Alaska needs a state dog now

For over three years, Polaris kindergartners through seventh-graders have worked on getting the Alaskan malamute to become the official state dog. At first we thought the husky should be the dog, but after intense research, we found that the Alaskan malamute was the dog for the job.

The malamute has much more history here, between 4,000 and 20,000 years, versus the husky, with only about 100 years. The Alaskan malamute was bred by the Mahlemut people of Alaska, and they had a partnership for survival in the - 100-degree Arctic weather. Unlike huskies, malamutes don't need jackets or booties. No malamute has ever been known to die from the cold.

This dog had a huge role in opening up Alaska for settlement and development, was involved in both world wars, the Gold Rush, the postal service, Antarctic and Mount McKinley expeditions and the serum run.

Malamutes provided transportation for the expedition when it was first speculated that Prudhoe Bay would one day become an oil field. The malamute is one of the 12 "ancient breeds" of dog, and the only one that is native to North America. We love the husky too, but its history just can't compare to the malamute!

After in-depth research we found a representative to sponsor our bill. Then we got approval from our principal and student government. We wrote our bill, filed the paperwork, met deadlines, wrote letters, made phone calls, sent e-mails, attended meetings, made a Web site, and got letters of support from kids in school districts as far away as Bering Straits. We got co-sponsors from both political parties to make our bill bipartisan. We learned legislative protocol and testified in front of many different committees. We gave TV and newspaper interviews. We raised funds selling hot dogs, pizza, and soup; we went before our parent forum and persuaded them to give us a scholarship, and we got the donation of a plane ride from Lynden Air Cargo. We met with legislators in Juneau during two different sessions.

On April 6, 2009, after an exciting debate on the House floor, our bill, HB14, passed in the House of Representatives by a huge majority. We cheered at the top of our lungs and jumped for joy! HB14 then went to the Senate, and we testified to the Senate State Affairs Committee and the Senate Resources Committee.

But now, HB14 has been waiting for almost a year in the final committee, Senate Rules, to be scheduled for the Senate floor. We are getting nervous because the bill will die if it's not allowed a vote by April 18.

A couple of senators have said that our bill is a waste of time because it's not very important to them. But we believe that getting kids involved in democracy is important for Alaska's future and this bill is very important to us. A kid designed our state flag. It is an American tradition for kids to choose state symbols.

At the same time that HB14 was introduced, there were two other similar bills introduced to the Legislature. All three bills had zero fiscal impact to state agencies. SB50, the Iditarod Winner License Plate Bill, and SB58, the Marmot Day Bill, were able to move much more quickly than ours, and have already been made into law. So we hope that our bill will do the same.

But it has to get out of the Senate Rules Committee first.

Senators, more than 100 kids have worked hard on this bill for over three years. Please don't let all that time and work go to waste by forgetting about our bill and just letting it die. HB14 deserves a chance and deserves a hearing on the Senate floor!

Emily Evans, a seventh-grader, and Ryan Terry and Atticus Madland, both sixth-graders, attend Polaris K-12 School.

Talk of the Tundra features commentary by Alaskans from across the state. The views expressed are the writer's own and are not endorsed by Alaska Dispatch.