Emmylou Harris at the Haight Street Art Center, by Carolyn McCoy
Emmylou Harris (photo: Carolyn McCoy)

Words by Carolyn McCoy

It’s a time in our history where there is a ridiculous amount of horror and stupidity in the news, so it’s not surprising that negativity impacts our daily reality. Because of that, we need to look for sources that bring a bit of sunshine and hope into our minds. We need something to focus on that is transformative, powerful and positive. We need inspiration, a night of music and art perhaps, for a good cause. Bummer’s Ball 2, a benefit to fund Oakland-based nonprofit Rocket Dog Rescue, was just what was needed to remind us that not everything is bad in the world.

Pali Boucher founded Rocket Dog Rescue in 2001 in response to her own personal experience of adopting a dog that changed her life in the most powerful way. She realized the potential of unwanted animals making things better for those who adopted them, so Boucher made it her life focus to rescue thousands of abandoned and abused animals from kill-shelter, often at the 11th hour of that animal’s life. Each day the organization saves lives of a hard to adopt pets, bringing them into the loving arms of someone who can provide them a new lease on life. The organization relies heavily on dedicated volunteers and financial donors to keep things running,

This year’s Bummer’s Ball, held within the art-filled walls of the Haight Street Art Center in San Francisco, was all love, smiles and joy as country songbird Emmylou Harris graced the stage with her music. Because of her solid support of animal rights, Harris’ own dog rescue organization in Tennessee, Bonaparte’s Retreat, saves thousands of dogs per year. With striking beauty that belies her 71 years, Harris sang many of her incredible country tunes with the Red Dirt Band, including “Red Dirt Girl,” “Little Black Dog,” and “Orphan Girl.”

Supporting the evening was an eclectic mix of acoustic based country-tinged bands including the harmony-filled, multi-instrumentalist group I’m With Her, the high-energy fun of Texan bluegrass band Rock Bottom String Band, the hard-driving swamp-blues of Colorado duo Smokestack Relics, the acoustic bluegrass tunes of The Green Ribbon Band as well the Union Bugs. Throughout the evening, the crowd was entertained by acrobatic duo Acrolele and an art-filled silent auction all raising money for this incredible organization.

The reality of what happens to many animals hit me hard during the night, and often I was brought to tears by this group of dedicated individuals who are looking to heal something inside themselves by creating positive change and life-saving love in the Bay Area. Rocket Dog Rescue not only saves the lives of animals, but more often than not, it also saves the lives of the humans who rescue them as well.