• Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Destiny Scaife plays with her 3-month-old yorkie-poo puppy Lonzo on the University of Colorado campus.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Adam Swetlik and his dog Stuart chill out on the University of Colorado campus.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Bass Moulart, of Boulder, throws a frisbee for his dog Scoutie at a pond on the University of Colorado South Campus in Boulder.



Did you know that it is possible to live in Colorado and not own a dog? Judging by the number of canine companions here, it’s in the Official Guide to Being a Coloradoan: Thou shalt have at least one fluffy, slobbery, four-legged friend. Seriously, the state mascot should be a white couple with a dog. Or two.

There are approximately 15 billion dogs in Colorado at the moment, so making sure everyone gets along is more important than ever. It’s not difficult to be a good dog owner (or guardian, which is the preferred term ’round these parts). It really comes down to following a few simple rules to keep it all from going to shit. Literally.

Which leads us to the first rule of Fido Club …

Pick. Shit. Up.

It’s really that simple: If you’re dog drops a deuce anywhere that isn’t a litterbox or a toilet, bag those turds. Then carry the bag to an approved garbage receptacle. Deposit the crap. Walk away, safe in the knowledge that you have done the right thing and will be rewarded in an afterlife of your choosing.

You don’t have to take your dog everywhere

Does Butternut really need to tag along while you shop for kale and hummus at Whole Foods? Or sit in your lap while a minimum-wage worker paints your nails? Or stroll the aisles of our local home improvement store while you pick out the perfect shade of plum for an accent wall?

You may think the answer to all of these questions is yes, but you’d be an idiot. There are plenty of places where waggers are welcome — including parks (human and otherwise) and trails (see a full list at bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/dog-regulations-by-area) — but just because you can tote Toto with you doesn’t mean you should.

I’m going to tell you something that probably never occurred to you: Your dog likes being home. There are toys there. And food. And soft beds. And her favorite humping stuffed animal. She’s not going to pine away without you for an hour or two; she’ll be fine, and so will you.

Keep your bitch on a lease

As the mother of a GOP (grumpy old pup), nothing grinds my gears like a big, dumb golden doodle charging up to my snarling darling seemingly oblivious of body language. Unless it’s the sanguine response of a pet parent insisting, “He’s friendly!” and languidly attempting to get Porkchop under control.

Yes, most dogs are lovable balls of lick-y goodness. But not all. Just like the people who care for them, some have come from adverse circumstances. It’s not cool (or safe) to let them run up to humans or beasts willy-nilly.

That goes for off-leash trails, too. Boulder leads the pack when it comes to its off-leash open space tag system, but — and this is important — your pooch needs to go (or not go) where you tell it when you tell it.

One place your dog should definitely not spend time: A parked car. They can and do die from the heat, and the fuzz (not the cute kind: cops) can and do issue tickets for hot dogs (police-speak for canine in a car). More than that, Colorado has a Good Samaritan Law that allows passersby to bust your windows and remove Rover.

Make it official

Even if Sir Licks-A-Lot stays cosseted in the confines of your casa, she’s going to need a license.

You have 30 days after you move to Boulder/purchase your pooch to get tags, which need to be worn at all times. A license requires a rabies vaccination and costs $15 per year for a fixed beastie; $30 for an au naturel stud or studette (although I’d recommend following the Good Word of Bob Barker and getting those bits snipped). Learn more about licenses here: bit.ly/dog-licensing.

While you’re at it, why not go for that open space tag we talked about earlier? Those cost $13 for Boulder residents, $33 if you live outside city limits and $75 if you’re not from here at all. Deets: bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/voice-and-sight.

General tomfoolery

If you are on the fence about your readiness to have a little bundle of floof all your own, consider these few things: Are you regularly away from home longer than eight hours at a time? Do you enjoy walking for extended periods in all sorts of crazy weather? Have you kept the same plant alive for more than five years? Will you have extra cash for veterinary care and unexpected illnesses or injuries?

If you are, don’t, haven’t and HELL NO (respectively), a dog probably isn’t for you. They are living creatures. They need things. Lots of things. Things that require much time, energy and money — things that generally don’t occur in abundance all at once.

When I first rescued my sweet angel, it was pre-recession; I was flush with cash. She got the fanciest food, took monthly trips to the groomer and went to the vet for every little sniffle. Now, in leaner times, she gets a bath once a year and it’s stretch to scrape together the coin to get a doc to look at a suspicious lump. (Tumor Willis turned out to be benign fatty cyst, thankfully.)

The point is, your relationship with your dog will (hopefully) be the longest of your young lives. (Twice as long as a first marriage, on average.) Consider it carefully.

Shay Castle: twitter.com/shayshinecastle

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