By Allen Best
Whistler reels from dog killings
WHISTLER, B.C. – Even a week after the story first broke, firm details seemed to be in short supply in a gruesome case in which somewhere between 70 and 100 dogs that had been used in a commercial sled-dog operation were killed.
The killings came to light after a dog handler filed for a worker’s compensation claim, claiming he was so traumatized after shooting and knifing the dogs during two days last April that he suffers nightmares, panic attacks and depression.
The Vancouver Sun, in its online version, warned of “extremely graphic content that might be disturbing to some readers,” as it related the dog-handler’s account of his executions.
In Whistler, about 70 dog-lovers staged a “funeral procession,” even as protests and angry comments were registered on a Facebook account.
In an editorial, Pique Newsmagazine stressed that the slaughter in no way characterizes the community. “We are a dog-loving town,” said editor Clare Ogilvie. “Many of our hotels welcome their four-legged friends, some offering special pet-get-away packages.” She also noted the local animal pound has a no-kill policy.
Columnist G.D. Maxwell said the news revealed plenty of ugliness: “I can’t decide which slice of humanity is more loathsome: the dude who killed the dogs … or the Facebook vigilantes, witch hunters and lynch-mobbers who have spewed their particular brand of venomous bile over his act.”
Joey Houssian, the owner of the dog-sled operation, told Pique this week, “There were roughly 50 dogs, that for quality of life issues, sick and elderly dogs were going to be put down.
“And we had every reason to believe based on (the dog-handler’s) reputation and professionalism that that would be done in a humane and competent and legal way.”
Save the King!
JACKSON, Wyo. – Nothing firm has been put into place, but talks are continuing about how to keep Snow King, the ski resort in the town of Jackson, operating.
In December, the existing owners announced that the lift operations had been losing money for decades. They set a date of May 1 to find a replacement operator. They have no plans to discontinue operation of a lodge and conference center.
To make this happen, town and officials from the Jackson Hole Land Trust hope to purchase two base-area parcels, to provide continued access to the ski hill. The ski area, located just six blocks form downtown Jackson, has a vertical of 1,571 feet.
“It’s the most visible open space in the valley,” Laurie Andrews, the land trust’s executive director, told the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Value of the parcels has been estimated at between $2 million and $6 million.
“Our love becomes a funeral pyre”
CRESTONE, Colo. – The Associated Press tells of a public cremation of a 48-year-old woman in Crestone, a small town at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado. Funeral industry officials say that Crestone is the only place in the United States where public, outdoor funeral pyres are performed for people regardless of religion.
Only a 100 people live in Crestone, but 1,000 in adjoining areas, which is located north of the great Sand Dunes National Monument and at the foot of five 14,000-foot peaks. It has become a very unusual community with a broad mix of religious faiths and lifestyles. The woman who died of a heart attack was no exception.
The AP report says the woman lived with both her husband and boyfriend, in apparent harmony. “We had a friendship between the three of us that very few people could share,” said her widower. She was described as a giving if stubborn person who loved motorcycles, the outdoors and smoking pot. During the cremation of her body, somebody dropped a bag of marijuana
Funeral pyres, a part of the Hindu and Buddhist religions, are unusual in Western cultures. Conducting the cremations is an organization called Crestone End of Life Project, which has performed 18 since its first in January 2008. It does so only for local residents, however.
School closings considered
GRAND LAKE, Colo. — To keep the budget balanced, officials at a school district in Colorado are talking about closing two elementary schools. The closings, if they occur, can be seen as a direct consequence of the economic slowdown.
One is at Grand Lake, at the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the other at Fraser, near the Winter Park ski area. The two are 35 miles apart. Students would be bused to Granby, equidistant between them.
Declining enrollment is part of the problem in the school district. The enrollment dropped 9 percent from last year. Because state aid to schools in Colorado depends upon enrollment, this has meant less money for operations. Compounding the problem has been declining state revenues, which has caused state officials to ratchet down aid to all schools. Escalating costs, particularly for health care and retirements, are the final piece of the financial bad dream. Altogether, the district of 1,325 students must cut $1 million from its budget.
“It is clear our school district is in crisis,” wrote one local resident, Reggie Paulk, in a letter published in the Sky-Hi News. “The problem is that it’s been in a crisis phase ever since the downturn began in late 2007, and it’s beginning to take a toll on our communities.”
Nancy Karas, the school district superintendent, points to the comatose construction industry as the reason for the enrollment decline.
In the Fraser-Winter Park area, many people argue that school closings will be viewed as some sort of white-flag of surrender.
“Schools are the hubs of their communities and have an importance that goes beyond education,” said Scott Ledin, of Fraser. “They play a major role in the economic development of their communities, and they make communities more attractive to newcomers. Businesses are more likely to move to communities with schools. And families will not move to communities without schools.”
Several ideas are being kicked around to help bolster revenues, at least delaying the day of reckoning for the schools. The Winter Park Town Council has discussed offering an appropriation to help keep the Fraser school remain open.
Another idea is to increase the sales tax, with revenues to the school district. The Steamboat Springs school district has such a tax. Another option would be to strip elective classes, athletics, and extracurricular activities. And, of course, there are complaints that school administrators make way too much money.