Of all the things running through my head during last week’s vote to recognize May 1 as National Purebred Dog Day, unbridled joy was not one of them.
Sitting as I was in the inner sanctum of the Colorado State Capitol, I could have been expected to be giddy, if not nervous, as I watched legislators vote on a resolution I’d written to “make official” an idea that had been conceived in a coffee shop eighteen months before. Mostly, however, I was aware of the death grip I had on the Puli in my arms. I had been worried that of all the dogs in attendance at the Capitol to witness the vote, mine would be the one dog inclined to misbehave, and he didn’t disappoint. As dog people, we can sense when our dogs have mayhem on their minds, and there was no doubt in mine that this dog wanted to burst out of my arms, scream up and down the aisles of the House chambers with cords flying in every direction, scatter important legal documents asunder, and eat 60 cookies placed on the desk of each Representative baked for the occasion by Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs member, Laura Pfleghardt. Whatever I was feeling on this day probably ran through the leash in my hand like an electrical current and straight into the pineal gland in this dog’s Puli brain.
I remember looking at my husband as he took in the grandeur of the Senate chambers. There’s never been a time he didn’t support me or express pride in something I’d done no matter how small it was. This time, however, there was something really grand for him to see.
I remember watching “Emmitt,” a sweet, well-mannered American Staffordshire Terrier “chilling” on the floor of the House chambers in a city where his breed is banned. I thought to myself that if National Purebred Dog Day does nothing else, please let it one day help rid the state of this awful piece of legislation.
And finally, I remember looking at “Marci,” a Field Spaniel, and “Logan,” a Skye Terrier, two breeds listed as vulnerable in the UK. If National Purebred Dog Day does nothing else, I thought to myself, please let it help bring attention to breeds at risk so that we don’t lose any of them in my lifetime.
When it came to my thoughts about the actual passage of the resolution, however, it was this: National Purebred Dog Day officially recognized – check. Next.
I admit that having the resolution passed by the same state that made shelter animals its state pet in 2013 was very sweet, but its passage was never the end game. I view it as an encouraging first step towards restoring balance to the national conversation about responsible dog ownership. National Purebred Dog Day gives purebred dog owners a public platform on which to celebrate the heritage, diversity and versatility of our different dog breeds. On one day at least, surely we can link arms to beat back the mischaracterization of purebred dog ownership by those who would see our demise. National Purebred Dog Day is another tool.
NPDD had so much support through encouragement, participation on its Facebook page, and contributions to the Kickstarter campaign to fund its website that reviewing the journey to this point isn’t necessary. It’s time to share what helped National Purebred Dog Day get recognized in Colorado.
One need not be a “political animal” to ask a state representative or senator to introduce a resolution in one’s home state, and most people aren’t. I can’t deny the advantage, however, of making yourself known to your representatives as a voting constituent:
- We grouse and fret over legislation that’s destructive to dog owners and breeders, but the fact remains that even bad laws are put in place by a legislative process;
- More of us need to run for office, become delegates, volunteer for campaigns, write letters and attend caucuses. The co-sponsor of the National Purebred Dog Day resolution in the House, Dianne Primavera, was a former fancier, herself, and I have to think it helped;
- The connection I made as a state delegate with a person running for office a few years ago turned out to be invaluable. Polly Lawrence lost her election the first year she ran, but two years later, she ran again and won. Occasionally, we would see each other at meetings or assemblies and wave to each other across the room. Last year, Representative Lawrence became the Minority Whip in the House shortly after I had just finished writing the resolution. During an assembly, I leaned forward in my seat to whisper in Rep. Lawrence’s ear. “Would you introduce a resolution recognizing May 1 as National Purebred Dog Day?” I asked. She whispered back, “Sure,” and the rest, as they say, is history.
Following this paragraph is a link to HJR 15-1015 in its final form, the Colorado House Joint Resolution for National Purebred Dog Day May 1. It reads “legislatively” correct because of Phil Guidry, Senior Legal Analysist at the AKC, to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude. He not only encouraged me early on, but also took my resolution and crafted it into a legal document that passed legislative muster without changing the “guts” of what I’d written. I’m sharing the document here if you want to pursue recognition of NPDD in your own state. http://www.leg.state.co.us/CLICS/CLICS2015A/csl.nsf/fsbillcont3/1AD9E9BF2F7EE97C87257DC4008291CA?Open&file=HJR1015_enr.pdf
I credit Sheila Goffe, the AKC’s Director of Government Affairs, for having secured AKC support for the resolution. She understands what the dog fancy is up against, and saw to it that Colorado legislators got a letter of endorsement signed by AKC President, Dennis Sprung. With this letter, I had an inkling of what it would feel like to be in a bar room fight and know that a 350 lb. lineman has your back. If you want to introduce the resolution in your state, contact Sheila and Phil because their guidance will be invaluable.
AKC elections coincided with the introduction of the resolution, so I was especially grateful to Sheila for making sure we had AKC representation in person. I suspect Diana Wilson, our Field Rep, wore a Super Woman belt under her suit given the many places she had to be in at once that same morning.
The timing of when to introduce a resolution has everything to do with your state. Texas, for example, meets every two years, while legislative bodies in other states meet only during certain months. When the Legislative Director for the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs, Linda Hart, asked if I’d like to have the resolution introduced during the Federation’s annual “Dog Days at the Capitol” event, it seemed like a logical partnering that also turned out to be a fortuitous one. We learned only the day before the resolution was to be introduced that we lacked a needed Senate co-sponsor. It was the Federation’s lobbyist, Charlie Sheffield, who scrambled to help get us one.
I was prepared to “go it alone” when it came to getting this resolution passed, and it can be done if you’re concerned that you are a force of one in your state. If you find that your “merry band” comes from all aspects of dog ownership, I believe that when individuals are dedicated to a common goal, they can accomplishment great things. If resources are available that don’t compromise the effort, however, take them. If your state has a Federation of Dog Clubs, it’s a potential resource, as is your all-breed or training club. I did wonder what I would have done had I been entirely on my own when I learned that I was “short” a co-sponsor, and it was another lobbyist who told me that “freelance” lobbyists can be hired for a short term effort. Having a lobbyist who’s not intimately familiar with your “cause” can be problematic if you don’t coach them accordingly, but if you think you might need one, ask Sheila or Phil how to proceed.
The video below is one you may have already seen if you participated in the Kickstarter campaign, but because I was convinced that the dogs in it “sold” our message, I had the ending redone so that it could be shown to Legislators before they voted (the original video was, after all a fundraiser, and asking elected representatives for money seemed like a really bad idea). During the showing of the video in the House chambers, I could hear people actually say, “Awwww” when seeing the puppies, chuckle at the “Slow-Mo Pulik” admire the Bloodhound’s stoic beauty, and gasp when hearing that Panda Bears outnumber Skye Terriers. I invite you to use this video when you pursue the resolution in your own state, but you’re going to need the file, not a You Tube link. Contact me for more on that.
There is one more video I’ll be making available to you, but it’s still in production. Carri Wilbanks, the same producer who so beautifully put together the Kickstarter video, was invited to witness the vote on the resolution. When I asked if she could bring along a videographer to record the day’s events, she enthusiastically agreed that it would be a great thing to show people in other states. In another week, the video should be posted here.
I finish up with more pictures taken last week, but please, if you want to pursue recognition of National Purebred Dog Day in your own state, I’d like to hear from you. Honoring our purebred dogs is something that I’ve love to see spread across the country. Who will be next?