Friday, March 16, 2001
Like its 5,000 human citizens, Carlisle's 650 dogs are well-fed, well-groomed, well-educated, and generally well-behaved. In the case of dogs, "generally" translates into "in the presence of their human owners." Loose dogs, left outside to roam unrestrained, follow a different drummer.
Twice a day my two small terriers put me on a leash and take me for a walk. I choose our path carefully, not to avoid traffic or big puddles, but to avoid those neighborhoods where dogs run free. We are not always successful.
My terriers see him first; they stiffen and perk their ears. The big dog approaches, head down, hair standing on his back as he moves toward us slowly and deliberately. I can see that this is going to be a mini-test of canine dominance. The terriers posture aggressively, with big menacing growls. As I pull them back, they lunge in opposite directions until their leashes are wrapped tightly around my legs. The big dog circles us a few times. Then, satisfied that he has asserted his alpha-dog status, he trots off with a show of disinterest.
This experience is not limited to owners of small dogs. Loose dogs see joggers, cyclists, and cars as irresistible provocations. My car is frequently chased by a neighborhood dog that has actually tried to bite its moving tires. I hit the brakes, anticipating the thud and bump. Loose dogs have a lower life expectancy.
Carlisle has no leash law, but I would like to thank the many dog owners whose pets are supervised or restrained (and protected) by leashes and fences, visible or invisible. You make good neighbors.
I was stuck. I was stumped. I'd been thinking for days, but I couldn't come up with a safe topic for the Forum. As I sat looking out my window pondering the rivulets of water dribbling down from the ice dams on my roof, it came to me. Ants! Everyone knows that ice dams are Mother Nature's way of helping ants build nests in roofs. Why not explore the habits of one of Carlisle's more ubiquitous insects (besides mosquitoes, termites, and spiders, of course)? And ants are a harbinger of spring -- a great topic for a winter-weary audience!
"Oh, brother," sighed Dr. Parts. "You're really reaching this time." Dr. Parts always shows up to help me write my Forum essays, but I was beginning to wonder whether she brought more trouble than help. "Hey," I said, "nature pieces are always popular, and, well, I just thought I'd stay low key for once." Dr. P. laughed. "You, low key? Yeah, right. Okay, let's see what we can come up with. But stay away from nature. There are plenty of people who do those things much better than you could."
"How about Hanscom and the threat of commercial aviation again?" Dr. P. suggested. "I could do some more research and get some statistics for you," she continued, "I don't know," I said. "I don't sense any groundswell here in town. I don't think providing statistics or predicting dire consequences is having an impact. I just found out a couple of my good friends are taking the Shuttle America flights to LaGuardia if I can't convince them...Besides, it's probably a done deal with Massport."
"Sidewalks...," she began, until she saw my withering look. "Don't even use that word!" I snapped. "Look," she hurried on defensively, "I really thought that nice analytical argument I supplied you with about the inherent bias in the Bike and Pedestrian Safety Committee's survey would make sense to a lot of people." Dr. P. was always thinking things like that. It's my fault that I actually listen to her sometimes. "And what about the cost to Carlisle taxpayers, open discourse on town issues, and the rest of it? You have to write about it again!" she insisted. "Maybe some other time," I hedged, "but forget about the 'we can change the world' stuff. We're not in college anymore. Besides, it's probably a done deal anyway."
"Schools...?" she asked hesitantly. "What?" I said, not believing my ears. "I've got a kid in the school system!" I reminded her. "Only people who don't have kids in school can have opinions about anything to do with the schools! It's dangerous enough to show up at school committee meetings." "That's true," she admitted. "When you go to a meeting, important issues are discussed, then you can't help yourself and you have to share your opinion, and before you know it you're quoted in the Mosquito. That's trouble."
"You're such a help," I said, despairing that we'd find a topic that would simultaneously win the hearts and minds of snow-bound Carlisleans, and keep me out of trouble for a while. "I know," Dr. P. said brightly. "Diversity! We can talk about how affordable housing will bring diversity to Carlisle. We'll attract people who come from different backgrounds, who will bring diverse opinions and ideas to..." she trailed off. "Um, let's see, where can we find some fascinating facts about ants?"
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito