AUGUSTA, Maine — Wednesday was “Dog Day Afternoon” in Augusta for lawmakers considering whether to make the Labrador retriever Maine’s official pooch.
“Here we are, with the most anticipated bill of the month,” Sen. Michael Willette, R-Mapleton, said as he gaveled a roomful of dog lovers to order, launching a hearing on LD 107, An Act to Recognize the Labrador Retriever as the Official State Dog.
“I will not lie. At first I was like, ‘Oh no, the whoopie pie all over again,’” Sen. David Dutremble, D-Biddeford, said referring to a 2011 bill that drew some scorn for lawmakers’ attention to naming an official state treat. “One may ask, why the Labrador retriever? I answer, why not?”
Indeed. If there was any opposition to the measure, it wasn’t voiced during Wednesday’s hearing. If there were lobbyists for poodles or bulldogs, they weren’t registered with the Maine Ethics Commission. And if the non-Labrador canine masses care, they didn’t come to Augusta on Wednesday to howl against the idea.
“Like Mainers, the Lab is capable of working under very harsh conditions and has one of the friendliest personalities around,” Dutremble said. “I believe that the Labrador retriever does fit the state of Maine and stands for the very things we as Mainers believe in: hard work, versatility and most of all a friendly demeanor.”
The idea isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds, argued Stacy Gile, who asked Dutremble to sponsor the bill. After all Maine, already has an official animal (moose), bird (chickadee), fish (Atlantic salmon), beverage (Moxie), dessert (blueberry pie) and cat (Maine coon cat).
Gile, who clearly did her homework and presented the State and Local Government Committee with a polished binder full of information, said 11 other states already have an official dog. She provided data that showed there are numerous Maine towns and cities from Arundel to Vinalhaven where more than one in five registered dogs is a Labrador retriever.
“By sheer numbers alone, they are the de facto state dog,” Gile said.
But character also should be a consideration, according to at least one woman who testified before the committee.
“I had a Lab that passed away after 13 years,” said Holly Merrow, a third-grade teacher from South Elementary School in Rockland who also is a dog rescuer. “I was able to come home to wags, jumps and kisses every day, and I still do with my other two Labs.”
Three of Merrow’s students came to Augusta on Wednesday to lobby lawmakers on behalf of Labs.
“They are excellent family dogs,” 8-year-old Sophia Clayton said. “They can retrieve ducks without damaging them.”
Classmates Aliza Gamage and Leona Dec agreed.
“They are very smart and loyal to the family,” she said. “I should know because when I was a baby I had a black Lab growing up. I know he was very kind and he loved everybody. That is why I feel the Labrador retriever should be the Maine state dog.”
“They just so playful and they love people,” Dec said.
It’s unclear how the bill will fare as it moves through the legislative process, but the measure might encounter difficulty when it reaches Gov. Paul LePage, whose family has a Jack Russell terrier mix named Baxter.