Miss Gillie Frost of Brewster Street

Border Collie (by Vincent J. Musi for National Geographic)
Border Collie (by Vincent J. Musi for National Geographic)

On a recent visit to the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library, I wandered into the Cambridge Room, where the library collects its archives of the city’s history. Located on the second floor of the light-filled new building, which itself will go down in Cambridge history as the one of this century’s finest municipal buildings, the Cambridge Room is sure to delight anyone with a modicum of curiosity about our city’s rich past.

Archivist Alyssa Pacy greeted me warmly and inquired what I was interested in researching.

“Dogs?” I replied, somewhat off-the-cuff. Truth be told, I was just passing through and hadn’t come prepared to do any serious research. Continue reading “Miss Gillie Frost of Brewster Street”

Off-Leash Hours Proposed for Library Park

Entrance to Joan Lorentz Park
Entrance to Joan Lorentz Park

This week I attended a public meeting on the proposal to offer off-leash hours for dogs in Joan Lorentz Park, the green space in front of the Cambridge Public Library and Rindge and Latin School, bounded by Broadway and Ellery Street. Stuart Dash (Director of Community Planning) facilitated the meeting, and Mark McCabe (Animal Control Commissioner) also addressed the group. About thirty Mid-Cambridge residents, including City Councilor Sam Seidel (a Maple Street resident and dog owner who frequents the park), turned out to share their opinions. Most of those attending were in favor of the proposal, though a few non-dog-owners voiced strong opposition.

Continue reading “Off-Leash Hours Proposed for Library Park”

The Dogs of Mount Auburn Cemetery

Stone dogs only
Stone dogs only

Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of my favorite places to walk in Cambridge. As the seasons change, a stroll amid century-old specimen trees past the graves of generations of notable Cantabrigians (and others) evokes a strong sense of time and timelessness. Unfortunately, but not unreasonably, dogs (both living and deceased) are prohibited on the historic cemetery’s 175 acres, so I don’t visit as often as I’d like. But on a recent solo walk, I found consolation by communing with several distinguished stone dogs guarding their late owners’ graves. Continue reading “The Dogs of Mount Auburn Cemetery”

The Case for Licensing, Straight from the Top Dog’s Mouth

Mark McCabe, director, with Cambridge Animal Commission officers
Mark McCabe, director, with Cambridge Animal Commission officers (City of Cambridge photo)

In a prior post I raised the question of whether Cambridge has an “undocumented dog problem” – that is, whether the number of dogs licensed by the city (around 2,700 in 2010) accurately reflects the actual number of dogs living here? Continue reading “The Case for Licensing, Straight from the Top Dog’s Mouth”

Public Meetings on New Off-Leash Areas

Can We Share?
Can We Share?

Residents in Mid-Cambridge and the Brattle-Mount Auburn Street areas may wish to attend public meetings to discuss the shared use of open space in their neighborhoods, specifically whether dogs should be permitted off-leash in two public parks.

Tuesday, October 11, 6-8 PM
City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor:

Review of possible off-leash hours in Joan Lorentz Park on Broadway and Ellery (the park adjacent to the Cambridge Public Library). More details.

Wednesday, October 19, 6-8 PM
New School of Music, 25 Lowell St.

Review of possible off-leash hours in Longfellow Park on Mt. Auburn St (adjacent to the Cambridge Tennis and Skating Club).

More information on the City’s off-leash policies: www.cambridgema.gov/offleash

Questions: Contact Taha Jennings in Community Development at 617 349-4603

Canine Census: Is Your Dog Counted?

Charm Collar
Charm Collar

One of my friends has been known to duck into the bushes at Fresh Pond if she sees the park ranger coming. Before you begin to wonder what kind of company I keep, let me say that this longtime Cantabrigian is a fine upstanding citizen, a nature lover and a doting mother. She just has a mental block about licensing her dog, a minor act of civil disobedience that she readily admits is pointless. Hence, her furtive behavior whenever she spots Ranger Jean on the path ahead; my friend knows full well that she risks a fine for bringing an unlicensed dog to Fresh Pond, but something is holding her back, a little self-defeating demon like Edgar Allan Poe described in his short story, “The Imp of the Perverse.”

“Ugh, I’ve got to find that form and send it in,” my friend groans, but as spring turns to summer and into fall, she still hasn’t gotten around to it. Continue reading “Canine Census: Is Your Dog Counted?”

What’s Your Excuse?

See Excuse #4
See Excuse #4

I just read about a new clinical study by two physical therapy professors at UMass Medical School in Lowell to determine whether more frequent and longer dog walks can help motivate people to exercise more and lose weight. Obviously, more physical activity is beneficial, for both humans and dogs; the question the researchers hope to answer is whether our “emotional investment” in our canine companions can help motivate us to be less sedentary. Continue reading “What’s Your Excuse?”

Hounds and Gowns at the MFA

Mary and Elizabeth Royall, by John Singleton Copley (MFA, Boston)
Mary and Elizabeth Royall, by John Singleton Copley (MFA, Boston)

On a recent visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, I was drawn to two delightful American paintings featuring (what else?) dogs. Created 225 years apart, one is a double portrait of two girls (and a dog) by the Neoclassical master John Singleton Copley; the other is also a double portrait (of the artist’s wife and their dog) by Scott Prior, a contemporary photo realist painter from Northampton.

Copley’s Mary and Elizabeth Royall (c. 1758, oil, 57-3/8’ x 48-1/8”) pictures the beautiful young daughters of a wealthy colonial merchant, Isaac Royall, Jr. The painting’s formal composition includes an elfin Cavalier King Charles spaniel nestled in the billowing folds of Elizabeth’s silk dress. The dog gazes up with the puppy-eyed devotion synonymous with the breed. Or, perhaps his plaintive expression beseeches the girl: “Please, get rid of the itchy flower garland around my neck!” Continue reading “Hounds and Gowns at the MFA”

Eddie & Riley Forever

“He has to retreat into his fanciful world in order to survive. Otherwise, he leads kind of a dull, miserable life. I don’t envy dogs the lives they have to live.”
Charles M. Schulz on Snoopy in an interview with Gary Groth (The Comics Journal, Dec. 1997, Issue #200)

Eddie (L) & Riley
Eddie (L) & Riley

I don’t know a single dog person who doesn’t anthropormorphize her canine companion, whether because, like Schulz, we discount the rewards of living a non-human life, or because our dogs become our surrogate children – and what parent isn’t guilty of projecting her own hopes and dreams onto her offspring?

So, what if real dogs were like the cartoon Snoopy, longing to go home to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm to be reunited with their siblings? There is plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence to support the psychic connection human twins develop in utero, so why wouldn’t dogs forge a similar bond with their littermates? I’m pretty sure they do, based on how visibly my five-month-old puppy, Eddie, yearns for his daily visits with his sister, Riley. Continue reading “Eddie & Riley Forever”

Jesse’s Story

Jesse
Jesse

“We learned we had to wear light colors in photos with Jesse, or he’d disappear,” my friend told me. “If we wore black or he was against a dark background, we’d have to Photoshop the image so our puppy would show up.”

Learning Photoshop turned out to be a lot easier than living with Jesse, whose fleeting appearance in my friend’s family album offers a poignant reminder of what can go wrong when a dog and its family are mismatched. She agreed to share this painful episode in her family’s life to help others better understand the importance of understanding their dog’s personality type and, even more, of training it accordingly. Continue reading “Jesse’s Story”