I’m always apprehensive when the national media descend on San Francisco. More often than not, it’s to poke fun at my hometown and portray it as full of wacky, liberal heathens who are out of touch with the mainstream. Even more so now that Nancy Pelosi has stepped onto the national political stage and is a threat to the right, making her and the city targets.

Two recent national stories – one on San Francisco’s school district and the other on the city’s powerful dog lobby (haha!) – simply make me proud of the city’s open-minded and progressive nature.

Last week, my friend Pete Hammer of the San Francisco Unified School District was on KGO-TV (click here for both the transcript and video) to discuss the district’s decision to allow teachers to use an anti-war comic book, titled “Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism.” The book, written by a Johns Hopkins University professor, gives a leftist history lesson on America’s involvement in foreign wars, including the current war in Iraq. Pete tells the news station this quote, which was later picked up by Fox News:

“We recommend that if teachers use it in the classroom – that teachers use it along with other materials along the same topic that have different perspectives.”

Right on, Pete! Nothing wrong with using course materials to generate discussion and debate and give students a well-rounded education.

On a lighter note, the Los Angeles Times today published a story on San Francisco’s powerful group of dog lovers, who are fighting for their right to let their dogs roam free, without a leash, in the city’s parks and beaches.

Some story highlights:

The dog lobby is a political tour de force, with a network to make even the GOP proud. Most parks have pro-dog groups. The leash debate draws huge crowds at hearings, which go on forever and require overflow rooms. Blogs rail against “dog haters.” One dog group’s motto is “Speak up now or forever hold your leash!” Bumper stickers say: “I’m a dog owner and I vote.”

Details on San Francisco’s animal-friendly nature:

San Francisco is home to some of America’s first dog day-care centers, as well as dog hotels, holistic veterinarians and restaurants that allow pets to eat alongside their owners. Its 225 parks feature 29 off-leash dog play areas, the most per square mile nationwide – more than Sacramento, Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles combined, officials say.

And of course, the requisite “only-in-San Francisco” vignette:

At one rally years ago, activists chanted “Woof! Woof!” and threw plastic dog bones into the air. “There were grown-ups howling at the moon,” recalled attorney Enrique Pearce, a onetime mayoral aide. “It was unusual behavior, even for San Francisco.”

That is fantastic.

I own three dogs and I walk them everyday for 30 minutes to an hour down here in Phoenix. My two miniature pinschers are on leash, mainly because if I let them run free, they’d dash off and I’d never see them again. But the third one – a chihuahua – I let off leash about 75 percent of the time, so we can play fetch.

Chasing after a tennis ball gives her the greatest pleasure in life, leash laws be damned. She’s well-trained and bugs no one. I’m not going to drive two miles to the closest dog park when I have a perfect two-mile stretch of park behind my house.

The best is summertime, when it’s 105 to 115 degrees out, and everyone is indoors in the air conditioning, staying cool. The heat is brutal, but we can do our walk and have the park completely to ourselves.