We first heard the news during the Western Montana Fair of a contest we had all been asking for, seeking nominees for Missoula County's first-ever Pet County Commissioner. Finally, we have a winner!
The contest was held partly as a fun way for people to join in with local government and to use the Missoula County Voice, a digital way for the community to offer feedback on initiatives and projects. The competition was fierce and the pet world was well represented with cats, a frog, chicken, dogs, a chinchilla, and a cow. With 174 votes Gidge beat 59 entries to become the contest victor.
Katie Connelly, Gidge’s owner says that he lost his right front leg as a puppy and was abandoned at about the age of one. When in 2020 she found him at Missoula County Animal Control he was the last dog at the shelter. Katie describes Gidge as an “underdog”. I think his status changed considerably when he crossed paws with Katie. Gidge ran for pet commissioner to give tripawds more visibility so more pets might have a chance to live happily on three legs.” More about this in a minute.
What is The New Pet Commissioner Barking About?
I asked if Gidge had a seating preference in the chamber or might get a special parking pass, Katie said Gidge wasn't asked about his platform during the submission process, he does have one. "He's less concerned about where he'll sit or getting a parking pass, though, and more about effecting change. He's listened to lots of his dog constituents, and is ready to get to work!"
One thing you can count on is a Border Collie having a plan.
With Katie translating, Gidge says, "To start, he'd like to work with his fellow Commissioners on a county-wide ordinance limiting when folks can light up fireworks. At present, fireworks can be lit at any time of day or night in the county, and where he lives in the Bitterroot, they typically go nonstop from June - August. He'd like to limit it to just around major holidays like the 4th of July." That's a good opener for a border collie! "Limiting the fireworks season to predictable times would make life better for the many pets who are fearful of them, and allow their owners to get a good night's rest without the loud bangs."
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Katie continued for Missoula County's first-ever pet county commissioner. "Second, he'd like to get the ball rolling on change that would allow restaurants with outdoor seating to determine for themselves whether they'd like to allow dogs at their establishments. I'm sure you know that dogs are not allowed on patios anywhere in Montana. We think Missoula should start the conversation for Montana to join the many states, from California to New York, that do allow dogs to sit politely beneath a patio table."
Connelly hopes that people become more aware because of Gidge’s appointment that Three-legged dogs can have and live happy lives. “We've found that most folks are surprised to learn dogs get around well on three legs,” Connelly said. “Gidge lost his leg in an accident, but often, three-legged dogs have beaten bone cancer. We're frequently stopped on walks by dog owners who are grappling with the decision to either amputate a leg or euthanize their pet after a cancer diagnosis. Seeing Gidge running around helps them make the decision to amputate and rehabilitate.
Paws That Pay Forward.
Katie says Gidge will be donating his $25 Murdocks gift card prize to the Missoula County Animal Shelter, where he benefited from the shelter staff's kind care when he was abandoned as a pup, and always planned to pay it forward if he won.
You might recognize Gidge as he serves as a therapy dog familiar to students at the University of Montana, and in his spare time likes rafting the Bitterroot and Clarkfork Rivers, hiking area trails, and visiting friends at the parks. Follow Gidge The Tripawd on Instagram @seegidgerun.
There will be a special proclamation honoring Gidge during the October 6th public meeting presented by three humanoid commissioners. You can bet the cheering will include a bark or two.
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