Strange bedfellows: Franks <3 Pannett

Reading Stephen Franks’ latest blog post, I almost choked on my granola and soy as he seemingly endorsed Iona Pannett’s re-election.

Iona Pannett has a licked in constituency of supporters – dog owners. Her willingness to tackle and moderate the original WCC hard line against dogs in the city, even on leashes, has secured her some long term support from across usual political division lines.

She has also been a reliable advocate for more exercise areas where dogs can run free (off their leads).

This is very true – Wellington’s dog owners are a very engaged aspect of local government. A few years back Pannett spearheaded a questionnaire of Wellington’s 7500 dog owners of which, over 3000 responded, and a draft policy was subsequently prepared for public comment the following year. Stephen continues:

I’ve always felt sad seeing poor leashed dogs trailing their people, or dragging them along. The real joy of walking a dog is in sharing its delight.  From the time the dog goes into whirling and dancing at the word “walk”, through to off-the-leash area running in ecstatic circles, until she gets home to tell the other members of the household just how exciting it all was out there, one shares the vicarious intensity of the dog world.

We can appreciate the possibility of a cat or possum to chase behind the next tree or bank. We can sense the adrenaline rush of surviving stranger-danger (the stiff-legged approach of the monster unknown dog). We may never know just what the world of scents means, as trees, posts, clumps of grass, and other dogs (and humans) are sniffed. But we can tell it is enormously satisfying to know more about the world. A walk seems to be the National Geographic Channel, and the History and Discovery Channels and a good book and some web surfing all rolled into one.

As we ‘exercise the dog’ we can know we are granting and delivering pleasure.

I can’t recall Stephen Franks ever conveying such emotional intelligence. This is beautiful stuff – it’s raining on my face.

And now we can be more confident that the pleasure is similar to ours, just as our anthropomorphizing has always told us. There is science to support the human-like joy in running free, and the worry that dogs never off  leads are suffering more than humiliation.

When deprived of the chance to really stretch out and run, they are missing the same highs that humans miss when they let themselves become sedentary. Dogs get from exercise the pleasures our couch potatoes try to replace with chocolate and other stimulants.

Pannett has long advocated for the need to see dogs as part of community, to allow them appropriate access to controlled areas, and to exercise properly probably more than any other Councillor in recent years. She might get ribbed by the likes of this blog frequently and regularly attacked by those on the Right of her, but she rightly deserves credit for her work on dog issues.

So lets hope that there are more of Iona’s tribe in the next Council. Perhaps Gareth Morgan’s anti-cat supporters can make a strategic alliance with Iona Pannett.

Whether or not that happens, Frank’s apparent endorsement of Pannett will probably remain one of the most intriguing things we’ll see this election cycle.

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