“What does it feel like to be retired?” I asked.
My companion, who had been sleeping under the coffee table, roused himself, yawned broadly, and mumbled something I didn’t quite hear.
“Could you repeat that, please?” I said.
“I’m not retired,” he said. “I can’t be. I’m only three years old!”
“Oh, excuse me! I could have sworn you were retired. You’re so…relaxed. You never seem busy with any real task.”
“Excuse me? Excuse me? I am busy all day long,” he said.
I thought perhaps I shouldn’t sound so peevish. “It just seems to me that you spend so much time napping,” I said. “Perhaps you have a health problem.”
“I am in perfect health, as you well know. I eat sensibly, get a little exercise every day, don’t drink to excess, certainly don’t smoke, and come from a long line of champions,” he said, rather testily.
“But when I leave in the morning and when I come home at night, you are sleeping!” I said. “It makes me a little envious, if you must know.”
“You can safely put away the green monster,” the dog-who-must-not-be-written-about said. “I have a very full day, and have to catch a few winks whenever I have the chance. I never know when I will be awakened in the middle of the night, and I have to be ready to go to work!”
“But what is it exactly that you do?” I asked.
“What do I do? I guard you! I guard the house! I guard the yard! It’s a full-time job! I can’t believe you asked what it is I do. This is demoralizing!” he said.
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful,” I said. “I am just truly curious. So you are a guard dog?”
“I most certainly am! It is a canine’s highest calling. We compare ourselves to the Royal Guard, or the Secret Service! I am proud to be among the guard dogs of the world,” he said.
“It’s just that one doesn’t usually think of a standard poodle as a guard dog. A German shepherd, maybe. A Doberman, or a pit bull, perhaps,” I said.
“Oh, so I have to look like a Mafia goon to be a guard dog? I am insulted. Certainly I have pride in my appearance — no scars, no bald patches. But that’s because I am so effective I never have to get into an actual fight. I am rather above all that, a different breed, you might say.”
“Of course, of course. So what is your typical day like?” I asked.
“Mornings are usually the birds at the feeders. Except in the early spring and again in the fall, the squirrels come to the window box right outside my window, and I have to take care of them. They don’t even wait for dawn. They’re quite bold and they don’t scare very easily. Greedy little rodents.”
“I wondered why you were barking like crazy and waking me up. Greedy?” I asked.
“They bury their nuts in the window box because it’s under the porch roof and doesn’t get covered with snow. You’d think that it was a matter of life and death the way they hoard those things. Nuts, of all things.” he said. “But I scare them off. And then there are the deer, the coyotes, a raccoon at night, and, of course, the neighbor’s cats who scare the birds away.”
“I thought it was your job to scare the birds,” I said.
“It is! It’s simply job security to scare the cats, I admit,” he said.
“So, you keep pretty busy,” I said.
“It’s exhausting,” he said, and yawned. “Just give me a couple more minutes of shut-eye.”
A little more taken from public
The Minnesota Legislature has eased state school districts’ money worries, but it may have increased yours. The Winona Public Schools Board will be able to vote to increase its levy by $300 per pupil unit, for a total of another $1 million a year in funding.
The significance of this new law will be felt in the Winona district when our present levy override expires, in 2016. Right now, the district levies for the highest amount allowed, about $1,550 per pupil unit per year.
The new law allows the district to levy the $1 million without a vote from the citizens and taxpayers. If the new levy override amendment, which the school district will most surely be seeking soon, were not to get voter approval in an election, the district would still get the extra $1 million per year.
The law also will allow the district to go to the voters for a lesser amount than usual, since it will have the $1 million already in hand. That would make for a very nice selling point for the override referendum: we are asking for less than the last time we came to you; only $1,200 this time, not the $1,550 we asked for last time.
We are not in favor of bypassing the public in allowing governmental bodies to levy taxes. We were opposed to shoving Lake Park into an industrial zone in order that a public vote to improve the park and bike path could be avoided, and are glad that the city has reversed its decision on that issue.
The public has little opportunity to assert its authority on local government, except at the ballot box. With this new law passed by the Minnesota Legislature, the public’s authority has been diluted that much more.
The Winona Public Schools already spend the most per pupil unit in the Big 9. They even spend more than the Edina district. The public should have some say in how much is spent, and have an idea of what that money is buying. Government, even — or maybe especially — school districts, should not be allowed unfettered spending. For the state to diminish the public’s authority with laws such as these is not right.
Next time you go to the ballot box, think carefully before you automatically vote your favorite candidate or party. Find out what authority and freedom that party has denied you and how much more of your money it has appropriated in the past few years before you check that box.