Sextiped Valley column: Sextiped Village revisited
Five years ago, I wrote a column about the village movement, a self-help organizing approach to the services seniors need to “age in place” well. Since then, I’ve learned how companion animals have been increasingly recognized as essential to their success. Today, I’m thinking it was short-sighted to only be thinking of seniors. The looming crisis in our valley is finally being faced up to, albeit with heavy hearts and a sense of impending loss of many of the things we all love about living here.
Like living close to wild nature: animals, rivers, forests familiar as neighbors. Features of home. When the five mountain lions had to be killed in West Glenwood this winter, it forced us to recognize who our beloved lifestyle makes homeless and starves. Many of us on the cusp of retirement will not be able to afford to stay here afterward, and those who come to fill our jobs won’t be able to live the way we have lived. Young people just starting out, some of them our own children, will have to leave. Geography imposes implacable limits on expansion. Even if we could build enough housing and roads, by driving out the wildlife, polluting the air and water, creating endless traffic jams and noise, our beloved community stands to lose everything that we cherish about it.
I celebrate that we are finally getting it. And it needn’t be all doom and gloom: Accepting the discipline of necessity doesn’t condemn us to unremitting grimness if we allow it to unleash our creativity. Yes, adapting to the new reality will be challenging. We’re not used to it, and most of us don’t relish the prospect. But I predict that we’ll discover even more pleasurable and satisfying ways of inhabiting our treasured mountain communities.
To do what we must with lighter hearts, I venture to suggest we may be surprised to discover even more pleasurable ways of inhabiting our beautiful valley, as we make the transitions. And, because my “village” is made up of all the six-legged residents of the community, my attention is focused on how to bring this about, for us.
The new high-density residential complexes proliferating throughout the valley are now welcoming pets — an excellent thing. The problem is, most of the designers and managers don’t really understand what it takes to integrate pets in harmonious densely sextiped habitats; also, their new residents, unless they come from big cities, lack the salient experience. But we’re not without resources; we just have to organize them to facilitate the outcomes we want.
For example: Property managers could contract with entities familiar with those local resources for working adults with pets — dog day cares, pet sitters, and dog walkers. Setting up opportunities for tenants with dogs to meet each other as neighbors would encourage helping exchanges. Locals who know the best places to hike, climb, play in the water with dogs, and who know the groups organized around dog activities — the kennel club, the therapy pet group, participants in canine sports from agility to nosework to parkour — could introduce the new folks. The problem solvers — trainers, behavior experts, veterinarians — could reach out to the newcomers, helping them cultivate the manners and health that sextiped city lifestyles require. Municipalities and businesses could encourage the presence of well-behaved companion animals by creating incentives, such as welcoming dogs who have earned the Canine Good Citizen certification into public places and transportation. These are not pipe dreams; they are an organizational challenge to coordinate the knowledge and skills already available among us.
We raise our human children to become members of the community, beyond our immediate households, by including them as we teach them the necessary habits. Pets respond to that kind of socialization, too. In the 400,000 years of co-evolution, humans and dogs have mostly lived together that way. The few post-World War II decades of banishment to mostly solitary restriction to houses and yards have not been good for our bond, but they haven’t undone the fact that we have evolved to live happily and productively together in integrated communities. That’s the promise for a better sextiped future.
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.
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