Dear Governor Ducey,
I think I wrote you about this before. Our dog Cleo died last April. She was a big German Shepherd/Malamute mix who had hip dysplasia when she was a puppy. She had surgery on each hip, readjusting it, lifting the socket so the joint fit inside properly, pinning the bones together so she could walk. The veterinarians weren’t sure she would avoid arthritis. They weren’t even sure she would live to be three years old. But she lived for thirteen and half years, and, until the last year or so, lived pretty happily. Eventually, she didn’t have enough strength her hips to stand up. We had to carry her outside every morning. She lay on her dog bed and ate biscuits until she wouldn’t even eat those anymore.
I have missed her a lot. I imagined her coming around the corner of the house or hear waiting at the back door or scratching at the front. I told Erik that I couldn’t get another dog until I stopped seeing visions of Cleo. A month or so ago, Erik started sending me pictures of dogs at the Humane Society. Those visions began to layer in my brain. I would ask him, why this dog instead of all the rest?
When he finally convinced me to go to the shelter I said, How could we choose just one?
So we didn’t. We chose two. A German Shepherd-mix puppy (oh my god, who gets a puppy?) and a sweet one-year old German Shepherd-mx. Apparently, German Shepherds speak to me. Or the visions of Cleo have turned imaginary to real.
I am still a little resistant to this idea. I have three books to finish! I don’t have time to let a puppy outside every 6 minutes. I don’t have time to carry the mad cats over the dogs so they can get to their litterbox and food.
But Erik says, we have enough love for more and I said, yes, that is true.
So, two dogs, two cats, two kids, and two saps live together in our three-bedroom house and yard with no fence.
To keep the dogs from bugging the cats and from peeing in the house all day, I’ve been snowshoeing in the forest behind our house. This forest is State Trust Land. It is well-loved in that there are probably too many trails and we run into many other dog-walkers and snowshoers but it’s the greatest thing about Flagstaff—that out my door and over one block is the beginning of the largest contiguous pine forest in the United States. In the forest, redtail hawks eye you from branches. I think I saw an owl yesterday. An osprey-like creature hangs out in a big snag close to the little man made lakes. One morning, I smelled something musky. I looked up and a heard of elk hung their heads in the early morning mist. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, and yes, humans and their dogs. I could walk to the Wupatki ruins in Walnut Canyon in just 10 miles. I could walk nearly forever, in this large, contiguous pine forest.
State trust land is a weird thing. Unlike Forest Service land, it’s saleable. Every time I see a tractor or a dumptruck parked at the end of the street, I get nervous. Who did they sell the land to? I begin to wonder. Why would they destroy this best thing? This is why I live here. If they start digging to put in more student housing, well, there would be no point in staying here.
Puppies are saleable too but, as indicated by the Humane Society, there are enough puppies already. And, it seems that the State actually has enough money in its Rainy Day Fund and its Surplus to restore the Budget Cuts of 2015 to Higher Ed, to commit to raising the salaries of public school teachers and lower the classroom size without selling any of this state trust land. Selling land to pay for education is shortsighted. There is only so much land. Like puppy populations, human populations continue to grow. There has to be a more sustainable model, like perhaps raising taxes just a little on this ever-expanding cohort of humans, than selling something that is rare and only as valuable as it remains contiguous and vast and available, not just to a single developer but to every single person who would like to snowshoe and dog-walk on State Trust land.