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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


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For the week of June 20 - June 26, 2001

  Opinion Column

More of a 
shaggy dog tale

Commentary by JoELLEN COLLINS

At any rate, I want to thank the Ketchum police and fire departments for their kind response to my plea for help. I realize I am lucky that someone else didn’t need them at that moment.

Heading over the crest of Elkhorn Road towards the Dollar Mountain lifts and Sun Valley Resort offers me every single morning another reason to delight in my hometown. This morning the early dawn sun lit the Boulder Peaks with pink and peach swaths thrown across remaining bits of snow, and the green on the hills was still vivid before summer’s change to a palette of warm yellow-browns. One more item for my gratitude list, I say.

I am reminded also of the generosity of the Wood River Valley’s inhabitants. A recently published letter by Meg Monday thanking the many donors who raised funds for her medical bills is only one of dozens of examples of the kindness of our neighbors. While some may grate at small-town intrusiveness, this is the other side of the coin. Friends are there when we need them.

And then, just a few days ago I was filled with rueful laughter and an overwhelming sense of joy that I live in what might be called a dog-friendly town. I have written before in this venue about the kidnapping and rescue of my then-puppy Oscar, a long-haired Jack Russell, and his exploits have become the source of storytelling at the elementary school where I work. Now he is the namesake of Gallery Oscar and can be seen there most days overlooking its activities with his pound-puppy sister, Olivia.

Oscar is 6 years old and supposedly less impetuous than in his puppy days. However, caring for him during his hours at the gallery has been trickier of late because a family of foxes has made a temporary home underneath the building. Oscar, whose ancestors were bred to chase foxes and root them out of burrows, has been obsessive in his desire to get beneath the gallery. We had mounted a plan to keep him away from them until they depart for the more "wild" hills nearby, but the other day someone removed a boulder we had placed at the only remaining possible entrance for Oscar. The foxes, incidentally, have many other tunnels for exiting and don’t need to be fed or helped by well-meaning people.

In a moment of our inattention, Oscar, though leashed and supposedly secure, broke free and dashed under the gallery. After several hours he was still there. It is said that some tenacious Jack Russells will die of starvation under a building rather than leave a fox alone. My fears were intensified when I noticed that his barks came from one particular spot, a heating vent. Sure enough, he was scratching from under the vent and it soon became apparent that he had gotten his leash entangled and couldn’t get free. I made many panicked attempts to reach him, tried to see if a crawl space was sufficient, and finally called the Ketchum Police’s Animal Control.

Within five minutes an officer was on the scene and soon determined that the crawl space was too daunting for anyone not in the proper gear, especially with the possibility of an angry mother fox nearby. Soon thereafter a paramedic vehicle showed up and a kind young man dressed in protective clothes and gloves tackled the problem. It took him a long time in a very tiny space, reminding me of old "Tom and Jerry" cartoons where critters flatten out when large objects hit them. I couldn’t imagine how he fit in the space. He did succeed in cutting the leash and Oscar was free.

There are, of course, some lessons in this near-debacle. One is obvious: we are surrounded by wildlife. A naturalist told Don DeVore, owner of Gallery Oscar, that there are probably 200 to 300 adult foxes in the combined cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley, alone. How do we handle the resultant conflict of interests humanely?

While I think I am a responsible dog owner, I realize that I have to be even more wary and careful with keeping my dogs away from danger…and away from the temptation of harming other animals. Recently a woman hiking up to Pioneer Cabin with her two dogs encountered a large bear. Luckily, her dogs responded to the "Come" command and they made a safe descent down the mountain and away from the bear. But less well-trained dogs might have not obeyed and met a disastrous fate.

At any rate, I want to thank the Ketchum police and fire departments for their kind response to my plea for help. I realize I am lucky that someone else didn’t need them at that moment.

Thus, I have discovered another reason to appreciate living here. Those people who serve the community are not remote, as they might be in a big city. Every time I have ever had to speak to a postal worker, a local politician, fireman or law enforcement officer, I have been treated with respect and courtesy. I know that I am not a faceless citizen. Last year this time I noted the desecration of a beloved campsite in Corral Creek. Within three days the Forest Service had cleaned it up and fixed it so that vehicle drivers could no longer drive up to the spot and leave messes. I thanked that agency then, and now I can add to my gratitude list the non-judgmental, courteous and hard-working police and firemen who gave me my doggie back.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.