And another thing ... DOGS!

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And another thing ... DOGS!
by Alison Barnet Contributor
Wednesday Oct 7, 2009

Many Old South Enders raise their eyebrows at the very mention of today’s dogs. One of the reasons is the stark contrast in type of dog-and dog owner-we knew in the past.

Like everything else these days, money and image play a large role. As a sociologist who has studied the dog craze notes, dog owners display their wealth through their dogs. Well, Old South End Dog Owners, utterly unconcerned with image, had little wealth to display. Their dogs were hardly exotic breeds-very few the trendy size of a cat-and they didn’t wear sweaters and necklaces. There were no water bowls left out for them at restaurants, no free treats. A treat back then was a nice meaty bone from the butcher’s counter at Folsom’s Market. Dogs didn’t socialize except with their owners, and that was the point.

My landlady, a WWI nurse in her late 80s, began frying up Sammy’s dinner every afternoon about 4:00-chicken thighs, skirt steak, broccoli and lettuce with mayonnaise and liverwurst. He liked the kind of liverwurst that comes in flat pieces and wouldn’t eat the kind in a tube. Between meals, he snacked on caramel corn, dates, peanuts, chocolates, and ginger snaps, and, on hot summer evenings, my landlady sent me to the Dairy Queen around the corner for three cones: one for her, one for me and one for Sammy.

Full-sized collies like Sammy-and I mean full-sized-have long gone out of fashion; even miniature collies are rare, and Sammy was hardly miniature. Sammy might have benefited from a designated dog run if only he could run.

After dinner he went out in the backyard-this was before backyards became parking lots-and later my landlady went out and followed him around with a soup ladle. No need for a blue plastic bag.

A teenager occasionally walked Sammy-just Sammy. No one walked six or seven dogs on six or seven leashes back then, except one fellow on my block who walked four large dogs at the same time, and we considered him highly eccentric. Today he’d fit in, but Fat Sammy and teenage Clarence at Blackstone Park would stick out like sore thumbs.

Then there was Coco, a poodle mix who belonged to an elderly man at 1701 Washington Street. When his owner went into a nursing home, I arranged for Coco to join a Mass. Ave. household full of lhasa apsos-they were ahead of their time in the little yapper category but that’s another story. Coco was an affectionate, good-natured, dirty little dog who had resisted a combing his entire life. A friend with grooming experience took him on one night but Coco’s eyes suddenly glazed over, he stiffened, and fell over ... dead. Horrified, the groomer tried everything, including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I’ll never forget the frantic call I got: "Alison, is there any space in your backyard?"

In the Nineties, there was Boomerang, an irrepressible street mutt. She had been abused by her owners and left outside to sleep on car hoods. Untrained, ill-kempt, and carefree, she was the quintessential Old South End dog. She followed me to Marlborough Street, flinging herself into neatly-kept gardens and dancing madly among the flowers, and to the Boston Public Library where she got stuck in the revolving door. She dashed in the OUT door at Blanchard’s Liquors and took a poop at the South End library during the Historical Society House Tour. True to her name, she always bounced back. One day, I was surprised to see her sporting a flea collar. Boomerang, bathed, leashed, and loved, had been adopted by a medical student who’d just moved in.

Did that make Boomerang a New South End Dog? Not on your life! She could sweep a $15 glass of wine off a café table with her tail sooner than one of those Austrian Poo-Poos can whimper "pawtique."

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