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So Your Pup is a Pill-Popper...

This Imperfect Life

By Jean Perry

If there's anything I've learned as an imperfect person living an imperfect life, and as an imperfect mother raising my imperfect son in an imperfect world full of other imperfect people, is to try not to judge others.

Perfection in this physical dimension of linear time and space pretty much exists only as a concept. "Nobody's perfect," we've been told throughout childhood and well into adulthood to soften the blow of a letdown, and we have at times used it as an excuse of sorts when we fail, say the wrong thing, make the wrong move, or hurt someone else. It serves as a consolation or a reminder of the fact that we can and will often make wrong choices and face disappointing consequences.

Now, with all this understanding of the Tao of imperfection, what the hell was I thinking back in August during that phone conversation with the dog rescue agency in Texas as I described my vision of "the perfect dog" that I was looking to add to our imperfect family?

"My son, being on the autism spectrum, is sensitive to sound so the dog can't be a 'barker'," I remember saying, and now thinking of how unrealistic that kind of sounds. "And he doesn't like dogs that jump so it can't be a 'jumper', either." I went on to explain our lifestyle, the daily trail runs, the weekend mountain climbs, and what the perfect dog would look like in the grand scheme of things.

Without any pause, she offered up her suggestion and spoke his name to me for the first time.

"Ricky would be perfect," she said.

One of a litter of four - named Ricky, Lucy, Fred, and Ethel - Ricky was considered a dog with great potential, possibly a candidate for future therapy dog training. "Intutitive" was an adjective used by his foster mom, whose own son was on the autism spectrum and Ricky allegedly possessed some intrinsic ability to understand the boy.

Yes, the part blue heeler, part German shorthaired pointer 10-month-old young rescue dog sounded like the perfect fit for us. It was decided. Ricky would be our family dog.

That being established, it was further into our conversation after hearing endearing descriptions of sister Ethel - the submissive one of the pack of ten or so rescue dogs at the foster house, the one everyone picked on and who suffered a number of cuts and wounds to her flesh - that I heard myself say in a vulnerable moment of compassion and impulsive benevolence, "It sounds like we need to take Ethel, too."

The RV of rescue pooches arrived late one afternoon in Hartford, Connecticut. On the big day, I told the driver we were there for Rickey and Ethel, which prompted him to respond, "Oh. Ha! You sure?" I reckoned that I was in for an experience that perhaps might be a tad less-than-perfect.

Going from no dogs to two unruly rescue dogs is an incessant inundation of licks, squirms, snuggles, nuzzles, snuzzles, and kerfuffles. No complaints from me, since this new flavor of anarchy worked like cream and sugar to our existing cup of chaos in this cosmic cafe we call life in my house.

Ricky and Ethel were superstars on their first 4,000-footer hike in New Hampshire on their birthday weekend when they turned one-year-old back in October, and they were quick to learn the local trails I traverse regularly on my morning runs. It was all going steady in delightful disorder until the day Ricky went berserk and attacked another dog on the trail.

Ricky frequently expressed an unease and tension while passing other dogs, although he and Ethel are like those two cliche peas in the proverbial pod. (He even cuddles the kitten and spoons her at bedtime).

Out on walks, there was always a degree of barking, lunging on the leash, an intense need to sniff the dogs and then back off in a fit of barking and angsty acrobatics. But that morning in Myles Standish State Forest when Ricky seemingly unprovoked ran full force after an innocent dog rounding the bend, barking and nipping her and frightening the poor owners who stood helplessly by, I took it hard, I say understatedly.

Having seen Ricky's response to other dogs in public, how could I have been so careless, so reckless, so ... irresponsible to let the leash fall from my hand and let him wander and frolic freely with Ethel? Shocked and saddened, I looked to my boyfriend who simply stated, "Ricky is a problem. He can never ever be let off the leash. EVER."

We called in a trainer and got straight to work. He determined that something must have happened to Ricky during his formative months - either attacks from the other dogs or some consistent exposure to violence that caused him to fear dogs unknown to him. I wish he could tell me what happened to him, what turned him into this ferocious beast, and quite likely the most beautiful, handsome creature I had ever beheld.

Fetching, fine, snuggly, glued-to-my-side, I-need-to-be-nuzzled-into-you-at-all-times loveable goofball Ricky was a mental case. Apparently, my "potential therapy dog" was actually the one who needed therapy. How can we cope with this?

Training was slow, yet our imperfect life kept on moving and I worried for Ricky. I worried about his safety, the safety of other dogs, Ricky's happiness and his obvious angst, separation anxiety, and insecurity. I thought about how hiking up Mount Washington with a leash in my hand would imperfect the experience, and how with every passing dog along every trail there would be an embarrassing scene - Ricky would scream and flail as usual, thrust and lunge, and I would have to say that same line to everyone we pass, "Sorry, he's a mental case. He's traumatized."

Pressure was mounting from friends and family about possibly getting rid of Ricky. He was officially a liability, a possible ticking time bomb, among other cliches. I tried gentle leaders, which failed to keep him from spazzing. We leash him, muzzle him every time we go out, and we keep treats on hand to try to distract him. Although we can keep him from harming another dog, none of these implements of ruction reduction truly penetrated the root of the problem.

I took Ricky to the veterinarian and flat out told her, "You need to help me. You are my last ditch effort to keep this dog." It would kill me to have to give him up. Please, I begged her, "Help him."

That's when we took home our first bottle of doggie Prozac.

OK, I know what some of you are thinking. Your dog is on pharmaceuticals? What the hell is wrong with this country to even drug their dogs? I boldly exclaim that I am not ashamed to admit that my beloved mental case is a Prozac pill-popping pooch. It might not be the perfect solution to the problem, but there is something inherently imperfect about this dog's brain and if there was even a slight chance of it improving all of our imperfect lives, it was worth a try.

You know, the Marion Board of Selectmen recently held a dog hearing for a pit bull on Rocky Knook Lane that had attacked and bitten a neighbor's dog. When the owner referred to his rescue dog as a "lovebug," "sweet," and "gentle" at home, I felt a squeezing in my chest. And when the selectmen deemed the dog "a dangerous dog" to be confined, leashed, and muzzled at all times outdoors, my heart was an iPhone in a toilet bowl, sinking to the bottom of my chest.

That's Ricky, I thought to myself. Ricky is "a dangerous dog." I couldn't judge this imperfect owner or his imperfect dog, for I was he and Ricky was his dog.

Ricky, now on Prozac for six weeks, has improved somewhat around the house. Some of his separation anxiety has subsided, and he seems more relaxed out and about - until he sees another dog, of course. Nothing has changed on that front, except the muzzling appears to have at least created a psychological castration of sorts, since Ricky is well aware that all he is now is just bark with no bite.

And I've had to let go of that perfect vision of the perfect dog behaving perfectly on perfect mountain climbs. He will never be able to run freely outside of the fenced-in backyard and for that I still feel sad for us both.

Only time and experience will tell what will become of Ricky's "dangerousness" to other dogs. In the meantime, we march on "muzzled and kerduzzled" as we loving refer to Ricky.

Nonetheless, Ricky and Ethel, these two imperfect emissaries of anarchy fit in perfectly in our imperfect existence. Ricky could very well be the most imperfect dog for what we had in mind, but he's my imperfect dog and, dammit, I love that crazy nutjob.

A Striper for Papa

By Rudd "Papa" Wyman

Being a 1950-60 striper addict with a beach buggy (and with 2016 ambulatory issues), the following essay is from a grandfather's heart and from Bourne Oaks Retirement Community for older people with small dogs and a bingo habit.

The community is 30 minutes from my Marion family - Steve, Dyan, Emma and Ben. Our son and 11-year-old grandson caught and released a few schoolie bass keepers during Ben's 2016 summer vacation.

Would it be possible to release a striper for the elder's dinner table?

On October 20, 2016, with October winding down, there was still no striper dinner complete with bacon, lemon slices, hash browns and pickled beets for the neighboring bingo family. While most Cape anglers have stored their tackle away by now, grandson Ben remains positive. "We gotta get Papa a bass."

"The season is over, Ben. They are headed to warmer water," says Steve.

Transporting kids to baseball games and music lessons and now fall soccer and gymnastics has left no time for a "Papa fish."

Steve's office is on the second floor of a boatyard, and a picture window overlooks Marion Harbor. On Sunday afternoon, October 23, he had paperwork and, with Ben, they drove two miles to his office.

"We need to get Papa a keeper," Ben repeats, always optimistic, and he has packed his rigged rod. Steve heads for the building, and Ben yells, "Dad, come here!"

Standing on the dock, they behold a black patch of flitting pogies, a striper's treat.

Ben's tackle is a 7-foot rod spinning reel filled with 12-pound test line, a leader, and a weighted treble hook to snag a bait fish, which he accomplishes on the first cast.

"Dad, I just saw a submarine or a Great White shark pass under the dock," says Ben and, alarmed, he lifts the pogie, hesitant to return it. With Steve urging him, the bait is put back in the water that explodes, showering the dock. Line zings from the reel nearly catapult Ben off the wharf.

"This is no schoolie, dad!" Ben exclaims. "Hang on," Dad yells, imagining a highlight adventure, dock slips lined with motorboats, a sailboat, Zodiaks, pilings, and everything hazardous to landing a large fish. He is aware of the impending challenge of landing a big mama striper in a congested space that could barely accommodate the capture of a small mama.

Being an accomplished fisherman, Steve's life work is to publish and to film New England fishing and boating adventures; however, there is no filming crew on this day, with the only witness being a yachtsman motoring ashore in a Boston Whaler.

The striper charges the dock, and Ben reels frantically to gain line. "Steer her away from the slips," Steve instructs, but this is impossible. Steve slides into a sailboat, and Ben hands him the rod pulsating with a half-moon bend and line stretching around the mast. Pushing away from the mast, he passes the rod back to Ben, and jumps into a Zodiak anticipating the fish to rub off on a piling and to escape under the dock. With the rod back in his hands, Steve is able to lead the striper around the Zodiak while bouncing and nearly losing his balance.

"She's spooling me!" Steve shouted, reeling in the fish. The young fellow observing the scenario while unloading his sailing gear from the Boston Whaler said, "Hop aboard," as the mama striper raced for a moored cabin cruiser.

A lengthy pursuit ensued. "A Marion Harbor Sleigh Ride," Steve described it.

Skillfully, they maneuver the fish into shallow water where she rubs off on a rock. Watching the large striper swim free, the Whaler Captain states, "She'd never fit in this boat!" Steve smiles and says, "Thank God for 'Hot Sauce,'" a signature title for Ben by his fifth-grade lady friends.

Ben has a striper for Papa and Steve has a real life and personal adventure for his fishing magazine.

Finally, with line stretching in one direction to the fish and with Ben holding the rod, he leads the fish to Steve, who is lying flat on the dock with his face inches from the water. Ben, with rod in hand and holding Steve's belt to keep his dad anchored with the other, says, "Papa will be proud," as fearless father gently clutches Big Mama by the gills.

Against insurmountable odds of landing this fish, a team effort results in high-fives, fist bumps, many photos, and a striper for Papa - which meant a gourmet feast for half of the bingo crowd.

4 Seabreeze Lane Headed Back To Court

Mattapoisett Conservation Commission

By Marilou Newell

On January 9, Brandon Faneuf of Ecosystem Solutions, representing Daniel and Lisa Craig, 4 Seabreeze Lane, once again sat down with the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission trying to reach a compromise - a little give and a little take on jurisdictional lands that had been encroached by the Craigs.

For months, the Craigs have been seeking permission to maintain an immense swath of wetlands and bordering vegetated buffer zones they altered, landscaped areas that the Conservation Commission has contended were 'no touch zones.'

The Craigs sought to keep over 20,000 square feet of groomed lawn and other landscaped features in violation of the sub-divisions permits. They also sought relief from Superior Court. The court's decision had been to uphold the commission's enforcement order.

Again the Craigs attempted to receive grace in the form of an Order of Conditions on a new filing that would make the court's decision null and void while also appealing their ruling.

During a marathon December 12 hearing, Faneuf and the Town's independent environmental expert John Rockwell hammered away at possible remediation and restoration plans, trying to reach a compromise that would satisfy not only the Town and the property owners, but also the Buzzards Bay Coalition.

An informal polling of the commissioners at that hearing found the majority in favor of granting the Craigs an Order of Conditions on their Notice of Intent filing, in spite of the court ruling. That hearing was continued to give Faneuf, along with Rockwell and the Town's Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold, sufficient time to draft a new Order of Conditions - one that would grant compromises to the original Enforcement Order.

As the January 9 hearing drew to a close, opposition to a compromise was raised.

Mike Huguenin, president of the Mattapoisett Land Trust, said, "I don't know why somebody can take a resource area and then give us back only half."

Korrine Petersen, senior attorney with the Buzzards Bay Coalition, read from a letter indicating that their position was not to compromise with the Craigs, but to enforce the commission's orders and to put some areas under a conservation restriction to ensure their preservation into perpetuity.

Chairman Bob Rogers, who has firmly been in favor of keeping the Enforcement Order in place, said, "A big part of me just wants to take that Enforcement Order and let that be our Order of Conditions - in so many ways that's the right thing to do in my mind."

Commissioner Mike Dubuc said, "I'm in favor of the Enforcement Order."

Commissioner Chapman Dickerson concurred, commenting that the other residents had complied, so the Craigs should also, in order to "be fair."

Disagreeing with his fellow commissioners, Mike King said, "It's best to negotiate a reasonable solution."

Commissioner Trevor Francis agreed with King at first, but not for long. When the vote was cast, compromise was off the table.

All commissioners except King voted for the Enforcement Conditions. The Craigs' appeal to the Superior Court ruling will now move forward.

In a follow-up, Petersen, speaking on behalf of the Buzzards Bay Coalition, whose role in the matter has been the protection of resource areas abutting Eel Pond, said, "I am immensely pleased."

In other business, Negative 3 determinations were handed out to Thomas Kane, 21 Meadowbrook Lane, for the installation of a new septic system; Dry Well Realty Trust, for 6 Cedar Street, for a new septic system where a new home is planned; the Mattapoisett Land Trust on their RDA filing for the removal of invasive species at the Dunseith Gardens property; and DG Service, 23 County Road, represented by Robert Field of Field Engineering for an RDA filing to construct a 2,200 square-foot addition to an existing commercial structure.

New sidewalks planned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation along Route 6 from the boundary of Fairhaven to the intersection of Main Street also received a Negative 3 determination on their RDA filing.

A NOI filing by Samuel Waterston, 13 Shipyard Lane, represented by Susan Nilson of CLE Engineering, for improvements to an existing groin and the addition of a floating dock was continued until January 23 to give the commissioners additional time to process comments from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, Division of Marine Fisheries, Coastal Zone Management, and other agencies.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission is scheduled for January 23 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.

RMS to Start School Newspaper

Rochester School Committee

By Jean Perry

It seems that some students with a nose for news will be starting up a digital school newspaper of sorts at Rochester Memorial School, Principal Derek Medeiros told the Rochester School Committee on January 5.

"We're pretty excited about it," said Medeiros. "Ever since I started at RMS, I've had a student or a group of students talk about a school newspaper."

RMS did have a school paper of its own, but that was many years ago, Medeiros said.

Instead of the traditional paper and ink newspaper, Medeiros said the students and staff assisting the students would incorporate the use of digital technology via video recorded interviews culminating from the students' research, investigation, and writing.

Students will begin by interviewing different staff members in the school to piece together video interviews that, after editing, can be posted to the school's website and shared digitally perhaps during morning all-school meetings, said Medeiros.

News anchors will present on the video and editing and tech students will fine-tune the final work.

Students and staff have chosen Wednesday afternoons after school as the time to meet to work on their ongoing news project.

"They're really excited about it, and we're looking forward to those episodes starting to come out," said Medeiros.

School Committee members approved of the digital school newspaper idea.

"It's a great response to something that was initiated by students," said School Committee member Robin Rounseville.

In other matters, Business Administrator Patrick Spencer said FY17 budgetary matters at RMS were all on track for the middle of the fiscal year.

"At this point, we're in a very good place," Spencer said.

Also, the food service department revenue is up with slight increases in school breakfast and lunch participation.

So far, revenue stands at about $64,000, with expenditures to date at $58,000. A net surplus of roughly $5,700, said Spencer, is important because some equipment upgrades and replacements on the horizon will be fully paid for by revenue without having to seek funding through the town budget.

Food Services Director Jill Hennessey said breakfast participation is up 1% from last year to 8%. Last year, lunch participation was at 32% and this year it is up to 40%.

"So, we are steadily increasing," Hennessey stated.

The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee is scheduled for February 2 at 6:30 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

MOSAC Considers Grant for Phragmite Control

Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission

By Jean Perry

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has contacted Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission Chairman John Rockwell, offering an opportunity to apply for grant money to assist in phragmite removal at the Grassi Bog property as part of the Grassi Bog Restoration Grant.

Rockwell said on January 5 that the NRCS would provide a grant to fully fund a phragmite control contract at the conservation property managed by MOSAC.

Rockwell brought the matter up to fellow MOSAC members, who encouraged Rockwell to pursue the grant funds.

"Hey, it's free money," said Rockwell. He estimated that there is roughly a 3,000 to 4,000 square-foot area of phragmites at Grassi Bog.

"It's getting bigger every year," said MOSAC member Alan Harris.

The NRCS will pay for the contract, which would entail the manual application of pesticides to each individual phragmite, once a year for three years. The best part about the nature of this particular grant, said Rockwell, is that once the commission selects a contractor, the NRCS can be billed directly.

"We (MOSAC) wouldn't even have to pass through any money," Rockwell said.

Rockwell said in a follow-up email on January 6 that the invasive problem at Grassi Bog "isn't that bad, as of yet," but the Town would not have to match any of the funding should it be officially granted to the town.

No specified amount has yet been stated.

The next meeting of the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission is scheduled for January 19 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Recreation building at 13 Atlantis Drive.

Snow Brings Student Complaints About Safety

ORR Update

By Jo Caynon

Last Friday brought the first snowstorm of the year to the Tri-Towns and ORRHS. While the sight of the snow-covered landscape may have been lovely to some, that morning's commute was far from it.

Classrooms and hallways were filled with stories of several near-accidents from student drivers that morning, as the layer of ice underneath the snow caused many to drift or spin out of control. To make matters worse, many streets - particularly in Rochester - hadn't yet been plowed, leaving hazardous conditions for the inexperienced drivers.

"I was driving to school in second gear, so you know I wasn't going more than 15 to 20 miles per hour," said one junior who wishes to be left unnamed. "The car in front of me slammed into the back of another car, so I hit the breaks and my car starting skidding and wouldn't stop. I had to swerve onto the sidewalk and hit a trashcan. Now I have a broken radiator.... It's unbelievable we had school knowing that we are new drivers and the roads were terrible. I'm not saying we needed a snow day, but like an hour or two delay until the roads were drivable."

Another senior added, "I drove really slow, but the roads were awful."

The troubles continued once students made it into the parking lot. Many spoke of not being able to control their vehicle correctly into parking spots, made more difficult by the low vision from the falling snow and the snow layer obstructing the lines in the lot.

"The parking lot wasn't cleared at all," another junior commented. "Everyone was just guessing at parking [in] spots."

Many of the students who drive to school only have experience from warmer months; even those who have encountered icy conditions before are still individuals who have only been driving for no more than two years at the most. Some suggested a delay in the start of school would have been appropriate.

Classes started about 25 minutes late regardless of the regular opening, as Route 6 became a line for cars and buses trying to drop off students and staff commuting from as far away as Rhode Island. With a good portion of the school absent at the time of the first bell, shortening the first class until their arrival lessened the amount of disruptions that could have occurred.

The cold weather caused problems at the end of the day for a few unfortunate students as well. Several students could be seen using jumper cables to start one of their cars after school. A few vehicles still had snow on their roofs as they left the lot, and several other students purposefully waited for the majority of the lot to empty before they, too, left for home.

With the first storm providing experience for all involved in the school commute, one can only hope that next time around, further precautions will be taken for the safety of everyone on the roads to school.

Tabor Expands Partnership with New Bedford's CEDC

Tabor Academy Update

By Jack Gordon

Recently, Tabor Academy has expanded its collaboration with the Community Economic Development Center (CEDC) based in New Bedford. Each week throughout the school year, a group of Tabor students travel to New Bedford to provide English tutoring to members of the community who have immigrated to the United States.

The CEDC is a nonprofit organization that, according to their website, "fosters economic justice in the local economy through people-centered development." Among many things, the CEDC provides opportunities, resources, and networks to those needing help becoming a part of the local economy. Specifically, the organization focuses on economic development, community building, neighborhood improvement and public policy.

The CEDC works largely in part with immigrants from Central America, many of whom have limited knowledge of the English language. Because of this, everyday activities such as finding jobs or housing, using public transportation, or filling out government paperwork can become a significant challenge. This group is the focus of the English tutoring provided by Tabor students.

The program began under the leadership of Jonathan Sirois, a Spanish teacher at Tabor, who was looking for a way "to foster better and more meaningful relationships with the local community." The program began with weekly visits to New Bedford on Thursdays after extra-curricular commitments in the afternoon, but due to recent success, they have added a trip on Tuesdays as well.

During the hour-long tutoring sessions, students will work with the community members individually. Starting with a baseline discussion from a worksheet, the conversation expands based upon specific ability levels or needs. Whether the community members are teenagers new to the language or people applying for United States citizenship after decades living in the country, everyone is there to develop a basic understanding of English.

"They are all extremely friendly and they tell you their story before and after moving to this country," said Tabor sophomore Christopher Mills.

The ability to develop knowledge of language goes both ways in this partnership. For students like Mills, this tutoring program not only provides the opportunity to meet people from the local area that they would never have the chance to meet otherwise, but also gives them a chance to improve their Spanish. The ability to have actual conversations with native speakers, says Mills, allows him to improve substantially in a short amount of time.

Though this program provides great opportunities for Spanish-speaking students, the partnership with the CEDC is open to all students at Tabor. While the growing success of the program has allowed it to expand to a second day of the week, the core members of the tutoring group hope it will continue to grow and gain popularity among Tabor students. Since students can go and tutor as many or as few times as they wish, it provides a flexible way to expand upon the boundaries of Tabor's campus and community.

This tutoring program with the CEDC is one of several reoccurring community service efforts pursued by Tabor students on a weekly basis. Each week, Tabor students volunteer with things such as Sunday school, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Sunday Supper, and more. Additionally, there is an ever-changing list of opportunities for students to give back to the Tri-Town and South Coast communities.

The school regularly hosts events for the Special Olympics, including the Special Olympics Polar Plunge event on January 22.

Twice a year, the entire Tabor community comes together to complete dozens of volunteer service projects across the region in the "Day of Service."

OC Robotics Prepares for Competition

Old Colony Update

By Elizabeth Jerome

The year 2017 has gotten off to a rocky start for the Old Colony Robotics team. In the final weeks leading up to their qualifying competition, tensions are high. Students and advisers have both been working long hours to make final preparations.

Every Tuesday for the past five months, the team has met after school to plan and build machines to compete in this year's VEX Robotics Starstruck Competition. They have spent countless hours building and rebuilding to refine their ideas and work out bugs. Veteran students Tanner Stafford and John Barnes have been hard at work not only on the robot, but also on leading the newer members of the team.

Problems have arisen of varying issues. Smaller challenges like scheduling matters have been easy for the team to overcome. Larger challenges, however, have truly put the team to the test.

Broken motors, stripped gears, coding mistakes, and failed ideas have kept the team on their toes as they adapt to each problem they face. Together they've managed to not only survive the tribulations, but also thrive under the pressure.

Though slightly stressful, this challenge presents an amazing opportunity for the students. The VEX Robotics Competition is the fastest growing high school and middle school robotics competition. It presents its engineering challenge in the form of a game where teams compete against each other year round. It is an opportunity for students to come together and learn engineering skills as well as teamwork and critical thinking skills.

Now, in the final hours, the team has been staying after school everyday well into the night in an effort to assure everything is perfect. They need to get past this first event at Bristol Community College in order to continue to the next level.

The game is on and the students and advisers alike look optimistic.

The competition was to be held on January 7, but due to the storm it was postponed to January 21, allowing the team even more time to perfect their machines. We wish them good luck.

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