Moving to the Boston area has been rough on me. Financially, emotionally and physically, like moves generally are. I make no bones about the fact that I am very happy to be living in the same apartment as my husband and that we don’t have to drive 8 hours one-way to see one another over the weekend. Also, I do not hide that I love our new place in Cambridge… It’s the right pace for us, a good mix of Nature and urban chicory and enough restaurants to check out.
But I miss my good old Centre County, Pennsylvania. People are so much nicer, smarter even. Maybe less educated, maybe rural, but so much nicer. Our dog parks were greener, Walmart-s were cleaner and Wegman-s closer, the drivers knew how to change and merge lanes. There were middle fingers but also thank-you waves, there were sticks and stones but somehow from this distance, I only remember it all with fondness. Especially now that Penn State is under attack from everywhere, a part of me really misses Happy Valley, it yearns to reach out, go back and support my own with everything I have.
Going back to greener dog-parks, Brownie hates the new one at Danehy. He dislikes the dogs and their owners. While he enjoys his time at Fresh Pond every day, I am left to wonder what it is about Danehy that makes him so edgy. The same people go to both, we have even occasionally met the same pet-parents in both places. What is it then? Is it the gravel? Or my displeasure showing up in his reactions?
It is no secret that I dislike Mass hostility. I tried to like them, really, but only so much meanness and passive aggression can be hidden by smarts and nice clothes…hostile and whoa! snotty. The people we have “met”, I have to admit, our neighbors and colleagues are very nice, much nicer than those I only see in passing…. most of them, a little more aware of the world outside ‘New England’. You think this is part of my moving-woes but what do you say to bumper stickers saying “I am not rude, I am from Massachusetts” corroborates?
While we are on the topic of attitudes…
People say that Pennsylvania is a Puppy-Mill state. Maybe; but probably because of my associations with PA shelters I have an entirely different aura about PA. I have met so many shelter-pets, happy rescuers and rescue-ees, no-kill shelters, volunteers, organizers etc. that I have this respect for most people aka pet-owners there. Boston, firstly, is not a dog-friendly city, to our chagrin, and our apartment search educated us on that. Secondly, Cambridge although more dog-friendly than it over-the-Charles-brother, the tone is of bragging designer breeds. I thought smarter, more well-rounded, thoughtful individuals would go the healthy route of adopting. Apparently not.
I am going to try to hold my rage and disgust and narrow down to a few pet-owners here in Cambridge who have melted my heart and reversed my opinion about Cambridge pet parents.
The old lady was 80+, wrinkled, bent but strong— reminded me of my own grandmother. Her dog, a Poodle relative– Maggie had issues with her hind legs and couldn’t move more than a few steps on her own. No prizes for guessing who picked her up and carried her around. Contrary of what I had started expecting from the Mass-selfish gene, they were out in the park enjoying the breeze, where they could have complained about aches and pains and bad weather and stayed home to sulk.
Another 80-ish man with an almost blind black toy poodle Bear, the gentlest little thing. Once again, they could have been lazy, morose, negative. Instead they were charming and happy, walking around Fresh Pond. The man told me, he wanted to be 14 (like his dog) and still be called a puppy. That would make his aspirational age 91. How old was he?? As old as he feels.
A slightly younger couple (say 65-70): the lady was walking this beagle-mix, Max- A rescue from Tenn. She mentioned he was slow, so they let him take his time. He had gained weight and was evidently not young. And he wasn’t adopted as a pup either. He came to them, at a ripe age, infested with heart-worm. The couple was not in their prime either, but put in the hard work, energy, love and time needed to nurse 6-year-old Max to health. Now at 9, he is doing just fine. His mind beats his body and he is fast enough to open the fridge and help himself, laughs his Mom. She mentioned that he absolutely needed the 2.5 mile walk around Fresh Pond to stay healthy. There was an earnestness when she said we have to stay strong for them– a truth that probably kept them going, a truth that I know keeps me going, a truth that binds all parents, caretakers, guardians alike.
I was touched with each of these conversations. Short, real conversations, peeks into their lives and tiny details that bind us all together. Mass or wherever else they come from, meeting these people put my faith back right where it belongs.
When I used to be down, back in PA, I would spend a lot of time at the dog park because it made Brownie happy but it was also an open space with canines and their humans. And these smiling, drooling canines would bring out the best in their humans. We are at our most honest, most pure, most vulnerable even, when we are with our pets. Our innermost voices come out. I love seeing people walking their dogs, because even the strangest, rudest people remind me of the goodness that mankind is supposed to have. –not the mud-slinging, condescending, insensitive, selfish, jerk-moron conundrum we are with each other.
Let there be those whose claim to fame is in how far they drove to meet the breeder–Canada, Rhode Island. Let there be those that say it took someone 12 years to know their dog gets car-sick. And those that scrutinize breeds like they are century-old royalty seeking suitors for their princesses. And to balance them, let there be the likes of Dick from Beagle911 and Liz from Centre County PAWS, my photographer Facebook friend/pit-parent in Chicago, the Barking army instigators. Let there be these people who have let their lives be touched by imperfect pets and perfect friends…people who let themselves be rescued.
Cuteness hardly matters when you know there’s so much more to look for. To every parent, their kid is cute, to every new aunt, their niece the prettiest, to every grandparent, their’s is the sweetest chub-face. And it is great to see that there are other believers like me. Let me just take this space to say, families of Max, Bear and Maggie–you inspire me. When the rest of your state is riling up my anger with their fakeness and hostility, you make me happy about moving to your town. I hope to keep meeting you and more like you.
Adopt a shelter pet.