Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Murray laments blowback over school budget stance

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> Murray, the absolutely cutest and smartest dog in the universe who was trained to speak English by the Literacy Network of South Berkshire, came and sat down next to me.

His pink tongue was hanging out with no sign of doggie-breath since his mom brushes his teeth every night.

"Pops," he said, "I overheard a man in the street talking to Mom and he said that he thought I was dead. And there I am, standing right next to Mom."

"Murray," I said to him "How could that be? You're the single most famous pup in the extended area."

But the little pup looked up at me with a tear in his eye. "Well, Pops," he said, "You were writing about me for so long that people began to expect it. Now when you don't write about me or talk about me, I guess some people think that I've passed on."

"OK, Murray, I'll tell you why I've sort of laid off. There was an editor on this very newspaper and I don't think he liked me very much. One day he called and asked me not to write about a particular subject. And then he said, 'and that includes Murray.' "

I was frustrated since everyone knows that Murray speaks for himself. In fact, he has been known to write some of my columns, especially about educational politics. For example, Murray is very angry with some people in Great Barrington who voted against the school budget.

He recently barked at me and suggested that all those people who said that they were for education were anything but that. It was actually Murray who listed all those reasons why people were willing to shortchange our kids, like the fact that their children were already graduated or they went to private schools.

Then he told me he was also mad at some of the school leadership for not organizing the parents and staff of the school system to attend the town meeting. A dog he knows told him that only six staff members were at that town meeting.

"How do they expect to get reasonable raises if they don't even show up?"

Then the little pup said, "They sure better show up at the next meeting. Every parent of every kid in the school system who wants their child to get an even break had better be there."

I tried to explain to Murray that I was just trying to protect him. I think I should be the one to take the heat. I mentioned that one guy even called the radio station when we were talking about something else and tried to change the subject. The guy wouldn't shut up and we had to finally hang up on him.

"That guy sounded really stressed — so much so that he made a fool of himself. Murray, I was concerned about your personal safety."

For a dog, Murray is one cool cat. He let me know in no uncertain terms that he was keeping a file of the dirty letters and emails we get. He is ready to send them to Police Chief William Walsh if necessary.

"That way, Pops, if anything happens to you the chief will have a list of suspects to work from. Plus my nose is so good that I can just smell the paper and find the culprit."

"We have so many cops in Great Barrington, I'm sure they will be able to find any bad guys who might try to do us in, Pops."

"Oh, and one other thing. You once told me that when you first got to Great Barrington, the police chief at the time, big Nick Shea, used to stand out in the middle of the Main Street and direct traffic. Why can't they do that now?"

I kissed the little dog.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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