An alpha dog for the city?

Fri, Mar 19, 2010


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…

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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Rick Wehner Says:

    I am not sure I, since 1950, can remember a county board or city council who has stirred up so much distrust among the public and been responsible for so many decisions with adverse financial result.

    The time might be drawing near to where we actually do consider a citizen initiative be placed on a future ballot calling for the complete merger of the county with the city and the formation or a citizen review board before which all decisions must be passed before the governing body takes action.

    The national economic slowdown is only partially responsible for the local budget crisis. Local governance is responsible for the majority of the crisis and we will see a major trauma develop financially for the county by the end of 2013.

    I would respectfully submit to the new leaders implementing Project 6035, specifically Mr. Lane, that he call a meeting to include The EDC, The Chamber, Citizens for Effective Government, and all the municipalities of the region to develop this board now in order to regain the public trust.

    The deep analysis that had been proposed by Mr. Bartolin (Colorado Springs City Commission) needs to include the county in the review process with a goal of looking at the benefit of a merger.

    Time has come to quit talking and start doing. How long have we heard the words bandied about:

    “Regionalism, Consolidation, and Cooperation” ??

  2. Bill Guman Says:

    Excellent, John!! As I read your account of what would have happened, I actually heard that conversation in my head between Bob, Penny, Jerry, and Patricia. And all was well with the world.

    As for our beloved canine family members, they only let us think we have trained them. As two dog people, both you and I know better as to who has whom trained! Good luck with Dudley – you’re lucky to have him.

  3. Patsy Says:

    First of all, there will never be another Bucky. I feel privileged to have known him. Let’s have a drink for Bucky John. As for the blog, all I gotta say is What would Scooby doo?

  4. M C Pennica Says:

    John, your point is well taken. Where are the leaders? It makes me mad as hell to see our great city become a national laughing pup (no, not Laughing Lab)! The past great leaders of C/S would have never allowed this to happen. I often wonder what would Mr. Penrose have done? It’s time for our next generation of leaders to rise–I remain positive that the time is nigh! Now, let us raise our bowls to the next ALPHA DOG! Tim, I hope you are listening.

  5. Buddy Gilmore Says:


    Passing your doggie-dish may be a bit premature :-)