The saga of the Chias started innocently enough.

Some Deseret News staffers (like Heather Tuttle, Keith West, Gary McKellar and Cory Maylett) decided we needed a mascot around here.Mainly, to take our attention away from the fact that the newsroom looks like Tokyo in the third reel of a Godzilla movie. (We're renovating to install a new press.)

Someday, we are assured, the place will be whole and wholesome. But in the meantime, the pet committee decided a couple of Chias would be perfect to restore some modicum of sanity.

In case you read newspapers and avoid wasting time watching television, Chia Pets are those cute, tacky little potteries that were over-advertised on TV as the perfect Christmas gift. You fill the inside-out animal-shaped plant pot with water, slap seeds on the sides and sprouts grow like green hair.

The committee asked for Chia contributions. Staffers were so responsive that several Chia benefactors formed a Chia Foundation to administer the Chia Fund.

The herd grew from one cowlike Chia to two cowlike Chias and a catlike Chia.

Sprouts appeared all over the clay sides of those things and staff members sprouted all around the Chias to watch. They even gave them swell names: Seed Vicious, Cottage Chia, Swiss Chia.

Staffers visited the Chia herd in droves (gaggles?), looking at them, listening to them grow, whispering to them lovingly. One sportswriter even sang to them.

And for a while the staff's collective attention was diverted from the fact the newsroom, months later, still looks like a Russian condominium. The roof continues to leak and plastic sheets hang above reporters' heads to collect runoff. Garbage cans catch what the plastic misses. Drills and heavy machinery tear at nerve endings unmercifully and haggard workmen fill the already crowded lunch room.

Even Chia Pets couldn't keep News people happy through this ordeal. Complaining grew in ferocity and threatened to overtake Chia-watching as the company pastime.

The editors saw they were on the verge of crisis and decided to raise morale and at the same time send a message to grumbling, ungrateful reporters. They devised a competition to name Employees of the Year.

Last Friday, Managing Editor LaVarr Webb made the announcement.

The Chia Pets won.