High Desert Hoofbeats: Jan. 23, 2020

I got an early peek at the creative packaging the Utah Health Department used on its new batch of condoms distributed to various public and nonprofit health clinics throughout the state. I chuckled at the bright colors and edgy slogans that poked fun at our oft-times backward-thinking state, thinking that perhaps these prophylactics would more likely be used than others that said Trojan.

But we’ll never know the efficacy of these rubbers, because our governor recalled them within a couple weeks of their distribution. He maintained that state money shouldn’t be used on them. He said the racy packaging was inappropriate, never mind how effective they may have been to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, which was why the condoms were manufactured in the first place.

His reaction in trying to recall 130,000 condoms from hundreds of sites was laughable in its naivety. But it was also tragic. The recall is costly with regard to state funding, but also in terms of safe-sex advocacy.

As state officials frantically tried to retrieve the thousands of condoms that had been distributed, I’ll bet many folks were trying to squirrel away the contraband devices. They will now become collectors’ items! The slogans and designs used to brand Utah’s interrupted health effort may become more famous than our governor had feared.

Speaking of unwanted pregnancies, my husband and I have a couple of new puppies, due in no part to our plans to have no new dogs.

My husband John and I were traveling to Arizona last week on our annual trek to warmer climates during winter’s worst weeks. We’ve made this drive dozens and dozens of times over the past 17 years, always pulling a big trailer full of horses and mules with a pickup, the backseat of which has always been filled with our dogs.

At times we’ve had up to four dogs crammed in with us, the most spoiled of which usually sits in the middle of the front seat. This year we only had three, with the passing of a beloved pet last fall who endured a litany of auto-immune diseases that I blamed on improper breeding from a puppy mill.

Four dogs are too many. Three is too many. But two of our current pack were rescued and have come to be some of the most important things in our lives. Somehow that helps me justify our plethora of canines.

Who knows why and how things happen the way they do. Call it fate, the universe, or luck, (good or bad). But when we drive south, we always wonder whether to take the truck route through Mexican Water to Kayenta and beyond, or whether to drive the scenic, curvy route through Monument Valley.

I opted for the scenic way last week, reasoning that the views from Butler Wash to Comb Ridge and on through Mexican Hat and the Mittens would help pass the time better than the straight-aways through Mexican Water. Just after we made the dog-leg at the San Juan River and climbed up to the fantastic views where Forrest Gump ended his famous dash, a strange sight caught our eye. On the empty pull-out that during the tourist season is filled with cars sat four small puppies in a pile, abandoned and confused.

“Turn around!” John said to me as I eased on the brakes. “Give me a minute!” I barked back, reminding him that we were pulling a heavy 24-foot trailer with equines who wanted a smooth ride. As we got back to the parking lot, another car had stopped to look at the pitiful sight. After conferring with these folks who were from the area, they urged us to take the babies to our destination near Phoenix where there might be a better chance of finding homes for them.

I scratched my head wondering where we put the little guys. My big dogs surely wouldn’t appreciate the invasion. I opened the tack room door of the stock trailer, made a cushion of saddle blankets, and John started loading them in. A chilly ride in the tack room with them huddled together would surely be better than leaving them on the side of the road, we reasoned. I opened a bag of jerky, and the pups devoured it with needle-like teeth. One, two, three, they piled together. “This fourth one I’m going to hold in my lap,” John informed me. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself. So much for being a three-dog family.

Through the network of social media, two pups have now been adopted by new owners, and friends have their eyes on the other two.

I’m glad we can help find homes for the pups, but I’m dismayed just the same. I guess there are other priorities in Monument Valley than canine spay and neuter programs, which can also be said for the state’s actions over what might have been a really good public health campaign.