Why do we not plan better to accommodate our other four legs?
OK, an explanation is in order. The title of this column has nothing to do with sex. Still less with having sex with your feet, as one friend speculated.
No, it echoes Australian veterinarian David Paxton’s term, the “urban sextipede,” coined to evoke the indivisible units of population in our communities, of which one part has four legs, the other part, two. The essential thing, in his view, is to bring the indivisible nature of the units into focus. Instead of seeing human communities that contain companion animals, we see mixed-species communities. How does this matter?
We think of our valley as a pet-friendly region. There’s a ton of evidence for how tightly dogs and cats are woven into the fabric of our lives, our recreation, travel, home life, work, law and economy. And yet … when it comes to challenges of integrating companion animals into our public spaces, we tend to treat evidence of their presence as a sort of anomaly.
Take dog poop, for example. I read that some towns are even using DNA technology to track down and punish the owners of offending dogs. Paxton would ask, from a sextiped perspective, why the biological inevitability of their poop has not, instead, been anticipated and appropriately accommodated. We do have poop bag dispensers at a few trail heads, but surely, with a fraction of the resources required to catch offenders through their DNA, we could come up with better solutions.
I once managed an animal shelter near Seattle that held 40–60 dogs. Through eight acres of wooded trails, volunteers walked the dogs twice a day. Just picture the piles. The outings were so important to the dogs, and took so much time to accomplish, that picking up each deposit was really not feasible. But we had an idea: slugs. We advertised in our newsletter for gardeners to collect and deliver them to us. Once we seeded the trails with enough slugs, the piles magically disappeared, every day. It’s too dry for slugs here, but we might try Sydney, Australia’s solution and seed dog parks and comfort stations with dung beetles.
The point is, once we accept dogs as part of our sextiped community, contributing to its broad diversity of both gifts and needs, practical accommodations would be made as a matter of course.
We acknowledge the place individual dogs and cats occupy in our families, even if we’re a little uneasy about where they belong in the public sphere. Acknowledge?
We plan our weekends and vacations to include them, celebrate their birthdays, give them people names – even middle names. No one blushes to call them family members. So how does that square with our expectation that they are also, simultaneously, just property, to be given up when inconvenient?
Several years ago, a customer of ours won the affordable housing lottery. She was ecstatic, until she read the fine print in the HOA rules and learned that if she took up her option to purchase, she would have to abandon one of her two dogs. What if the rules said you could have one elderly parent living with you, but not two? Or, sorry, you have one too many kids? Applying sextiped consciousness to problems of mixed species density, we will get solutions that are both more humane and more realistic.
I’d like to make this column an inspiration and resource for the families of our Valley sextiped community. Send your news, questions, brags and gripes, ideas and thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone me at 947-0014.
• The Fourth of July: Pets’ least-favorite holiday. Protect them from the noise of fireworks in a quiet, safe part of the house. Cotton in the ears, radio, TV and music can help. Talk with your vet or supplier of herbal calming products if your pet is really distressed.
• The Dundee Memorial Fund dog wash will be on July 7, noon till 4 at High Tails. For $15 you can have your dog washed, his nails clipped, with all proceeds going to pets needing help with vet bills.
• The weekend of July 13 & 14, the Roaring Fork Kennel Club holds its all-breed dog show and obedience trial at the Eagle County Fairgrounds. There is no admission fee other than a small charge for parking, which goes to Colorado Animal Rescue. Come and see dog breeds you’ve never even heard of. Watch the new sport of Rally Obedience, and learn about the Canine Good Citizen certificate program.
Laurie Raymond has spent 55 of her 66 years living, working and playing with animals of all kinds. For the last 9 years she’s been the owner of High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.
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