As someone who has left the state and become a Mainer-in-exile, it can be tough to keep in touch with the happenings of the homeland. Imagine my surprise when I discover that despite the multitude of problems that plague the state, the Legislature is actually taking the time to debate whether or not the Labrador Retriever should be designated as the official state dog. Not only is this a bizarre and wasteful use of the legislatures’ time, it’s pointless to designate something as an official symbol of the state that lacks a solid connection to the history or culture of that state.
In addition to the standard state bird, flower, song, etc. that nearly every state has designated, Maine also has a state soft drink (moxie), dessert (blueberry pie), treat (whoopie pie), animal (moose), cat (Maine Coon), gemstone (tourmaline), soil (Chesuncook soil series), berry (wild blueberry), fossil (Pertica quadrifaria, a fern-like plant), and insect (honeybee). That’s more than enough symbols to properly represent the state, plus they are all relatively unique or special to Maine. I wouldn’t expect to go to a store in Virginia and pick up a case of moxie, but Labs, being the most popular breed of dog in the U.S., are literally everywhere.
While eleven states have designated a state dog, the vast majority of these breeds are named after something to do with the state or were developed in the state they represent. (e.g. the Alaskan Malamute or Boston Terrier.) This is not the case with Maine’s proposed state dog, which hails from Newfoundland.
Maine has landed on the Labrador Retriever, not because of the breed’s unique history or connection to the state, but because they are “friendly,” “work hard,” and “love the outdoors.” By that description, it’s clear that Labrador retrievers embody the characteristics of a
My little brother is friendly, works hard, and loves the outdoors. As a bonus, he was actually born and raised in Maine and has a deep connection with the state, unlike the Labrador Retriever. Should we designate him as the Official Maine State Male Citizen?
There are far bigger problems than an official state whatever that the Legislature should be spending time on, but as has been pointed out to me, a bill to designate maple syrup as the “state sweetener” is being discussed as well. Just, what? What’s next, a designation of vinegar as the official “thing to put on top of French fries”? (At least maple syrup is a Maine tradition and actually harvested in the state.) Maine’s taxes are high and the state consistently ranks low in lists of business-friendly states. It was discovered this week that over 40 percent of Portland’s long-term homeless shelter residents had over $20,000 in their bank accounts. That’s troubling, to say the least.
Aren’t these issues slightly more important than making sure that Maine has a state dog?