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June 23, 2019     Sidney Herald
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OPINION SIDNEY HERALD.‘SUNDAY.JUNE 23. 20|9 A5 Svihng Illeth SERVING THE MONDAK REGION SINCE 1 908 Kelly Miller Publisher COMMENTARY Nature over nurture y dog J as- per has en- countered some porcupine quills in her day, but m 0 st r e c e nt ly she’s really gone buck wild. Four times in the span of two weeks to be exact —— I have the vet bills to prove it. It’s an interesting thing, her apparent ad- diction to the punish- ing pain of a porcupine encounter. Over the years, Jasper has had about seven run-ins and each time she comes back with a Santa Claus heard of quills. The vet has to administer two doses of sedative to get her to go under because she’s not only a big dog, but an anxious one. Currently, she has tuffs of her bristly brin— dle-colored fur sticking straight up on the top of her head as quills make their way to the sur- face. Her lips are still full of them. I pull them out when I feel the ends poking through. She usually sits pretty still for me; we have this whole thing worked ou by now. *‘ 'Jasper’s determina- tion to kill or eat every porcupine from Sidney tou‘Watford City has got- ten me thinking a lot abbut instincts. Yes, she’s just a dog, but peo- ple display a gluttony for punishment on a daily basis too. We ex- hibit the same behav- iors, day in and day out, expecting the results to fall into place. Most days I just feel like Jas- per wandering home with a face full of quills hoping this time they won’t have to be pulled. I tend to be a harsh communicator and that’s not always easy onthe people around me. I am direct, which means I say what I mean and I mean What I say. I believe very deeply that words mat- VENN BY AMY ter and I don’t typically use mine loosely. It’s rare I am regretful about a verbal inter— action, because chances are I have thought it through be— fore I said it. But when I am sorry, I say so. That’s part of being human —— we all have tempers and different thresholds. It’s ok to know when you’ve hit your limit. In fact, I hope most of you know where your own limits are. Throughout my life, people have pretty con- sistently described me as “aggressive.” I’ve never thought of it as a bad thing. I don’t really know any other way to be. I don’t like to waste time and I appreciate things like focus, drive and honesty. It’s what’s gotten me through the rough patches in life. Being aggressive may come across as being’ intimidating to some people — I find that in- teresting as well. There are very few occasions in my life when I have had the intention to intimidate someone. It’s just not my style. If I have to choose, I’d rather be met with a worthy opponent than a meek one. The only way we get better as people is when we are challenged. People’s proverbial porcupine quills vary. I know my communica- tion style and aggres- sive nature isn’t for everyone. That’s fine with me. People have attempted to nurture it out of me to no avail. I think those qualities have served me well more times than they have hindered me. They say dogs resem- ble their owners.'I guess my big, anxious, aggres- sive girl is an apple that didn’t fall too far from this old tree. COMMENTARY Inside a dog’s head y children are away on an ex- tended visit to their mother and our dog is miserable. Pearl is a mixed- breed rescue, but those who know dogs guess she’s about three-quar— ters border collie, a no- toriously needy breed. When the kids are gone for more than a day she lies around the house and mopes. Now by this time a lot of peo- ple are thinking, “This guy is anthropomorphizing. He’s fan- tasizing that dogs have human feelings.” Those are the people who don’t have dogs. The people who do have dogs are thinking, “Oh poor puppy!” These two attitudes mirror a controversy that has been going on for a while now. On the one side are those scien- tists who say a dog’s affection is a programmed behavior to get you to feed them. D o g p e o p l e unconvinced. Recently scientists actually put some dogs in an MRI to ob- serve their brain activity when praised and petted and came to the conclusion that 10 and be- hold, your dog acts affection— ately towards you because they love you. Dog people call that, “the remain BY STEPHEN BROWNE triumphant discovery of the obvious.” Dogs are higher mam— mals who have lived with us for a very long time. Though nowadays they are mostly companions, throughout our histo- ry together they earned their keep by hunting, herding, and guarding. All tasks that take a fair amount of brain power. We’ve lived with dogs for so long now we take for granted some really incredible things about them. Every now and then when you’re playing with your dog on the floor and your heads are on the same level and your dog yawns, do you ever look into that mouthful of teeth and realize, “Oh my, you are a carnivore!” And did you ever think about how marvelous it is that we’ve basically brought a wolf into our home and trust it to guard our children? Dogs can understand quite a lot of vocabulary but don’t have the vocal apparatus to reproduce it. Nor do they have the facial muscles to make the expressions we communicate non—verbally with, but somehow manage to make their feelings and desires known to us. And sometimes they lie, a very sophisticated communications skill. I once had two dogs and a wa- terbed. The dogs were allowed on the couch but not the bed. One day I came home and found the dogs sitting on the couch, heads up and an expression I immedi- ately thought of as, “trying to look innocen I went into the bedroom and found the waterbed gently undu- lating like it does when you get off it. Anthropomorphizing am 1? Here’s another story I got from a Norwegian girl. She was walk— ing her dog, a mutt of no spe- cial breed, down a country road when she was hit by a drunk driver and knocked off the road and out of sight. The driver sped off. She was in a coma for two weeks but when she came out of it they told her what her dog had done. The dog stood in the middle of the road until a car came along. The car tried to drive around her, but she moved in front of it and wouldn’t let it pass until the driver got out and tried to shoo her away. Whereupon she hit the driver’s trousers and pulled him over to where he could see her beloved owner lying unconscious. I’ve got more stories and if you’re a dog person I’ll bet you have some too. Now don’t worry Pearl, the kids will be home soon. EDITORIAL Student debt in Montana has grown the 13th fastest in the nation: Why and what can be done Eight hundred and forty-five billion dollars. That’s how much student loan debt has risen in just one decade. And though Montana certainly isn’t responsible for the bulk of the increase, BY MIKE it certainly holds an BROWN unlucky “spot among the top 15 states with the fastest growing student loan debt balances 13th, to be exact. :1 According to a recent study by LendEDU, student loan debt per borrower in Montana has grown from $18,382 in 2007 to $28,389 in 2017. For Montana residents with student debt, that 55.44 percent increase in the debt per borrower ' figure means making tougher financial decisions and limiting participation in the state’s economy. After all, purchasing cars, buying homes, frequenting small businesses, etc. becomes increasingly challenging when a significant portion of your income goes towards monthly payments for student loan debt — debt that was originally meant to bring all those goals into your reach. The answer to the debt problem is complex, with many academic, government and social organizations attempting to find a solution, but one thing is clear: failure to take action can stagnate economic growth in the Treasure State. What Montana can do to help the situation As bleak as it seems, there is a bright side. Over the past decade, the number of Montanans graduating with student loan debt has: decreased “by 10.65 percent. The pomp" and circumstance surrounding such a decrease, however, is short- lived, as Montana still takes a spot in the top 25 states with the highest number of graduates with student debt. Ideally, states, including Montana, would offer inclusive loan forgiveness and tax credit programs designed to decrease student debt while increasing and monthly payments for student borrowers also worked for universities insIndiana and Nebraska. “ . ~ A nod, perhaps, to the value of educating students on debt alongside their academically focused lessons. This sentiment was also a guiding force for Montana Senate Bill 87, which requires that students are informed of student loam debt totals twice a year. The bill also urges Montana universities to provide' students with workshops designed to help them better manage their student loans. , j Fiscal education alSo seems ; to be awguiding‘force in "Massachusetts, where high school officials will soon be able to establish financial literacy standards that aim to arm students with the knowledge economic? ifi’fike sound same can be said of efforts to increase minimum wages and professional and skilled labor opportunities. However, limited budgets and resources, as well as political gridlock, often make that a difficult step to take. But there may be another answer. In a 2016 analysis by the Montana State and Federal Reserve, V University students who received letters encouraging them to seek debt counseling borrowed one-third-iess in; the‘follOWing semestenip‘or .. p encethat highlights future 4. Montana State. an totals decisions about ’student loans, mortgages and retirement planning. It’s clear that Montana, like the rest of the country, needs to take aggressive action against mounting student debt numbers; failure to do so will result in damage to theeconomic stability .oftboth-the state and residents. And'f'though grants, forgiveness programs and tax-based'rrelief offerings may be ideal for currentborrowers, an education- based plan‘may yield positive results for: futureistudents and the wholeo MOntana.