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Dog Island: Are There People Here Too? Who Cares?

There’s a very real problem here, just as there was trouble in River City, with a Capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for poodle.

Yes, we adore our dogs on Martha’s Vineyard, almost to the point of obsession. Once you get us talking about our pets, should you need to distract us, you’d have to wave chocolate cake in our faces, and raise the topic of senators streaking in the nude during a big vote.

So it was the other day when I dropped in on Kerry Scott, owner of Good Dog Goods in Oak Bluffs, and fairy godmother to all the dogs and dog owners who’ve ever met her.

As an example, I first encountered Kerry one night back in 2002 when she and we lived off Wing Road. My cocker spaniel, Chopper, unbeknownst to me, had made another break for it. He charged across the heavily trafficked road just as Kerry approached from the opposite side. She saw a big diesel bearing down on the fellah, dashed out into the road, and held up her arms to let the driver know that to schmoosh this unknown dog would be to schmoosh her as well.

She brought Chopper to her house, and grabbed our phone number from his collar jewelry. Then she let him make himself at home with her several cats and dogs. She told me when I came to fetch him, without a hint of reproval, “I could tell he’s allowed to jump on couches, so I let him sprawl on mine while my pets looked on in pure envy!”

So there I sat some 11 years and 1000 dog conversations later in Kerry’s office above her shop on Circuit Ave. I’d brought along my friend and master dog trainer, Tom Shelby, thinking the dogmother and dogfather, like Lewis and Clark before they were Lewis and Clark, should meet.

In the meantime, Kerry’s Gordon setter, Mulligan came loping up from the front yard, ears as long as a football pennant, elongated face splashing all and sundry with friendly drool and sweat.

On any given day Mulligan and his main squeeze, Dinah, an Airedale, will run to greet you in the Good Dog Goods yard until the white picket fence brings them up short. They’re known locally as Ron and Nancy Reagan because of the way she gazes up at him adoringly and yet, having a bossypants personality, calls the shots.

So Kerry, Tom and I were talkin’ dogs – wait! – back up a few clicks! When Tom and I first entered the store downstairs, we almost stepped on two wire-haired dachshunds, Jack and Alice, their mom Linda holding their leashes. Now Jack and Alice may have had legs, but their plump furry bodies rode so low to the floor, they looked as if they moved along on tiny metal casters.

A year ago these two dachshunds had been abandoned at Quansoo. Whatever fraught melodrama had led to their predicament caused the two of them to have what we’ve come to know in people and animals alike as “issues”: Alice barks more than is strictly necessary. Jack pees where no dandelions blossom or mushrooms grow, i.e. in the house.

Clearly, Tom had already been called in to assess the situation. “How are they doing?” he asked in an undertaker’s sad and ultimately hopeless tone (after all, the deceased IS deceased, nothing you can do about that). About Jack's bathroom habits, he and Linda ran through the check-list of remedies, including moving the food bowl to the trouble area. Did he discuss bringing in an exorcist? Can’t recall.

Upstairs in Kerry’s office, she told us about a couple who loved their yellow Lab so much, they made him best man at their wedding, a wedding that took place, by the way, at Trade Winds, a gorgeous stretch of fields and woods off County Rd. in Oak Bluffs, ostensibly zoned as an airport, but we and our dogs have pretty much expropriated the property the way Berkeley students back in the day seized a dusty lot and called it People’s Park.

Yeah, the odd small plane will occasionally land At Trade Winds Airport but, if the pilots know the lay of the land, they’ll circle a couple of times to see if a rumble of dogs smack on the runway might impede a smooth landing.

Kerry grew up in O.B., and remembers an Eden of no leash laws. “I don’t know how our dogs knew what time it was, but the minute school let us out for lunch, our pets lined up to walk us home. Same thing when the bell rang for us at the end of the day.”

Kerry and Tom traded canine chit-chat. Apparently there is something called “springer rage.” (Maybe certain humans should get tested for that.) Both of them had “issues” with the training methods of the Monks of New Skete. (I have my own quibble, having long ago read their bestseller. It must be a monk thing, but these Skete trainers disapprove of hugging or even petting your pooch! What good are doggies without a little cuddle action?)

Kerry told us about her childhood beagle named Spooky who liked to stretch out in the center of Penacook – Kerry’s street -- and could not be budges by any passing motorist. Animal control officer, Ernie Garvin had to be called to pick up Spooky and take her for a fun jaunt in his jeep.

Kerry regaled us with stories about blind pianist Dave Crohan’s service dog, Skipper, a golden retriever. Skipper was the perfect guide school grad unless he happened to spot Kerry’s Gordon Setter puppy, Burnside. “Something about Burnside brought out the wild thing in Skipper. He’d see him and take off. Once Burnside and I happened to be strolling in Watertown in Boston. On the other side of the street, lo and behold, David and Skipper were moving along. Skipper went AWOL! David immediately knew Burnside was in the vicinity.”

In Kerry’s office the other day, a couple of hours had gone by and the three of us downloaded as many dog stories as time would allow. Meanwhile I’m helping Tom edit a book that’s an amazing batch of dog training accounts from the decades when he balanced 800 – 900 clients a year in Manhattan (oh those wicked city dogs!) In return. Tom is supervising me with my incorrigible Boston terrier, Huxley.

When Tom arrives at my front door, I always command Huxley to “Go to your spot!” This prevents him from hurling all of his 33 Muhammad Ali pounds at the visitor’s crotch. Huxley goes to his spot ONLY for Tom, the dog whisperer.

The other day when this miraculous event occurred once more, I pivoted around in hopes of catching Tom shooting death rays from his eyes. No luck; he looked innocent, unconcerned. But I will one day intercept those death rays. Then I’ve got to get some for myself.

More Vineyard Confidential:

  • Deranged 5th Graders Under Full Sail: Bouncing From Topsail to Mizzenmast on The Shenandoah
  • But Was It Used In Martinis?
  • LOST: The 7th Season
  • The Man Who Lounged Around The House In A Sleeping Bag

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Rick Hamilton February 18, 2013 at 03:36 PM
My dogs know exactly what time it is, at breakfast and dinner.
Michael West February 19, 2013 at 08:49 PM
I suppose everyone has terrific dog stories, but few can tell them, Holly, like you can. This blog post was a laugh a minute. I'm still thinking about David Crohan standing there in the streets of Watertown as Skipper and Burnside catch up on old times. And Huxley, go to your spot! Whomp!
Holly Nadler February 20, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Michael, you're one of my treasured friends who knows Huxley NEVER goes to his damn spot! And you've got some good Leo stories to tell! I especially loved when your dog lived next door in his own apartment! With room & concierge service!

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