The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 24, 2007


The race in the Fifth

Mention the word "election" and which candidates come to mind? Hillary? Barack? McCain? Romney? The first presidential primaries are still five months away, but every day the media bubbles over with reports on debates, candidates, fundraising and polls.

Meanwhile, in just nine days, on September 4, Carlisle and 29 other cities and towns in the Fifth Congressional District will vote in a special primary election to fill the Congressional seat vacated by Marty Meehan. The special election to determine the winner is scheduled for October 16. Unfortunately, this is not the election that everyone is talking about this summer.

After an initial flurry of activity at the beginning of the summer, local voters seem more interested in picking tomatoes than picking a candidate. The excitement and energy that filled Ferns' piazza on July 15 when five Democrats and one Republican spoke before a capacity crowd have been replaced by summer inertia. This cannot be due to lackluster candidates or insignificant issues. The five Democratic candidates — Eileen Donoghue, Jamie Eldridge, Barry Finegold, James Miceli and Niki Tsongas — are all articulate, intelligent and likeable. All but Tsongas have held public office (at this moment she is the front-runner). They and the two Republicans, Jim Ogonowski and Tom Tierney (who was present at Ferns), are all doing their best to engage the voters in the sprawling and diverse Fifth District, which stretches from the Merrimack Valley to Carlisle and some of her neighbors. Candidates leave voice-mails and fill our mailboxes with campaign literature, but lawn signs on Carlisle's byways are few and far between, suggesting an indifferent electorate.

The issues are vitally important — ending the Iraq War, health care reform, global warming, America's position in the world, the national debt. On some issues, the candidates' positions are similar; on others, they clearly vary. Each candidate's web site gives complete information, including a fundraising address.

Earlier this summer a few fundraisers were held in Carlisle for Tsongas, and Eldridge held a "Meet and Greet" at the Gleason Library. Elsewhere in the area, several debates took place, including two televised by Channel 5. (The debates and the candidates' information are available at Additional debates will be held before the primary.

Voting is a duty and a privilege that comes with living in a democracy. Getting to the polls on September 4, the day after Labor Day, may be a challenge for many of us. Town Clerk Charlene Hinton points out that registered voters who will be unable to vote that day can pick up an absentee ballot in Town Hall until Friday, August 31, at 5 p.m.

Let's shake off the summer doldrums and take the first step in sending the best-qualified candidate to Washington.

Good dog fences and good neighbors

Ed. note: This Forum originally appeared in the December 2, 2005 Mosquito.

In Washington, D.C. the saying goes: If you want a friend, get a dog. In Carlisle, the dynamic is a little different. If you want to get to know your neighbors, get a dog.

When we moved here, nearly a dozen years ago, we didn't have a dog. But the Lord provides. Our long-time babysitter and her family had a less-than-pet-friendly landlord. So Sadie, barely three months old at the time, visited us temporarily to be housetrained, only to become permanently enamored of a town without leash laws.

We soon made the acquaintance of many neighbors all over the southwest part of town, courtesy of Sadie. She liked to visit Jake the beagle, and another dog named Sadie. Our Sadie delighted in lazy afternoons in neighboring barnyards among the horses and goats. And while Sadie clearly possessed sufficient talent to travel outbound, some in our house could not bear to test her skills at finding her own way home for dinner. We spent a fair amount of time coursing the neighborhood to collect Sadie. You might say our mutt had two retrievers.

We'd heard about the marvel of electronic dog fences from friends and colleagues, but the cost seemed extravagant. Having provided us with a hound, however, the Lord also saw fit to place in our path a less expensive competitor to the better-known invisible fence brand. A (relatively) mere $500 later, we possessed the base station, wire, receiver collar and special training flags. We diligently installed the equipment and set about training Sadie to the perimeter warning sound and mild (not to my touch!) shock that would follow from lingering too long near the established boundaries.

No sooner had we trained Sadie than one of our neighbors brought home a puppy named Bailey. The presence of this potential friend, a stone's throw through the woods (who, not being tethered electronically, could come and go at will), proved too much for Sadie. She would risk any pain to chase and play with Bailey. Sadie would sit, just out of collar-shock distance, and howl with despair when she saw Bailey across the invisible divide, then dash across, yelping from the shock as she passed through the forbidden zone. Later she would howl again to be fetched home (she refused to suffer shocks for the return trip). This was untenable. The dogs were now engaged in aversive training of their humans. We and our neighbor spliced more wire in and expanded the loop around both our lots. Bailey acquired a radio collar of her own, and both dogs roamed at will over three acres of lawn and woods.

Peace reigned. Well, more or less. The barely underground antenna wires are susceptible to over-enthusiastic lawn mowing, brush cutting and worse, to errant snowplow blades. The dogs inevitably discovered their broader liberty several weeks before ice-out, and so before such breaks could be found and fixed. And two households now have to keep kitchen trash out of reach of two dogs. But all in all, we both count it a success. Two dogs have grown old together, snoozing in the patches of autumn sun, patrolling their common turf against deer, woodchucks, rabbits, foxes, coyotes and other hounds, and on occasion, testing the boundaries and re-discovering the joys of long-distance romps. Then, the humans get the excuse to repair a fence together, and in the meanwhile to chat with the neighbors six lots over cross-country, to catch up, and to maintain the social bonds of traded favors that hold a neighborhood together.


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2007 The Carlisle Mosquito