Several months ago, my wife and I disconnected from cable television and now confine ourselves to watching shows streamed through the Internet on Amazon Prime. I have been amazed at how much more selective my viewing habits have become and, consequently, how much the quality of the shows has improved. Even my grandchildren are beneficiaries. Whereas my younger grandchildren formerly wanted to watch the unbearable Sponge Bob Square Pants, they now clamor for the clever Shaun the Sheep.
Shaun is a really smart sheep who, in contrast to Sponge Bob, accomplishes his goals with ingenuity and a sense of humor. He sometimes aligns himself with a stocking-capped sheepdog, but more often pits his wits against the dog and a farmer. Shaun also teaches a lesson of some kind in most episodes. Polling of a small group of city employees revealed that only one was familiar with Shaun, making this column a public service announcement. By way of caution, Shaun’s theme song is one of those tunes that gets in your head and never escapes.
Farm animals have been on my mind this week as the City Council has wrestled with the weighty issue of whether or not to allow raising pigs within the city limits. Our current municipal code flatly prohibits “swine” in the city, while allowing less redolent animals such as cows, chickens, horses, and rabbits. The proposed pig ordinance comes at the request of a mom who wants her children to be able to raise two pigs as a 4H project. The Council appears to be sympathetic to the proposal but felt the need for additional process before passing a new ordinance. Consequently, pig proposal proceeds ponderously, preventing porcine project’s prompt passage.
Albany is not the first city to wrestle with pigs. Oakridge once had a very long community debate over whether to consider second-generation pigs as nonconforming or illegal. An ordinance was passed prohibiting pigs in the city, but allowing existing pigs to be considered nonconforming. Hot debate ensued when the original pigs were taken to be slaughtered and were replaced by new pigs. Horses eventually settled the issue by replacing the offending pigs.
I probably shouldn’t make light of animal issues because they often become the most time-consuming and difficult problems to resolve. Dogs, cats, rats, deer, skunks, and pigs have demanded a fair amount of my time over the years; but my favorite story involved a somewhat overweight Lane County sheriff’s deputy chasing an emu down Highway 58 about 30 years ago.
Animals enrich our lives in many ways and have influenced my career in ways I would never have imagined. I hope to retire without any more animal controversies and with continued appreciation for opportunities to watch Shaun the Sheep with a steadily increasing number of grandchildren.