Today we'll visit Boulder, which is Colorado's longtime bastion of common sense and a place that would be sitting on $100 billion worth of minerals if you could mine "strange" in tangible form.
The reason for our trip to the old hippie haven (official town motto: "We Now Have More Aging Nuts Than a YMCA Shower Room") is to examine the important legal case involving Cici the pink poodle.
Cici is actually white, but has been colored pink with organic beet juice by her hairdresser/owner. Said owner now faces a $1,000 fine. This is because Boulder has an actual city ordinance that prohibits the coloring of animals.
This is the same town, we should note, that recently allowed a pair of angry old lawyers to legally take from another landowner one-third of the vacant lot next to their home. The elderly couple seized the land with the help of a friendly Boulder judge because and here I use the complex legal term the old bastards liked to walk on it. (See "How to "own' land in Boulder," Ranger Rich, Nov. 29, 2007.)
It's also the same animals-are-people town where it's legal to pump poison gas into the burrows of prairie dogs, just as the environmentally sensitive folks at the Celestial Seasonings tea factory in Boulder did in 1999. (Celestial later claimed it was just giving the prairie dogs free samples of its Sleepytime tea.)
But Joy Douglas has to go to court on April 7 because she used organic beet juice to make her poodle pink. This is a crime. (We should hope the federal government doesn't get involved. Frankly, I'm not sure any of us would be ready to see grainy surveillance tape of a poodle being waterboarded.)
Douglas even explained her pink poodle to city officials.
"Cici is a conversation piece," she said. "Customers ask why the dog is pink, and then we tell them about breast-cancer awareness and ask them to make a donation."
From Lisa Pedersen, director of the local chapter of the Humane Society: "We've received a number of complaints about the dog. We've been out to talk with Joy several times. Finally we gave her a ticket to let the courts decide the issue."
Writing the ticket for having a pink poodle took valuable time away from the Boulder Valley Humane Society's more important work: trying to get Howie the Hawk and Mikey the Mouse to be friends. (Update: Last week, teachers said Howie still seemed to be having quite a bit of trouble "keeping his talons to himself.")
Colorado Springs, by the way, has no ordinance dealing with the coloring of animals. The only thing close is Ordinance 12-45-7654, which states that City Council members must share their crayons with each other and they should all "try their best" to stay inside the lines. (Last week, Mayor Lionel Rivera put down his crayons, shouted, "Me color a cow!" and lifted his coloring book to show everyone a horse.)
Boulder City Manager Frank Bruno said the Cici case has stirred talk of amending or repealing the ordinance.
"It's an old law," he said. "Hair-coloring products have changed and aren't really a health concern anymore. Maybe this is the time to change the ordinance to reflect that."
Others in the town feel even stronger.
"We have a lot of important issues to discuss in Boulder, and people dyeing their poodles pink is not one of them," veteran city council member Ken Wilson said the other day, using the same angry tone favored by respected state Rep. Doug Bruce just before he kicks the box of cookies out of the terrified Girl Scout's hand.
Boulder councilman Wilson, an engineer and microbiologist who's pursuing a second master's degree in ecological and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, said Boulder's animal-coloring ban was enacted in the 1980s.
"It was done," he said, "to keep people from coloring their Easter chickies and Easter duckies."
Which leads to the obvious question in terms of animal welfare: Where else but Boulder would a brilliant, 57-year-old microbiologist say "chickies" and "duckies"?
No one knows.
What we do know is that the Boulder city attorney's office is hard at work. From prosecutor Janet Michels: "We are evaluating the case. Our investigation is continuing."
And I think I speak for all of us when I say this: God help the guy who strangled 6-year-old JonBent Ramsey 12 years ago if Boulder authorities ever find out that he uses organic beet juice on his poodle.
Listen to Rich Tosches each Thursday at 8 a.m. on MY99.9. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.