Community, officials at odds over free-roaming dog

Blue the dog doesn

This image provided by Butte General Store and Marine shows a dog known as Blue, Wednesday May 30, 2012 in Elephant butte, N.M. (AP Photo/Butte General Store and Marine)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Blue the dog doesn't have a home. And he apparently doesn't want one. But the blue-eyed Australian cattle dog has $1,800 in savings, a Facebook page and an air-conditioned dog house.

He also has a lawyer, who is working to get him an exemption from local leash laws so he can continue his free-wheeling lifestyle in southern New Mexico's lakeside community of Elephant Butte, where he was abandoned as a puppy a decade ago.

The City Council has scheduled a June 13 meeting, where supporters of Blue, who is also known as Bluedog, hope to end an impasse over his fate.

Janice Conner, co-owner of Butte General Store and Marina, says it all began about 10 years ago when the dog was abandoned at Casa Taco, where Blue was cared for by the owner until he died two years ago.

After that, Blue made his way to the general store, where he was fed and peacefully coexisted until last spring, when a 48-year-old woman was fatally mauled by pit bulls in nearby Truth or Consequences.

After that, Conner says a woman started complaining to the city when Blue would follow her and her dog on a nearby walking path. And this spring, Conner's husband, Bob Owen, was cited for having Blue off-leash, prompting the legal skirmish that caught the attention of Albuquerque attorney and lake property owner Hilary Noskin.

Noskin says she is working pro bono, trying to win an exemption for Blue so he can live out the rest of the years in front of the store he now calls home.

"He's one of my favorite clients," says Noskin. "He is a sweet, sweet dog. He doesn't meet any vicious dog standards. Somebody said he snarls ... but I am not sure I believe that."

City Manager Alan Briley says the city hopes to reach a compromise on Blue, but he noted that the safety of the dog and the community comes first. He says the city has received complaints about Blue snapping and growling and almost being hit by cars crossing the street.

Conner says Blue has rebuffed several attempts at adoption, always making his way back to the store where he has become a community mascot of sorts. She says residents have dumped more than $1,800 in a jar for his care — funds she says she keeps for legal bills or medical issues. Residents have also built him a dog house with heating pads for the winter months and air conditioning for the summer.

"Everybody just loves this dog. People who can't afford a dog bring their kids here to play with Blue. ... He is the only dog I know who got four plates of Thanksgiving dinner at his dog house," Conner said.

Conner says she has collected more than 1,100 signatures in support of Blue, who is on Facebook as Bluedog EB-Mascot.

She says she just wants to find a way for Blue to "remain the way he always has. He was here before we became a city, so all we are asking for is for the city to grandfather him in as a representative of the community."


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