2016-02-25 / Columnists

Babylon News & Muse

by Mary Gallagher

•It would appear there will be no skating this year. With Saturday’s high temp of 68 degrees, it’s unlikely that even the duck pond will freeze enough for wearing ice skates. Of course, one never knows what will happen between now and spring... The American Kennel Club announced this week something that many of us have known for a long time. The most popular dog breed is the Labrador Retriever. When I was a child, we had a wonderful dog named Happy. He was a beagle, then the most popular breed. A lot of people remember Happy.

Like most dogs at that time, Happy came and went as he wanted. I’m not sure when the leash law for the Town was passed, but many dogs ran free into at least the 1970’s. Happy followed my brother John on his newspaper route every afternoon. Merchants throughout the business district often had some sort of treat waiting for our dog. Happy knew the route well and if he got separated from John, he could always catch up to him or go to the last place on the route: the notorious East End Hotel. Located at the northwest corner of Main and Cooper, the Hotel had a reputation as a flop house of sorts. Happy would sit on the top step of the front porch until John appeared.

People knew most neighborhood dogs by sight in those days, as they all wandered through their neighborhoods. Labs far outnumbered other breeds, no matter what part of the village you visited, and there were a lot of lab-mixes around too. Occasionally, dogs would follow younger family members as they visited friends in other parts of the village. I remember my younger brother, Robby, was bitten by a big strange white boxer, while we played at a friend’s house. I ran home to tell my mother and she called Joe Welling, our family friend and physician. He was away and so Mom called the doctor who was covering for him, Dr. Godfrey. He asked if the dog had his shots, but we didn’t know whose dog it was. I ran back to find who owned the dog, then ran home once more. “It’s Dr. Godfrey’s dog!” I exclaimed breathlessly. My mom relayed this to the doctor who replied blithely, “Oh, he’s had his shots.” And with that hung up!

Of course, dogs running loose meant problems from time to time, like Rob being bitten. What seemed more tragic to us was when we saw a dead pet, lying by the side of the road. Happy had a front leg nearly torn off, but managed to survive. Our next dog was a yellow Lab, named Happy Too. Like his predecessor, Happy was a smart dog. One evening just before dinner, my mother asked me to drive to get some milk for dinner. I had been playing with the dog and had placed the ball on the arm of a sofa. I made a quick trip for the milk and when I got home my parents were laughing. They’d noticed Happy staring at the ball longingly and both of them told him he could get the ball. But he refused to do so until I came back and gave him permission. We were all amazed that he was so well trained!

It was not much later when people began to obey the leash law and dogs were kept in or tied up. Today dogs are seldom seen running free and I can’t remember the last time I saw a dog’s body by the side of the road. Most areas now have dog parks, such as the one at the east end of George Street. While there are still a lot of Labradors, more people are adopting dogs from the Town Shelter than there are people buying purebreds. Dogs and cats are treated like family members these days and we spend much more time and money on them. When a pet dies, we mourn them deeply and friends often send sympathy cards. Why have we gotten so much attached to our pets? I suspect a lot of it has to do with the fact that our families move around so much. Years ago, grown members of the family lived in the same neighborhood or town. Now they often live far away, and pets, who give us so much affection, become a replacement of sorts. I have a five year old dog, and it’s comforting when I return home and find Bee Gee so happy to welcome me.

If you are interested in adopting a pet, visit the Town of Babylon’s Animal Shelter. There are lots of dogs and cats, and you will be surprised how many purebreds there are, although what we call “mutts” are frequently combinations of all the best qualities of their many ancestors! There are also a lot of rescue groups throughout Long island, some of them devoted to specific breeds. Check for them online.

•We want to wish Allison Borg Bridges, Andy Daly, and Hans Seidenberg many happy but belated birthday wishes.

Readers can contact Mary Gallagher c/o Beacon at acjnews@rcn.com or mail her at 65 Deer Park Ave., Babylon NY 11702

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