Best in Show

March 1st, 2015

State tree, state bird, state flower, even state song and amphibian. But the Green Mountain State lacks something Sen. John Rodgers says it’s high time for — a state dog. And not only has he introduced a bill that would make man’s best friend in Vermont officially the beagle, he’s even gotten nearly 300 signatures on an online petition he created through change.org.

True, there may be other bills that might be addressed earlier, such as the looming health care issue, education finance reform and ever-growing property taxes, but why the beagle? Have we all lost our mind? Or just Sen. Rodgers? He doesn’t even own a beagle. He owns a black Lab. I say why not the beagle … mix?

Jeff Connor of Waterbury pondered the same question and countered with his own petition on change.org asking Vermonters to stand by his cause to make the rescue dog the official state canine. Now we’re talking: the almighty “shelter stray” who’s looking for that forever home. A perfect fit for Vermont, says Connor, mostly because it “best represents Vermont character and values.”

I agree. But it was the last sentences of his petition that struck me. “They pass through this world for the briefest of time but they deliver much. We help save their lives and they help preserve ours.” Jeff’s spot-on. I signed his petition, as should you.

Take Miss P, the perfectly dimensioned 15-inch beagle who out of 3,000 entrants took home the top honor of Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show recently in New York City. It wasn’t Miss P who took home the spending cash. It was her owner and handler. Miss P is a dog. And dogs don’t recognize blue ribbons from yellow. For each dog, it was just another day walking the Astroturf. Win or lose, mixed or purebred, Miss P isn’t capable of being any more of a dog than any other. And just because she’s a beagle doesn’t mean she could track a whitetail any farther than your average mixed-breed shelter dog.

Of course, with all this talk of beagle versus rescue dog, it naturally got me thinking about my beloved old Buddy.

Gosh, he would have made a perfect candidate for the Westminster reject project. I could just hear the introduction as we made our way down the runway: “Next up, we have 16-year-old Buddy. Buddy delivers grace under pressure, evident with his super-slow pace and limp from the right rear side. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for him even though he can’t hear or see you for that matter with those gorgeous cataracts. And just look at that brilliant coat, covering up those lumps and bumps, and even that giant cyst at the base of his tail. Judges, take note of Buddy’s white muzzle and those ears — hardly symmetrical with the right flopping over way out of balance. Ladies and gentlemen, this is one perfect old rescue dog. Let’s hear it one more time for Buddy!”

Sen. Rodgers, if I may echo the sentiment of at least the Vermonters I’ve heard from, we shouldn’t waste our worry on beagle puppy mills popping up all over Vermont. Nor should we make any single breed our state dog. Instead, the Legislature should in fact consider the rescue dog. The shelters would be less burdened, and the cats would have more space to roam. The number of rescue dogs waiting for the opportunity to rescue Vermonters far outnumbers purebreds in our state anyway.

I’m not aware of any other state that makes the rescue dog its emblematic pet, but if Vermont were the first it sure would get some attention, and maybe other states would follow. Besides, most of us are mixed breeds anyway.

Instead of a bill being passed that would make the beagle or even the rescue dog the state dog, I think a bill should be passed requiring all Vermonters to adopt a dog.

Miss P, you sure are a pretty gal, but you’ve got nothing on Buddy. To me, he was the top dog, a certified, bloodlined, 100 percent genuine all-American mutt. And he was the best $75 I’ve ever spent. So before you ask yourself, “What’s next, a state turtle?” consider this: We already have one. And I’m almost sure it also is a mutt.

JD Green hosts “The Breakfast Club” on Froggy 100.9 FM. He and his girlfriend, Charilyn Williams, have started Paws, a central Vermont pet bereavement group. It is free and open to the public, and meets monthly at the First Church in Barre, Universalist. For more information, email him at beyondthe dog97@gmail.com.

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