An open letter to the Maine House of Representatives

Guest columnist Marty is a Shih Tzu living in Kennebunk. Correction: a miniature Shih Tzu.
Guest columnist Marty is a Shih Tzu living in Kennebunk. Correction: a miniature Shih Tzu.

[Originally ran in the April 2015 issue of The Village.]

I usually don’t write letters to politicians. I usually don’t write letters, period. Fact is, I can’t write; lacking the motor skills and fingers required to write longhand or type, I must dictate. But dictate I must, for I could not live with myself if I failed to weigh in on a matter of utmost importance now facing the legislative body in Augusta that shapes the lives of all Mainers.

My name is Marty, and I am a Shih Tzu living in Kennebunk. Full disclosure: I am a miniature Shih Tzu (a designation akin to “miniature hamster”), weighing in at five pounds (after mealtime). Nonetheless, I am technically still a dog – check out my subspecies if you have any doubts – and am therefore entitled to publically comment on LD107, the bill asking that the Labrador retriever be named Maine’s state dog.

First, my heartiest congratulations to the State and Local Government Committee for advising against the bill last month, 9-2, and to the Maine State Senate for shooting it down early in March by a vote of 24-10. If the Maine House of Representatives possesses the wisdom and sense of justice to likewise defeat this questionable bill by the time this letter is printed, they have my deepest gratitude. That being said, even if this letter addresses a moot point, the feelings of this humble little dog – and those of many of my fellow canines – ought to be recorded so that if and when a similar bill is presented to the legislature, people will know where I stand on my tiny little legs.

The depth of my opposition to the bill presented by Sen. David Dutremble (D-Biddeford) is a million times deeper than my water bowl. The Labrador retriever? The Lab? Seriously? That’d be up there with those $80,000 gift bags handed out to Oscar nominees or $10 million bonuses given to Wall Street executives already pulling down that much every month. I mean, why don’t we all take the next logical step and crown George Clooney the king of the United States, or, better yet, put the Beatles on the 10-pound note and Beyoncé on the 20-dollar bill, because I’m thinking they haven’t been praised and lauded and deified enough!

Sorry, I’m getting a little emotional here. That’s the problem with dictating.

The point I’m trying to make is that the Labrador retriever has received enough press and accolades. The American Kennel Club annually ranks dog breeds (such an ugly ritual, especially for those not in the Top Ten), the results being that the Lab has come out #1 every year for the past twenty-four years. (Who did they have to sniff to get such a good rating?)

Shouldn’t that be enough? Can’t they be happy with that? How much love do they need? What is their problem? I mean, geez, we Shih Tzus are #17 (full-size ones, that is, meaning I don’t count – thanks for the ego-crushing criteria, AKC!) and we don’t go running around like media whores, which we could, because at least we’re not Norwegian lundehunds, the poor creatures who came in dead last at #178.

And let’s admit it: a casual flip-through of any LL Bean catalog makes it pretty damn clear that the Labrador retriever is the de facto Maine state dog anyway. They’re in. They’re the kings. We get it. We accept it. But an official designation by the Maine legislature? Absolutely not. That’d be overkill. That’s where we must put our paws down and demand justice. Because if we don’t, Labs will start popping up on license plates. Or maybe they’ll replace the moose on the state flag.

Granted, Labrador retrievers originated in our neck of the woods, while we Shih Tzus were probably outsourced, but that doesn’t mean Labs are due any special treatment – particularly since they are afforded special treatment every minute of their waking lives. I mean, those things are spoiled. OK, maybe they’re not carried around in pocketbooks, but still…

The selling point for Labradors in becoming the state dog is that they reputedly share three characteristics with human Mainers: they’re friendly, hard-working, and love the outdoors. Now, I’m not lobbying for the Shih Tzu to become the Maine state dog (we’ll settle for Maine assistant state dog), but we too are friendly and love the outdoors, unless the ground is covered with snow and ice, which wreaks havoc on our little pads.

What was that third thing?

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Dana Pearson is a writer living in Kennebunk, Maine.
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