Friday, April 25, 2003
Dogpatch: Carlisleans favor four-pawed fur-bearers
There is no doubt that Carlisle families love dogs. In a town of 5025 biped inhabitants, there were 672 dogs registered and licensed in 2002. Figures for 2003 are not yet complete, but so far this year, 573 dogs have received licenses as a result of their owners sending in the forms they received with the town census. However, with 275 census forms still out, there are undoubtedly dogs in Carlisle who stand in need of their new collar tags. The deadline for dog licenses has passed, so there is now a $20 fee to license a dog with the town. It's better to cough up the increased fee, however, than to risk the expense of retrieving one's unlicensed dog from the pound. Licenses are granted based on up-to-date rabies vaccinations, so any unlicensed dog caught has to be quarantined, tested for rabies, and then licensed before it is released to the owner. The owner is fined accordingly. Assistant Town Clerk Irene Blake, urges everyone to fill out and send in dog licenses and census forms right away.
Town Hall also keeps some interesting statistics that reveal a lot about Carlisle's dogs and perhaps even about our town. Most Carlisle families, for example, have only one dog. Fewer than thirty addresses in 2002 reported multiple dogs. There were eight "kennels" (addresses boasting four or more dogs) last year. Most of us seem to prefer having a single best friend.
Carlisleans also show a slight preference for female dogs, and we are fairly scrupulous about spaying and neutering pets of either gender.
Breeds in town range from this reporter's elderly Old English Sheepdog, Prudence May ("Prudy"), to Mosquito news editor Maya Liteplo's brand new Portuguese Water Dog puppy, Lisbon Lizzie, who may be Carlisle's youngest dog: 11 weeks old at this writing. The oldest dogs in this year's census so far are 16. In 2002 there were two reports of 18-year-old dogs: it seems that we take pretty good care of our animals, and Carlisle is a healthy place for dogs to live. Carlisleans sport a wide variety of breeds at the ends of their leashes, some of the most unusual of which are the Clumber Spaniel, the Vizsla, the Leonberger, the Whippet, and the wrinkly and lovable Sharpei. By far the most popular breed in town, however, is the Labrador Retriever, topping even mixed breeds and "mutts": in 2002, there were 148 of them trotting around. Eighty-six of those were black Labs, by far the most popular color.
We name our dogs all sorts of wonderful things: some dogs are named for foods or tastes: Nutmeg and Pepper, for example. Poodle owners tend to be adventurous with their names: two Standard Poodles in town are called Mousse and Eisenhower, respectively. There is a yellow Lab named Mozart, a Greyhound named Plaid, and a Dachshund named Ivanhoe. Tied for first place for most popular names are Max, Charlie or Charles, and variations of Nick (Nicky, Niko, Nike, Nika) and Sam (Sammy, Samantha).
Reminders for dog owners
As soon as we make sure that Carlisle's dogs are sporting their new license jewelry, it's a good idea to purchase name, address, and telephone identification tags. These tags are ordered through the mail, and forms can be obtained at the Carlisle Animal Hospital. They can also be ordered online from a variety of companies: try www.luckypet.com. These tags can really make a difference if a dog is lost.
It's also time to remember that tick season is upon us. It seems a bit early this year, but small, newly hatched critters are out and crawling fast. The folks at Carlisle Animal Hospital assure us that it's not too soon to protect our dogs against fleas and ticks. It's time to check their vaccination records, too, and update their shots if need be. It's also a good idea to feed your dog hard foods like bones and biscuits to keep his teeth clean, and to have those teeth checked regularly for plaque and tartar. Believe it or not, it is possible to have orthodontia and tooth replacement done on dogs and cats, but the price is about the same as it is for human beings, and not covered by insurance. It's a lot easier and less expensive to keep their teeth clean, and schedule regular well-patient health checkups with the veterinarian.
No dog yet? Think before you adopt
If you haven't joined the ranks of Carlisle's dog owners but you're thinking of adopting your very own best friend, there are lots of decisions to make. First and foremost, are you willing to take on a creature requiring about as much attention as a three-year-old human being? Are you willing to take on the cost of care and feeding? Taking good care of a dog isn't cheap, and although veterinary insurance is available, coverage is far from being as comprehensive as human health care plans are. Dogs are subject to many of the same ailments as their human friends and their illnesses and injuries can require surgery. Recovery is a challenge when the patient doesn't understand the process. You must also be prepared, when the time comes, to lose and mourn your dog.
Puppies do not arrive housebroken, and even with consistent and vigilant training, accidents will happen. Puppies teethe, and they love to chew just about everything. When our dog was a puppy, she chewed and destroyed two pairs of my reading glasses (which she removed from the kitchen table and the kitchen counter), my favorite pair of sandals, the corner of a bookcase and several books, and part of a clapboard off the house.
Puppies, and even older dogs, will eat almost anything, and some foods we eat, such as chocolate, are toxic to them. It will be necessary to keep that bowl of M&M's well away from the dog. Halloween can be excruciating for dogs: the candy is irresistible to them, and the constant doorbell ringing can render them nearly hysterical. Puppy socialization and training classes are available in a variety of venues, and can be very helpful in civilizing a domesticated, but still barbaric animal. Dogs vary in intelligence just as human beings do, but they can be taught and trained with simple and consistent commands.
Finding your best friend
If you are undeterred and you imagine yourself befriending other dog people on regular walks at Great Brook Farm, the next decision is what kind of dog: how big, purebred or "healthy mix," what gender? Think about your house, yard, and other family members and figure out what will fit your particular family and environment best. Remember that children brought up with dogs are less likely to develop allergies and better able to handle themselves around all animals. There are many reputable shelters in our area, full of dogs to adopt. You can check the yellow pages or the Internet. A keyword like "animal shelters" will take you into a list and links to the shelters in our area, certain breeders, and animal rescue organizations. A good shelter will tell you all the known facts about the dog you choose, and whether it has exhibited good social behaviors. If you adopt from a shelter, you will go home not only with a pet, but also with a number of money-saving coupons for food and equipment, instructions on care and feeding, and sometimes a list of vendors who give discounts for supplies for shelter animals.
The Internet can also provide information on local breeders (just use the name of the breed you're interested in as a keyword for your search engine), but here it may be best to get a recommendation from a veterinarian or from someone you know who knows the breed you want. Years ago, when we decided on an Old English Sheepdog, we contacted a friend who owned one. She recommended contacting the Old English Sheepdog Club to find a breeder in our area. Many breeds have organizations that are only too happy to provide information. There are also a lot of organizations out there, including the MSPCA, who can supply you with information about rescuing a dog that may have been injured or abused.
Carlisleans are dog people. We love them, and we know how much they enrich our lives. Our lovely old Prudy has helped us bring up our children, welcomed our guests, made us laugh at ourselves, and shown us unconditional love. What's better than that?
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito