The dog-friendli­est town in Amer­ica

Ca­nines came with the Mayflower, and now it’s of­fi­cially ‘Dog­Town USA.’

Los Angeles Times - - The Nation - Ni­cole Santa Cruz ni­cole.san­tacruz@latimes.com

Arnold, a 12pound white poo­dle, prances around Province­town like he owns it. He kind of does. Like many of the ca­nines here, Arnold has his own fol­low­ing. The town, which lies at the tip of Cape Cod, is known for its love of dogs, and the num­bers prove it: About one out of ev­ery five res­i­dents has one.

“They’ve made a pretty con­certed ef­fort there to be the ul­ti­mate ca­nine re­sort,” said Ernie Slone, the edi­tor of Dog Fancy mag­a­zine, which re­cently voted Province­town “Dog­Town USA.”

The lo­cale beat out 94 other en­tries in the an­nual com­pe­ti­tion, which eval­u­ates cities based on the num­ber of dog-friendly open spa­ces and dog parks, events cel­e­brat­ing dogs and their own­ers, avail­able vet­eri­nary care and laws that sup­port pets.

Carmel came in sec­ond, and three other Cal­i­for­nia cities, Beni­cia, Ft. Bragg and San Diego, were in the top 10.

But what sets Province­town apart, peo­ple here say, is its in­grained dog cul­ture.

Dogs like Arnold can ac­com­pany own­ers into the bank and post of­fice, and they can dine on the pa­tios of a va­ri­ety of restau­rants. In shops, dogs are put to work greet­ing vis­i­tors.

“Peo­ple seem to bond to dogs a lot more here than any­where else I’ve been,” said Greg John­son, a com­puter sci­ence in­struc­tor from At­lanta. He’s va­ca­tioned here with Miles, a wire­haired fox ter­rier, six times.

Sun­day is the last day of Pet Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Week­end, spon­sored by the lo­cal an­i­mal shel­ter, com­plete with a bless­ing of the dogs, a pet pa­rade and a pet tea party.

Last week, the town un­veiled a new an­i­mal (and hu­man) drink­ing foun­tain at the his­toric town hall. Pets even have an acre of play­ground at the $200,000 Pil­grim Bark Park and can trot along miles of dogfriendly beaches.

Along Com­mer­cial Street, the town’s main strip, wa­ter bowls sit out­side al­most ev­ery busi­ness for dog passersby.

It’s also not un­com­mon to see a shop­keeper grab a plas­tic sack of dog treats from be­hind the counter to lure dogs (and their own­ers) in­side.

The lo­cal an­i­mal shel­ter places four to six dogs per year, said Kathy Clo­bridge, the shel­ter’s trea­surer.

“For­tu­nately for us, Cape Cod is not a place with a lot of dogs in need,” she said.

The town’s af­fa­ble his­tory with dogs be­gan in 1620, when its first Euro­pean ca­nines — an English mas­tiff and an English springer spaniel — docked in Province­town Har­bor aboard the Mayflower, ac­cord­ing to the city’s tourism of­fice.

More re­cently, a group of cit­i­zens led by res­i­dent Can­dace Na­gle helped make the town more wel­com­ing by push­ing for a leash-free dog park in 2007 and then the foun­tain.

“We’re just crazy about an­i­mals,” said Na­gle, co­founder of the dog park.

She named her own pups Pil­grim and Mayflower.

Some dogs, like Arnold, are lo­cal celebri­ties. Arnold has his own line of blackand-white post­cards at the Re­cy­cled Retriever, a shop that sells eco-friendly pet prod­ucts.

Rich Close, the shop’s owner, said that when he takes Arnold on his daily walk to the shop, the poo­dle is the star.

“Ev­ery­one knows his name,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve once ever heard any­one yell out my name; it’s al­ways, ‘Arnold!’ ”

Province­town, or P-town, as it’s called by lo­cals, has a high con­cen­tra­tion of gay res­i­dents, which could be one rea­son pets are so pop­u­lar, Close said.

“Many gay fam­i­lies don’t have chil­dren, so their pets are their chil­dren,” he said. “It’s their fam­ily.”

He­has seen more than one in­stance of a dog shar­ing a stroller with an in­fant.

“Rather than leave the dog at home, it’s bring the dog with you,” Close said.

Acou­ple of doors down at Wired Puppy, a cof­fee shop that sells leashes and pet treats, Matt Peter­son, a 23-year-old barista, said dogs go ev­ery­where.

“Most of the time,” he said, “I know the dog’s name

but not the hu­man’s name.”

POOCH POWER:

Dogs play at Pil­grim Bark Park and are wel­comed at beaches, shops, banks and the post of­fice. Province­town has “made a pretty con­certed ef­fort … to be the ul­ti­mate ca­nine re­sort,” says Ernie Slone, edi­tor of Dog Fancy mag­a­zine, which be­stowed the honor.

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