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Archive for September 26th, 2010

The dog-friendliest town in America

Once again, we’ve stumbled upon a little piece of paradise.

Between its natural beauty, its abundance of dogs, and the respect townsfolk seem to have for both, Provincetown is the sort of place you don’t want to leave, but can’t afford to stay.

For example, dogs are allowed on all the town’s beaches — all the time. And between 6 and 9 a.m., they don’t even have to be on leashes.

Just about every restaurant with outdoor seating welcomes dogs, and most kick in some treats and bowls of water as well.

Its dog park, Pilgrim Bark Park, is spacious, tidy, free and open to everyone, and it’s generally rated among the top five in the nation. There are gobs of businesses devoted to dog — from groomers, to vets to doggy boutiques.

Another big factor in P’town’s dog-friendliness is the Carrie A. Seamen Animal Shelter (CASAS), which put together this past weekend’s schedule of doggie events. Seamen was a Boston lawyer for 20 years who settled in Provincetown and in 1971 helped to found the Provincetown Animal Shelter. Upon her death, she bequeathed money to establish a new, no-kill animal shelter.

All of that, and more, have earned Provincetown the title of America’s “dog-friendliest city,” an honor bestowed by Dog Fancy magazine last week, which, by the way, was Dog Appreciation Week in Provincetown.

The weekend’s activities included the official presentation of the honor, the dedication of a dog statue at the town hall, dogs shows, dog blessings, a doggie parade and more.

I pulled into Provincetown knowing nothing about it – other than that it was northernmost tip of Cape Cod, loved dogs and was likely to be expensive.

(Which is why we ended up camping out — more on that and Provincetown tomorrow).

Driving up Cape Cod, where I’ve only been once before – for a quick newspaper story – I quickly became enamored. With each passing town, found myself saying to myself, “I could live here … I could live here.”

Hitting Provincetown, and its artsy, restaurant-laden, cedar shake rusticness and near overwhelming quaintness, I said it again, but — after a $17.50 parking space — added, “if I was rich.”

It doesn’t take long for anyone to see that it’s also very gay friendly town — both when it comes to tourists and those who call it home. Hanging around in town, dog and people watching, I noticed that pretty close to the majority of couples walking down the street — and the majority of those holding hands — were of the same gender.

It struck me — part of my travels being devoted to recording how the country has changed since John Steinbeck and his dog crossed it 50 years ago — that this was probably one of the biggest ones of all.

Attitudes toward gays — though in a lot of places they still have a long way to go — have changed a lot over the past five decades.

In Steinbeck’s day, a same sex couple walking hand in hand down the street would likely be subject to name calling or worse. Today, in Provincetown and a lot of other places, it doesn’t merit a second look.

As the bright and warm morning turned into a gray and chilly afternoon, I sat on a bench and wondered if there’s a connection between the two — a place’s level of dog-friendliness and its level of gay-friendliness. What, other than tolerance, is the common denominator, if there is one?

Part of it, likely, is a function of capitalism. Appealing to the gay crowd, like appealing to the dog crowd, can bring in customers. Part of it is probably sheer numbers. Maybe places with a lot of dogs are more likely to become dog friendly, and places with a lot of gays likely to become gay friendly.

Does the influx result from the friendliness, or does the friendliness result from the influx?

These are the things I pondered as I sat on a bench, and the skies grew grayer, and the people and dogs kept passing by.