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Dog day afternoons

Pets and their owners are drawn to Todd Farm in Rowley for leisurely Sundays of antiquing and catching up with the regulars

Jack, a dapper border collie/Dalmation mix, admires his reflection as he strolls with his owner through Todd Farm, one of the region’s largest antique venues, in Rowley. Jack, a dapper border collie/Dalmation mix, admires his reflection as he strolls with his owner through Todd Farm, one of the region’s largest antique venues, in Rowley. (George Rizer for The Boston Globe)
By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / July 21, 2011

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ROWLEY - Esther Early arrived in the back of a London taxi, staring as visitors browsed old books, mirrors, china, and other items for sale at Todd Farm Antiques & Flea Market.

After the black cab parked in a field, she made her way to the three dirt paths lined with vendors hawking antiques and attic treasures, some right out of the back of their cars and pickup trucks.

A picture of an elephant ride caught her eye. But . . . soon . . . she spotted the purple plastic dog bowl. Perfect!

Esther is a floppy-eared springer spaniel. She’s one of hundreds of pets of all pedigrees who go to Todd Farm, with owners in tow, for some old-fashioned sniffing, licking, and antiquing.

“It’s a great way to spend a Sunday morning,’’ said Mike Early, Esther’s owner, who runs London Livery, a taxi service in Newburyport. “It’s great recreation for her. I can smoke a cigar. We look forward to it.’’

It’s not Westminster, but dogs shine like a silver tea service at Todd Farm, one of the region’s largest antique venues. As many as 200 dogs, proudly led on leashes by their owners, prance about the outdoor market.

They are old racing dogs and purebreds. Some are coura geous ( a retired military German shepherd), others glamorous (Miss Emily, a papillon, who models). Some show vanity (Jack, a collie/Dalmatian mix, steals glimpses of himself in mirrors). Others are awkward (Maggie, an English setter bought off Craigslist, is cross-eyed.)

Esther was named after Mike Early’s mother-in-law. “She was a great lady from Lawrence’’ he said of the late Esther Morris, who ran a Greek diner.

No matter their lineage, dogs are welcome at Todd Farm, which sits on 23 acres on Route 1A. Those who visit often know the vendors who put out bowls filled with water, or pass out treats. Dogs, which must be on leashes, have helped attract a new breed of antiquegoers, said owner Starr Todd.

“People call and ask ‘Can we bring our dog?’ ’’ said Todd, “I say ‘Sure, as long as you take care of them.’ I think a lot of people live in cities or in apartments, and they just want to get out for a nice walk.’’

On a recent morning, Esther had plenty of furry friends. Kayla and Ivy, rescue greyhounds with matching designer collars, came from Raymond, N.H. Godric, a 140-pound Great Dane from Georgetown, cut a dashing figure. Grace and Jack, black standard poodles from Essex, made a handsome couple. Miss Emily, the papillon, and Toby, a Pomeranian, looked like babes in the arms of their owners, Dottie Doucette and daughter Cheryl Carney, of Peabody.

“They’re both extra-small dogs, so we can take them everywhere,’’ said Doucette, who heads to the market almost every week. “It’s a great place to bring them. Dogs know their own kind and like to see each other.’’

Millie, a sandy-colored labradoodle, sniffed around steel watering cans and a big saw, with owner Nina Fletcher of Essex and her sister, Tatty Bent. The sisters, who live next door to each other, attend the market religiously.

“This is our church,’’ said Bent, clutching a woven basket, her first buy of the day. “Millie loves the flea market. Everything smells old, and she loves that. . . . And she gets to see her doggie friends, her people friends. She races right up to them.’’

Some owners say the flea market is a good way to socialize their pooches in a friendly environment.

“It’s good training for them,’’ said Laurie Arsenault of Essex, owner of , the standard poodles. “They’re among people and dogs. It’s wonderful socialization.’’

Wet kisses and a big tail wag are common when pets come face-to-face. Playful banter by owners usually follows.

Godric drew a flattering comparison to Marmaduke, the comic strip Great Dane. “He loves the attention,’’ said Nicole Gilbo, Godric’s owner. “When we’re in the car and he realizes he’s coming here, he gets so excited.’’

In their own pet stroller, Jack, a Maltese, and Minnie, a dachshund, have a front row seat for the action. The tiny dogs sit in the stroller while their owners, Chris and Christine Crivello of Gloucester, hawk their wares. Every so often, they take Jack and Minnie for a stroll. “Minnie likes to get out and see the other dogs,’’ Christine Crivello said.

But even without leaving their stroller, Minnie and Jack aren’t lost for visitors. The purple water dish is set beside the Crivellos’ table.

“The dogs know where the water is, so they get to meet them,’’ Christine Crivello said. “And we hope their owners buy something.’’

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com