Notes From Marblehead

Thank you all for the kind words about Steve. I’m in Marblehead with my mom until next weekend.  Here’s a shot of Brown’s Island.

Brown's Island

Some quaint streets in Old Town:



The names of the streets? I have no idea.  I lived in Marblehead from 8th grade until college and rode every street and alley on my bike many, many times (I was lazy about getting my driver’s license), but never really paid much attention to the names of the streets.  Fortunately people around here don’t really use proper street names too often, but will say things like, “Across from where Penni’s used to be,” or “Next to the Rippah” which is a great old dive called The Riptide.

Like many Massachusetts seacoast towns, there are a lot of Labrador Retrievers in Marblehead.  Really a lot.  Yesterday my sister and I were outside my mother’s house when a woman walked up with a black Labrador on a leash.

“Is this your dog?” she asked.

“No,” Meg said.  Meg lives across the street from my mother.  “I think that’s Buddy who lives in the grey house at the bottom of the road,” she told the woman.

“No Buddy is my neighbor,” said the woman. “But I think I brought this dog here once before when he was wandering.”

“That would have been Skippy,” I said. Skippy was my mother and Steve’s old Lab and I explained to the woman that he died several months ago.  The woman then told us that her black Lab looked so much like the one she was walking that she had thought it was hers at first, and then she and Meg ran through all the names of the Labs in the neighborhood and it occurred to me that it was entirely unlikely that anyone in Marblehead has the original black Labrador that he or she started out with.  Later, my mother told us that after Skippy died, she heard a dog’s footsteps walking up her stairs and was startled when a black Labrador wandered into her office.  It was the neighbor’s dog and somebody had found it, thought it was Skippy, and put him inside my Mom’s house.

I think that Marblehead should do with its Labradors what Amsterdam did with the community white bicycles.  People can take a black Lab off the streets when they need one to walk with or to lie by their hearth, and when they’re finished they can just return it to the streets.

I think that’s actually what’s going on, anyway.

People in Marblehead are wicked nice. They’re the balls, as we used to say, and my mother and sister are lucky to be surrounded by such a caring community.


  1. Beautiful pics!

    Sharing the comfort of a black Lab whenever needed is a happy idea.

    And just love communities, such as you described above, where people are the balls. 🙂

  2. Ann, Marblehead looks beautiful. I’ll bet it was a great town to grow up in. It’s nice that your sister lives so close to your mother.

    I love the community Lab story. So funny.

    They’ve got a similar bike rental system in Montreal. They’re called Bixi bikes. They’re a huge hit.

    If they would only come up with something similar for spouses. Now that’s when I’d get married.

  3. Ann, what a charming and lovely town Marblehead is. I’ve never lived in a small coastal town, not realizing what I was missing. About the Labrador retrievers – lol. I’m glad your mom lives in such a close knit community, especially at this time. Your stepfather sounds like an authoritative (in the best sense of the word)/smart/ and well loved man.


  4. Aislinn, LOLOLOLOL, same here


  5. Lovely post. I think I would like Marblehead. Nothing like a dog to soothe the soul.

    Take care of yourself and enjoy your time with your mom and sister.

  6. Aislinn, so funny.

  7. so glad for your mom that you’re both with her. when her days get a little brighter, i’ll look forward to hearing about her drive thru antics!

  8. Colleen from MN says:

    To cheer you up. Saw this after watching your pupper do such a good job! We have been working with daughter’s horse Sticky and basketball and he has nowhere near the attention span and dedication of this little guy!

  9. Catherine says:

    Great post, Ann. Love the pictures of Marblehead. What a beautiful place to grow up in and now to find solice in. My thoughts are with your mother at this difficult time. I’m sure it brings her great comfort to have her daughters with her right now.

  10. Marblehead kinda looks like Stonington Village in Ct.. very very pretty… I am glad your spending the week there…The lab story is too funny…..I got worried yesterday Mark took our lab and Golden on a 6 mile run… the lab was happy but my Golden he was not in good shape, he lay on the lawn and he could not move or lift his head after , we had to feed him ice cubes and hose him down, he tried to stand on his legs and they were so weak he fell back down… he is only 5!!! he recovered after an hour but i was so scared…. the lab was chasing balls around him.
    anyway… many hugs to you and your family this week.

  11. Elisabeth H says:

    I am sorry for your family’s loss.
    What great pics of Marblehead. I spent my first four years in neighboring Swampscott, as well as one memorable teenage Summer as a “Mother’s Helper” to a somewhat eccentric family who spent weekends in Mah-blehead. I love that part of the world and often dream that I am there, even after so long.

  12. uncle sull says:

    great idea, ann! call it zipLabs!

  13. Marblehead is beautiful. I’m glad you are able to spend this time with your mother. I’m sure it’s a great comfort to her. What an interesting story about the Black Labs in Marblehead.

    And thanks, Colleen from MN for that cute video. I felt bad for the colt when he fell at the end, but I really enjoyed the video.

  14. Bev, your poor Golden. He was probably dehydrated. No more runs for him in this weather. The poor little thing.

    If I had run 6 miles with Mark yesterday, I’d still be on your front lawn.

  15. Hahaha! Aislinn, I would hose you off and mark would lift you to the sofa! we would NEVER leave you out there all night 🙂
    yes the Golden is now banned from the runs, he stays home with mama.

  16. Ann, Marblehead looks like a wonderful, storybook place. It must have been a neat town to grow up in. I love the photos.

    The idea of community Labrador retrievers is hilarious — and somewhat brilliant! I actually think a lot of people would go for that idea.

    (How about towns having corps of dogs who are rescued from shelters, trained and housed by volunteers, and do “day visits” with approved people who for whatever reason cannot have their own dogs — the elderly, handicapped, and so on? Like therapy-dog visits, but more extended; more about those people just being able to have a dog around to keep the person pleasant company for the day. The dogs would be spoiled and adored. My elderly mom would love that; she’s not capable of caring for her own dog ’round the clock anymore, but she misses having one terribly. Sounds like a win-win.)

    I’ve been networking lately with some people who try to help dogs on death row in NYC’s animal-control system (the ACC), and the number of healthy, adoptable dogs the city kills every week is absolutely shocking, horrifying, sickening. It’s made me desperate to think of anything to try to help those poor creatures. Shame on NYC for doing such a miserable, inadequate job in that regard.

    Have a golden, lovely, memorable week with your mom and sister. I’m sure you’ll each cherish this time that you’re all together.

  17. Aislinn, the community-spouse idea is fabulous!

    And Bev, so glad your Golden gets to skip going on any more long runs in this heat. Glad he’s OK!

  18. Sorry for that brief rant about the NYC shelter situation. Guess it’s really been bothering me. Didn’t mean to distract so much from wishing you a lovely, happy week! 🙂

  19. Ann, just finished Wendy Burden’s book and I see she acknowledged you, see also mentions Marblehead as well. Is that where you know her from? Enjoyed the book, thanks for the plug to read it.

  20. Mary Lynn says:

    Arliss, I’m bothered by the 36 Mustangs that were killed during last weeks’ BLM roundup in North Eastern Nevada. Don’t know if y’all on the East Coast heard about that . . . probably not. Anyways, the short story is the BLM continues to roundup Mustangs and kill them in the process. Are the roundups necessary? Well, as the horses are in no danger, and the land is in no danger, and the other wildlife is in no danger, the answer is NO.

    So why do they round them up? To clear the land (which by the way is public land — YOUR land — meaning the Mustangs belong to YOU) for cattle grazing rights, and to make room for an oil pipeline. Two things that aren’t necessary, but politics, power, and money being what they are, apparently get preference over the Mustangs.

    Many horses are run into the ground, and die cruel deaths in the process. Those that live are separated from their families, their herds, warehoused in holding pens, and may later be sold for meat.

    For those of you who want to learn more about how you can help, tomorrow there will be a debate on NPR radio. Madeleine Pickens will participate, and hopefully get a chance to explain the situation, and her plan to stop the roundups, gives these wild horses a better life, and save the government money.

    Here is the info –

    Dear Humanitarians,

    Madeleine Pickens will be a guest on National Public Radio tomorrow at 9am PST. Other guests include: Multi award-winning investigative reporter from KLAS Channel 8 News, George Knapp and BLM employee, Tom Gory. Please listen as they will address the issues with the government roundups, Americans’ duty to protect a piece of their national heritage: the wild horse, and updated plans from Madeleine Pickens for developing her wild horse eco sanctuary. Should be a great debate! Don’t miss out on this one!!

    To find your local station, please visit

    Also, you can listen to the live stream of the broadcast via your computer tomorrow as well. That’s 11am EST and 9am PST time.

    Later, You can catch Madeleine Pickens live on KLAS TV Channel 8 News in Las Vegas with George Knapp at 6pm and 11pm.
    For more information about KLAS TV, click here.

    *Very Important*
    We still need your letters for Madeleine to personally deliver to Washington on behalf of the wild horses. Please click the button below and get onboard the Pony Express TODAY!!! You can find more details at Saving America’s Mustangs. Goal: 20,000 letters by September 1st!!!!

  21. Mary Lynn says:

    Those embedded links didn’t work very well.

    Here is the link to Madeleine Pickens’ Pony Express letter writing campaign.

    Madeleine will personally deliver your letter via Mustang Pony Express to the White House. The deadline in September 1st.

    I like the idea of this hands on and hooves on sort of activism.

    The BLM (your government agency) needlessly continues to cruelly abuse, torture, and kill the Mustangs. Tell them what you think.

  22. Mary Lynn, I’m on it!

    Arliss, Shame on NYC. What can we do?

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