A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 164

Dog Wars now in sixth year

While world attention focuses on set piece battles twixt platoons of Rochester police officers and great hosts of teenage party animals, nearby, in the northwest frontier parish of Farmington, an even greater struggle could be coming to a climax. Local government forces may be on the verge of a breakthrough in their five and a half year war against guerrilla bands of unlicensed dogs, thanks, in part, to this very column.

Last week, after yet another offensive sweep was announced by determined authorities, a highly classified document fell into the hands of Farmington Corner. This transpired to be the blueprint of an underground network to smuggle dogs over the town line into the Lilac City until Operation Pooch Pinch has exhausted its $1,500 budget.

One would be shirking one's moral responsibility if one did not share this daring but treasonous plot with town fathers and the readership. Names shall be named, methods and routes exposed...but first a little historical background gleaned from previous Farmington Corners may be in order to give the license issue some perspective. You will also realize these renegade bands of mutts are not without their allies and, indeed, they have friends in disturbingly high places.

First signs of an underground

Jan. 29, 1985: Newly appointed Dog Officer Alan Colwell is sworn in and minutes later catches two dogs on Main Street. These are placed in a temporary pound and he heads out on another swoop. When Colwell returns, he finds the first two dogs have been freed by persons unknown.

Feb. 5, 1985: Colwell has a shoot out with the seven-dog Hole in the Barn Gang that had tried to take over the Joe Bean farm. The leader is plugged, but six other mangy mongrels flee onto Chesley Mountain. Shortly after, old man Bean mysteriously takes up kite-flying - is this really a signaling system?

Feb. 19, 1985: Colwell, now known as the "Marshal" signs up Deputy Dog Officer Rusty Thompson. They comb Main Street with six-gun and noose (the one now reserved for errant cyclist, one imagines). A desperate reader calls the newspaper to say he is scared to put his dog out in case it is mistaken for a communist and shot. That's the spirit.

Feb. 26, 1985: Marshall Colwell goes into the helium party balloon business. This is exposed by Farmington Corner as a front for a scheme to float unlicensed dogs up to northern Maine.

March 5, 1985: By now, 15 dogs have been captured, though four of these are sprung by sympathizers. The Hole-in-the-Barn Gang is tracked to a hideout under a lady's porch. The lady is warned not to pat 'em. When the gang escapes again, panic grips the town. One report has children being stalked by a dog on Lone Star Avenue, but it just turns out to be a large rat.

March 12, 1985: In Farmington District Court, Judge Eugene Nute unmasks himself as a dog sympathizer by waiving the fine on an unlicensed mongrel name of Smokey LaPanne, merely because it says "Hello" to everyone.

March 26, 1985: When Smokey the Talking Wonderdog is recaptured he is quickly bailed out of the Cocheco Valley Humane Society cages and is tied up on Pleasant Street. He cunningly tries to bite through his fetters in an escape attempt, but by chewing the wrong cord Smokey blacks out cable T.V. for two blocks. Dogs lose support immediately.

Dec. 10, 1985: Attorney Manny Krasner first sights the 20 Wild Dogs of Meaderboro Road. Marshall Colwell with a new Deputy Dog Officer, John Fitch, sets out on an expedition to Meaderboro Road, home of Farmington Planning Board. They pick up two of the wild dogs caught single-handedly by Krasner himself, but the others have melted away.

Dec. 18, 1985: About this time, two well-known local people are bitten - jogger Paul Turner and Biff the Mailman. So determined is Biff for revenge that he becomes a selectman and, later, even gives up his postal job to devote more time to fighting the Dog War. But far from the front lines, the generals are warring with themselves. Marshall Colwell retains overall command but the Deputy Dog Officer is now Heidi Colwell. Welfare Officer Trudy Pence becomes Deputy Dog Officer while Fitch refuses the largely ceremonial post of Deputy Dog Officer (Third Class). Fitch remarks the Welfare Department will not run short of meat.

Oct. 15, 1986: After months of ineffective jungle operations by Farmington's three dog officers, the 20 Wild Dogs of Meaderboro Road are still at large. One day they are spotted on Dorinda the Librarian's lawn; the next, Attorney Don Whittum is glimpsed slipping 'em a bone. It is rumored Whittum is feeding the dogs as a protest against being the only Meaderboro Road East resident not appointed to the Planning Board.

Dec. 30, 1986: The Planning Board surmises renegade dogs are being given succor in the sprawling working class shanties of downtown Farmington and proposes to deliver a punitive blow to this sector of the population by banning peacocks from the half-acre zone. Farmington Peacock Breeders Association is formed and inspires working class people to rally against injustice with a series of stirring poems.

A huge crowd attends the public hearing of the Peacock Ordinance in Farmington Town Hall, including Judge Nute who makes an emotional and wildly applauded speech. The Planning Board agrees to concessions and, under the terms of a deal, the proposed peacock laws are withdrawn, but Fitch takes over as Dog Officer.

Jan. 26, 1988: Fitch, a man who professes the law book to be mightier than the shotgun, has an uncontroversial first year in office - but somehow the 20 Wild Dogs of Meaderboro Road are never seen again. Then, suddenly, selectmen, including Biff the Mailman, announce RSA 466:31 II(f) which ordains a $75 fine for any dog that preys on human flesh.

July 12, 1988: Another legal coup is declared with the discovery of Chapter 466, Section 14 of the Revised Laws of New Hampshire, 1967, permitting a dog officer to kill unlicensed and uncontrolled dogs whenever and wherever they are found, and to have the owners pay any costs involved. Farmington Corner comes out four square behind this Kill 'em, Grill 'em and Bill 'em policy, and runs a sabre-rattling column advocating the planting of carniverous bushes, the purchase of rocket-propelled dog nets, and the rental of helicopter gunships.

Unfortunately, just before the goverment attack is due to begin, it is discovered that such tactics are, after all, illegal. The warrant is based on a law repealed 20 years before. Nowadays all dogs must spend a week or two in the pound before taking the Big Sleep.

Since this last setback, almost two years have flown by, but the resolve of the authorities has in no way slackened. Biff the ex-Mailman still holds the reins of power, and Fitch has not wasted his time but rather has been mastering counter-insurgency methods from a base camp just over the border in neighboring Middleton. Now he is equipped with a fresh warrant and a target of 1,000 unlicenced dogs - only the shadowy Puddledock Underground Plot (PUP) can keep him from Final Victory.

Full details of the secret PUP blueprint in next week's exciting episode.

June 18, 1990

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