone would have a problem with it. But let me say this: when someone comes to us because their home is in foreclosure and they can't keep their dog, I'd submit that we are helping that person and their dog. My fellow volunteers and I are not trying to be heroic. We are not thumping our chests and talking about our sheer awesomeness. We are just volunteering for a cause that means something to us.

They don't even take in that many dogs  Our rescue organization takes in around 60-70 dogs a year (nearly 800 to date). We'd take in more except that we can't find enough foster homes to care for the dogs. We spend over $25,000 annually in veterinary expenses. Our focus is on quality, not quantity. We have a veterinary protocol that is completed for each dog. We have a formal temperament test process. We care for the dogs in our homes and feed them out of our own pockets. We are, quite simply, doing the best we can.

They only care about purebred dogs  For every breed that exists, there are people who adore that breed specifically. I happen to like Boxers (I like other breeds, too, but am particularly fond of the energetic and goofy nature of the Boxer). That is not to say we don't care about mixes. I am fostering a Boxer mix puppy right now. It's just that we know Boxers best and that is our focus. There are rescues out there for every breed, as well as many all-breed rescues. Together, we lessen the burden of overcrowded shelters.

A couple of parting thoughts . . .

To the people who are now following me on Twitter as a result of this contest, please accept my apology in advance. My tweets, infrequent as they are, are generally pretty mundane and are only a stone's throw from being downright insipid.

To those who read my blog entry about patriotism, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the nice feedback. It was very gratifying to read comments like "this is just how I feel" and "agree wholeheartedly!" I was a little verklempt at the end of the day.

To the naysayers, please allow me to say . . . I won and you didn't. Neener neener neener. Just kidding! (sort of)

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and see if I can piss off some more people who hate dogs.

Our 'spensive surgery case