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Must love dogs

Why Provincetown was named America’s dog-friendliest place

Dudley, a thirsty King Charles spaniel, at the $200,000 Pilgrim Bark Park, which has memorials to the Mayflower’s two dogs. Dudley, a thirsty King Charles spaniel, at the $200,000 Pilgrim Bark Park, which has memorials to the Mayflower’s two dogs. (Julia Cumes for The Boston Globe)
By Linda Matchan
Globe Staff / August 24, 2010

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PROVINCETOWN — In most parts of Massachusetts it would be out of the ordinary to see a dog careering down the street on a Segway.

But not in Provincetown, where it happens every day. Sometime around midday, Chip Brock leaves his artist’s studio, plops his black pug Chu Chi into a backpack, and hitches him to the handlebars of his Segway. The two of them whiz down Commercial Street, with Chu Chi stretched over the prow of the Segway like a figurehead on a ship in Cape Cod Bay.

They zip past Paws & Whiskers dog bakery. They pass Wired Puppy, a coffee shop. They stop at Adams, a pharmacy, where an employee who knows him rushes out with a dog biscuit. He gets another treat at The Coffee Pot.

This is, after all, the most dog-friendly town in America. So decreed Dog Fancy magazine, which recently named it DogTown USA.

It takes a lot to impress Ernie Slone,Dog Fancy’s editor, who had so many contenders for the honor (94 towns and cities) that he named 39 runners-up. They include Park City, Utah, which has a canine fitness club; Sioux Falls, S.D., home of the Woofstockdog festival; Sanford, Fla., with “yappy hour’’ socials; and Huntington Beach, Calif., with a doggie bus to shuttle dogs and owners to the beach.

But Slone says he’s never seen anything quite like Provincetown, where more than 20 restaurants allow dogs on their patios, where many shops have “store dogs,’’ such as Jack, a border collie-black Labrador mix that is the resident canine at i d, a gift shop.

“He’s the equivalent of the Wal-Mart greeter,’’ said Nick Robertson, who co-owns both the store and Jack.

“Provincetown is unusual because of the extent to which dogs are incorporated into the fabric of the community,’’ said Ernie Slone. “Provincetown has whale watching with dogs, sunset cruises with your dogs. I don’t know of another place that allows dogs in banks. Not only are dogs allowed in the shops, some of them even staff the store with dogs. It’s not bring your dog to work, it’s put your dog to work.’’

It’s neither an exaggeration nor an insult to say that Provincetown has gone to the dogs. There are 551 dogs and 2,997 humans in Provincetown, according to town clerk Doug Johnstone, and not too long ago it dawned on town officials that there was a lucrative marketing opportunity in promoting Provincetown as a pet-friendly destination.

“We took concrete strategic actions,’’ said Bob Sanborn, Provincetown’s tourism director. He lobbied Dog Fancy magazine hard, touting the town’s many dog-friendly amenities in the DogTown USA questionnaire. “People in Provincetown are crazy about their fur children,’’ Sanborn wrote. It has a veterinarian who does pet acupuncture. It hosts Pet Appreciation week with a dog tea dance and a “blessing of the dogs’’ at a church.

“I don’t think a dog could walk half a block on the main street, Commercial Street, without seeing a water-filled dog bowl!’’ Sanborn enthused. “Provincetown has 22 poop bags stations all around town including our beach landings.’’

If you’re a dog, there’s no more felicitous place to be than Provincetown, where there are three miles of off-leash beaches and trails and a $200,000 dog park called the Pilgrim Bark Park that features dog art installations, a dog memorial, a dog drinking fountain, and a dog memorial which honors, among other dogs, the two that came to Provincetown on the Mayflower in 1620.

“Our canine heritage dates almost 400 years,’’ said Candace Nagle, co-founder of the Bark Park, who named her own dogs Pilgrim and Mayflower.

There are more services and retail establishments catering to dogs than you can throw a stick at. Several galleries admit dogs and feature dog art. The Recycled Retriever sells eco-friendly dog products. Photographer Brad Fowler of Song of Myself Photography includes dogs in about one-third of his family portraits.

Dogs are indulged at several Provincetown hotels, with many offering doggie bags, and some permit dogs to sleep on the beds. The Surfside Hotel & Suites even has a dog shower. “Dogs are treated like special guests here,’’ said David Quigley, who works at the hotel, where his wife, Elaine, is general manager.

At the upscale Land’s End Inn, where many of the rooms have panoramic ocean views, owner Michael MacIntyre started accepting pets five years ago, setting aside three rooms with views that were less desirable. Despite the high price ($315 at peak season, plus $50 for the dog), the rooms were so popular that he added two more this year, spending “a shocking amount of dollars’’ ($225,000) to redecorate them.

“Now these five rooms are probably my top-selling rooms at the inn,’’ MacIntyre said. “My revenue figures have skyrocketed.’’

Fueling all this is the fact that Provincetown is populated with year-round residents who are obsessed with dogs — their own and others.

“The pets are really, really family members and very connected to people here,’’ said Stephen Magliocco, an architect. He and Mike Carroll, an artist and gallery owner, own Chester, a golden retriever. “I think of [Chester] as having two personal attendants, not just two dads.’’

What makes Provincetown so dog-crazy? “I’ve got two theories for this,’’ said Robertson of i d. “There’s a high gay population, and a lot of gay people don’t have children and have pets instead of kids. And there’s a whole environment here which attracts people to move and work and live here. It’s a tourist economy, a seasonal resort. It’s not structured and corporate 9-to-5, so it opens up the doors for people to bring their pets to work. You can jump out of work for half an hour and walk your dog on the beach.’’

Or carry them in baby pouches or push them in strollers, a common sight here. Or take them to art galleries. Ewa Nogiecof Gallery Ehva, is convinced that dogs actually appreciate art. She’s seen it happen with her own dog, a dachshund named Hana.

“Her favorite is the gallery’s mascot ‘Penguin’ with a big orange beak by sculptor Donna Dodson,’’ Nogiec said in an e-mail. “But she also loves Didier Corallo work. And it is not easy work to love.’’

All of these amenities make vacation time so much easier for folks like Adrian Lyss and her husband, Angelo Izzi, from Brooklyn, N.Y., who visit Provincetown every July for a week and return for two more weeks in August.

They have no children but they do have Teddy, 8, a retriever mix. “It’s a family vacation,’’ said Lyss, who was just settling Teddy aboard a 30-foot cutter-rigged cruiser operated by Dog Gone Sailing Charters, which caters to passengers with dogs. Lyss settled the dog near the starboard side. “Teddy likes to look out,’’ she explained.

Lyss and Izzi have been bringing Teddy to Provincetown every year since he was a puppy. “We stay at the Breakwater Motel, which is very dog-friendly, and when we get there he looks at all the rooms his friends stayed at before,’’ Lyss said. “They all look for each other. It’s nice, because they kind of feel like they’re going on their own vacation.’’

Linda Matchan can be reached at l_matchan@globe.com.