Stuff I’ve noticed since moving to Maine – DOGS!!

In just over a month, my family and I will be celebrating TWO WHOLE YEARS in MAINE!!  HOORAY!  To mark this momentous occasion, I’m starting a new semi-regular column here on The Daily Dish.  Dedicated to whatever seems different from where I used to live (Philly) or whatever I notice that just sticks out, STUFF I’VE NOTICED SINCE MOVING TO MAINE will be a way for all of you to visit, without me having to clean the house.  So without further ado, today let’s talk about.. DOGS!

My family & I went to my daughters school on Saturday for Winterfest!  Winterfest! is an annual celebration with games, food, raffles, contests, crafts, singing and more.  It draws a BIG crowd and when we entered the gym the first thing that caught my eye wasn’t the enormous moon bounce or the line for hamburgers.  No!  It was a woman walking towards me with a dog in her arms.  It wasn’t injured.  It wasn’t a helper dog.  As far as anyone was concerned, this lap pooch was just one more merrymaker at Winterfest!  WHY?  Because Mainers are CRAZY ABOUT DOGS!!!!

They are everywhere here and I mean EVERYWHERE.  We have one laying across our floor, outside there are two barking from the back, 4 barking from the side, there’re a couple peeing at the end of the driveway, another one’s approaching looking keen, and a huge one just drove by mostly hanging out the car window.  It’s doggone NUTS!

In Philly a lot of people had cats.  I think cats are cool, but Portland is a dog town.  Maybe it’s because Maine is so white?  Not to stereotype, but white people seem to like dogs more than minorities.  Personally I like minorities more, but I also love dogs.  Dogs just seem to gibe with Maine.  They’re laid back.  Chilllll.  Portland’s baseball team is even called the Sea Dogs!  Which I think is technically a seal?  Or something?  Seriously, I don’t even know what a Sea Dog is, but here’s Slugger the Sea DOG w/ my daughters. 

The Sea DOGS even have a Bring Your Dog to the Game DAY!  WHY??  Because Mainers take their dogs EVERYWHERE.  They don’t like leaving them at home.  Every single parking lot you pull into, every other car has a dog waiting for its owner to return.  Here in Portland there are dog parks and even the regular parks all have “off leash” laws: as long as your dog is under voice command, roping them is unnecessary.  And because beaches are also open to dogs it’s common to find them year round romping in the surf, chasing balls and taking dumps right there in the sand as nature intended.

Mainers are so generous with their dogs, they not only take them everywhere, they often let them drive.  Not alone, mind you.  I mean they let their dogs sit on THEIR laps in the driver seat.  No offense, Sir or Madam, but what the hell are you gonna do when Fido smashes your face into the steering wheel and you lose control of the vehicle?  Or when Happy becomes incontinent and lets fly in your lap?  Surely your first impulse will be to SCREAM AND CAREEN OFF THE ROAD.  I know mine would be.  YAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!  I’m not saying you have to harness Hoover, or invest in one of those gated cage areas in the trunk, but for all our sakes could you at least put the dog in the back seat?  It’s illegal in the state of Maine for children under 13 to ride up front.  Maybe elderly dogs can ride in the passenger seat, but otherwise – back seat buddy.  PS: In Philly I had to worry about people driving around with infants in their laps.  Here it’s dogs.  Is that better??

This is my dog Max.

Max passed away on Halloween.  But before he died, he told me how much he loved Maine.  Not just for all of the reasons outlined above, but b/c here in Maine, Max was ACCEPTED.  Back in Philly strangers would cross the street when I walked Max.  Here, no way.  Everyone would welcome him like an old friend.  (To be strictly honest, some of the little yippy dogs would stand there and bark & bark till they looked like they were going to drop dead, but they do that everywhere.)

Dogs are SO POPULAR here in Maine, I have noticed other things.

  • The prevalence of dog-themed bumper stickers.

  • Or simply dog FRIENDLY stores.

And I’m not talking pet stores either.  I mean “normal” ones, like Marshall’s.  Just before Christmas, I was shopping with my older daughter.  We turned a corner and there’s a woman perusing housewares w/ her dog.  Again, this wasn’t a helper or seeing eye dog, he was a fluffy lap dog, riding shotgun in her cart.  I notice this all the time and I can’t help but think how tolerant people are here.  In Philly, if some woman showed up at Marshall’s totting her dog, they’d escort her out of the store faster than you could spell N-O_EFFING_W-A-Y.  Personally I think they might do this to me too, if I showed up at Marshall’s with our new puppy, Roxy the Rottweiler


versus a 5 lb. Foofie

but.. still.  Maybe I will try it and see.  After all, Mainers LOVE their dogs.

Does a dog sh*t in the woods?

I am a city dweller. and I have a 150 lb. dog.

Having such a big dog in the city requires due diligence. I have to keep him leashed. I have to watch him. And I have to pick up his crap WITHOUT FAIL. If my dog Max leaves even the barest trace of doodie on the sidewalk, I address the situation. So no unsuspecting soul will fall afoul. City sidewalks – as I have mentioned before – are busy places. People walk on them. Children play on them. And yes, dogs do their business on them. The city sidewalk may be a dog’s toilet. But everyone needs to flush. So, w/out fail, I curb my dog.

Having a big dog in the city requires additional planning when it comes to exercise. Our virtually nonexistent and unfenced yard is simply insufficient to meet Max’s needs. We joined a local dog park to allow for off-leash playtime. But Max likes to walk. Really WALK. So once or twice a week I take him to a local nature refuge for a 4-mile hike through the woods.

Yesterday morning we went to the refuge.  The walk had barely begun when we encountered an older woman coming toward us on the path.  GOOD MORNING! I exclaimed cheerfully.  HOW ARE YOU?  To which she acidly replied, “I’d be better if you’d pick up your dog’s poop.”

Well. Hold the PHONE.

As detailed above, I am fastidious when it comes to feces. NEVER would I leave crap near an unsuspecting foot! But when I take my dog to the woods, we are not on a public street.  We are on a trail. We are not someplace where an infant may pick up a turd and stick it into his or her mouth.  Where someone’s $500 pumps may be ruined. We are surrounded by the natural world. And I do not allow Max to ever dump on the trail itself. Oh no. But I do not see any problem w/ him pooping on the side in the grass and leaves. After which I take whatever large stick is handy and push/scoop/or fling said poop out into the woods – where it will not harm a soul.

I am not talking about letting my dog poop on a playing field.  Where children or lovers – or anyone – would be meandering.  That is just plain gross. But the only meanderers in this case would in fact be deer.  Or groundhogs.  Foxes, snakes, turtles, rats, birds.  YOU GET MY POINT! And no living soul is picking up their scat in plastic baggies to deposit in the trash. As I responded to the woman yesterday, it is natural. Left there, excrement (my dog’s included) will decompose and return to the earth. It is recycling in its most primitive form. Something beautiful in its perfection and simplicity.

She tried to explain to me that the ecological burden on the wildlife refuge is great enough. I have been visiting this refuge for 11 years. The acres are sandwiched between the city, I-95, and the airport. Oil pipelines run beneath it. The burden is great but the burden is ALL MAN-MADE. I simply fail to see how dog poop is going to push this land over the precipice.

There is nothing natural about bagging poop. Nothing. Though I do it, living in the city, w/out fail or hesitation. WHY? Because it is a matter of courtesy and b/c it is the law. But in the woods? No. I will not pick up poop. I will not. B/c it doesn’t make sense. If left to the air, excrement will decompose naturally w/in weeks or days. It is a matter of natural recycling. What is UNNATURAL is picking it up, sealing it into a bag, and placing it into a trash can. Where it will have to be picked up by a waste truck, carried miles to a landfill, to be dumped and sit festering for years to come. Where it will not easily – if ever, decompose. THAT, to me, is insanity.

I may be the only person thinking this, but I do not care. B/c in my heart it makes sense. In my mind, every dog has a right to take a crap on the soil and not feel like he or she is doing something wrong. I for one have pooped right there in the refuge behind a bush and I didn’t blink twice. WHY? B/c I had to go. And when nature calls, I answer.