The New Mexican town of Elephant Butte has a resident Australian cattle dog named Blue that roams around, presumably asking for a) belly scratches and b) food. What Blue hasn't asked for is to be tethered to a leash, i.e. society, but Blue's bondage was the most recent point of contention in Elephant Butte's City Council, which wrestled with whether or not the 11-year-old Blue would continue to amble around town at his whim.

The New York Times reports that Elephant Butte — which I'd be remiss for not mentioning lies right next to Truth or Consequences — has been Blue's home ever since he was abandoned by the Road Warrior, or some other such cavalier dog owner. He's pretty much a full-fledged human citizen, and has a bank account comprised of donations amounting to about $1,800 along with a Facebook page with almost 3,000 followers as of Friday. When he was a sprightly young pup, nobody really minded Blue lurking on the edges of the town's major thoroughfare, but now that he's old, motorists are starting to get irritated when they have to wait for Blue to drag his arthritic hindquarters across the road. Some residents of Elephant Butte just straight-up don't like Blue, or greedily covet his freedom for their own dogs.

All these resentments against Blue, however, only amounted to a small heap of inconveniences until two years ago when a woman filed a complaint against Blue, claiming he threatened her while she was walking her dogs. The City Council responded by imposing stricter leash laws as well as laws aimed at controlling vicious dogs. When a code-enforcement officer was checking in at the Butte General Store and Marine where Blue hangs out, Blue was discovered in non-compliance of the current leash regulations and store owner Bob Owen, who'd taken over stewardship of Blue, was issued a hefty fine. Owen contested the fine, and, though a judge gave him a reprieve, the City Council contended that court had no authority to delay punishment unless it brought Owen to trial (a trial has been scheduled for Aug. 9).

What happened next is a testament to how much people can love dogs. Elephant Butte's Blue faction marshalled support for their old canine friend, gathering more than 700 signatures in 15 days on a petition to let Blue keep wandering around town at his leisure. Meanwhile, Owen applied for variance on the city's leash laws, which prompted a Wednesday convocation of the City Council that drew a packed house of concerned citizens eager to offer creative solutions — specialized crosswalks, official mascot designation — to let Blue retain his locomotive independence.

After an hour of testimony, Mayor Eunice Kent relented, granting Owen a temporary reprieve on the leash law while he rigged up an electronic fence. I think it's safe to count this as a great victory for civic participation, and a good indication of what civic-minded Americans care most about — dogs, big ones, fuzzy ones, floppy ones, and even old decrepit ones with neck scabs or cataracts.

City Divides and Unites for a Dog Called Blue [NY Times]