Excerpt from The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Dogs of Littlefield

by Suzanne Berne

The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne X
The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 288 pages
    Jan 2017, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Print Excerpt


No one was very surprised when the signs began appearing in Baldwin Park. For years people had been letting their dogs run free in the meadow to the west of the elementary school without attracting much notice; but once an authorized off-leash "dog park" was proposed and a petition presented to the Littlefield Board of Aldermen, fierce arguments erupted over whose rights to the park should be upheld, and the town broke into factions: those who loved dogs and those who did not, at least not in the park.

At first the signs were polite reminders to dog owners to curb and pick up after their dogs. PLEASE RESPECT THE PARK, they read. Or THE PARK IS FOR ALL OF US. But as the off-leash proposal gained support among the aldermen, several of whom owned dogs themselves, the signs became more pointed. On St. Patrick's Day, a sign was posted on a telephone pole at the frontier of the elementary school playground where wood chips gave way to grass and dog-walking parents often congregated after escorting their children to school. Printed in blue ink on the kind of thin, flexible cardboard that comes slipped inside of men's dress shirts, it read

Pick up

after Your Dog.

Aren't You Ashamed

that You Don't?

This sign created a small uproar among the parents, who objected to its tone, and it was taken down by the custodian. Then, on March 21, according to the "Crime Watch" column in the Littlefield Gazette, an unidentified man threatened to shoot an unleashed dog for colliding with his bicycle while he was riding in the park; the dog owner reported this threat to the police. The man had dark facial hair, "scruffy" was her actual term, and was between eighteen and twenty-five years of age. A description, she acknowledged, that fit half the young men in Littlefield. Not long after the collision between dog and cyclist, another sign appeared overnight on a telephone pole, this one at the eastern edge of the park, bordering Endicott Road. On the back of a brown paper shopping bag, in large crude black letters, was written:

Leash Your


Or Else

It was also quickly taken down, though not before being seen by two gardeners, several dog walkers, and a woman out jogging.

— —

A week later the aldermen voted to postpone discussions of the dog park proposal until an independent task force could conduct a site review, and for a while the controversy quieted.

Soccer season resumed in mid-April, and once again whole families sat together in the park, wearing sweaters and baseball hats and fleece lap blankets against the chilly morning air, cheering from folding nylon chairs on the sidelines, mist rising from the grass at their feet, some holding dogs tightly on leashes while children flew back and forth across the damp green field, hair backlit by the low morning sun.

On weekend afternoons as the weather warmed, families strolled down Brooks Street with ice-cream cones from the Dairy Barn. Soft-hipped mothers wearing large dark sunglasses stopped to exchange greetings and to share mild mutinous jokes about driving to Manhattan one of these days instead of doing the three o'clock school pickup. Elderly women from Avalon Towers wandered past in turtlenecks and boiled-wool jackets and elasticwaisted slacks, holding on to each other's thin arms, shaking their heads at flocks of flamingo-like girls, clad in black leggings and oversize hooded sweatshirts, texting each other in front of Walgreens. Now and then the trolley rumbled to a stop at the old fieldstone station. People stepped onto or off the platform, and then the trolley rumbled on again. Almost always a dog was tied by its leash to a parking meter outside the Dairy Barn or the Bake Shoppe or the Tavern, looking hopefully at passersby, or cringingly, or indifferently, but as much a part of those busy village afternoons as anybody else.

Excerpted from The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne. Copyright © 2016 by Suzanne Berne. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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