If Raven the Labrador retriever looks glum during her next appearance with TV host Ron Schara, blame the Minnesota Legislature. At the end of the 2019 session, lawmakers approved an official state bee but failed to pass a measure making Raven’s popular breed the official state dog of Minnesota.
The rusty patched bumblebee now joins the morel mushroom, the Honeycrisp apple, the walleye, the common loon and the lady-slipper flower on the list of state symbols and icons. The bee, which is endangered, is a welcome addition, with the designation putting a spotlight on hardworking pollinators and the modern threats posed to them and the environment.
But if Minnesota has a bee, an official muffin (blueberry), a state reptile and a state soil, there should be room for a beloved companion animal. Especially one that so joyfully shares with us a love of Minnesota’s great outdoors.
These warmer months are when state pups really shine. Neighborhood yards are a stage for their Frisbee-catching aerial acrobatics. Dogs are the first to leap aboard the family boat for a day on the lake. They literally are “happy campers” when their owners pitch a tent in a state park. When hunting seasons arrive, they’re active participants, especially the retrievers.
Raven journeyed to the State Capitol earlier this year to lend a paw to the official dog legislation introduced by State Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point. Ruud, who has a labradoodle named Jasmine, acknowledges that this wasn’t the most pressing political issue. Still, there’s value in it. The bill’s introduction offered a chance for collegiality at the Legislature. It attracted schoolkids’ interest, too, with a lesson involved in how laws get made.
Ruud put the bill on the back burner once heavier business came along. But she’d like to try again next year — and we hope she does. She also has a smart comeback for those who advocate for making rescue dogs the official “breed,” as other states have done, instead of going with the lab. Don’t most mixed dogs have Labrador somewhere in their family tree? she asked. Fair point.
Another reason for Ruud to try again: Wisconsin has an official state dog, the American water spaniel. If our neighbors to the east can honor their canine citizens, then Minnesota’s dogs deserve a representative as well in the state’s cultural hall of fame.