Arlington Town Day 2013: another successful A-DOG booth!


Thanks to all the volunteers, members and other visitors who made our 6th annual Town Day booth a success again!

Our booth featured games for kids, including Christine Hagg’s “Guess the Dog Breed” game.  This year, the game featured photos of A-DOG members’ dogs.


We also had a special gift basket, put together by Ann and Roslyn Smith, as prize for our annual free drawing.  Thanks to Friends of A-DOG businesses, Menotomy Beer and Wine and Robin’s Nest pet grooming for donating prizes to include in the basket.  And, congratulations to the winner, Nicey Lewis of Arlington!

We welcomed many new and renewing members and provided information to many about A-DOG, its history, and the off-leash recreational options that are available now to dog owners in Arlington.  Christine’s beautiful map of parks offering off-leash hours (obtain a copy through the link at the sidebar), and the Thorndike Off Leash Recreation Area, was on display.  Lots of people and dogs stopped to admire our life-size toy dogs, including a new black lab whose name will be selected from entries filled out by booth visitors.

Here are a few photos of the fun at our Town Day booth.  If you have other photos, please send them to us and we can include them.


A-DOG Early Summer Wine Tasting at Menotomy Beer and Wine

The A-DOG Early Summer Wine Tasting, at Menotomy Beer and Wine on Broadway in Arlington, was held on Wednesday evening, June 26.  It was a lot of fun!  Let’s have another one soon!


Thanks so much to the organizers of this very successful event, our board members and Membership Committee — Joan Black, Ann Smith and Roslyn Smith. 


And many thanks to board member Meghan Henning, who greeted guests at the door for sign-in, badges and drawing prize tickets.

AmyMeghanMeghan (right) with fellow A-DOG board member Amy Goldstein


And, thank-you, as ever, for the support of our generous hosts, “Friends of A-DOG” Menotomy Beer and Wine.  

By the way, please be sure to mention A-DOG whenever you buy wine at Menotomy Beer and Wine, and the store will donate 5% to A-DOG.

MaryPatMenotomy Beer and Wine co-owner, Mary Parent, with A-DOG member, Pat Sallese


Congrats to everybody who won a drawing prize!

JoanPamdrawingGifts2and3 Gift7 Gift6

And, here are some more photos — with apologies to attendees we missed getting on camera — photographer Sue was being dragged around by her food-seeking lab, Candace. :-(

WesAmyDoug UriWes SusanWes



RoslynLucy2PatJoan MeghanCandaceSueLucyCandace LindaUriDana LindaDickGroup2 Group1DanaDougJoyRoslynfoodDanaJoan EllenCarol

doug DonationInfotable

CandaceAnnabelle BetteAnn AnnPamBlarney annabelle Annadogposter

An Inspiration: A-DOG member Christine and her therapy dog Windy bring comfort in Newtown, Boston and here at home

An essay and photos contributed by Christine Anastos, A-DOG member, to share her meaningful work helping chlidren through tragedy and challenge with her sensitive, loving therapy dog, Windy.  (Please note that the two photos of Windy with Boston Police Department officers were taken by Gretta Rybus)


IMAG1496 - Copy“I think that you should get a gold medal for the best, calmest, and nicest dog in the whole entire world! … We all love you and we know you love all of us.” ~5th Grade Student from  Newtown, CT


On October 10, 2009, I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to adopt a Black Labrador Retriever, and retired guide dog, Windy, from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, NY. From the moment I met her, and saw that “look” in her eyes, I vowed to share this amazing dog with others. Windy fills my life with those “Heavenly Days” – popularized by songwriter Patty Griffin – and, I strive to ensure that she does the same for others.

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Windy has been working as a therapy dog at the Youth Villages/Germaine Lawrence Treatment Center for girls with serious emotional and behavioral issues in Arlington, MA and, more recently, has been involved in the ongoing response of therapy dogs to the Newtown killings and the Boston Marathon bombings. In all settings, I have witnessed the impact that Windy has on those who she encounters. Depending on the circumstances, Windy can easily transition from one extreme to another. Specifically, she may be seen leaning against someone’s leg, writhing around on her back in ecstasy while having her belly rubbed, lying on her side so that she can be petted, or wagging her tail nonstop like a propeller.

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In the words of one student from Newtown, “In a great tragedy you have brought us happiness. If your job is to make us happy, you have exceeded standards.” Another student, whose cousin was killed in the tragedy, sent Windy a letter that read, “We can never thank you enough for being the best therapy dog there is and coming to us every Friday. You light up everybody’s day so much. Thank you for being yourself!” Windy’s playful side was described by another student as, “I loved when you came to Physical Education and ran laps with us. It was so cute. I also liked your soft fur and your ears! You were so gentle and kind to everyone. We love you.”


Windy appears to excel at what she does because she is extremely sensitive and takes in all of the emotion. She wants to help – and, actively seeks out those in need; it is fascinating to observe her in action. With her calm confidence, gentle demeanor, and caring gaze, she quickly turns tears and fears into smiles and laughs. Windy’s unconditional love, which is expressed in a variety of ways – e.g., her affection and attentiveness, inquisitive and mesmerizing eyes, her acrobatic movements – is hard to resist. I have been told by people, both young and old, that Windy’s healing presence gives them strength and, further, that they feel she really cares about them.


Watching Windy “work” is particularly rewarding to me since I have accomplished even more than what I set out to do with my loyal companion and devoted therapy dog.

Windy in BostonGretaRybus_Boston_Windy-9149

A-DOG in the 2013 Arlington Patriots Day Parade!

A-DOG marched in the Patriot’s Day Parade for the third year today, April 14, 2013.  Thank-you to everybody who joined us!


Join us for the 2014 Patriots Day Parade!  It will be held this year on Monday, April 21 at 9:30 a.m.  If you’d like to join us, you can sign up here.  If you have trouble with the form, contact us at


Membership Drive! Please Join or Renew Today to Support A-DOG!


Thank you for the support you’ve given A-DOG during our first 7 years! It is now time to renew your A-DOG membership, so that we can continue our mission. (And, to supporters who have not yet joined, please join us!)  Renewals are due April 1 of each membership year. A-DOG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so your membership dues are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.  If you joined last year with our new 2-year option, you do not have to do a thing, of course!  If you accidentally “join” again, we will extend your membership another year and send you a new card.



You always have the option to join or renew for two years at $35. Or you can continue to renew for one year at $20.

Simply go to Join A-DOG or, if you prefer, print and mail our renewal form. You can renew as a full paid member or an associate member.

In May 2008, A-DOG was established with a mission that includes promoting responsible dog ownership and advocating for the rights and interests of Arlington dog owners.

A-DOG’s accomplishments include:

  • Successful advocacy leading to off-leash recreational activities for dogs in Arlington where, when we were first founded, there were NO legal off-leash options. A-DOG’s advocacy resulted in: a new bylaw allowing off-leash morning hours in many Arlington parks; and a new fenced dog park at Thorndike Field
  • Educational programs including on therapy dogs, canine first aid/CPR, and dog training and behavior, including “Dog Park Etiquette”
  • Social events such as our annual “Whine and Wine” wine tasting party at Menotomy Beer and Wine
  • Opportunities for our  members to participate in fun community events such as our Town Day booth and annual march, with our dogs, in the Arlington Patriots Day parade
  • A monthly email newsletter, Wags and Tags, encouraging contributions from all our members and supporters!
  • Friends of A-DOG businesses who offer discounts and promotions to our members


“We need your support to continue to offer exciting educational and social programs.  The Town has recently hired a new K9 Recreation Activity Director, Daria Pannesi!  We look forward to working with Daria, our Animal Control Officer, Amanda Kennedy and others to bring new programs to Arlington dog owners and their supporters. Many dog owners would like a second fenced dog park in Arlington, since the first one has been so popular. And, unfortunately, there will always be pressure from opponents to return to restrictive leash laws.  So, we must continue our strong advocacy.

With your involvement and support, A-DOG can continue to carry out our mission, to keep Arlington a wonderful place for all of us, including our canine family members!”


Thank you in advance for your support,

A-DOG Membership Committee


Arlington Patriot’s Day Parade 2012

For the second year in a row, A-DOG members and their dogs marched in the Arlington Patriot’s Day Parade!

Here are some photos (click on each for a larger view):






Welcome to the A-DOG Website Front Page


Arlington Dog Owners Group, or A-DOG, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) community organization celebrating the canine-human bond!  Since 2008, A-DOG has represented the rights and interests of responsible dog owners in Arlington, MA.

“I love A-DOG! Always will!” — Carrie M., Arlington

Read what else  our members have to say about A-DOG!

See some of our dogs!

Join the A-DOG group on Facebook, just for fun and to stick together!

Shop for A-DOG products!

Support the Thorndike Dog Park in Arlington!

Copyright 2008 – 2016, Arlington Dog Owners Group, all rights reserved



Dogs Delight art show reception flyer HERE

A-DOG Members get our fun, informative newsletter Wags and Tags.  We hope you will join us!  If you are not a member and want to sign up for Wags and Tags anyway, just click the green button:

Get Wags and Tags!



    •  Morning off-leash recreation is now allowed at several Arlington parks.  An A-DOG sponsored Town Meeting Article (Art. 36, 2010) made this bylaw change possible!  (see Animal Control bylaws and search “Article 36” for more history.)  Regulations for off-leash hours are on the town website. Your dog MUST be under control and, even during legal hours, should not run up to people or other dogs that do not want to be approached.
    • Thorndike OLRA, Arlington’s first dedicated fenced dog park opened in 2012, and is very popular with dog owning families and with people who love to bring their children to visit the dogs!.  Check here to join our community and support the dog park, and the town website for regulations and other key information. Please make sure you have a dog that is friendly to other dogs before bringing her to the dog park!
    • Leash law:  otherwise, dogs not on their owners’ property must be walked on a 6-foot leash.  (see Canine Control bylaws)



Welcome to our website! Please read our articles and enter comments wherever you’d like (there is a comment section after each article).  We ask that you not post anonymously but that, instead, you sign your name, to encourage the most constructive dialog possible in our community. The comments are moderated and we reserve the right to not publish comments for certain reasons, such as no email provided. (This email address is visible to the moderators but not to the public viewing the site.) If a comment seems particularly rude and disrespectful, we reserve the right not to publish it and will try to inform the author by email with a chance to revise it. We will, however, do our best to allow, and encourage, comments representing all points of view on issues of relevance to our articles.

We welcome submissions of articles on relevant topics for our Wags and Tags Newsletter, please contact us at the email given below with your proposal.

Feel free to contact us at <> with questions, feedback, article proposals, or any other inquiry.

Our Facebook Groups, A-DOG, Arlington (MA) Dog Owners Group and Friends of Thorndike Dog Park, are great places for more active discussion.

Board of Selectmen vote “No Action” on Article 24

Arlington’s Board of Selectmen (BoS) held a final hearing on Article 24, to enable the Park and Recreation Commission (PRC) to establish off-leash hours from 6 pm to park closing. The Selectmen voted unanimously to support “no action” on this article at Town Meeting. Town Meeting may still pass this Article, but without support of the Selectmen. Without their support, it will be an uphill battle.


Article 24 Background

The proponents of Article 24, represented by its sponsor, one of us (M.H.), put forth a warrant article for the 2012 Town Meeting with the same wording as the 2010 Article 36, which allowed morning off-leash recreation hours. The proposed language of Article 24 would allow evening off-leash recreation on:  “lands under control of the Park and Recreation Commission except: A. those lands directly contiguous to school properties; B. within 15 feet of playground equipment; C. by specific exclusion of the Park and Recreation Commission.”


This language was recommended by PRC, and allows the PRC complete flexibility in establishing, modifying, or discontinuing off-leash hours to respond to evolving community needs. Proponents of Article 24 met with the PRC Chair before putting forth the article for approval and language and scheduled discussion with the full PRC shortly thereafter. Proponents also stated that they would not bring forth the Article if PRC didn’t feel the timing was appropriate or had any other reservations about implementing evening off-leash hours.


Procedural History

Warrant Article 24 was submitted to Town Warrant with the signatures of 10 registered Arlington residents, as required.


Feb 27, 2012: First BoS hearing on Article 24. PRC provided a short paragraph to BoS on the Article. The BoS decided to postpone consideration of this Article to allow the PRC more time to provide more detailed information. On Feb 27, members of the public, who had waited until after 9 pm, were not allowed to speak after the sponsoring proponent. It was our impression that we would be able to participate at the next hearing.


Mar 26, 2012: Second BoS hearing on Article 24: PRC provided a 2-page response to Article 24, indicating support for the Article. Again, the Article came up late on the Agenda, and the supporters of the Article waited past 9pm for an opportunity to talk. Again, the sponsoring proponent was allowed to speak, but the BoS refused to allow any other members of the public to speak saying “This isn’t a hearing” and “We already know what you’re going to say.”  The BoS unanimously voted “No Action” on Article 24.  See the video for the full discussion.
(A link to obtain the PRC’s 2-page memo and a link to a video of the hearing appear at the end of this article.)


In their memo to the BoS, the PRC also recognized the community interest in off-leash hours, and said the article, if passed, would be “very workable.” The memo anticipated a more limited number of parks, as compared to the morning hours, and perhaps seasonal restrictions.  But, as is appropriate, the PRC memo explained that specific details (e.g. which parks, which times of year) would not be determined until there was a transparent public input process, involving dog owners and other concerned users of each potential park. This was exactly the kind of process used to establish the morning off-leash hours, after the Article 36 substitute motion (with wording analogous to that shown above) passed at TM in 2010. Allowing discretion on off-leash recreation by a Park and Recreation Commission, or its equivalent, is in keeping with its typical role. For example, Brookline’s Green Dog Plan is allowed by a general bylaw that leaves the park-specific details, including the hours, to its Park and Recreation Commission.


Even though Article 36 passed in 2010, and had been supported by the PRC, the BoS had voted “no action” (4 to 1).  The passage of the Article at TM was very close, and we believe this was in part because of the lack of BoS support.


At the March 26 Hearing all five Selectmen were present, and each presented his or her reasons for voting  “no action.” Next to each objection are the arguments of Article 24 proponents, who would have raised these in response had we been given a chance to speak.


–        Too soon (Dunn, Rowe and LaCourt): Matter of personal opinion—has been 2 years since Article 36 passed, this one goes either way

–        Too much pressure on PRC (Rowe): PRC has indicated support, and did not tell Article 24 proponents that this was either too soon or too much pressure when asked.

–        Positive action not supported by PRC (Greeley): We disagree—memo indicates community need for evening hours, calls plan “workable”, and suggests acceptable wording for a motion

–        Plan not detailed enough (Mahon, Rowe): Plan is detailed exactly as Article 36, which PRC has implemented and considers a successful program. BoS seem not to trust their PRC with the responsibility to implement this program, as has been done in Arlington and other towns. In addition, having a more detailed plan in the bylaws would render evening hours less flexible, reduce discretion of PRC, and would require act of Town Meeting to change.


In addition, at the Feb 27 Hearing, this argument was also raised:

–        Warrant Article should be submitted by PRC, not by 10 Registered Voters: This argument is puzzling, at best. Arlington’s bylaws allow warrant articles to be submitted by the public, and indeed, every year many articles appear before TM that are submitted by 10 Registered Voters, on everything from leaf blowers to chickens.


While their reasons for voting “no action” were stated, at least one Selectman supported the idea of evening off-leash hours, and others were supportive of bringing the issue before Town Meeting.


The Selectmen have a practice of holding public hearings on Warrant Articles, but have not been consistent in allowing the public to speak, as was evident at the hearings that evening. We would have liked the opportunity to be heard on this issue. We note that, in addition, dozens of our members wrote letters in support of Article 24 to the BoS, but that there was no “correspondence received” for this Article as there often is for others.


Please watch the video of the final Article 24 BoS hearing and judge for yourself.
Also, see the PRC’s 2-page memo here



by A-DOG Members:


S. Doctrow (TMM, Pct 21), J. Goebel  (TMM (2008-2010), Pct 21), A. Goldstein (TMM, Pct 14), M. Henning (TMM, Pct 19), and R. Varghese

Arlington’s Animal Control Bylaws



Arlington’s Animal Control Bylaws now allow morning off leash recreation (generally, 6 to 9 am, with some exceptions) in several Arlington parks.  Specific details on the program may be found at the website of the Recreation Department at this link, where a brochure listing specific parks, off-leash hours and other details may be downloaded.

The bylaw change enabling morning off-leash recreation was sponsored at Town Meeting by A-DOG, with several Town Meeting members who are also A-DOG members advocating successfully for Town Meeting approval.  The new wording appears in red in the bylaws (below).

Arlington’s Animal Control bylaws also allow for fenced “dog recreation areas”, to be established by the Park and Recreation Commission.  This bylaw change (shown in blue) was voted in by Town Meeting (2003/2004) through the efforts of an earlier group of Arlington dog owners, the Friends of Canine Companions of Arlington (FOCCA).  Some of the original FOCCA members joined with other residents to found A-DOG in 2008.

When not in a designated off-leash recreational area at designated times, Arlington bylaws require that dogs be restrained on a leash no greater than 6 ft in length.

Fines for violating the “Leash Laws” in Arlington are among the highest, if not the highest, in Massachusetts, as shown below in green.  This was because of an amendment voted in by Town Meeting, 2011.  An A-DOG member, Wes Beal has sponsored a petition to return these fines to levels more consistent with those in other communities (generally, no greater than $50).




Title VIII – Public Health and Safety 


Section 1. Dogs

No person shall own or keep any dog which by biting, barking, howling, or in any other manner disturbs the peace and quiet of any neighborhood, or endangers the safety of any person.

Section 2. Leashing of Dogs

Leash Required

No person owning or keeping a dog in the Town of Arlington shall permit such dog to be at large in the Town of Arlington elsewhere than on the premises of the owner or keeper, except if it be on the premises of another person with the knowledge and permission of such other person. Such owner or keeper of a dog in the Town of Arlington, which is not on the premises of the owner or upon the premises of another person with the knowledge and permission of such person shall restrain such dog by a chain or leash not exceeding six feet in length. In any prosecution hereunder, the presence of such dog at large upon premises other than the premises of the owner or keeper of such dog shall be prima facie evidence that such knowledge and permission was not had.

ART. 10, ATM 4/28/03

This provision shall not apply, however, in any area designated by the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners as a “Dog Park,” “Dog Run” or “Dog Exercise Area.” In areas so designated, dogs are not required to be restrained by a leash provided the owner or keeper of such dog is present and attentive to the dog.

B. Enforcement

Any dog found to be at large in violation of this By-Law shall be caught and confined by the dog officer who shall notify forthwith the licensed owner or keeper of said dog giving the owner or keeper a period of ten days within which to recover the dog. Return of the dog to the licensed owner or keeper shall be dependent on admission of ownership or the keeping of the dog and the assumption of responsibility by the licensed  owner or keeper. The dog officer shall enter and prosecute a complaint against the owner or keeper of any dog taken into his custody under this section, as provided for in this By-Law. A dog officer having custody of a dog confined under this By-Law shall be allowed the sum of two dollars per day for each day of confinement for the care of such dog, payable by the owner or keeper thereof.


C.     Fines

(ART. 40, ATM – 05/08/91 (ART. 17, ATM – 04/26/06)(ART. 19, ATM – 04/27/11)

Violations of Sections 2 of this Article shall be punishable as follows:


First offense                                                   By a fine of      $75.00

Second offense                                          By a fine of    $100.00

Third offense                                                   By a fine of    $150.00

Fourth and each subsequent offense      By a fine of    $200.00


The Park and Recreation Commission shall provide for a hearing process to consider community input regarding the creation, placement and use of dog parks, dog runs or dog exercise areas.  The Commission shall adopt rules and regulations concerning these hearings subject to the approval of the Town Manager.


D.      Notwithstanding the foregoing, from park opening time until 9 am, a maximum of two dogs per handler may be off-leash, under effective owner control, in all lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except (ART 36, ATM 2010):

1.      those lands directly contiguous to school properties;

2.      within 15 feet of playground equipment;

3.      by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.


Title IV – Public Areas



Section 8. Animal Control

Art. 9, ATM, 4/28/03 and ART 36, ATM 2010

No person shall cause or permit any animal owned by him or in his custody or under his control, to roam or be at large, in, on or through any park or playground, except in any area designated by the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners as a “Dog Park”, “Dog Run” or “Dog Exercise Area”, or, except a dog when restrained by a leash not exceeding six (6) feet in length. No animals are allowed on any beach under the care and control of the Park Department. Notwithstanding the foregoing, from park opening time until 9 am, a maximum of two dogs per handler may be off-leash, under effective owner control, in all lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except:

A.      those lands directly contiguous to school properties;

B.      within 15 feet of playground equipment;

C.      by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Bylaws reprinted from the Town of Arlington website, here.

Thorndike fenced dog park coming soon — Update: it’s open!!

The photos above shows the site of Arlington’s new fenced dog park, taken in mid-April during construction. It was open in May, 2012 and is now very popular!  (thanks to Arlington resident Larry Krupp for sending us these photos — we will post more current photos of the open dog park soon!)


Fenced dog parks in Arlington have been allowed by law since 2003, but have not yet been established.  At A-DOG’s request, the Town, through its Recreation Department and Park and Recreation Commission, formed a Dog Park Task Force, that began  meeting in 2009, with at least three fenced dog parks on it’s “wish list”.  Through a generous grant to Arlington from the Stanton Foundation, our first fenced dog park, at Thorndike Field in East Arlington, has become a reality!  Visit the dog park today with your well-socialized dog to enjoy the agility elements (tunnels and “dog walk”) and running and wrestling with new doggy buddies.  There is, also, a separate fenced area for small dogs, puppies, or others whose owners might choose to keep them away from the main action.

Below, we publish an article by Bette Yip, whose Arlington based business, Picture Perfect Pets, is a “Friend of A-DOG”. Bette described how the dog park would be coming soon to Arlington, and how we can all work together to make it a success!  (This was originally published as her “Weekly Yip” column in the Arlington Patch).

As Bette points out, A-DOG has organized a Friends of Thorndike Dog Park group of users and supporters. Contact A-DOG to learn more.

Facebook users: Join our Friends of Thorndike Dog Park page!

For regulations and other information please see the Arlington Recreation Department website. Comments and suggestions may be directed to Joe Connelly, Director of Recreation via the Town site.


Arlington’s First Fenced Dog Park

Here are some ways you can help to make it a success for our town.

by Bette Yip

For as long as I’ve been an Arlington business owner, there has been talk about the possibility of a fenced dog park one day being built in our town. In fact, Town Meeting voted to allow fenced dog parks in 2003, I was reminded when I recently sat down to discuss our current dog park situation with Sue Doctrow of the Arlington Dog Owners Group (A-DOG) who is also a member of Arlington’s Dog Park Task Force. Still, at times, the notion of a fenced dog park in Arlington has felt more like a fantasy than a possibility. Now, almost a decade after Town Meeting voted to allow fenced dog parks in Arlington, that’s all about to change. Thorndike Dog Park is currently under construction, and is expected to open sometime this spring.


The road leading to this point has been long. Doctrow explained that Arlington established The Dog Park Task Force in 2010 to identify potential sites, designs & costs for fenced dog parks in town. Last year, a generous donation from the Stanton Foundation made construction of our first dog park a reality. Considering what a struggle it’s been to get this fenced dog park, it’s all the more critical that we all do our part to ensure its success.


Here are some ways dog owners can help:


  • Know your dog, and be realistic about whether a fenced-dog park is the right socialization and exercise option for your particular dog. Some dogs love to play with other dogs in groups. Others prefer long walks with their humans in places where they may encounter and briefly socialize with a variety of other dogs, but probably wouldn’t linger long to frolic as a pack. Still others prefer the company of humans and do better when kept away from areas where unleashed dogs might approach them. If your dog might not play well with others in a fenced dog-park, a different type of recreation might be a better and safer fit.
  • Familiarize yourself with and obey the posted rules. The town and the Dog Park Task Force are in the process of finalizing the rules which will be clearly posted once the park opens.
  • Learn to read canine body language. When a dog asks another dog for space but doesn’t get it, trouble could erupt. Dogs use intricate and subtle body language to communicate with one another. If you know what you’re looking for, you can read the conversation among dogs, and better anticipate when you should intervene in their interactions to prevent scuffles. There are a number of great resources available on this subject. Two I like are a DVD set from Sarah Kalnajs called The Language of Dogs and a book by Robin K. Bennett & Susan Briggs called Off-Leash Dog Play : a Complete Guide to Safety and Fun. As I looked up links to these resources, I came across another promising book with good reviews titled Visiting the Dog Park : Having Fun, Staying Safe by Cheryl Smith.
  • Brush up on your dog’s training. “Come when called” is perhaps the most critical skill to work on. I also find these additional cues very useful: Red Light/Green Light (meaning stop and focus on me/now you’re free to frolic), Leave It, Sit/Freeze and Down/Freeze (Freeze is my version of Stay).
  • Contact A-DOG about joining Friends of Thorndike Dog Park. This is a group for users and other supporters of the dog park. It will work with the town to set fundraising goals, organize volunteer efforts, etc. to ensure the long-term success of the park.


It’s so exciting to think that our first dog park will probably be open within a matter of months! This will be a big boost to quality of life for many Arlington dogs and their owners. I have high hopes that park visitors will rise to the responsibility this amazing new privilege brings.

Wine Tasting for A-DOG at Menotomy Beer and Wine

Everybody had a great time at the A-DOG Wine Tasting Party at Menotomy Beer and Wine (80 Broadway St., Arlington) on the evening of June 15. Thanks so much to all the organizers, especially Roslyn and Ann Smith and Susan Ruderman. And, many thanks to Menotomy Beer and Wine, a Friend of A-DOG for hosting the event for A-DOG members and their dogs! Drawing prizes were donated by several A-DOG members and by Lakota Bakery, Arlington Heights. Delicious refreshments were donated by our hosts. Members brought dog food to be donated to Pound Hounds, to help feed shelter dogs. Don’t forget, members, when you buy your wine at Menotomy Beer and Wine tell them you’re with A-DOG and 5% will be donated to A-DOG.

Life is a walk in the (dog) park

Unleashed, pooches and their human pals have more in common than you’d think.

By Matthew Gilbert

Globe Staff / May 31, 2011

(Note from SRD:  I loved this article (thanks to Brenda Kokubo for passing it on)!  It so clearly describes why we get up each morning, put on our grungiest sweatpants, and escort our doggies to the local park to meet their, and our, friends. Especially, to me, it describes the bonding among dog owners: some become our closest friends, others will always be only the anonymous “Fido’s mom”; but with all we end up sharing a valuable connection. People who come to public meetings to protest, in an exaggerated fashion anyway, “20 dog owners standing around with coffee cups” just don’t get it..that this is a community recreational activity as important to people as to their dogs. This article is reprinted on our website with permission from its author, Matthew Gilbert…..please comment on the article and join the Pets group on!)

I get high every single day from Amory Playground in Brookline. Overlooking Boston, with a front-row-balcony view of the Prudential, Amory’s dog-friendly hours are a daily dose of joy not just for my Yellow Lab, Toby, but for me. Like so many dog owners, when my dog goes off the leash, I do too.

Mostly, the rush is from being in the presence of freed animals in the city. I come to the dog park and leave behind so many of the rules of adulthood and city life. I roll into the parking lot, unhook Toby, and get pulled into this uncontrollable dog park world.

Even on rain-swept mornings, when the great field is sludgy and Toby’s rubber ball is an orb of mud, I like to go there, find a few like-minded congregants huddled under trees along the perimeter, and stand soaking with them. Sunny, dry days are better. We form a minyan of dog people, and we mumble together while our animals shake it up around us. The dogs improvise a biblical scene about dominance and submission, and they corral and chase one another into corners of the field like school kids at recess. We analyze their play, and we see ourselves in it.

I used to be clean most of the time, always soft-spoken, and unwilling to throw balls in public. I’d spend my spare time with my iPod on, or power-watching classic TV shows. Before Toby, who is now 6, I still stood a chance of seeing every episode of “Law & Order” ever made. Now, I rarely miss a morning at Amory, unconcerned about how imbecilic I look pitching the ball for Toby to fetch. Now my pants legs are ever-splotched from dog paws. After an hour, I am dirty and maybe stinky, too. More than once, I’ve been peed on by a dog, unaware until I detect an unusual warmth on my calf. My dog-averse friends will no longer take rides in my toy-cluttered, fur-flecked car.

There is something spiritual about these daily park visits, I am sure of that. They move me in ways my other quasi-religious forays including one ground-rumbling mass in a Colorado forest never did. Partly, the rush comes from the lushness of Amory, which includes two romantic baseball diamonds, a rim of fairy-tale weeping willows, and a pastoral hillside, for lying in the shade on perfect summer days. It’s an idyllic urban spot, like so many of the dog parks in this country; it’s one of the closest things to a fairground you’ll find on Boston’s Green line, between the B and C trolleys, a few blocks from Fenway Park and its interrogatory lights. With free admission, no dress code, squirrels on picnic tables, nannies with strollers, and the scent of pot occasionally tinging the breeze, the park carries the air of civilization at its most wistfully mundane.

But mostly, the rush is from the dogs, from being in the presence of freed animals in the city. I come to the dog park and leave behind so many of the rules and barriers of adulthood and city life. I roll into the parking lot, unhook Toby, and get pulled into this uncontrollable dog park world where sudden, unplanned things happen and where there are no traffic lights. While my DVR is sitting at home living by a tight schedule, I’m unplugged. I instantly feel a heightened pressure to be ready to spring into the moment of a dog fight, or one of the many owner fights, or to catch a dog charging into the street to chase cars. It’s liberating, to let go of the habit of circumspection and caution, to be more alert to the possibilities of the here and now. We become more dog-like at the park, even while we stand around brazenly anthropomorphizing our beloved pets into infants, TV characters, and, in the case of Quincy the Amazing Midair Frisbee-catching Collie, sports heroes.

Humans don’t bark – or do they? When we’re off-leash, we certainly do. In conversation with another dog owner, one of us inevitably has Tourette-like outbursts, mid-sentence. This doesn’t generally happen at a coffee shop or in the subway, among the civilized. But you can be confiding in a park friend about losing your keys, or losing your job, or losing your father, when she suddenly begins calling her dog away from a puddle, away from a passerby on the walking path, or, in the case of the crumb-obsessed Toby, away from a baby carriage. And our calls aren’t gentle or even civil; they have enough raw affect to reach a brain that only hears affect. From “Daisy girl, DAYY-sy girl,” to “Come HERE Alexis,” we can be heard screaming out across the field. Despite a stubbornly mellow voice born for FM radio, I have had to become a scrappy newspaper hawker “Toby COME, Toby COME,” again and again.

Collectively, we probably sound like hungry farm animals. Or maybe we’re a congregation of supplicants, yelling and yelling to be heard just once.

Maybe we sound like fools, too. Who cares. The anonymity of the park can be disarming, freeing. It’s part of the uplift, too. I can’t count how many deeply satisfying conversations I’ve had with strangers over the six years of Toby’s life, interactions charged solely with the love of or fascination with dogs. How strange and yet natural it is to share intimate details of your “goose” or “monkey” with someone you’ve never seen before and may never see again — a BU student, a homeless man, a suburban mom. In those moments, it feels like a small world. Or maybe a carnival, or a World Series game, or a Grateful Dead concert. Who you might be, or not be, outside the park borders doesn’t quite matter. Such social hierarchy has less weight on a rainy morning when you’re standing together wrapped in electric blue and orange nylon. If you know dogs, if you love dogs, if you are funny, if you’re a good listener, if you’re a good talker, then you can find your spot. We enter the park as pretty much just ourselves. It’s a purer hierarchy.

In many cases, we don’t even know one another’s names, just the dogs’ names. We’re unleashed from the burden of our names.

And, of course, we’re not all strangers. There is an attachment among park people that, after years, can be profound. I’ve made a few lifelong friends standing in that field. Many of us see our park mates more than we see friends out in the world; we’re the cast of “The Office” or “Cheers,” reading one another’s weaknesses, teasing as a sign of affection, noticing absences.

Indeed, this community of dog lovers has been the great bonus of the park. Dogs, little gusts of spirit, are a way into our own hearts, yes, but they are also a bridge to other people. We could be walking alone with our dogs, day in and day out, looping the neighborhood blocks, nodding or not nodding to the other dog owners on leash. I could be playing tug of war with Toby in the TV room, in front of an episode of “30 Rock.”

But instead we choose to meet up, despite the social irritations and the occasional bad dog — or maybe because of the social irritations and the bad dogs and the ever-present potential for cracks in the surface. The tone of interaction usually isn’t very refined, as we pick up poop and carry it in plastic bags, its malodor assaulting our nostrils; as we pull humping dogs off their conquests by their collars and maybe reveal a glimpse of pink; as we share and overshare and listen to the rantings of the less tethered among us. We let it all hang out.

The dog play ushers in an atmosphere of extroversion and, sometimes unexpectedly, celebration. With the yelling, and the dirt, and the swirling dog energy accelerating our un-self-consciousness, it’s as though we’re children at the playground all over again. Forts are built and ponytails are tugged — figuratively, of course, but still. It’s as close to the unadorned, primitive socializing of “Peanuts” as I’ve known. Yes, all of the dynamic problems of groups (read: families) are in the air — the triangular tensions, the unrequited attractions, the ganging up, the passive-aggression. But they are in the air, and not subterranean. They are as obvious as the little mutt who thinks we can’t see she’s got a big, illicit clump of grass in her mouth.

One day recently, I took a step back and watched. Sitting under a maple tree on the hill that borders Amory and simply observing bodies in motion, I saw that the humans moved like the dogs, only at a much slower pace. The dogs — romping, chasing, looping — were an accelerated, time-lapse version of the people. As a group, the owners migrate slowly, curling forward, shedding and gaining members along their path; the dogs do it 30 times for their one.

Sitting up on the hill in that moment, watching the human and the canine social whirl side by side, I see all the movement in the park as a sky filled with planets and constellations. And the dogs are our shooting stars.

Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert is working on a book about dog-park culture called “Off the Leash: Dispatches From the Dog Park.” He can be reached at

A-DOG in the Arlington Patriot’s Day Parade, 2011!

A-DOG marched in the Arlington Patriot’s Day parade on April 17, 2011!  It’s been estimated that from 19 to 30 dogs participated, with their owners, as well as other members and friends who marched without their dogs.

Highlights of the parade included:

  • Marching behind the awesome Jumbalaya band..that was really fun!
  • The friendly crowds of enthusiastic spectators, including many groups of children who frequently cried “doggies! doggies!” and were even more delighted to have the doggies come over to greet them personally!
  • Passing Town Hall, where the announcer read a very nice statement about the mission of our organization, and remarked on all the well-behaved dogs in the parade.
  • Seeing so many of our friends and neighbors among the spectators!
  • The feeling of community, fun, and celebration that only a parade can bring!

Thank-you to all members who participated, as well as to the organizers, including:

  • Joan and Dana, who built a beautiful A-DOG Cart!  This cart was pulled by Joan and Emily (escorting Bella and Clio), since no dog volunteered for the effort.  ;-) Joan, Dana and their 3-generation family escorted their three extended-family dogs, including Dana and Joan’s Bella and Wizard.
  • Ann and Roslyn, who pulled the entire event together in so many ways, as they always do, including creating the A-DOG banner, carried by Mary and Zarina in the parade.  Roslyn escorted their dog Pepe.
  • Susan R., who stitched lovely blue bandannas for the marching doggies and escorted her dog Juneau

Please add your own comments, acknowledgments and parade memories under “comments” below, and contact us to have your photos added.

See you next year!

Why Members Support A-DOG!

On our membership form, we ask our members why they choose to support A-DOG. You can add your own reasons in the Comments section!

If you sent us a comment on your membership form, and don’t see it here, let us know.  We might have missed it our you might not have checked “Yes” for permission to quote.  But, we want everybody to be included who wants to be!

Here, with their permission, is what our members are saying:


“Just moved to Arlington, A-DOG seems like a great group!”

Carly and Matt C., Arlington


“LOVE that there is an organization here in town advocating for dogs and dog owners. The off leash opportunities to socialize our 4 legged family members is so important, I hope that there will be more all around town someday.”

Melanie C. and Ed W., Arlington

“I assume this is a good way to stay informed on all dog related happenings in/around Arlington.”

Jessica G., Arlington

“I think it’s great that there’s a group in town for dog-owners, given that there are so many of us and lots of issues that go with. Maybe I’ll learn something and have opportunities to give and receive support!”

Suzy and Chris N., Arlington

“Great program at Robbins Library last night!”

Jess W. and Gabi T., Arlington

“To support and promote quality of life for dogs and their owners.”

Eileen O., Arlington

“Because I love my dog and am happy there is a group in town to support and connect dog owners.”

— Jennifer J., Arlington

“I support A-Dog to support the our dogs, who are an important part of our community.  I especially want to advocate for access to green space for our dogs.  Thanks!…”

— Dorothy H., Arlington

“I have been coming to the dog park since I first got my puppy (a little less than a year ago). Great place, great dogs, and nice responsible dog owners.  I wish we had a dog park in Lexington.”

— Sean and Donald M., Lexington

“As Roger Caras, former president of the ASPCA says, “Dogs are not our whole lives, but make our lives whole.” Companion animals bring so much to a community as well as to a home, and I proudly support organizations such as A-DOG that foster community activism on behalf of our companion animals, as well as support responsible canine caretaking (I don’t like to say “pet ownership”). 

A huge step would be to work with Arlington landlords on allowing people to rent with dogs. When my partner and I moved here from Somerville two years ago, we were able to find exactly one — ONE! — apartment (in our price range … there are very expensive ones available) here in Arlington that would accept a dog.”

— Janice Z. and Rob K., Arlington


” I love my dog, Cozmo, and I’m a new resident of Arlington.  I moved to this town from Boston, which is a surprisingly un-dog-friendly city.  It would be nice to be connected to events and opportunities to have fun w Cozmo while making it possible to better the well being of others’ furry friends!”

Lindsey Z., Arlington 

“Our company fetch(.) is a family and locally owned and operated labor of love.  We’ve been in business in Somerville, Cambridge and Arlington for two years and have a growing list of clients who use and love the Thorndike Off-Leash Rec Area.  We take our own pup, Gracie, the Frenchie there as well and would really love to become more integrated in what we see as one of the most involved, responsible, and hard-working canine communities around.”

Mel R. and Michelle B., Somerville 

“I respect what A-DOG has done to improve awareness of dog training and the responsibilities of canine ownership. I’m interested in programs like Me & My Dog fitness course; also potentially interested in agility training and competition. I have a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, born Nov. 9, 2012.”

Charlotte P., Arlington

“I [went] to the Dog Park meeting the other night and was impressed.”

Dianne S., Arlington

“My husband and I are excited to be new home owners in Arlington and now new puppy owners as well! We look forward to meeting other dog lovers in the community and socializing our good little girl, Penny with her new dog neighbors.”

Joanna H., Arlington

“I am a brand new dog owner and thrilled to find this group.  I feel like I was just invited into a new world with new rules, as a dog owner.  I have had cats for years (and love them dearly) but this dog world is far more social and complex!!”

Sonia and Jean-Francois H., Arlington

“I’m a life-long dog lover and a newish dog owner to Maisie, a mischievous Scottish Terrier who will be one year old in May.”

— Margaret P. and Wilbur K., Arlington 

“New resident to Arlington, excited to see the dog park efforts and community!”

— Melissa and Bohdar H., Arlington

“I’ve been hoping to join ever since I received your first mailing……Especially recently, in support of the Thorndike dog park, I hope to include our voice in the importance of our dogs in our community. They are family in our household. I look forward to maintaining a membership with A-Dog. Thanks for the opportunity Joan.”

— Melanie C. and Ed W., Arlington

“I like receiving the A-Dog email updates, and especially appreciate  the work done to enact and support the …..offleash program in Arlington (of which I benefit).  Also, I do not think the dog park at Thorndike would have become a reality without the dedication of A-dog members.  It is projects like the dog park that emphasize how useful an association like A-Dog is.  Thanks for all that you do.”

— Gayle N., Arlington

“Thank you for the work you do for pet owners in Arlington. There is power with solidarity.”   — Janet D., Arlington

” LOVE off-leash hours at Turkey Hill.
HATE neighbors who don’t pick up after their dogs ……(and who give the rest of us a bad name)
Wish to support legal off-leash alternatives for those of us who obey the law!”                      –Ruth S., Arlington

“A-DOG brought off leash hours to Arlington, which is a life-changing difference for me and my dogs.  A-DOG continues to advocate for dogs and their people and works to enhance the human-dog relationship in Arlington.”
— Ellen D., Arlington

“I appreciate the work A-DOG and its members have done on behalf of dog owners in Arlington to help establish off-leash hours in our town parks and through its activities attracting the support needed to fund and build the Thorndike Off-leash Recreation Area.  There is still much work that needs to be done to help address additional needs for off-leash recreation for those that are unable to use the morning hours.”                                             — Robin V., Arlington

2008 – 2012:

“I have been reading a lot about dogs, about their need for early socialization, how much better they do when they have good training and time to be off-leash. I see so many people treating their dogs badly and I want to support responsible ownership. I’m getting a dog very soon and I’m happy that there is now a dog-park and many places that are dog friendly.”

Christine A., Arlington

“We love our dog and our community!”

Allison and Andy S., Arlington 

 “Thanks for all the things you do for all the dogs and dog owners here in Arlington.”

— Cris S.C. and Manuel M., Arlington

“We just got our little mini-schnauzer puppy and would like to know about different events and activities for dogs in the area. We would also like to have her socialize with other dogs.”

— Julie S. and Dustin T., Arlington


“We are moving to Arlington in July and have a dog.  We’ve heard it’s been a struggle to allow off leash and other basic dog enjoyment regulations to proceed.  We love the new dog park!”

— David V. and Sarah R., Arlington


“I’d like to think that Arlington is a dog friendly place but haven’t always felt that way in the few years I’ve lived here.  That’s why it’s heartening to see organizations like A-Dog which support dog ownership.  I just lost Winston, one of my dogs, and as painful as that is, I’d like to do as much as I can to support other dogs and dog owners.  I know he would have liked that.”

— Deborah G., Arlington 


“Among other things, we are looking for a community that understands the bond between members of a human/canine family……” 

— Brett G. and Deborah F., Arlington

 “Dogs do so much for us, it’s nice if we can give them good places to play off leash with their friends!”

— Pamela S., Medford

“We just adopted a rescue dog, and would love to give him a chance to run around outside in a fenced in area, off leash.”

— Angela and David S., Arlington

“Five or more days a week my friends and our dogs enjoy an off-leash romp at Turkey Hill.  Thank you for making this possible and legal.”

— Ruth S., Arlington

“The off-leash hours that A-DOG helped establish has created a nice community of neighbors at our local park, in addition to making our dog more sociable and better behaved.  We’ve changed our morning routine to be a part of this community.”

— Amy G. and Doug G., Arlington


“I really appreciate the value of dogs in our lives and how to establish “rights” and environments to meet their needs to just be DOGS!”

Ellen C., Arlington


“We love Arlington and love our dog.  We want to support ways to enjoy both!”

–Heather and David A., Arlington 


“The off leash hours are life-changing. I so appreciate the advocacy for dogs and their people. The leadership is sophisticated and strategic–needed when issues are charged.”

— Ellen D., Arlington

“You all do such a great job supporting dogs and their families in arlington!!”

— Michele S., Arlington

“for all of the hard work and persistence in getting off leash hours passed and keeping us informed about dog related town-wide concerns”

— Louisa B., Arlington

“I am excited to learn more about the possibility of a dog park in Arlington!”

— Margaret M., Arlington

“We support A-DOG because we enjoy being able to enjoy the parks with our dog Estella during off leash hours and think it’s important that this continue to be allowed.”

— Dustin and Ellen T., Arlington

“We need to speak up for the voiceless and that includes all animals.”

— Heather B., Arlington

“Every dog needs a support system. I think the work you do is so important to our dogs and our own mental and physical health. Thanks so much!”

— Pam H., Arlington

“I thought A-DOG did and continues to do a great job of working on behalf of all of the dogs and dog owners in Arlington.  I am particularly appreciative of all of the work you did and continue to do to help obtain and maintain off leash hours for dogs in this town.”

— Louisa B., Arlington

“What you’ve done and are doing is impressive and important – we and our dogs want to be a more active part of it!”

— Roma H., Arlington

“I love A-DOG! Always will!”

— Carrie M., Arlington

“Pets are important members of our community. Responsible pet ownership is essential.”

— Janet D., Arlington

“LOVE the off-leash hours at Turkey Hill and use them daily. Time to support the great group that made this happen and be in the loop.”

— Ruth S., Arlington

“I want to keep Arlington dog friendly!”

– – Gian S., Arlington, MA

“I love animals, and two of my best friends are Becker and Candace, my friend Sue’s wonderful companions.”

– – Alma G., Arlington, MA

“While I understand where opponents of off-leash dogs are coming from, many of them are against every proposed solution, so it’s important that responsible dog owners can present a united front.  I can’t wait for the fenced dog park, which I don’t think would be happening if A-DOG didn’t exist!  I’d also love evening or weekend off-leash hours (since the morning hours don’t work for me). I strongly prefer off-leash locations places with some sort of visual barrier between the dog area and other uses, even if it’s not a real fence — just something to help my dog know where the limit is).”

– – Riley H., Arlington

“As a new resident, I have found dog owners to be the most welcoming and inviting members of the Arlington community!”

– – Meghan H., Arlington

“I support A-Dog because I believe that Arlington residents who own dogs should be responsible and educated about town bylaws and plans for dog parks, etc. A-Dog does a great job of getting messages out to Arlington’s dog-owning community.”

– – Jennifer G., Arlington

“I feel strongly about exercising my rights as a responsible dog owner. I am also concerned with the well-being of my dog who needs active off-leash play time to be healthy.”

— Gene L., Arlington

“Because dogs have feelings and needs too.”

— Keith P., Arlington

“I support A-DOG because canine citizens are an important part of our community. Dogs enrich our lives, and A-DOG makes it easier to be a dog owner in Arlington.”

— Susan R., Arlington

“We are very interested in having areas for our dog to run and play right here in our town! We are responsible dog owners and are happy to join a group of like-minded individuals!”

— Maureen L., Arlington



Debate Continues on Off-Leash Hours and “Probation” is Considered by Board of Selectmen.

Last spring, Arlington Town Meeting passed a substitute motion sponsored by A-DOG Town Meeting Members. This bylaw change, now taking effect, allows dogs off leash, under owner control, in parks under Parks and Recreation Commission authority. Certain areas are excluded, including parks right next to school buildings, near playground equipment, and any other site by exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission. See further details here.  As we told our members when the program began, this is “a great step for responsible dog owners in Arlington!  Please continue to exercise and to encourage responsible practices, including honoring the legal morning hours.”  According to the records maintained by the Parks and Recreation Commission, there have been a relatively small number of complaints about the program (approximately 25, made by about 15 individuals, one of whom is responsible for over 25% of the compaints), and an approximately equal number of positive reports.  Reports from the Animal Control Officer have been similar, citing few incidents and complaints.

Nonetheless, the Board of Selectmen (who, in a 4-1 vote, opposed our proposal for Article 36 at last year’s hearing ) is now considering a “probation” plan for Robbins Farm Park and Menotomy Rocks Park, though it is not clear what that means.  It has been suggested, including by one Selectman at the meeting, that future actions could include suspending off-leash activity at both parks.  That Selectmen has also stated that Robbins and Menotomy are in a “crisis” situation.  The recent “probation” discussion appears to have been precipitated by a lengthy complaint, made by an individual who has consistently opposed off-leash recreation at Robbins, presented to the Board of Selectmen at their February 7, 2011 meeting.  A video of this meeting is available here.  In a followup meeting, March 14, the Selectmen said that, based on the Parks and Rec Commission recommendation, they will not at this time institute a “probation”, but some of them have alleged that they receive many complaints (one said that she doesn’t pass on 2/3 of the complaints she receives) to support the “crisis” status of Robbins and Menotomy that they are not making available to the public.  After at least one resident stated that making rulings based on secret information is not fair to the public (we do have Open Meeting Law governing our public process), one Selectman agreed to pass on any information she can in order to increase transparency. (There was further animated discussion at this meeting, which will also soon be made available to the public as a video.)

Another item brought up by members of the public was the need for some afternoon off-leash hours.  This will require a new vote from TM so we urge present and future TM members to get involved in this effort!

FellsDOG Member Comments on off-leash recreation at the Middlesex Fells

Introductory commentary by Susan Doctrow of A-DOG: David Monahan, a member of FellsDOG and a MassDOG colleague, has written a very well-researched, thoughtful letter to the DCR regarding off-leash recreation at the Middlesex Fells that we present here with David’s permission. This includes a rebuttal of erroneously cited research that has been used to exaggerate claims that dogs cause environmental harm. This topic has been debated recently, as the DCR has produced a new Trail Plan to provide for responsible recreational use at this local treasure. Many of us enjoy regularly visiting the Fells with our families, including our family dogs. The DCR has held public meetings, including a very, well-attended workshop that many of us (including Susan Doctrow and Ann Smith of A-DOG) were pleased to participate in.  MassDOG member groups, particularly from Somerville and Melrose have been very active in this effort. Also extremely involved has been Greater Boston New England Mountain Biking Association NEMBA, which works to promote responsible mountain biking in the Fells and sponsors much volunteer effort for trail maintenance and rebuilding. Overall, dog owner groups and NEMBA support responsible recreational use of the Fells, as do many hikers who do not necessarily participate in these two specific activities but believe in mutually beneficial shared enjoyment of public space. Other parties, most notably a group known as Friends of the Fells have representatives advocating restricting recreation uses of the Fells in favor of more passive enjoyment, in the name of strict preservation, instead of for the broader recreational purpose of this public space. The Friends of the Fells leadership, in particular, has reportedly been quite vocal, condemning certain forms of recreational use, particularly mountain biking and off-leash dog recreation, reportedly making exaggerated claims of environmental impact similar to those discussed in David’s letter. In developing its new Trail Plan, the DCR has reached out more broadly to include the recreational interests of stakeholders such as MassDOG member groups and NEMBA. (Yet, on its website, the Friends of the Fells describes this well-balanced effort in inflammatory terms…claiming in a “Fells Alert!” that DCR will turn the Fells into a “Mountain Bike Park”.) In its Trail Plan, DCR has taken an excellent first step toward addressing the needs of dog owners, who, according to the DCR’s own presentation at a public workshop comprise a very large contingent of Fells users (e.g. 39% of respondents to a use survey). This “first step” that the DCR proposes is to make the Sheepfold a legal off-leash recreation space. While we applaud this action, we encourage the DCR to also open certain trails at the Fells to responsible off-leash recreation. This will enable we dog owners to enjoy hiking the Fells with our entire families. After reading David’s letter and studying the current version of DCR’s Trail Plan (the link will appear at the end of David’s letter), make your opinion known.  Though I believe the official comment period on the Trail Plan has ended, establishing recreational use policies for the Fells will be an ongoing effort and it will probably never hurt for you to, if you haven’t already, contact DCR to express your support for off-leash recreation.


Letter by David Monahan of FellsDOG:

November 19, 2010
Department of Conservation and Recreation
c/o Fells Trail Plan
136 Damon Road
Northampton, MA 01060
Re: Middlesex Fells Trail Plan

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to express to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) my comments to the Middlesex Fells Reservation Draft Trail Plan. In summary, as a dog owner who has visited the Fells regularly with my dog for years, I am glad to see that the DCR has taken the needs of dog owners into account in drafting this plan, and has proposed a trial off-leash dog area or times at Sheepfold. But I must take issue with the fact that no provision has been made for designating trails for use by dog owners, and I also object to misleading and unsupported statements in Appendix E regarding the environmental impact of dogs. I thank the DCR for its thoughtful manner of devising a trail plan which protects this wonderful natural resource, and takes into account the needs of all user groups. It was encouraging to be invited to public meetings to hear and comment on the proposed plan, and the site visits to walk through the Fells with DCR staff were very informative.

I. The Middlesex Fells is part of the Urban Parks District The foundation of all plans for the Middlesex Fells should be recognition that it is an urban park. Under Chapter 92, Section 33 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Fells is within the “urban parks district”—designated as “open spaces for exercise and recreation.” While some nature groups would apparently like to cordon off the park so that their members can stand on the perimeter and gaze in with binoculars, that is not what the law provides. The good news is that the park is used every day of the year by Massachusetts residents who respect its natural beauty and the living things within it. These include large numbers of dog owners who visit the park with their dogs, and mountain bikers. Both groups are, primarily, responsible park users who respect the rights of other park users and treat our natural resources with great respect.

II. Dog owner use of the Fells
Dog owners use the Sheepfold and the trails throughout the Fells 365 days a year. Considering the large number of visitors to the Sheepfold on a daily basis, the park is remarkably clean and free of debris. Most dog owners are very careful to take out and deposit in the trash bin anything that they bring into the park. I commend the DCR for proposing an off-leash area or off-leash hours at Sheepfold, and I believe this idea is long overdue. I am involved with the Middlesex Fells Dog Owner Group (FellsDOG), and I know that this group and other area dog owner groups are prepared to work with the DCR and other user groups to help develop an appropriate plan for off-leash activity at the Sheepfold. The focus of our groups has always been to educate dog owners on the need to pick up dog waste every single time, and to supervise our dogs to ensure that they are playing safely and not interfering with other park users. We would be glad to serve this role as legal off-leash activity is rolled out at the Fells. I was pleased to see that the Trail System Plan includes engaging in various outdoor activities with the family dog among its “managed experiences” at the Fells. Dog owners also use the trails at the Fells in a responsible fashion. Considering the miles and miles of trails at the Fells, there is no reason why the DCR should not develop a plan to designate one or more trails as permissible for off-leash dog walking.

III. Misleading statements about the environmental impact of dogs
I object to misleading statements in Appendix E under the heading “What are the Impacts of Dogs and Dog Walking?” They give the impression that dogs are more damaging to the environment than the cited studies actually state. The first paragraph of that section gives the impression that dogs are a major cause of fecal coliform bacteria in water supplies. But all available research, including cases cited in this section, show waterfowl, gulls, and pigeons to be a much greater source of fecal coliform in water supplies than dogs, and note that cats, squirrels, raccoons, rats, and other animals all contribute to fecal coliform levels. This section cites a 1996 report issued by Alderisio, Wait, and Sobsey regarding the New York City Water Supply. But that report, based on research at the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County, noted the need for resources “to investigate and mitigate potential nonhuman sources such as waterfowl and gulls, as well as other wildlife in the Kensico watershed.” It made no mention of dogs. For more on the various sources of non-human fecal coliform bacteria, see Focus: Bacteria in the Issaquah Creek Basin, Washington State Department of Ecology (2004), The second paragraph of that section similarly overstates the impact of dog walking on wildlife. One would think that the litany of scientific studies cited was damning evidence of the negative impact of dogs. But the studies listed simply do not support the hypothesis. For instance, the Nol and Brooks study on Effects of Predator Exclosures on Nesting Success of Killdeer describes the predatory actions of gulls, raccoons, and other mammals—it makes no mention of dogs. The George and Crooks study on Recreation and large mammal activity in an urban nature reserve finds negative “relative activity” impacts upon coyotes, bobcats, and mule deer to be greater from hikers and bikers than from dogs. And the Miller, Knight, Miller report Wildlife responses to pedestrians and dogs showed that the general area of influence on most wildlife was less for a dog walking alone than it was for a person walking alone. We all agree that the impact of dogs on wildlife should be taken into account when formulating a trail plan for the Fells or any other park. But let us not overstate the impact that dogs have as compared to hikers and bikers.

IV. The benefits of activity with dogs
Finally, I note that the plan goes to great lengths to attempt to document the negative impact of dogs, but not to note the benefits. I will refer to one study which says it well:
Benefits of dogs:
• As dogs need daily walking, their owners gain benefits from regular exercise and access to the countryside.

• Dog ownership results in important health, psychological and social benefits for all family members.

• Studies have shown that dog ownership produces beneficial physiological effects in people such as favourable changes in blood lipids, glucose, blood pressure, immune levels and pain relief.

Taylor, K., Anderson, P., Taylor, R., Longden, K. and Fisher, P., 2005. Dogs,
access and nature conservation. English Nature, ENRR No. 649.
The same study goes on, after noting that dogs do have some impact on wildlife, to state:
[S]uch is the benefit that dogs bring and the widespread expectation that dog owners can take their dogs into the countryside, it is impractical to consider banning dogs from all sites of nature conservation value. Evidence suggests that integrated management strategies can be devised (based on control of dogs and influencing their owners) that will reduce the impact of dogs on many nature conservation sites, and seek mutually beneficial solutions.

I would suggest that the DCR should maintain the same balanced approach as it fine tunes and implements a new Middlesex Fells Trail Plan.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to the planning process.
/s/ David W. Monahan
David W. Monahan

More information:

To see the current Middlesex Fells Trail Plan and related materials: Middlesex Fells Trail Plan link at DCR

To give input to the DCR on off-leash recreation, write to:

Paul Jahnige
Middlesex Fells Trail Plan
136 Damon Rd
Northampton, MA 01060

It is also useful to contact your state Representative (for Arlington, Reps Sean Garballey, Jay Kaufman, Will Brownsberger) and state Senator (for Arlington, Sen. Ken Donnelly) regarding making our state parks, including the Fells, more hospitable to responsible off leash recreation.

Off Leash Morning Program — Implementing Article 36 — Begins

Last spring, Arlington Town Meeting passed a substitute motion sponsored by A-DOG Town Meeting Members. This bylaw change, now taking effect, allows dogs off leash, under owner control, in parks under Parks and Recreation Commission authority. The bylaw change specified certain areas to be excluded, including parks right next to school buildings, near playground equipment, and any other site by exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission. The program and specific rules have been developed, with input from the public, by the Park and Recreation Commission and Recreation Department. These are described on the town website. Also available at that website is a pdf brochure for download. This brochure is also being distributed at various sites, and A-DOG is pleased to have contributed to its reproduction through a donation to the Town.

The public input considered by the Commission and Recreation Department was received at monthly Commission meetings, or submitted to them by various residents. This input also included that received in numerous public meetings, over approximately two years of developing the Green Dog Plan, narrowly defeated by Town Meeting the year before. Also, the Commission sponsored two public meetings specifically on implementation of Article 36 were held over the past few months.

The first meeting, focused on all parks affected by the program, was held on June 15, 2010 in Town Hall. Minutes from the meeting are available on the Town website.

The second meeting, focused on Robbins Farm, was held on September 16, 2010 in Town Hall, at the request of opponents of the off leash program. This meeting was moderated by the Honorable Judge Rudy Kass, as a pro bono courtesy to the Town. A summary of this meeting is available on and another appears on the Town website.

Spring Unleashed a Big Success!

Our Spring Unleashed fundraising and networking event held at Picture Perfect Pets, Arlington, on May 15 was fun and successful!  Thanks so much to those who make this possible, including our volunteers and those who contributed door prizes and/or their time.  Thanks, in particular, to our fabulous Friend of A-DOG, Bette Yip, without whom this event would not have been possible!  The photos below tell the story, including some examples of the complimentary pet portraits that were so generously donated by Bette Yip.

And, thanks to all of you who came out on this sunny day to spend time indoors visiting with us!  The donated door prizes and drawing winners were:

Heidi Hemple: Certificate for 2 free hours of professional organizing: Monique Chaplin, “Room to Breathe”:

Candy Shostak and Riley Hart: Certificate for pet grooming (2 avail) Robin’s Nest Pet Salon:

C. Bulawa: Gift Basket:  Briana Flynn & Family

Sue Sheffler and Dilys Burke: Certificates for a week of dog walking — Blue Sky Dogs, Jennifer Burns

Mark Kaminsky: Gift Bag for Medium Sz Girl Dog — Go Play:

David White: Gift Bag for Small Sz Boy Dog — Go Play:

Ellen Kushner: Gift Bag for Large Boy or Girl Dog — Go Play:

Riley Hart: In Studio Pet Photography Sitting with free 8X10 — Picture Perfect Pets,

Karita Paul: Basket of favorite training treats — Picture Perfect Pets,

Ellen Kravitz/Kevin Hazel: Dog Puzzle Toy and Bette Yip’s article on their uses — Picture Perfect Pets,

Kayla Flynn: A-DOG Hoodie (sz med unisex, gray) — Sue Doctrow of A-DOG

Carol Keller: A-DOG Coffee Mug — Sue Doctrow of A-DOG

Stephen Weil: A-DOG Sigg water bottle (0.6L) — Sue Doctrow of A-DOG

Ellen Duranceau: Labrador Retriever T shirt (size L) — Mary McCartney of A-DOG

2010_05_15_ADOG_15A-DOG Cake made by Roslyn SmithSpring_Unleashed_Crowd_32010_05_15_ADOG_08Ellen_Duranceau2010_05_15_ADOG_332010_05_15_ADOG_06Mary_McCartney2010_05_15_ADOG_64Blue_Sky_Dogs2010_05_15_ADOG_712010_05_15_ADOG_05Spring_Unleashed_Crowd_2Spring_Unleashed_Crowd_4Spring_Unleashed_Crowd_1

Arlington Residents Write to the Arlington Advocate on Off-Leash Recreation

As Town Meeting considers Article 36, to amend the bylaws to allow off-leash recreation under certain conditions, several letters in support of off-leash recreation were published in the April 29 Arlington Advocate. (All letters on this topic from two most recent editions were reprinted in their entirety. This consists of twelve letters supporting off-leash recreation (one for fenced parks), and two opposing letters. To add your opinion, enter Comments below this article.)

From April 29, 2010:

Letters supporting the Substitute Motion under Article 36, to allow early-morning responsible off-leash recreation in Arlington parks:

Letter: Consider off-leash hours
By Ellen Duranceau
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

I was disappointed by the Board of Selectmen’s “no action” vote on a warrant article that would allow the Parks & Recreation Commission to designate some early morning hours in some areas for walking dogs off leash. I am writing in the hopes that Town Meeting members will consider the issue independently of the selectmen’s comments.

The board’s stated reservations seem wrong-headed. One is that no further bylaw amendments should be considered until dog owners stop violating the existing leash law. Because the current law doesn’t allow dogs to run anywhere in town, this is an unrealistic expectation, and presents an impossible dilemma for those of us attempting to be responsible citizens and responsible dog owners as well. If the existing law was workable, most people wouldn’t violate it.

The other reservation offered by the board, that we should wait to see what happens with plans for a fenced dog park before making any other changes, also doesn’t make sense. Even if a fenced dog park was created, this would not solve the problem for the many dogs and their owners who won’t live near the park, or whose dogs are too vulnerable or shy to participate in rough-and-tumble play with dogs they don’t know.

Dogs have co-evolved with humans for more than 12,000 years to develop a unique interspecies bond. Dogs provide emotional support and significant service (including acting as police dogs, rescue dogs, seeing eye dogs, seizure detection dogs, and therapy dogs among many other roles) in our society. Yes, it is difficult to accommodate the needs of all the human citizens of Arlington with our limited open space. But it’s time for Arlington to join neighboring towns and allow normal exercise and socialization for dogs and their owners. It’s time to stop telling us dog owners that we are criminals for having the same needs as those in Cambridge, Burlington and many other towns, where those needs are met.

The Board of Selectmen should be calling for change, not for adherence to a set of rules that don’t work. — Ellen Duranceau, Chatham St.

Letter: Socialization is important
By Robin Varghese
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

My family and I recently moved to Arlington for the progressive values, good schools and playgrounds for my young children. I have largely stayed out of the local political scene until I heard about the difficulty responsible Arlington dog owners have had obtaining permission to use portions of the public parks to exercise and socialize their dogs with other responsible dog owners.

I have a 6-month-old puppy that does not bark in my yard nor jump on visitors, which is in large part due to socialization I’ve been able to do with other responsible dog owners. It is a shame that Arlington residents have nowhere to legally allow their dogs off leash. Many of the surrounding communities either provide off-leash areas or are off-leash towns.

All dog trainers, books and classes that dog owners look to for advice insist that opportunities to socialize dogs allow them to be trained to be good members of our community. These currently illegal activities make our neighborhoods more peaceful, as a well-exercised dog is a quiet dog. Also, dog owners that may not always pick up after their dogs are reminded of their responsibilities to do so by responsible dog owners when they are together in groups and encouraged to help support off-leash laws.

My children also enjoy playing fetch with our dog and given the small lot size of Arlington homes, it is difficult to do so on our private property. In Arlington, there is no place for us to play fetch, toss a Frisbee or play outside with our family pet.

Surrounding communities provide such opportunities, however, we are prohibited from allowing our dog off leash in the neighboring areas (i.e. Cambridge), as we are not residents. I would like to encourage your readers to write to their Town Meeting representatives and ask for their support during the upcoming Town Meeting and support Article 36. Please help us feel proud to be dog owners in Arlington, a progressive community that respects and hopefully will provide resources for families and “man’s best friend,” the family dog, to play together. — Robin Varghese, Chester St.

Letter: Support Article 36
By Tina Silberman
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

As a resident of Arlington and a dog owner, I am writing to express my gratitude to the Parks and Recreation Commission for their support of proposed Article 36 to allow dogs to be off leash at our parks until 9 a.m. I am also writing to encourage Town Meeting members to consider supporting this article as well.

I am incredibly disappointed that after all of the time and effort that has gone into the creation of a suitable compromise plan such as Green Dog, or this new article, that the Board of Selectmen (with the exception of Kevin Greeley), and in particular, Clarissa Rowe, who spent so much time helping to craft the Green Dog Plan, voted No Action on this proposed article.

And, to add insult to injury, the following comment was issued in the report from the BoS to Town Meeting, “[a] majority of the [b]oard also feels the behavior of dog-owners who routinely violate the leash law needs to change before a bylaw amendment should be considered again.”

Who will be monitoring and tracking the behavior of the dog owners in order to decide when exactly a leash law amendment should be considered again? Is the same group going to be monitoring all of the other laws that are broken regarding behavior at our parks? Such as littering, unauthorized cutting of trees and bushes, fires, gatherings after parks are closed?

Things have escalated over the past few weeks and we now have the police issuing warnings and tickets to dog owners who have their dogs off leash at 6:30 a.m. at the parks. While they are indeed breaking the law, I question the harm they are doing, as well as the selective enforcement of only this law. And, I truly hope that a more serious crime is not committed while the police are spending their time enforcing the leash laws.

The time is now to resolve this divisive issue in our town so that the BoS and Town Meeting can turn their attention to the much more pressing issues that are facing our community.

Town Meeting members, please support Article 36, I would hate to think that a vocal minority of residents have a louder voice than the rest of us. — Tina Silberman, Cedar Avenue

Letter: Dogs need more
By Stephen, Margie, Lindsay and Savannah Weil
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

I’ve been a resident of Arlington for the past 32 years and a dog owner for most of that time. In my personal experience, I have never had a confrontation with anyone who is afraid of dogs, dislikes them or is concerned about their impact on the environment or the community.

I believe this is the case because my family and I are all responsible dog owners who understand that not all people respond to dogs the way that we do.

Our children grew up with dogs. In fact, our younger daughter picked out our 130 pound large breed dog when she was 5 years old and has been hooked on them ever since. (She is now 21, and we have a new large breed dog as a member of the family.)

We are respectful of our neighbors, we pick up after our dog (no matter how far into the woods she defecates), she is under voice control when not on a leash, and she loves to romp and play with people and at 145 pounds loves dogs of all sizes and ages. (Her best friend is a 15-pound Terrier who comes to our house for “play dates.”)

But she needs more room than our backyard (not to mention an enclosed dog park) can provide to really get the exercise and socialization that she needs and deserves. Just like all of the opponents of off-leash dogs, I am a taxpayer and law-abiding citizen of Arlington. I believe that my dog and me should be afforded the same rights as any other taxpaying, law-abiding citizen. This includes full, complete and equal use of the public facilities that my tax dollars support.

That said, I understand that certain members of our community believe that dog owners are putting an additional tax on our meager town budget. For that reason, I have always and will continue to support a fee-based system for dog owners that will help defray the cost of “rangers” or other expenses incurred. But if I have to pay more, then I expect the respect and support of the town to be able to walk my dog in a fashion that is conducive to both my family’s and her mental, physical and emotional good health. — Stephen, Margie, Lindsay and Savannah Weil, Bailey Road

Letter: Help Arlington move forward
By Susan R. Doctrow
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

I urge my fellow Town Meeting (TM) members to support Article 36, allowing limited off-leash recreation for responsible dog owners. I last wrote to the Advocate on this issue in 2007, supporting the Green Dog Plan. In 2008, with others, I founded Arlington Dog Owners Group (A-DOG), whose petition for legal off-leash recreation has been signed by over 900 Arlingtonians.

The Green Dog Plan was narrowly defeated at TM in 2009, with concerns including its complexity. This year, the town established a Dog Park Task Force, to explore possible fenced dog parks, which have been legal here for seven years without positive action. A member of this task force, I feel its goals complement those of Article 36.

As I wrote in 2007, we need “an intelligent alternative to Arlington’s excessively rigid leash bylaw. We dog owners should no longer be made to feel like criminals in our own community, simply for trying to maximize the health, happiness and longevity of our family pets through exercise and socialization. Public parks belong to all of us, and all users should be able to share the benefits of these open spaces in a mutually respectful manner.”

Under Article 36, we propose early morning off-leash recreation under effective owner control, with several excluded sites and, most important, with Parks and Recreation Commission authority to exclude any other sites. While this adds much flexibility, and is consistent with its role in other municipalities, some have voiced concerns that the commission would not allow public input or is otherwise not to be trusted. Our proposal is conservative compared to other bylaws (e.g. Lexington, Bedford, Burlington, Wellesley) allowing dogs off-leash in virtually all parks at all hours.

With one very thoughtful dissenting vote by Selectman Kevin Greeley, the Board of Selectmen voted “no action” on Article 36, reporting to TM that “behavior of dog-owners who routinely violate the leash law needs to change before a bylaw amendment should be considered again.”

With due respect to those four selectmen, this penalizes responsible dog owners for the actions of the irresponsible few. As noted by one supporter, driver’s licenses are not denied to all because some drivers cause accidents. The Parks and Recreation Commission subsequently voted to support our proposal, noting its simplicity and reasonableness. I hope that TM agrees, helping Arlington to finally move forward on this issue. — Susan R. Doctrow, Westminster Avenue

And, in support of the important and complementary work of Arlington’s Dog Park Task Force, to create fenced Off Leash Recreation Areas:

Letter: Essential to dog’s health
By Alice Bouvrie
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

It is essential to the health, happiness and well being of all our citizens in Arlington that we have a fenced in dog park where our dogs and owners may socialize and exercise. There are ramps for our handicapped citizens, buzzers at the lights for our sight-impaired citizens, bike paths and lanes for our cyclists, and we should have designated dog parks for our pets and owners.

When as many of our citizens as possible are justly accommodated, we all do better as a community. I hope that we can implement a viable dog park in Arlington soon, and from there we can make adjustments. — Alice Bouvrie, Woodside Lane

AND a new set from the following week, May 6. Six letters from proponents of Article 36 and two from apparent opponents:

Letter: Wonderful compromise
By Amanda Sullivan
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 03:15 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I am writing to ask the Town Meeting members to support Article 36, which would allow Arlington dogs to be off leash in local parks specified by the Parks and Recreation Commission until the hour of 9 a.m.

My husband and I are Arlington residents who have lived in town for more than six years, and have been dog owners for more than four years. Over the years, we have met many Arlington dog owners and their family pets. I have been very impressed with Arlington residents’ behavior as dog owners — making sure their dog is under voice control and well behaved as well as picking up their dogs waste.

Our dog is friendly, happy and well behaved largely because we make sure she is exercised daily. I find it very frustrating to not be able to play fetch with my dog in a park in my own town, especially when so many neighboring towns, such as Burlington, Lexington and Cambridge, have dog parks or reasonable off-leash laws. Many of these towns only allow their own residents to utilize the dog parks, making it impossible for Arlington residents to legally allow their dogs off leash for socializing and exercise purposes.

I urge Town Meeting members to vote in favor of article 36; it is a wonderful compromise that would Arlington dog owners and our family pets to finally be able to use some of the parks and facilities our tax dollars are paying for in a controlled manner. — Amanda Sullivan, Ronald Rd

Letter: We can coexist
By Jennifer Stone
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 03:14 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I was thrilled to see the number of letters in favor of Article 36. As a responsible dog owner living and paying taxes in Arlington, I find it amazing that I cannot socialize, and exercise my dog legally in town.

I’ve heard the complaints of the mess it would create, and I ask you, have you seen a soccer field after a Saturday’s worth of youth games? The litter is everywhere, but no one reasonably expects games to be stopped because of the actions of the minority. The responsible dog owners are being penalized for the anticipated behavior of a few.

I lived in San Francisco for two years with my dog, near a small city park that was a major tourist attraction, (the ‘painted ladies’ Victorian homes border the park), and the dogs, residents, and tourists all coexisted. If a city as densely populated as San Francisco can figure out how to allow dogs some freedom, I can’t imagine how Arlington can not. — Jennifer Stone, Ridge Street


Letter: The sky will not fall
By Iain Miller
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 03:04 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I’d like to urge Town Meeting to accept the very reasonable Article 36 provision for early morning off-leash exercise and socialization rights, at the discretion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

As one of the sponsors of this article, I’d note the recent unanimous support of the commission. Notably, this article also reflects feedback from the discussion at Town Meeting last year (at which the more complex Green Dog program was narrowly voted down, partly on grounds of complexity), and culminates about eight years of efforts by many responsible dog owners in our town.

While a task force has indeed been established to consider a very limited number of fenced areas, the reality is that such expensive facilities will likely be several years in the making, and not accessible to all. In the interim, I feel that it is long past time for Arlington to join our progressive neighbors such as Somerville and Lexington by taking an interim (no cost) step to de-criminalize a recreational activity that brings many neighbors together. I’ll confidently predict that the sky will not fall and we can all move on. — Iain Miller, Kensington Park

Letter: Say ‘yes’ to Article 36
By Mary McCartney
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 03:01 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

The issue of off-leash dogs has been controversial for Arlington for a number of years, but I believe Article 36, which will be up for vote soon at Town Meeting, is a terrific compromise.

This article will allow dogs to be off-leash, under effective handler control, during early morning hours. It will allow the Parks and Recreation Commission the authority to exclude specific sites. And it specifically excludes school grounds and grounds near playground equipment.

This article is much more conservative than other surrounding communities. The parks are not heavily used during these hours, and I believe this article does a good job of balancing the needs of responsible dog owners with other park users.

The parks are a shared resource. Dog owners are taxpayers too. As a responsible dog owner myself, I value the time I spend with other dog owners, and enjoy that sense of community.

I encourage my fellow Town Meeting members join me in voting in favor of Article 36. — Mary McCartney, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 1, Michael Street

Letter: Give us something to lose
By Jennifer Goebel
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:58 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

Give us something to lose

I am writing to express my support for off-leash recreation time for dogs as proposed in Article 36 of this year’s Town Meeting warrant. Right now, there is no way for Arlington dog owners to be responsible dog owners and follow the leash law.

We have learned a lot about canine behavior and health since this restriction was put into place many years ago, and we now know that off-leash time is important for not only the health of the dog, but also its socialization. A tired dog is a good dog. A well-socialized dog is a friendly, well-behaved dog. Common sense says that every one in this town has an interest in Arlington dogs being well-exercised and well-socialized, whether you love them or hate them.

What we have now is all stick and no carrot.

If the town votes against this rule — again — and we continue with the status quo, nothing will improve for anyone. Dog owners will continue to run their dogs off-leash whenever and wherever they think it’s appropriate and convenient because we have nothing to lose. Give us something to lose. — Jennifer Goebel, Sunset Road

Letter: An excellent approach
By Monique Chaplin
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:55 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I am writing to express my appreciation to the Parks and Recreation Commission for supporting Article 36, the “off-leash dog hours” article. I feel that Article 36 is a reasonable, reasoned approach to making our shared parks accessible to all users, in a way that is least disruptive to all.

I am the owner of a young and exuberant dog who has learned through socialization with other dogs, and consistent training, to be a good “citizen” among other dogs, while remaining under good voice control. I believe that Article 36, which leaves decisions about which parks and what hours should be determined “off-leash” is an excellent approach to making our parks accessible to responsible dog owners of Arlington.

I encourage our Town Meeting members to vote in favor of this article. — Monique Chaplin, Michael Street


Letter: Kids before dogs
By Michael Jacoby Brown
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:52 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

To call unleashing dogs “green” is a sad misnomer. Allowing dogs to run free in Arlington will do nothing to “green” the town or the planet. When our public schools are facing a financial crisis and we are laying off teachers, spending any money on dogs (building fences for dog parks, etc.) puts dogs ahead of children. Does the town spend money on dogs before children?

If dog owners want “early morning” hours to allow their dogs to run free, “early morning” does not mean up to 9 a.m. From 7 to 9 a.m., many children are going to school or other activities. To put unleashed dogs in the path of children is not the way to go for our children’s safety. — Michael Jacoby Brown, Brattle Terrace

Letter: Need to co-exist respectfully
By Mary Ellen Bilafer
GateHouse News Service

Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:51 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I hope to present a unique point of view regarding the current leash law debate and Article 36, which proposes off-leash times in Arlington’s parks.

On Patriots’ Day, I took my leashed dog to Menotomy Rocks Park. As a Town Meeting member and dog owner, I’m aware of the efforts of the A-DOG Committee. I agree that dogs benefit from off-leash areas. I appreciate their efforts and understand the reasoning behind them. However, there are currently no legally established off-leash areas in Arlington. Why then, were almost all of the 15 to 20 dogs I came across off leash?

One can assume this was a fair representation of Arlington dog owners, and not an irresponsible minority as some suggest I have seen the same thing in several other parks around town. I wonder how many “non-dog” citizens avoid the parks for this reason?

When I politely informed a few owners of the leash law, I was consistently met with rudeness and indifference. As a lifelong resident of Arlington, I was disappointed to see such a selfish attitude from my fellow citizens. Not everyone should be subjected to a dog running at him or her in a public area when he or she has an expectation that all dogs will be leashed.

I love my dog but am not so arrogant to assume that everyone will love her as much as I do. There are some people who are very uncomfortable with dogs and it’s also a safety issue — especially when children are involved. No animal is 100% predictable — no matter how confident the owner is to the contrary.

If I choose, however, to go to an off-leash area, I accept these risks and know what to expect … I do not foist those risks onto others who haven’t decided to accept them. Some have suggested that it’s OK to break this law simply because it is unfair. I disagree. When/if off-leash areas are established, then it will be clear who can enjoy the parks freely, and when and where. Designating fenced areas is the safest and most clear-cut option in my opinion and allows for fair park usage for all.

It’s still unclear what will be decided at Town Meeting … but until the situation changes, we need to co-exist respectfully so that everyone can comfortably enjoy the parks. It’s simply unfair otherwise. — Mary Ellen Bilafer, Cutter Hill Road
And, from May 13, two more in favor, none opposed:

Letter: Should not be limited
By Catherine Solovay
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 13, 2010 @ 05:53 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I would like to express my support for Article 36 permitting limited places and times for off-leash exercise of dogs by responsible owners. Dog ownership is a responsibility, but one that can bring great joy to a family. It is also our responsibility to give our dogs appropriate exercise, and at the moment, I need to drive to another town daily in order to properly give my dog a run. I do not think that the pleasures and health benefits of dog ownership should be limited to families with cars, or wealth enough for an abundant fenced yard. I urge a vote in favor of Article 36. — Catherine Solovay, Kenilworth Rd.


Letter: Building a community
By Lana Petersson
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 13, 2010 @ 05:52 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

This morning, while our dogs were playing, I had a great conversation with a fellow dog owner that made me realize why I support the limited off-leash laws. We didn’t talk about anything in particular, it was just nice to have company and meet someone new from the neighborhood. It put me in a good mood all day.

I left realizing why I care so much about the leash law: it creates congregation spots that create a great community, the same way a jungle gym does. I know people from all over East Arlington, and not just dog-owners, because my dog introduces us when we might not have otherwise approached each other. When we were looking to buy our first house, it was this feeling of community that kept us in the same neighborhood (literally, three streets down) as opposed to the more dog-friendly Cambridge. Some of this happens on leash, but if we’re out, it’s usually to get some exercise and we’re on the move.

I can be shy but love making connections, this is the reason why I love having a dog so much, and why I’m in big favor of a limited off-leash law that lets us all socialize together. I am especially in favor of limited times and places. The wonderful thing about community space like fields is bringing people together, in all different ways, at different times of day, and learning how to all share a space to build a healthy community for everyone involved. — Lana Petersson, Milton Street

Substitute Motion on Article 36: Early Morning Off-Leash Recreation Under Certain Conditions

A Substitute Motion on Article 36 was submitted to Town Meeting, along with a supporting report written by a few of the (ever-increasing!) number of A-DOG members who are elected Town Meeting Members. It is expected to come up for a vote as early as May 3. The Report, including the text of the Substitute Motion, is reprinted here:

We support the following Substitute Motion under Article 36:

To amend Section 8 (“Animal Control”) of Article 1 (“Use of Areas under Control of Park Department”) of Title IV (“Public Areas”) and/or Article 2 (“Canine Control”) of Title VIII (“Public Health and Safety”) of the By-Laws so as to allow a maximum of three dogs per owner to be off-leash, under effective owner control, from park opening time until 9 am, in all lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except:

  • those lands directly abutting school properties;
  • within 15 ft of playground equipment;  and
  • by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.


The Board of Selectmen (BoS) voted (4-1) “no action” on our proposed motion under Article 36 at its March 22 hearing. The BoS has reported to TM that “behavior of dog-owners who routinely violate the leash law needs to change before a bylaw amendment should be considered again.”  With due respect to those 4 Selectmen, this penalizes responsible dog owners for the actions of the irresponsible few.  As noted by one supporter at the BoS hearing, driver’s licenses are not denied to all because some drivers cause accidents. Another concern voiced by one Selectman at the hearing was that there were no provisions to exclude out of town dog owners.  We respectfully take issue with this concern on two grounds. First, it is unlikely that many dog owners will drive to Arlington from other towns in the early mornings that we propose. And, even if some do, it is questionable that they will have much impact.  Second, our parks are public space.  Some of us from Arlington now use parks in Lexington, where dogs are allowed off leash.  We would hope to extend the same courtesy to our Lexington and other neighbors and, again, doubt that there would be much impact from outsiders at the proposed hours.  The BoS report also advises waiting to see what the Parks and Recreation Commission, through its “Dog Park Task Force” (called the “Green Dog Subcommittee” in the report), decides with respect to fenced off leash recreation areas.  We are very familiar with the work of this Task Force and, in fact, one of us is an appointed member.  As discussed further below, we believe that Article 36 complements the Task Force’s mission.

On April 13, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously (4-0) to support our proposed bylaw change, noting, for example, its simplicity and reasonableness, as well as its flexibility.  We hope that TM will agree with the Parks and Recreation Commission’s assessment and vote in favor of this Substitute Motion.




Article 36 FAQ (Summary)

(See the following pages for full discussion)


  • Why propose this Article for the third year in a row?  TM transcripts describe the current leash law, enacted in the late 60’s, as being aimed at dogs “at large”, or roaming free. When it is used instead against owner-supervised dog play groups, it prevents dog owners from exercising and socializing their dogs, and from a community activity they themselves enjoy.


  • Why propose this Article when TM rejected the Green Dog plan last year?  This vote was narrow (88 opposed, 83 in favor), and the need and demand for legal off-leash recreational options continues.  Feedback from TM included comments that the Green Dog plan was too complex, and that many had favored the amendment to limit hours to mornings (by 10 am).  Article 36 addresses such experience and feedback.


  • Why isn’t it enough for dog owners to have the Town working on fenced off leash recreation facilities?  Even though Town has established a “Dog Park Task Force” to address this issue, it is not clear when or if there will be a sufficient number of fenced off leash recreational areas (OLRA) to serve Arlington’s dog owner community. Article 36 acts in parallel to the work of the Dog Park Task Force.


  • Why the proposed hours of “park opening time until 9 am”? Arlington parks are used quite sparsely early in the morning. The intent of our proposed hours is to be conservative. In several other MA towns dogs are allowed off-leash, under effective control, in virtually all parks at all open hours.


  • Why the phrase “effective owner control”?  This requires that only dogs accompanied by their owner, and under control, would be allowed off-leash. Other MA town bylaws have similar wording (“complete and effective control”, “effective command”, etc.).


  • Why “lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission”?  These lands would exclude potential areas of concern, including the bike path, Town Hall gardens, cemetery, and conservation land.


  • Why “by specific exclusion by the Parks and Recreation Commission”?  This adds flexibility, avoiding the need for specific locations to be debated in TM. It recognizes and respects the role and the authority of Parks and Recreation Commission, appointed to make detailed decisions on use of our public parks.


  • Why not propose a pilot plan?  We trust that the Parks and Recreation Commission will act in good faith to implement a flexible bylaw such as this one.  It is essentially a pilot plan anyway, because the Commission can exclude any park, or all parks, at any time.


  • What will this cost the Town?  There should be no significant cost to the Town.  We already have an ACO to enforce the leash law, including distributing flyers describing the leash law. With last year’s decision to increase the license fee by up to 50% and impose late fees, dog owners are now being charged more, providing some extra revenue with no increase in privileges.


  • Why “a maximum of three dogs”?  For consistency with our town bylaws that allow up to three dogs per household, and with similar limits specified in other off-leash programs.




Article 36 Substitute Motion — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): 


Why propose this Article for the third year in a row?

Based on TM transcripts, major provisions of our current leash law were voted in at TM in the late 60’s. Concern was primarily with dogs “at large”, or roaming free.  It was not intended to be used, as it is today, against owner-supervised dog playgroups, which were uncommon, if not nonexistent, in that era. The behavioral benefits of well-exercised, well-socialized dogs are now well accepted by animal behaviorists, dog trainers and others.  In addition, meeting with their neighbors to exercise and socialize their dogs together is a community activity much enjoyed by dog owners, as the response to A-DOG’s and Green Dog committee efforts has demonstrated.  Over 900 Arlington residents, to date, have signed A-DOG’s petition in favor of off-leash recreation for responsible dog owners in Arlington.  Many other communities in MA and across the nation have recognized the needs of their tax-paying dog-owning residents by modernizing their leash laws.  It is time that Arlington did so, as well – there has been at least 8 years of work on this issue in our town, with no implementation of any off-leash privileges.


Why propose this Article when TM rejected the Green Dog plan last year?

The need and demand for legal off-leash recreational options continues.  Last year, with their recommended vote to TM, the BoS indicated approval of the spirit of the Green Dog plan, to enable responsible off leash recreation at certain times in certain parks. The vote at TM was very close (83 affirmative to 88 negative).  Several TM members later told us that they felt the measure would have gained more support if the Green Dog Plan were not so complex and/or if the narrowly defeated last-minute proposed amendment for only morning hours (up to 10 am) had passed.  We can never know for sure if that is true, but it is our recollection that nearly half of TM supported the amendment to restrict the Green Dog Plan to mornings. Two years ago (2008), TM voted “No Action” on an Article similar to Article 36 (#28).  At that time, the primary reason cited, including in the Selectmen’s recommendation for “no action”, was the need to give the Green Dog committee time to do its work. Nonetheless, even then, several TM members supported a substitute motion for positive action, with some proposing amendments that would enable their support. Our Substitute Motion under Article 36 addresses what we learned from experience and feedback from other TM members, on both previous attempts.


Why isn’t it enough for dog owners to have the Town working on fenced off leash recreation facilities?

Fenced off leash recreation areas (OLRA) have been legal in Arlington for 7 years, but the Town has yet to establish any.   (In contrast, in Somerville, a Dog Owners Task Force formed in 2004, the first OLRA was constructed in 2006, and today there are 2 operational OLRAs, 1 more in advanced planning, and 2 more under serious consideration. The Somerville Open Space and Recreation Plan, 2008-2013, highlights off leash recreation in Somerville as a “Success Story”.)  Many dog owners, including us, are encouraged that the Town has now established a “Dog Park Task Force” to identify possible sites and work out details.  Some of us have been named to this Task Force and have begun working constructively with fellow members.  Still, such OLRA are costly, each at least $200,000, based on the experiences of Boston and Somerville, as well as other information gathered, so far, by our Task Force.  With budgetary and other constraints, it is not clear when there will be a sufficient number of fenced OLRA to serve Arlington’s dog owner community.  In addition, even if unlimited financial and open-space resources were available, a fenced OLRA is not appropriate for all neighborhood parks and for all users.   (Indeed some TM members indicated they did not support the Green Dog Plan in 2009 because it included fenced OLRAs.)  Other programs, most notably NYC’s very successful off-leash recreation program ( rely on a combination of dedicated fenced facilities at some parks and “shared hours” at others. We believe that the best solution for Arlington will also include both approaches, and feel that Article 36 works in parallel to the work of the Dog Park Task Force, with complementary goals.


Why the proposed hours of “park opening time til 9 am”?

As noted above, we learned from last year’s Green Dog debate in TM that morning hours were less controversial and that the motion to restrict hours to prior to 10 am is regarded as one that would have strengthened chances of passage.  In our proposal, hours are limited even further to end at 9 am.  In NYC, the default off-leash hours in shared-use parks are from 9 pm til 9 am, unless a park closes at night, as ours do.  This has apparently worked well for over 20 years in a very densely populated city.  Those of us who visit Arlington parks early in the morning know that they are used quite sparsely at this time.   We believe that the proposed hours would have minimum impact on park usage, and would give responsible dog owners the option to exercise and socialize their dogs before going to work and/or helping their children get to school.  The hours will not be optimal for all dog owners, but we believe that they will be useful to many. The intent of restricting hours in this proposal is to be conservative.  In several other MA towns (e.g. Lexington, Bedford, Burlington, Acton, Concord, Lincoln, and Wellesley) dogs are allowed off-leash, under effective control, in virtually all parks at all open hours.


Why the phrase “effective owner control”?

This requires that only dogs accompanied by the human owner, and under control, would be allowed off-leash.  Article 36 is not intended to provide an opportunity for dog owners to allow their dog to run “at large”, or to enable out of control dogs to run through private property, jump on people, attack other dogs, or otherwise cause problems.  Complaints about out of control dogs should be addressed by the Animal Control Officer (ACO), if necessary, as well as by peer pressure from other dog owners.  In other bylaws, similar wording is used, for example:


Acton:  “complete and effective control”

Brookline: “must control the animal”

Bedford:  “effective voice control”, “effective control of its owner”

Burlington: “obedient to command”

Concord:  “under the control of its owner”

Lexington:  “effective command”


Under this bylaw, owners who cannot or will not control their dogs would always be in violation.  Owners playing fetch with their dogs, supervising their dogs playing with other dogs, or conducting other harmless, enjoyable activities with their dogs prior to 9 am, would not.


Why “lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission”?

These lands would exclude potential areas of concern, including the bike path, Town Hall gardens, cemetery, and conservation land.  We learned that, in Arlington, this is preferable to the overly broad term “open spaces” that was proposed in 2008, though the term is used in other town bylaws, most notably Bedford’s (below).  Interestingly, Bedford’s bylaw also distinguishes a dog “at large” from one under “effective control of its owner”.


From Town of Bedford bylaws, Article 42.5.1 Dogs Running at Large (Leash Law Provisions):

“No owner or keeper of any dog shall permit their dog to run at large at anytime. An owner or keeper of a dog must accompany and restrain the dog on a leash or accompany with leash in hand and maintain effective voice control of the dog while off their own property. An obedient dog which is under the effective control of its owner may be permitted to be unleashed in Town-owned open spaces within the Town. Dogs must be on a leash on bike paths and at public events. No dogs are allowed in cemeteries. The provision of this paragraph shall not apply to a guide dog or service dog while actually engaged in the performance of its trained duties.”


Why “by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission”?

This adds flexibility, avoiding the need for specific locations to be debated in TM. It recognizes and respects the role and authority of the Parks and Recreation Commission.  In Brookline, the bylaw change that passed at TM allowing a Green Dog Plan was general (see below), leaving it up to the Parks and Recreation Commission to establish details of off-leash use and, importantly, to modify this use whenever needed.  We believe that Parks and Recreation Commission’s role should be accorded similar respect and authority in Arlington, and that it is not necessarily a productive use of TM time to debate details of implementation.  In Arlington, we have a Parks and Recreation Commission, appointed by our Town Manager, with approval by our elected Selectmen, to make detailed decisions on use of our public parks.


From Town of Brookline Bylaws, SECTION 8.6.7(a) RESTRAINT OF DOGS:

“However, in areas officially designated as designated off

leash area by the Park and Recreation Commission, or its

designee, a dog shall be allowed to be off the leash under

the following conditions…”


Why not propose a pilot plan?

We believe that there is no need to make this a pilot plan, subject to even more TM debate next year and in subsequent years. We trust that the Parks and Recreation Commission will act in good faith to implement a flexible bylaw such as this one.  It is essentially a pilot plan anyway, because the Parks and Recreation Commission can act to exclude all parks, though, we are trusting them not to do so.  Under this bylaw, the Commission might, for example, choose to exclude a park it deems “controversial”, conduct a public review process and, potentially, designate specific sub-areas only, or no areas at all, for morning off-leash recreation.  And, of course, TM can vote in a more restrictive leash law in future years.


What will this cost the Town?

As we discussed, as Article 36 proponents, with the Finance Committee, we believe there will be no significant cost to the Town.  We already have an ACO to enforce the leash law, and we understand that he provides a flyer with the current leash law to the public. This flyer could be modified and could also be given to dog owners when they register for licenses. Also, details, including exclusions established by the Parks and Recreation Commission, could be available on the Town Website. Community groups such as A-DOG and Friends of parks groups can help by keeping their members informed.  These groups might also choose to work with the Town to donate signage or other items to personalize their neighborhood parks. It is worth noting, too, that in response to an Article submitted to TM last year by an opponent of off-leash recreation, the Town raised the dog license fee by up to 50%, moving it from the median to the highest range in the Commonwealth (based on numbers available in spring, 2009), and imposed a costly late-fee.  That Article’s proponent had suggested that such fees be used for “enforcement”.  While specifying such use was ruled illegal, it is nonetheless clear that dog owners are being charged substantially more this year than last year, providing some extra revenue with no increase in privileges.


Why “a maximum of three dogs”?  This was added for consistency with our town bylaws that allow up to three dogs per household, and with similar limits in other off-leash programs. 


Talk to us at TM:  Mary McCartney (Pct 1), Sue Doctrow and Jennifer Goebel (Pct 21), Ann Smith (Pct 17), BethAnn Friedman (Pct 15), and Andrew Fisher (Pct 6)


Website:  Board of Directors:  Susan Doctrow, Andrew Fisher, MaryAnna Foskett, Brenda Kokubo, Mary Mangan, Carrie Moore, Gian Schauer, Gerald Silberman, Ann Smith, Roslyn Smith, Judy Weinberg