On February 10, our 15 year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, Bucky, left this mortal plane.
I was heartbroken.
Bucky had been with me since he was a puppy. He was constant, loving, irascible and untrainable. Our friends learned to put up with Bucky, the quintessential Alpha dog. Somehow, he never quite understood that I was the Alpha dude. To him, I was the beta dud.
Our friends consoled us with hopeful nonsense.
“Bucky’s spirit is so strong that it will enter into another dog, and that dog will find you,” one person told me.
Yeah, right … until, exactly a month after his death, I happened to look at the Humane Society’s web page, and there he was. A Chesapeake puppy, about 6 months old, just dropped off at the shelter by his family, who had found him too much of a handful to keep. Bucky had found us.
We adopted him and named him Dudley, after a noble old Labrador that a friend owned two decades ago. He’s spirited, powerful, playful and protective-just like Bucky. And he’s irascible, dominant, nippy and difficult-just like Bucky.
So we took him to Kim Jimeson, a dog training instructor.
It was as if the heavens had opened and the secrets of life had been suddenly revealed.
In an hour’s time, she taught us how to relate to Dudley, how to gently show him who’s the boss, and how to make him into a happy, obedient and useful dog. We took her advice, and it works.
You can train dogs! You can teach them to sit, stay, wait and lie down! You can teach them to walk with a slack leash! Who knew?
Dogs, Kim told us, are happiest when they don’t have to struggle for dominance.
Let’s look at our city as we might look at a family and its pets.
Who’s the Alpha? Not Penny Culbreth-Graft, not Mayor Rivera, not Jerry Forte, not Sean Paige, not Douglas Bruce. Our city is a chaotic, snarling leaderless group of house dogs, stray dogs, pit bull mixes, mutts, purebreds, and wolf hybrids, who pay little attention to the ineffectual “leaders” who think they’re in charge of the pack.
A family without an Alpha is, as Kim emphasized, an unhappy family.
It was not always thus.
Consider those halcyon days when Mayor Bob Isaac was Alpha on the council, Alpha in the city government, and Alpha in the city.
Under Bob, the continuing council-utilities kerfuffle over watering the parks never would have happened. Long before it reached public consciousness, Bob would have summoned Utilities CEO Jerry Forte to his office, and they would have had a little conversation.
“Jerry,” Bob might have said, “There’s not enough money in the parks budget to water the parks or keep the streetlights on next year. You’ll have to figure out a way to do it. I know there are problems with bond covenants, and transfers, but you and Penny and Pat Kelly just get together, figure it out, and bring it to me. You don’t need to involve anybody else – just bring it to me, we’ll put it on the next agenda, and it’ll pass unanimously.”
And that’s the way it would have been. The bad dogs, good dogs and quarrelling wannabe leaders would have fallen into line, our city wouldn’t have become a national laughingstock, and we wouldn’t be futilely sniffing around looking for an Alpha to make us behave.
So where will we find our Alpha?
Maybe we ought to forget about civic activists, politicians, business people, former council members, lawyers, non-profit executives, used car salesmen and underemployed journalists. Let’s look at people who exert leadership, get results and know how become and remain the Alpha.
Why not elect a dog trainer? And why not respectfully ask the world’s Alpha dog trainer to serve as our mayor?
Wouldn’t you like to see Mayor Cesar Millan take all eight members of city council, Douglas Bruce, and Doug Lamborn out for a training run? Wouldn’t it be fun watch them coalesce into a happy, motivated, civic-spirited pack? Sean, Doug, Douglas: Sit! Stay! Lie Down! Good dogs – now you can have a treat…