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Nina in New York: Official State Dog is Gus! (Kinda)

A young professional's take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

Quick. What's New York State's official flower? No peeking.

It's a rose! I actually didn't know that. Did you?

Okay, what's the fruit?

That's easy: Apple. If you didn't get that one, get outta town. Seriously, go.

Bird? Eastern Bluebird (very patriotically colored). State beverage? Fresca! Milk! State freshwater and saltwater fish, respectively? Brook Trout and Striped Bass. Delicious!

Incredibly, we also have a designated state animal (beaver), insect (ladybug), muffin (apple, of course), tree (sugar maple), bush (lilac), gem (garnet), reptile (snapping turtle), shell (bay scallop), and more. Edutaining, isn't it?

Actually, I'm a little disappointed. Our selections are about as Plain Jane and obvious as they get, perhaps with the exception of our state fossil, the sea scorpion (for reals), and our state schmear, whitefish salad (possibly less real). I have a lot of state pride, but what is with these snoozy symbols? We may be iconic, but we're a more original bunch than represented here, aren't we?

Now we have the opportunity to pull our state out of Dullsville, with new legislation being introduced for an official state dog! While other states have gone mainstream with these choices, like Pennsylvania's Great Dane, Massachusetts' Boston Terrier (duh) or Virginia's American Foxhound, the representatives behind this bid are proposing an unusual choice: The rescue dog.

Meaning, the New York State official dog will be any pup who has fallen into some bad luck and been rescued by some large-hearted human(s). He or she could be a purebred or a cross of two breeds or a fifth-generation mutt; could have one eye or three legs; could be any color or combination of colors, tall, short, squat, beautiful or with a face only a mother could love. The one sure thing is that our state dog will be the luckiest dog in the world for having gotten a second chance at life, and in some cases a first.

Everything about this is completely perfect. The primary goal behind the idea is to encourage more people to get their dogs from shelters and rescue groups, which I can attest firsthand is a joy. Gus is a wonderful, adorable, happy, well-adjusted dog, and the knowledge that he was abandoned and we saved him makes me go all mushy inside. I think he knows it, too. The same is true for so many of the shelter dogs I've met in our neighborhood. But if you go beyond that practical purpose, there's a deeper metaphor here. Rescue dogs come from all over the country, with origins all over the world. And any dog, no matter how pure of breed, could find itself in need of rescue. Their backgrounds are a patchwork which can never be unraveled. They've survived tough times and they're tougher for it, without losing their love of life. Some are scrappier than others, some are still trusting in spite of mistreatment. All of them have the capacity to start over regardless of their pasts.

Seems about right, doesn't it?

(Cat people, don't feel badly. It sounds like an Upper West Side Assemblywoman is going to see to it that the Rescue Cat is next up for discussion.)

(Beaver people, don't you feel badly either. I am sure there is an equally great reason for why the continent's largest rodent occupies the throne in our state's animal kingdom.)

Do you agree with the proposal to name shelter dogs as the official state canine? Sound off the comments...

Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I'm always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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