A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 165

PUP - just a shaggy dog story?

Ever since the news leak concerning 1,000 unlicensed dogs in Farmington, Animal Control Officer John Fitch has been conducting surprise sweeps, dawn raids, midnight surveillances and unannounced door-to-door pounces to bring these outlaw mutts to heel.

Already over $500 in fines has clanked into town coffers, and Fitch's promised quick pay back of the $1,500 cost for his military-style crackdown is proving accurate. Further vast transfers of money from private pockets to the public purse are expected in the coming weeks as more and more unlicensed mongrels are unearthed and heavy penalties exacted from their friends. Tension, already running high in this little community, has been heightened further by rumors in the press of a captured document detailing a plot to sneak these illegal quadrupeds out of town.

Last week you were promised the full scoop on a hitherto unknown organization called Puddledock Underground Plot (PUP). This shadowy amalgamation of rebels, tree-huggers, malcontents, pranksters, do-gooders, '60s hippies and canine rights agitators, according to the parchment in my exclusive hands, has set up a dead-of-night route to smuggle the town's unlicensed dogs over the line into Rochester where they can hide out until the heat is off.

The audacity of the PUP plan is breathtaking, operating, as it does, right under the noses of authority, and after you study this scheme a lot of strange happenings around Farmington will start to make sense. Why, for example, do you think Royce Hodgdon has so many used stoves and wash tubs outside his shop? Because that's the secret drop off point for dogs, don't you see? Unlicenced canines are being popped inside an oven or a spin dryer after dark and during the night are picked up for the next leg of their journey to unlicensed freedom.

The escape route, according to PUP's blueprint, does not involve floating animals down the Cocheco River in old freezers. Instead the night-deposit dogs are collected at Royce's in the wee hours of the morning by Gardener-of-the-Month Pat Benoit. Who would have thought she was driving around with truckfuls of shredded bark for any other reason than to spruce up the floral efforts of Farmington Woman's Club? Instead, according to the captured plan, beneath the mulch these doggies go. The underground route then winds past the golf course, over Henry Wilson Highway (himself a friend of the persecuted) and up Meetinghouse Hill Road, where, if the coast is clear, old Joe Bean flies a red kite in a tree near his farmhouse.

Then the fugitive tailwaggers are dropped on Ten Rod Road at an obscure hunter's cabin, the abode of multi-cause activist Jeannie Blinkinsop-Blinkinsop. (To discourage the idea that her humble hut offers sanctuary to fleeing dogs, Jeannie's acre cunningly seethes with cats.) The author of the smuggling plan concedes in this document that Jeannie B-Bop has become extremely edgy since the construction of a 350-foot aerial on adjacent Chesley Mountain. She fearfully supposes cameras are mounted on the tower and that these are scanning her yard, but less concerned members of the group have managed to assuage her fears on this score.

Nonetheless, Jeannie has chosen to avoid roads and on a nightly basis leads the dogs from Ten Rod Road, like Farmington's answer to Maria Von Trapp, over Hussey Mountain to Meaderboro Road and hence down to secret sympathize Don Whittum. This kindly gent slips 'em a bone (old habits die hard) before passing the mongrels to a duo on the safe side of the Rochester line shortly before daybreak. The only info on these two Lilac City conspirators is their code names, Luke Dog Walker and Bark Vader.

If this captured plan can be given credence, PUP expects the number of smuggled dogs to climb dramatically in the coming weeks as Fitch's Operation Pooch Pinch begins to bite. Accordingly, secret negotiations are underway between PUP and the Wensley administration in Rochester to operate a temporary refugee pound on city-owned land. Acreage has already been earmarked on quiet St. James Terrace, though with the proviso that the potentially noisy dog camp could be relocated if local residents agree instead to a bridge over the Cocheco Rover connecting the Lilac and Rochester malls. Politics, politics!

Meanwhile, authorities in Farmington are already taking steps to crush PUP. Police Chief Barry Carr has just applied to the state for permission to reduce the speed of traffic on Route 11 from 55 mph to 40 mph and require that they be preceded by a man walking with a red flag. This should have the effect of forming a continuous barrier of cars, making it impossible for dogs to cross over Henry Wilson Highway except on Superbowl Sunday.

Cameras have also been placed on the Chesley Mountain tower, enabling a round-the-clock surveillance of the Blinkinsop-Blinkinsop property. Additionaly, in a tactical masterstroke, Town Attorney Don Whittum has been forced by selectmen to explore legal action against Royce Hodgdon's stoves and freezers unless these appliances are squished forthwith into six-inch metal cubes.

Now doesn't everything start to make sense at last? As Hunter S. Thompson says of authority, "No matter how paranoid you get, they're doing more than you think?"

June 25, 1990

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