July License Plate Report

Oklahoma, Wyoming, and (at last) Michigan!

Early in July I went to hear presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg at the high school’s Performing Arts Center. The parking lot was packed. Like quite a few other relatively late arrivals, I found a non-parking place on the grass — and what should my wondering eyes spot right next to me but Wyoming. It was a more colorful plate than the Wyomings I’ve seen before, but it’s still got the bucking horse and cowboy on it.

On one hand, the map is looking pretty good. The six missing states aren’t exactly common, but they aren’t rare either: I’ve already got North Dakota, Mississippi, and Hawaii, and they’re generally harder to spot than, say, South Dakota, Alabama, or Alaska.

On the other hand — it’s August already, and after July the license-plate pickin’s drop way, way off. There’ve been years where I spot nothing new in the last four months of the year.

However, Vineyard roads are crawling with vehicles these days, and not all of them are from the New England states, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, or Virginia.

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June License Plate Report

map of U.S.

Utah, Iowa, and Louisiana are now on the map! Alaska was spotted in Edgartown a few days ago but not by me, so it doesn’t count. But if it’s on the island — hey!

It’s way past time for Michigan to stop playing hard to get.

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Tam Lin Goes to a Selectmen’s Meeting

How is writing about Martha’s Vineyard like a puppy chasing its own tail?

Real life inspires fiction and fiction starts looking like real life and pretty soon you’ve forgotten which came first. Round and round and round . . .

Tam meets goats, May 22, 2019

Not long after Tam’s arrival on the Vineyard, we went to visit my friend the mystery writer Cynthia Riggs. Cynthia wanted to meet the puppy — she met Travvy for the first time when he was about nine weeks old — and I wanted Tam to meet Cynthia’s menagerie, which includes goats, ducks, guinea hens, and chickens. Need I say that many photos were taken, not only by me and Cynthia but by Lynn Christoffers, a bona fide photographer who showed up at the right moment.

I’m in Cynthia’s Sunday night writers’ group, and since Tam is only beginning to develop the internal fortitude to stay home alone, he’s been coming with me — and behaving / amusing himself pretty well for two hours while we all talk writing.

Now comes the tail-chasing part. The title character of Wolfie, my novel in progress, is based on the late Travvy but with a different backstory. In the early chapters he barely escapes being shot for trying to get into a sheep pasture. He’s also accused of killing several hens. This leads to a board of selectmen’s meeting at which the hen owner’s desire for restitution and maybe revenge is thwarted by Glory, my 11-year-old co-protagonist, who makes an eloquent case for “reasonable doubt.” Wolfie gets a pass.

So the week before last, in the early afternoon of a very rainy Thursday when no one was home, thirteen of Cynthia flock — three Pekin ducks, two mallards, four guinea hens, three laying hens, and a rooster — were massacred by dog or dogs unknown. There were no eyewitnesses and no obvious perps, just a few pawprints found in the mud.

Word spread quickly by word of mouth, email, and — once the Martha’s Vineyard Times story was shared on Facebook — social media. Naturally everyone had an opinion, from “it must have been the coyote” (the presence of a coyote on the Vineyard was recently confirmed after years of unconfirmed sightings) to “%@$# irresponsible dog owners!” to “why don’t chicken owners have to keep their chickens under control?”

As you might guess, since I’ve made dogs vs. livestock a theme in my novel, I’ve got some thoughts on the subject. In the novel, Wolfie gets off — but it’s highly likely that he did what he’s accused of, and some other things besides. What’s more, Glory and her co-protagonist, 50-something Shannon, are concealing evidence that might have nullified that “reasonable doubt.” As the writer, I want readers to be uneasy about this but to realize that this might be the best course for nearly all concerned — excepting, of course, the owner of the dead hens.


Adorable fluffball, looking up

So I’m raising this cute little fluffball, variously known as Tam Lin, Tam, Tam-Tam, and Tommy, who already has a sizable fan club, all of whose members think he’s adorable.

Travvy had an even bigger fan club. Many of those who mourned his passing last March called him “sweet.” I bit my tongue. Trav was quite capable of doing everything that Wolfie is suspected of doing, even though he never did. It helped that around the time he arrived on the island, mismanaged northern-breed dogs were involved in some high-profile attacks on fowl and other livestock. Fear of winding up on the front page was a good incentive for learning how to manage my dog better.

Travvy was an Alaskan malamute. So is Tam. Rhodry, Trav’s predecessor, was half malamute. Mals tend to have high prey drives. They are no one’s idea of the ideal Vineyard dog. There are good reasons why mals and other northern-breed dogs (Siberian huskies, Samoyeds, Akitas, etc.) are far outnumbered here by labs, goldens, border collies, Australian shepherds, and myriad poodle mixes.

horses and dog in snowy pasture

Rhodry could be trusted loose around horses. Travvy could not.

Between Rhodry’s lifetime (1994–2008) and Travvy’s (2008–2019) more people started keeping “free-range chickens” not on multi-acre farms but on house lots of three acres or less. Quite a few of these people were urbanites and suburbanites seeking a “rural lifestyle.” The aggrieved hen owner in Wolfie is one of this ilk. I don’t much like him or his type, but neither Shannon nor I is totally unsympathetic to his plight.

My perspective changed, or maybe “broadened” is the better word, when a friend was the aggrieved hen owner and the carnage was visible. Cynthia decided to go to last Wednesday’s selectmen’s meeting. I decided to go too, partly in support and partly because — well, that dog-chasing-tail thing: a scene in my novel takes place at a selectmen’s meeting, it concerns dogs and livestock, and I figured I could learn something.

Tam came along. He wasn’t ready to stay home alone at that point, I’m constantly on the lookout for new socialization experiences, and besides maybe he could learn something too. He settled on my lap in the back row.

Cynthia read into the record a letter detailing what had happened and then asked that a letter be sent to all licensed dog owners in town reminding them of the town bylaw requiring dogs to be under control at all times. The selectmen agreed to this. I did learn something new (and may revise my fictional scene as a result): that the town is authorized to compensate citizens for the loss of livestock when a perpetrator can’t be identified.

You can find the June 19 West Tisbury board of selectmen’s meeting on MVTV, the local-access cable station. Cynthia is the first item on the agenda, and if you hang in to about 12:00 you’ll get a glimpse of Tam and me. (You can hear his brief commentary on the proceedings a bit earlier.) I spoke in support of the letter and noted that dog owners often aren’t aware of what their dogs are capable of when they’re out and about. Here’s the Martha’s Vineyard Times story.

Times have changed. Everyone’s rights are limited by the rights of their neighbors, by convention if not by law. Dogs are predators; hens, ducks, and other livestock are not. Free-ranging dogs can do serious damage when they cross property lines, and penned-up fowl have been attacked by dogs and wild critters who dig or gnaw their way in. It’s up to dog owners to keep our dogs under control, even though it means admitting that things aren’t the way they were 20 or 30 years ago.

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The Solar System Is Growing

Tam and I went out yesterday in the early evening to see what progress had been made on the planets. The answer was “A lot!” For one thing, a sun has risen at the head of the solar system.

puppy on the sun

Tam Lin stands on the sun and looks toward the inner planets.

Mercury and Venus weren’t noticeably different than they had been a few days earlier, but the earth has developed a dramatic cloud cover.

The earth on June 14 (seen from other side)

The earth on June 10


The freeform splotch on Mars seems to be evolving into something more regular. The color of Mars has also changed, but the Red Planet isn’t looking very red yet.

Tam visits Mars on June 14

Mars on June 10






Beyond Mars serious progress was in evidence: Jupiter and Saturn are now much more than white rings on the asphalt.

Tam studies Jupiter

That yellow band across the middle might be the beginning of Saturn’s rings.

What was going on with the outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune? I couldn’t see that far from Saturn, and even at this scale that’s quite a hike for puppy with short (but lengthening) legs, so we decided to leave them for another day.

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The Planets Are Coming Back

Trav checks out Mercury, July 2016

From mid-2016 till almost the end of 2018, the late Travvy and I walked the planets on the bike path across from the West Tisbury School. They were the creation of fifth-graders and their teachers, a blending of science and art.

You can see them here and here.

Last fall in a much-needed infrastructure improvement — notice the crack that bisects Mercury in the photo — that section of the bike path was repaved.

The planets disappeared under a new layer of asphalt. My requiem for the vanished planets was published in the Vineyard Gazette last November 8 — and it elicited a comment from Sue Miller, the teacher behind the project, with the great news that the planets would be coming back in the spring!

Tam Lin exits the the circle that I think will eventually become Uranus.

Trav is gone, but little Tam Lin is now sturdy enough to reach the bike path on our walks, which is how a few days ago we came across the tell-tale signs of planets in the making. We were in the outer reaches of the solar system, so I think the white circles we found are destined to be Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — unless poor Pluto gets to be included this time?

A couple of days later we set out to investigate the inner planets. Wow! Serious progress has been made. They’re probably not finished, but they’re well on the way. So far there’s no sign of the sun. Last time the sun was a fiery circle of red, orange, and yellow. Space constraints made it not much bigger than the planets (each of which has the diameter of the bike path). If it had been closer to scale, it would have taken up the whole trailhead, and the parking area would have been unavailable till the paint dried.

I can’t wait to see what it looks like this time around. In fact, I think it would be very cool if murals of various kinds appeared on other sections of the bike path, created not just by school classes but by individual artists and others.





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Tam Goes to Puppy School

The late Travvy got me into dog training: when he hit adolescence, I knew I needed help. This opened a whole new world for both of us and gradually turned us into a damn good team. What if we’d started earlier? Could I have avoided or mitigated some of the challenges we had to deal with later, like reactivity and resource guarding?

Once I decided that my next dog was going to be a puppy, I started reading up on early puppy development and training. From the moment I picked Tam Lin up in Canandaigua three weeks (!!) ago, I’ve had “socialization” on the brain: introducing Tam to an array of new experiences.

Tam is turning out to be a pretty brave and resourceful guy. He’s met goats, chickens, and dogs as well as lots of people. He’s been to an abortion rights rally, my town’s caucus to elect delegates to the state Democratic convention, two weekly meetings of my writers’ group, and the monthly meeting of the MV Dems (formally the Democratic Council of Martha’s Vineyard), where I managed to take minutes while paying attention to him when he needed it.

When he could no longer slither under a fallen tree on the path, he gamely scrambled over it.

Sometimes going under is not an option.

If you can’t go under, go over.

Puppy class started last Tuesday. Our instructor leases space at the Ag Hall, so we meet outside in a temporary enclosure made of snow fencing, zip ties, and metal posts. There were four other teams in the class, and Tam was at almost 11 weeks the youngest of the bunch; the next oldest was fourteen weeks, and the others are now counting their age in months.

Tam did a little fidgeting, and of course I had to put some effort into keeping him engaged, but I couldn’t help comparing this “first class” experience with Travvy’s first Rally Obedience class about 10 years ago. It was held in the indoor arena at Arrowhead Farm, there were five or six other teams in the class — and Trav was so hyper (“over threshold”) in the presence of other dogs he couldn’t even begin to focus on the task at hand unless he was at the opposite end of the arena from everyone else.

Susanna, Trav, and prize ribbons

Trav and some of his loot

Many other dogs have had more spectacular careers in Rally and other dog sports, but I’ll nominate Trav any day for the “most improved” award, or the “they said it couldn’t be done” award. He retired ARCHX P-CRO-CH Masasyu’s Fellow Traveller RL3 RA CGC and I’m proud of every Q (qualifying run) and ribbon we earned.

At the same time — well, I’d just as soon not go through those wild early months again, which is why Tam and I are going to puppy class, and why I was discreetly thrilled by Tam’s behavior in his first class.

Trav wound up being a great roommate. I put his crate away for good (except for traveling) when he was three or so. I could leave him home alone for hours, either on the deck (which I called his outdoor crate) or in the apartment, and know for sure that nothing would be out of place when I got home — this from the guy who at one completely destroyed the passenger seat in my Mazda pickup in his desperate effort to get at some chickens on the other side of the window.

Tam reminds me every day that this too took plenty of work because he has no idea what it’s OK to chew on. Toys and marrow bones: fine. Electric cords, computer cables, the clothing piled up on the office chair I never sit in (mainly because it’s occupied by my backup laptop): not so fine. I’ve taken to keeping my shoes on in the apartment because Tam takes naked toes as a source of challenge.

My challenge is keeping one step ahead of Tam and trying to think like a clever puppy who’s trying to figure out how to make the world do what he wants, all the while I’m trying to figure out how to get him to do what I want. He doesn’t want me too far away or out of sight: I run this way or that, and he follows. While he follows, I say “Come” — and we’ve now got the beginning of a “Come” command. He caught on PDQ that he wouldn’t get a treat unless he was sitting; I’ve been teaching “Sit” the same way.

Do dogs in the wild — or even the not-so-wild — have names for each other? I don’t know. For sure they don’t know the names we give them unless we teach them somehow. For a while there I’m pretty sure Tam thought his name was “Come.” Our instructor taught us a handy game to teach puppies their names: Drop a treat on the ground. Puppy will pick it up and look at you to see if there are more coming. At that moment you say the puppy’s name and give him another treat. Thus he comes to associate his name with getting a treat for looking at you.

Lately Tam sometimes looks at me when I say his name, with no “Come” involved, so I think we’re getting there.

A big task now is to get Tam used to my being out of sight, so I don’t have to take him with me everywhere. My bathroom is on the ground floor. Tam does not like it when I go down there in the morning to do my business: the crying and proto-howling is, of course, heart-rending, but my heart is not easily rended. My practice now is to leave him in his crate with his breakfast then disappear. The crying starts when he’s finished eating.

puppy squeezes through deck railing

Someday soon you won’t be able to do this, kiddo.

The other day I was hanging laundry while Tam was on the deck. He could see me easily, but that wasn’t enough: much to my surprise, he appeared at my side, trailing his leash — because he can still fit between the deck posts and that’s exactly what he did. Luckily this will not be an option for much longer.

Despite being locked in the crate when I’m out of sight, Tam seems to have pleasant associations with it. I feed him in there. I give him peanut butter bones when he’s in there. He goes in voluntarily. So I’m thinking of leaving him home alone this afternoon so I can go to a forum on the 2020 census; the venue, my own library, doesn’t allow non-service dogs. We’ll see how that goes.

puppy in crate

This photo was taken a week ago. Trust me on this: he’s bigger now.

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May License Plate Report

license plate map

Only two in May, but they were both good ones: Arkansas and Montana.

I took two off-island trips in May, one to Boston for my 50th high school reunion, the other to Cananaigua, New York, to pick up my new puppy, about whom you can learn more here and here (if you haven’t already). Boston to and from wasn’t all that big a deal, but Canandaigua sort of was — and in all that thousand-plus miles of driving I spotted only three plates that weren’t already on my map: Michigan, Iowa, and Utah.

True, I was focused on other things, like navigating at 70–80 mph when my maximum speed on Martha’s Vineyard is more like 50–55 (maximum speed limit here is 45) and, on the way home, paying attention to Tam Lin (who hadn’t got his name yet, and who slept most of the way, but sleeping puppies are adorable and most emphatically a potential distraction), but still — I notice license plates.

Michigan was parked next to me at the Super 8 in Bath, New York, where Tam and I stayed because there were no reasonably priced pet-friendly rooms closer to Canandaigua.

Interestingly enough, today, June 1, I spotted Utah. I spotted two Utahs, although they might have been the same car: I was so focused on the license plate that the only thing I registered about the vehicles was that they were both sedans. Now I am wondering if Iowa and Michigan, the other plates I spotted on the road, will show up on the Vineyard this month. They’re both overdue — you especially, Michigan.

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Tam Lin Starts Socializing

Good dog trainers emphasize the importance of early socialization for young puppies, with a focus on the first three months (13 weeks). Travvy’s early socialization was mostly hit-or-miss, which most likely contributed to the, uh, challenges we had later with reactivity, resource guarding, and a self-protectiveness that made him a less-than-model vet patient.

Book cover: "Perfect Puppy in 7 Days" From attending an intro “How to Raise a RockStar Puppy” workshop given by trainer Karen Ogden and studying Dr. Sophia Yin’s excellent Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right I learned that “socialization” is about much more than getting the pup used to other dogs. It involves introducing the pup to all kinds of experiences and sensations, and creating positive associations with them.

Before we even got home, Tam Lin had met a bunch of new people; stayed in a motel; encountered grass, asphalt, carpet, and linoleum; heard traffic and sirens on a busy road; hung out on the ferry; and spent a lot of time riding in the car. I was learning to see all this through puppy eyes (and puppy ears, nose, and mouth).

In his first days on the Vineyard, Tam’s world burst with new possibilities. The immediate neighborhood offered lawn, underbrush, dirt roads, and Zena, the schnoodle next door, who at first was more worried about Tam than Tam was about her. Then they had a get-acquainted breakthrough, and luckily neighbor Willa was on hand with phone to record the occasion.

Tam meets Zena; Zena meets Tam. Photo by Willa Vigneault.

Zena seems to have decided that Tam is not as scary as she first thought, and not as imposing as Travvy. At one point Tam was being borderline obnoxious. She snapped at him and he backed off: good moves on both their parts. I’m not sure she realizes that before long he’s going to be four times her size. I’m glad she’s reading him the riot act now.

Zena, by the way, is a fetching fool; Tam seems bemused by the game. He’ll chase a rolling ball but when it stops he loses interest. Malamute logic goes something like this: You threw it. I brought it back. Then you threw it again. If you keep throwing it away, why should I bother bringing it back? He does like a good game of tug, however.

Tam drinks from the waterfall.

I was surprised the first time Tam scrambled over rocks to drink from water bubbling into my neighbors’ little pond. Timid this little guy was not. Now he considers the little waterfall his own private water fountain.

On his second full day on the Vineyard, we stopped by our vet’s to get him weighed: 12.7 pounds. (By a week later, when he had his first full vet appointment, he’d gained two pounds.)

At the May 21 rally for abortion rights. It’s hard to hold a sign and a puppy at the same time. Photo by Nicola Blake.

That afternoon Tam attended his first political event: a rally in support of abortion rights at Five Corners. He seemed unfazed by all the people fussing over him and by the enthusiastic honking of passing motorists.

Thanks to Facebook, half the world knew that I was getting a puppy, and the puppy-to-come already had a fan club. Now we got to work meeting some of his fans in person.

On Wednesday we paid a visit to Cleaveland House, where mystery writer Cynthia Riggs was especially eager to meet the new arrival. Cleaveland House is heaven for puppy socialization: Tam Lin got to meet goats, guinea hens, and ducks, and the event was amply photographed by Cynthia and by Lynn Christoffers. Lynn is a professional photographer whose specialty is cats — she’s the author of Cats of Martha’s Vineyard — but she’s no slouch with dogs either.

Me and Tam Lin. Photo by Lynn Christoffers.

Tam Lin and Lynn Christoffers. Photo by me.











I am blessed to know so many good photographers. Otherwise I would have no photos with both me and my dog in them.

Tam meets the goats.

Tam and I do a lot of playing, but we also go for walks. We’re now doing the loop around the neighborhood — Halcyon Way to the path behind the school to the Dr. Fisher Road and home on Pine Hill Road. Bert Fischer, a very fine photographer, lives on that loop. The other day we ran into Bert on the path. This is one of the results. See what I mean about knowing good photographers?

Tam Lin watches Bert while I watch Tam Lin. Photo by Albert Fischer.


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Tam Lin’s Journey Home

Back on May 4 I announced that I’d sent off my deposit for an Alaskan malamute puppy and concluded: “By the end of this month the pup will be in residence, and for sure you’ll be among the first to know. Watch this space.”

If you’ve been watching this space, you’ll have noticed that this space has been blank for a couple of weeks, in part because the pup has been a Vineyard resident since we rolled off the 10:30 p.m. boat on Sunday, May 19. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve already seen multiple photos of the new arrival, but here in a nutshell is the story of how he got here.

Papa Fly and Mama Anuk

Tam Lin’s parents: Papa Fly in front and Mama Anuk in back

“He,” by the way, is Masasyu’s Tam Lin. He’s descended from several dogs with magical names: Anuk, his mama, is Masasyu’s Enchanted Hammer (her dad is Masasyu’s Mighty Hammer, whose wildly appropriate call name is John Henry). Papa Fly is officially Masasyu’s Magic Carpet Ride; his mom, and also John Henry’s mom, is Masasyu’s Let the Magic Begin. This got me thinking of ballads with magical connections. At the top of the list were “Thomas the Rhymer,” as sung by Maddy Prior and Steeleye Span, and “Tam Lin,” as sung by Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention.

Unbeknownst to me, Lori, the pups’ breeder and proprietor of Masasyu kennels, was already calling one of the four Tommy, a natural nickname for either Thomas the Rhymer or Tam Lin. Upon learning this I had a strong hunch that this was going to be my puppy. I brainstormed other “Tommy”-related names, ranging from The Who’s rock opera Tommy to Thomas à Becket to Thomas Edward Lawrence, a lifelong hero of mine whose family and friends called him Ned, not Tom, Thomas, or Tommy. Tomfoolery was suggested and rocketed into the top 3, for its allusion to Tom Lehrer and because malamutes are good at tomfoolery.

But as I woke Tuesday morning, with the puppy curled up on my bed, my mind settled on “Tam Lin” so Tam Lin it is. Here’s his song:

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Saturday, May 18, I made the long but uneventful drive from my brother’s in Stow, Mass., to Canandaigua, N.Y. — a drive I’d made 11 years and some weeks before, to pick up the little guy who became Masasyu’s Fellow Traveller, aka Travvy. Around 3 p.m. I rolled up the dirt drive at Masasyu, which looked both familiar and different: the horse barn was the same, but house and kennel had been rebuilt after the disastrous fire of November 2012.

Susanna holding Tommy

Me and my puppy

Lori and I caught up while watching the pups play on the kennel floor. She’s so pleased with this litter that she’s keeping two of them: Crow, the only girl, and Hawk, one of the boys.

My Tommy was the first to leave home. He seemed not a bit distressed about this on our long journey to the Vineyard. Letting me out of his sight now that we’re home — that’s another matter. We’re working on it.

In the photo at right I’m wearing the same flannel shirt I wore to pick Travvy up. I didn’t realize this till after I’d left home on Friday, but of course I had to wear it to my first meeting with Tam-Lin-to-be.

To my consternation, the motel where Trav and I spent our first night had a NO VACANCY sign on the white picket fence. My consternation grew when the other two nearby budget motels that accepted pets also turned out to be full. Lori called around: seemed there was a big golf tournament in town and everything was full up.

My smartphone came in handy: There was a room available at the Super 8 in Bath, N.Y., about an hour away. By now it was after 6 but there was plenty of light in the sky to enjoy the gorgeous drive down the west side of Canandaigua Lake on State Route 21. We got to the motel well before dark.

I’d bought a puppy-sized travel crate at the thrift shop, but puppy showed no interest in it, either in the car (where he rode mostly curled up in the passenger seat) or at the motel. This was not unexpected. I’d borrowed a crate for puppy Travvy, thinking it would be safer than letting an eight-and-a-half-week-old puppy loose in a motel room, but once closed in the crate Travvy wouldn’t stop shrieking. Given a choice between waking all the other motel guests or taking my chances on a loose puppy, I went with the latter. All went well. I didn’t even try to shut my new guy in the crate. All went well with him too.

I’ve been reading up on the importance of puppy socialization, not just with people and other dogs but with various experiences. At the motel I had my first opportunities to watch my new puppy getting to know the big world beyond his home kennel. He was fine being patted by complete strangers. He was curious about our room but apparently at ease. He was surprised when his water dish slid a couple of inches across the bathroom floor while he was drinking from it, so I put it on the rug instead.

puppy on green grass

Puppy checks out the grass and dandelions in front of the Super 8.

We played on the grassy area between the parking lot and the main road. Sirens went screaming by; he listened and watched but didn’t seem startled.

He was initially reluctant to venture across the asphalt — evidently his paws liked the grass better — but he quickly got used to it.

He was seeming a fairly resilient guy: taking note of new sounds and sensations but willing to check them out. This has turned out to be pretty true. He’s startled by clanging metal — something I noticed when we were sitting in front of the grocery store and someone wiggled a shopping cart loose from its fellows. He also wanted to bolt when a saw started whining at a neighbor’s, but with a couple of treats he was willing to sit still and take it in.


Tam at Fallengutter, with Jan’s hands

Sunday morning we headed for Peekskill on Interstate 86. Sun beating through the windshield made the seat uncomfortably warm for the pup, so he curled up in the passenger foot well, on top of my backpack with a couple of squeaky toys. This wasn’t the most direct route home, but we were going to have lunch with some friends I’d never met in person before. Susie and I had met years ago on an e-list devoted to malamutes, then continued the acquaintance on Facebook. Her partner, Jan, is an Episcopal priest, and I wanted to meet both of them, and their current malamute, Luci. Luci was a tad overbearing and had to be banished inside, but the rest of us had a delightful lunch on the front porch, watching the neighborhood pass by.

Sunday afternoon traffic had been heavy coming into Peekskill, so — mindful that I had a 9:45 boat to catch — I left promptly at 4, fortified by lunch and the travel glass of brewed iced tea that Susie gave me.

My thought was to take Interstate 84 across Connecticut till it intersected I-495, then follow my usual route to Woods Hole. GPS warned me that traffic was heavy on my chosen route and could it offer an alternative? Mindful of the heavy traffic coming in to Peekskill and the fact that the 9:45 was the last boat of the night, I said OK.

Big mistake. GPS routed us through backroads and small towns whose names I can’t remember. Was this going to get us to I-84? Did GPS know I had a boat to catch? The directions were less than precise, I had to make a couple of U-turns, and my bearings were slipping away. Finally I saw a sign TO I-95 — the shore route that would get me to Woods Hole a lot faster than the winding roads I’d been on. Once on I-95 I let GPS calculate my drive time to Woods Hole: it had us arriving between 8:30 and 8:45. Whew. No rest stops for the puppy, but the puppy was fine until we rolled into the Steamship lot and he finally got to pee and drink some water.

One of the Steamship crew on the freight deck was so taken with the puppy that he asked to take a photo. Sure, I said.

sleeping puppy

Tam Lin chills on the boat while I drink my beer.

Since it was the pup’s first trip to the Vineyard, it didn’t seem right to spend it all in the car. Besides, I wanted a beer. Dogs aren’t allowed in the lunchroom, but no one minded that I bought my beer with a puppy in one arm. Quite the contrary. The big challenge was getting money out of and into my wallet one-handed, but the cashier helped.

At about quarter to 11, we got home, safe and sound. I was ready for bed, but Tam, having slept most of the day, wanted to play. After a short stroll around the neighborhood, he settled down.

It was so good to have a dog sleeping on my bed again, though it was strange having one who took up so little room. Looking at these photos from barely 10 days ago, I can’t help noticing how much he’s grown.

Next post: Settling In.

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Adventures in GPS

I got my first-ever cell phone this past January. Why I call it a phone when I seldom use it for phone-calling I’m not sure, but there it is. I use it for texting and private-messaging on Facebook, I use it for looking up words when I’m reading or proofreading something on paper — and this weekend I used it to find my way around Boston.

My 50th high school reunion was scheduled for May 10–11, and though I hadn’t been to a class reunion since the tenth, in 1979, I was determined to go. Winsor, the private girls school I attended from seventh grade through graduation, was pretty conservative, but my teachers were great and so were my classmates, most of whom I hadn’t kept up with.

The logistics, however, were daunting. I didn’t know anyone I could crash with for free.  Boston hotels are pricey and my resources are limited, so my first thought was to find a cheap motel out on the fringes of the metro area and commute. Once I got down to serious online searching, my close-to-town options turned out to be limited. The Motel 6 in Weymouth looked promising — until I learned that it had become a haven for drug-related and other mayhem and closed for good last fall.

Googling Boston hotels inexpensive turned up the Farrington Inn, a guesthouse in the Allston neighborhood with promising reviews and only $100/night (which would get you three- or four-star digs in some places, but not in a major metro area). Its appeal was enhanced by proximity to bus and subway, which I figured I’d be taking to and from the school. Though as a student I’d occasionally drop my father off at his office in Cambridge and then drive myself to school in his 1959 VW bug, I was never much of a city driver — and on Martha’s Vineyard, there are no traffic lights, the widest roads are one lane in each direction, and the maximum legal speed limit is 45 mph.

I’d done a little experimenting with GPS on my phone, but only on the Vineyard, where I know my way around. Could I trust it to get me and Malvina Forester, my 2008 Subaru, to and through Boston and help me find this guesthouse?

mobile phone

My navigator, a Samsung Galaxy J7

I could and it did. I traveled over the Sagamore Bridge, up Route 3, and through Boston and I didn’t get lost or even flustered once. True, it was early enough in the afternoon that the traffic was nothing like what it would be during rush hour, but it was heavier and faster than anything on the Vineyard. A disembodied female voice directed me to the Farrington Inn, where I checked in. A quick consult with Google Maps informed me that Winsor was much closer and easier to get to than I’d anticipated, so  I drove. The disembodied voice got me there, no problem.

The parking lot gate, however, wouldn’t let me in, even though it had opened politely for the car ahead of me. Exiting on foot, the driver of that car told me I had to push a button, which of course I hadn’t noticed. These gizmos are fairly new on the Vineyard; they were installed only last year at the county airport. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

I had a great time catching up with former classmates, the 50th reunion panel discussion was fun, and dinner in the dining hall was excellent. GPS got me back to the guesthouse safely, even though it was too dark to verify all of its instructions by reading street signs. I was becoming a bit cocky about my navigational skills.

Then on Saturday when I headed back to my guesthouse in mid-afternoon, things got weird. My previously trusty navigator first directed me down a street marked DO NOT ENTER, then it apparently wanted me to make  a U-turn on Commonwealth Avenue. Not only is Comm Ave two lanes in each direction, at this particular point there was a median strip with a barrier fence on it. WTF?

I pulled into a handy parking lot to have a talk with my navigator. After some fumbling around, I realized that my navigator thought I was on foot, in which case I could have made a 180 turn on the Comm Ave sidewalk and gone the wrong way down one-way streets. We straightened that out — and belatedly it dawned on me why my navigator had earlier estimated travel time at 40 minutes for a drive that took about 10.

Bourne Bridge

The Bourne Bridge, gateway to the Cape and Route 28

Heading home on Sunday, with a reservation on the 1:15, I chose a route I’ve driven often without GPS: Route 128 to I-95 to I-495, then across the Bourne Bridge to Route 28 and home. My navigator was determined to route me over the Sagamore Bridge when I always take the Bourne. A Google search told me that repairs on the Bourne Bridge had been mostly completed and that during the day the bridge was again two lanes in both directions.

The only way I could figure out how to route myself over the Bourne Bridge was to tell my navigator that the bridge was my destination. (It is now advising me on where to park in that area.) I have since learned that I can realign routes by dragging.

Though I knew the way cold (so I thought), I let my disembodied voice give me directions anyway. All went well till I realized I was being told to take an exit to I-93 North toward Boston. I-93? I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near I-93. North? Toward Boston? But I just left Boston! After a few minutes of following directions, I was on Route 24 heading south, which I knew would take me to I-495. Whew!

When I got to Woods Hole, almost an hour before the 1:15 ferry sailed, I consulted my navigator again. Why had I wound up briefly on I-93 North? The prescribed route was exactly the one I’d driven often without GPS. I must have missed the exit where 95 heads south and wound up on 93 instead. Evidently I wasn’t paying enough attention to either my navigator or the signs, and my navigator had bailed me out.

All in all, though, I’m feeling pretty accomplished. Now I know how to route myself over the Bourne Bridge instead of the Sagamore. Maybe if I do it often enough, my navigator will get the message.

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