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Search for an American dog

Heather Lemon
Vail CO, Colorado

My 24-year-old daughter has wanted a puppy since launching off to Atlanta on her own more than a year ago. So this Saturday she went out to get her dog. And while the decision was hers, the family debated the pros and cons of breeds and names. The name should very much depend on the size and type of dog. Butterfly for an English bulldog, or Bowzer for a miniature poodle just did not meet her expectations. Thus the Lemon family dog debate began.

My son, of course, who is also moving to Atlanta, wanted a real dog, something Coloradan, like a Labrador, golden retriever, Great Dane, or German shepherd. He definitely did not want some small foreign import, like Shih Tzu, Havanese, Pomeranian, Pekingese, Chin, or Chihuahua. Having a small dog was un-Coloradan, maybe even un-American. My daughter argued that the large breed dogs were also foreign imports, and were more work. Like most things American, the majority of dog breeds have originated elsewhere.

Prairie dogs on the other hand are a native species. And yet we spend much of our time trying to keep them out of our yards, farms and ranches. My father reminded us of his on-going battle with prairie dogs. He first tried the enforcement approach. Our family standard poodle was entrusted with the job of keeping the prairie dogs off the property. But whether it was Jacque’s French origin, the lack of support from us, or the sheer numbers of prairie dogs pouring into the yard, Jacque failed.

Next my father tried rodent repelling plants around the veggie edibles. But someone forgot to tell the prairie dogs that they should be repelled. He built little sections of fence covering the major traffic flows. And like the Maginot Line in France, the prairie dogs streamed where the fence was not. He built the Berlin wall around our garden, and still the prairie dogs found ways to burrow under and shimmy over the wall. He installed electronic fencing, and the prairie dogs were undeterred. He even resorted to camping out at the property line, ready to call Jacque at the slightest sign of movement or encroachment. But he couldn’t watch the whole area and the prairie dogs got in. He decided a new paradigm was in order. Spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars on securing the property first was not the answer. (Perhaps Congress should look at the effectiveness of border security before authorizing billions more.)

We suggested to our daughter that she adopt a prairie dog as a gesture towards demonstrating our acceptance of their invasion of her grandfather’s property. She didn’t really like that idea. Prairie dogs are not particularly cute and cuddly, and there were too many of them in my father’s garden. He would have to come up with another solution.

My daughter is an Anglophile. Growing up in Hong Kong she knew more about the Windsor family than the American presidents. She adored Princess Di, loves the queen, and follows the exploits of William and Harry (thank goodness he is not going to Iraq). And so she chose a Yorkshire Terrier. I suppose having grown up with two Yorkies in our home (my husband lost that dog debate ages ago) had little to do with her decision. She tossed out “Aspen” as a possible name, throwing a bone to my son’s Colorado loyalties. He didn’t buy it, somehow feeling that calling a dog Aspen in Atlanta would betray Vail. Friends declared that an English dog should have an English name. Good thing she chose an English dog, because learning how to pronounce a name from China would have been difficult and then we might have to have two sets of papers, one in American and one in pinyin.

With the acquisition of a puppy comes responsibility. She must learn to teach the puppy the rules and regulations of her new home. When she ventures out, she needs to respect the neighbors and their boundaries. Dogs should be licensed and tagged and leashed. And we often joke that if she can raise a dog, she might graduate to raising her own family some day.

Congress will debate immigration reform this summer beginning in the Senate this week. Our family debate did not resolve the name for the puppy. I doubt that Congress will come to any real solution as well.

But we did learn that fences do not work.

Heather Lemon of Eagle-Vail writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at lemonvail@aol.com.


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