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Tag: gay

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.

That’s “guide” dog, not “gay” dog, mate

A Thai restaurant in Australia that refused a blind man entry because it thought his guide dog was “gay” has been ordered to pay the man $1,500.

Ian Jolly, 57, was barred from dining at the Thai Spice restaurant, in the Sydney suburb of Adelaide, in May 2009 after a staff member mistook his guide dog Nudge for a “gay dog,” according to testimony before an Equal Opportunity Tribunal last week.

Restaurant owners Hong Hoa Thi To and Anh Hoang Le said one of the restaurant’s waiters said that  Jolly’s partner, Chris Lawrence, stated “she wanted to bring a gay dog into the restaurant.”

According to the Herald Sun in Australia, Jolly and Lawrence were refused entry to the restaurant, which displays a “guide dogs welcome” sign.

At a hearing on Friday, the restaurant agreed to provide  Jolly with a written apology, attend an Equal Opportunity education course  and pay him $1,500.

“The staff genuinely believed that Nudge was an ordinary pet dog which had been desexed to become a gay dog,” a statement from the hearing said.

That makes it sound like the misunderstandings run deeper than matters of accents and language. For one thing, neutered dogs — if that’s what they mean by “desexed” — don’t become gay. It seems like maybe the restaurant owners may be in more need of guiding than Ian Jolly.

Jolly said he was happy with the result, but added, ”I just want to be like everybody else and be able to go out for dinner, to be left alone and just enjoy a meal.”

“If I was a girl dog …”

DSC02077My dog Ace gets a lot of compliments — far more than I do — but yesterday he got a doozie.

A burly, fortyish man in shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt, passing us on the sidewalk in south Baltimore (we’re slow walkers), turned after he passed and said, “If I was a girl dog, I’d hook up with him.”

To which, a few seconds later, he  felt it necessary to add, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not gay or nothin’.”

“It’s just that he’s a beautiful dog,” he explained, then continued on his way.

Navy dog handler’s hazing under review

rocha“An atmosphere of sexual harassment, psychological humiliation and physical assaults.”

It may sound like a description of Abu Ghraib, but what’s being characterized is the U.S. Navy’s Military Working Dogs Division in Bahrain, better known as “The Kennel.”

An internal Navy investigation into the unit found dozens of examples of hazing and sexual harassment against multiple sailors between 2005 and 2006, including the case of Joseph Rocha, a gay sailor who left the Navy in 2007 after being abused for two years. Rocha says the constant hazing he received while serving as a military dog handler led to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., has asked the Navy for information about the harassment, the still mostly under-wraps internal investigation, and an explanation of why the head of the military working dog unit at the time was promoted.

Sestak’s letter followed a story about the Navy findings of abuse — reported not by the mainstream media, but by Youth Radio, a California organization that teaches reporting, broadcast journalism and media production to youth from public schools, community-based organizations, group homes and juvenile detention centers.

The Youth Radio investigation found that between 2004 and 2006, sailors in the Military Working Dogs Division — on the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf — were subjected to an atmosphere of sexual harassment, psychological humiliation, and physical assaults.

A Navy spokesman said the allegations are being reviewed.

“The incidents that occurred within the Military Working Dog Division at Naval Support Activity Bahrain do not reflect who we are as a Navy,” said Cmdr. Cappy Surette, a Navy spokesman. “The Navy is now looking into the handling of this situation more carefully.”

Rocha – despite the Navy’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy –  was repeatedly asked if he was gay, primarily because he didn’t  avail himself of visiting prostitutes.

Shaun Hogan of Maine, a former Bahrain colleague of Rocha’s who is now a reservist, said Rocha was treated worse than others because it was believed he was. Hogan said some in the unit “blatantly asked” if Rocha was gay. It was Hogan who obtained the Navy’s report and shared it with Youth Radio.

“He was one in a large number of people who were abused for a variety of different reasons,” Hogan said.

Rocha’s PTSD prompted him to tell the Navy he is gay, at which point he was discharged.

(Photo: via Youth Radio)