Colorado, as Ed Quillen noted recently, has two state songs, a state bird, a state fossil, a state butterfly, a state mineral and a state fish. And, despite Douglas Bruce’s callous and unreasoning opposition, we might soon have a state reptile, the Western Painted Turtle.
Now, all of those designations are fine, I suppose, but they share one characteristic: no one much cares.
Do you lose sleep because you don’t have a gleaming specimen of the state mineral (rhodochrosite) on your desk?
Do you sing the state song (“Friends around the campfire/Everybody’s high!/Rocky Mountain High, Colorado …”) in the shower? For your family’s sake, I certainly hope not.
Would you recognize the state butterfly (the Colorado hairstreak) if one landed on your snout? Of course not — and that’s why we need to have an official state designation for something that people actually care about.
That means — are you ready? — an official state dog!
How many Coloradoans own a hunk of rhodochrosite or still have an old John Denver album? Two or three hundred at most! And how many dog owners are there? More than a million.
That fact alone would assure a lively, powerful and engaged debate.
Imagine the scene at the Capitol, as thousands of dog owners besiege legislators, each touting the virtues of their preferred animal companion. Imagine angry pit bulls cornering cowering Republicans beneath the golden dome, while slavering rottweilers terrorized timid Democrats.
We’d see Democracy in action, as lawmakers strived to avoid offending hundreds of thousands of determined dog lovers, while realizing that only one breed can achieve the greatest honor of all — state dog!
Only nine states have designated state dogs, none of them in the mountain West.
Maryland, the first state to designate an official state dog, named the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in 1964 — a breed that any state could be proud of and one that originated in Maryland. Other states, in following Maryland’s lead, have named obscure breeds that have some tenuous local connection, and most of the dogs so designated are, to put it mildly, eccentric choices.
Louisiana embraced the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog during 1979 and North Carolina claimed the Plott Hound during 1989. Those Massachusetts lib’ruls grabbed the Boston Terrier during 1979, while South Carolina opted for the Boykin Spaniel during 1985.
Clearly, if we were to honestly designate a state canine, it would not be any of the variants of Canis familaris, but Canis latrans, the coyote. The coyote was here long before we arrived on the scene and will be here long after we leave. So it makes sense — except for economic development!
Do you think that companies would stand in line to move to the “Coyote State”? Do we want people to think “The Sound of Music” (good) or “No Country for Old Men” (bad)?
In designating the state mutt, we need to project a warm, fuzzy, pro-family, pro-business, pro-happiness image, not a mean, scrawny, skinny, predatory, wild-animal-that-would-eat-your-cat image!
So let’s consider some eligible breeds.
Dachshund: Who doesn’t like dachshunds? Only mean people! A great candidate, but one unsuited for promoting winter recreation. Take a dachshund to Vail? You’d lose it in the first snowdrift.
German Shepherd: Big, beautiful, smart — but a little too big. “Mommy, is that a wolf?” Can’t have a state dog that might scare little kids.
Dalmatian: Too much beer commercial time has sullied the image of this otherwise perfectly acceptable dog — no longer family friendly!
Chihuahua: One the one hand, we’d be showing respect to our Hispanic heritage — a real positive. On the other, there are those unfortunate Paris Hilton associations … not exactly where we need to be, eco-devo wise.
Golden Retriever: Great family dog, and anything with gold in it is sooo Colorado! But goldens shed, so maybe we should stay away from long-haired breeds. Ours is, after all, a well-groomed, clean, suburban state, not one covered with dog hair.
Labrador retriever: America’s favorite dog. Smart, athletic, good-tempered, loves kids, fond of outdoor sports, available in black, chocolate or yellow versions. Reflects our lifestyle, our diversity and our all-American character. No negatives!
So it’s settled. The Labrador retriever should be Colorado’s state dog.
Small-minded opponents might argue that Labs aren’t native to Colorado, but so what? Neither are most of us! And just imagine the scenes of amity and reconciliation at the Capitol on the soon-to-be-designated State Dog Day, as our semi-excommunicated state representative, Douglas Bruce, would be surrounded by friendly, joyful Labradors, modeling the kind of behavior that his peers expect from the dour misanthrope.
On second thought, maybe the pit bull would be a better choice …
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.