Gabe Gregoire

Gabe Gregoire

The Planet Dog Foundation Kicks It Up a Notch

Many of our readers have advanced in their lives well past anything resembling small potatoes. They’re college graduates. They’ve worked hard to pay off their student loans, while maintaining mortgages, vehicle payments, and the cost of raising children. They succeed at their jobs, in their personal lives, and in their respective pursuits and recreational activities. The long and the short of it is, they’ve got money to spend. And they want to do it in a socially conscious manner.


If you count yourself among those we’ve described above, and you’re a dog person, dust off your tux or little black dress, because it’s time for the Inaugural Planet Dog Ball, a gala to take place at the Westin Portland Harborview (157 High St) on Saturday, April 8 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets, available at , are $150 for a single admission, $1,500 for a full table of ten, and, since they are the honorees, well-behaved dogs are invited to attend for a ticket price of $50 each.


Here is the slant: Having seen it proven many times in many lives that service dogs are nothing short of a blessing for veterans and active-duty service members who would suffer otherwise, the Planet Dog Foundation is steering the proceeds from the benefit to two organizations: the nationally-operated America’s Vet Dogs and Maine-based K9s on the Front Line. Funds raised from sponsorships and auction items (email Elizabeth Fagan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to sponsor or donate an item) and ticket sales will help the Planet Dog Foundation facilitate the adoption or breeding, raising, and training of service dogs for soldiers, culminating in the placement of a vital canine lifeline with a man or woman whose Department of Defense paycheck would not allow it.


Among the amenities to be enjoyed in the ballroom are a chef-prepared dinner and dessert, drinks, doggy treat bar and day care, and the pièce de resistance, an appearance by perhaps the country’s most famous living dog, the Today Show’s Puppy with a Purpose, Charlie. How many times do you get to snap a selfie with a dog who has probably piddled on Matt Lauer’s shoe? Show your passion and generosity and plan to be there Saturday night. Just think, on the way home, you’ll have the opportunity to say, “I don’t generally go for dog balls, but that was fun.”

  • Published in Pets

Devers and the Dogs – Portland Sea Dogs season opener April 6

If you’re a Portland Sea Dogs season ticket holder, or you’ve just been longing to hear the crack of the bat as it heralds in the real beginning of spring, have no fear: next Thursday, April 6, the ‘Dogs play their season opener against the Reading, Pennsylvania Fightin’ Phils at Hadlock Field (271 Park Ave), despite the recent late-season snow here. There was some question as to whether a postponement would be necessary. Heavy snow-removal equipment would have gouged up the field, and melting was all that could be hoped for. Enter Massachusetts company Sports Turf Specialties. As they have done at Fenway many times, they applied a layer of sand treated with dark dye to the remaining snow at Hadlock. The simple mechanism is that the black sand absorbs sunlight, increasing snow-melting heat by a significant factor and revealing a bare, if squishy, baseball diamond.

As to what’s going to be happening on that field, the 2017 season promises to be an exciting and productive one for the Sea Dogs. The favorite Red Sox prospect to watch is Dominican Rafael Devers, a third baseman who batted .326 during the second half of last season, with a .906 OPS (on-base plus slugging) percentage. He's made strides defensively too. Coaches have noted how well he turns a slump around through hard work and receptiveness to their guidance, and they have high hopes for him to be called up. That day will be determined in part by how successfully current Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval can return to form in the third year of his five-year, $95 m contract.

Other names to watch are shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin, a workhorse with top-notch glove skills; first baseman Nick Longhi, a 21-year old with a .282 lifetime batting average (and .744 OPS); and fellow Floridian, outfielder Danny Mars. Chances are good that one or more of these men will sooner or later get their paychecks from the MLB. In any case, their combined talent, along with the abilities of the rest of the Sea Dogs, should get fans excited to see the opening game.

And what about the opposing team? Well, we don’t know how hard they’ve been training, but they have been busy redesigning their batting practice hats to feature their mascot, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. Will that be enough to defeat Devers and the ‘Dogs? Go find out.


  • Published in Sports

Talking Through the Unthinkable: Author Maria Padian's Wrecked

Don’t read this one with the kids unless they are educated about, and fortified against, the unthinkable.


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It has happened to some of us. A relationship of trust and confidence turns out to be nothing but the worst betrayal other than outright murder. Some bear their scars well, and others allow themselves to be more like their attackers than they would like, if they thought about at all.


New Yorker Maria Padian has written a young-adult novel called Wrecked, in which a sexual assault takes place on a college campus. Or was it an assault? Everybody on campus has an opinion. The two BFFs of the young man and woman, respectively, are thrown apart by the sides they’ve taken, and thrown together by something larger than either of them.


In conjunction with the Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program (YAAPP, an organization that “delivers education, services, and advocacy that enable youth to make choices within their dating relationships that are safe, healthy, and informed”), the Portland Public Library is hosting a month-long book discussion group about Wrecked for teens, on Saturdays in April at their main branch (5 Monument Way). The meeting this Saturday, April 1, starts at 2:30 p.m.


If your teen wants to commit to all five meetings, they can get a free copy of the book by making contact via or calling 207.767.4952. Those who want to come to meetings sporadically are also welcome. The first meeting, on Saturday, April 1, is for introductions only; there is no reading assignment. And guess what? Maria Padian herself will be present to participate in the discussion at the final meeting on April 29.


It’s a gentle, educational, sociable way to talk about a subject that is none of the above. We leave you with a phrase about Wrecked from Booklist (and trust in the fact that they don’t shower words like these on every book they come across): “Particularly relevant for high school seniors and college freshmen.”

  • Published in Kids

What To Do with Your Descendant-of-a-Wolf

Everybody knows, especially this time of year, that dogs love to kick it up a notch and go forward with more speed than a leisurely walk. It keeps their bodies and temperaments healthy. But as dog people know, even if you jog with your pet, he or she still needs to get away from the leash and really tear around at top speed. The blood of ancient hunters really does flow through their shaggy bodies. The instincts may be mostly vestigial, but they're there.


But most Phoenix readers live in the city. So what are they to do? There’s no back field to release your hounds into, bounding and barking and forging into the woods. The answer: We have dog parks, and some of them allow off-leash play for pups. If anything, the canine socialization that results from several neighbors showing up at once can be highly amusing. You’ll remember why you got a dog in the first place.


So here are five locations where such fun times are encouraged:


  1. Jack School Dog Run

    1. Location: 195 North Street (behind the school), East End

    2. Fenced: No

  2. Eastern Promenade Park Off-Leash Area

    1. Location: Eastern Prom & Cutter Street, East End

    2. Fenced: No

  3. Capisic Pond Park

    1. Location: Lucas Street & Brighton Avenue, Deering Center

    2. Fenced: No

    3. Other: Dogs must remain under strict voice control on the trail.

  4. Valley Street Dog Park

    1. Location: Valley and D Streets, West End

    2. Fenced: Yes

    3. Other: Equipped with a water station and some shade.

  5. Quarry Run Dog Park

    1. Location: 1026 Ocean Avenue, East Deering

    2. Fenced: Yes, with smaller fenced area for small dogs as well.

    3. Other: Seven acres, open from dawn till dusk.


So get out there and make those dogs happy!

  • Published in Pets

All-Out War in Deering Oaks

You know that clerk at the convenience store or the donut shop that you’re pretty sure might be a vampire? They may wear an ankh, or you might hear them talking with one of their regulars about swords and magic spells? Don’t worry, they’re more likely to be a fantasy role-player than a satanist who’s going to put arsenic in your coffee. Their natural habitat is at a seat around a dungeon-master’s table, rolling dice and conquering trolls and orcs to save medieval villages. And from their pale appearance, they really don’t get much fresh air, sunshine or exercise.

Until now. If you know a role-player, or better yet, if you are one, be aware of this event: It is the Dargohir society, Nordanmork chapter’s Season Opener, the Invasion of the Chaos Tribes, at Deering Oaks Park (north side of Park St), on Saturday, March 25, at 11 a.m. This is live-action role-playing (LARPing) at its most frenetic. It is a gathering of fantasy gamers who take up foam weapons, take sides, get in character as Vikings or goblins, and beat each other up in an all-out battle between good and evil.

You may be wondering what ‘Dargohir’ means. It goes back to the 70s, when The Lord of the Rings was decades from becoming a film series, but was at the peak of its popularity as reading material. You know the Star Trek fans that actually speak some Klingon? Well, these original LARPers out in the Midwest took the painstaking care required to speak to each other in Tolkien’s invented Elvish language. In one dialect of Elvish, ‘Dargohir’ means ‘Battle Lords.’

And they do battle. Dargohir is billed as ‘both a game and a sport.’ Pent-up frustrations are released. Fresh air is inhaled. Dice and character sheets are forgotten. It’s the intensity of full-contact football, except with no breaks between downs, and no sub-ins. Gatorade? Maybe. If you earn it. In the history of Dargohir, many participants have found themselves slimming down and getting fit. Take the testimony of one poster on a jiu-jitsu-related site: “I was fat when I started Dagorhir. I picked up my foam sword, went out, got my ass handed to me over and over and over ’til one day I looked around and realized I was doing more of the ass handing than having mine handed to me, and I’m 50 pounds lighter.”

Getting in swimsuit shape, while going to war against the Chaos Tribes? C’mon. Go join the fight.

FMI: or

  • Published in Sports

Lead Your Little Horses to Water

Did you know that the original storyline of the ballet Swan Lake included a disastrous ending for the dashing Prince Siegfried and his lovely Odette? Hint: That’s one secret you can share with your kids when you make one more attempt to interest them in the most beautiful form of dance. Go on and let them in on the secret: They’ve read about World War II, right? After that nightmare was over, the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia figured that the world had seen enough death and destruction, enough unhappy endings, and engineered a much happier final denouement for Swan Lake.


Now, back to getting your kids interested in the beauty, athleticism, and sheer grace that is the ballet. When they ask you which ending the Maine State Ballet’s (348 US Rte 1, Falmouth) production of this quintessential production has, you can say, “People in Maine are sensible. We choose happy endings, because we haven’t given up on our own dreams. And you never should, either.” Then, pile them in the car and bring them. We don’t care if you have to promise them an upgraded tablet. This is the real ballet.


MSB is performing the classic through April 9. Tickets range in price from $17.00 to $25.00 at (click on ‘Purchase Tickets’). And it is no small feat. The Artistic Director of Maine State Ballet, Linda MacArthur Miele, affirms that not all ballet company have the cojones to attempt Swan Lake. She says, “A company has to reach a certain level of maturity before they can even consider staging Swan Lake. The technique has to be there, and strength. Only then can you move on to the artistry that makes this ballet one of the most beloved of all time. Be prepared to cry, it’s so beautiful.” Which is not to say that your young ones will want to go home because it’s too sad. We’re talking tears of joy at the incredible truth and beauty on the stage, mere yards away. Isn’t that why you wanted to get the kids into it to begin with?


Performance times are Friday evenings at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. No need to worry about keeping those small people up past their bedtime. And if you need another tidbit to entice them with, this year marks 140 years since Swan Lake premiered at the Bolshoi in 1877 in Moscow. Need one more? It was eighteen years later before one of the great masters, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, had his score added to the production, creating the standard we know and love. So just bite the bullet and bring the whole brood, because if your blood flows faster from the best ballets, so will theirs.

Maine State Ballet: 207-781-7672

  • Published in Kids

Is Your Dog Ready for Spring?

The season is upon us, and for breeds of dogs that grow winter coats, spring is extra shedding time. This is because certain hormones in dogs’ blood will stimulate or delay hair growth, depending on the length of the day. So naturally, as the days grow longer, your black clothes get more unpresentable. What can you do to reduce the number of fur balls accumulating in your home? Here are a few ideas:


When a dog’s diet is poor, it will often shed more hair, sometimes even developing a foul, corn-chip or stale-oil odor. Dog owners are encouraged to do independent research on what foods are the best for their companions, but always remember that dogs are carnivores, meat eaters, necessitating a primary ingredient of a specified meat like chicken or beef (not unspecified ‘meat’ or meat byproducts) in the food they eat every day. And make sure you read labels carefully, as even some specialty dog foods only sold in veterinarians’ offices don’t have real meat as the primary ingredient.


Another way to minimize shedding is to make sure your dog isn’t stressed. Factors that exacerbate hair loss include noise, boredom, fear, sudden changes to environment, gaps in food or water supply, lack of visual contact, pain, and anxiety. Hormones come into play again here, as the ones associated with stress can cause a dog to shed, especially on the back and the rear hips, when released into the bloodstream. Canines who are happy have no such problem, and only shed the normal amount.


But of course, the single most effective way to deal with the winter coat as it falls out is grooming. When choosing a brush or rake for your pet, be sure to run it over your own skin. If it hurts or irritates your arm, it will also hurt your dog. Start by petting and talking to the dog, and then brush only in the direction the fur grows. Do not try to yank out any matting you may find. A good way to work out a mat is with your own hair conditioner. Work it in and gently untangle the mat. Continue to groom the entire body, and follow the brushing with a warm bath, during which you inspect for small injuries, ticks, etc. with your fingers, now that the undercoat is diminished. Finally, since shampoo inadvertently left in the fur can cause irritation, use white vinegar to rinse the fur completely, followed by a water rinse.


Dogs deserve to enjoy the advent of warmer weather and longer days as much as people do, so follow these tips to improve their well-being!


[Reprinted from 3/3/2016]

  • Published in Pets

Off the top rope! To the turnbuckle!

It could be argued that articles about American professional wrestling belong under the ‘Theater’ heading, not Sports. After all, these days analysts of the competition openly refer to how well or poorly scripted the matches and rivalries are, not the competition itself.


But any televised contest that gets kids (and some adults) jumping around and pretending to be spandex-clad heroes and villains in an improvised living-room ring, getting their heart rates up, certainly counts. After all, who doesn’t recall the Golden Age of Hulk Hogan with fondness? Some of us remember leaping off couches as Jimmy ‘Super Fly’ Snuka, or lumbering around with friends hanging off us as Andre the Giant. To many of us, the days of the World Wrestling Federation were physically active days.


If you want to see some of the current cast of characters in the pantheon, now WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), head to WWE Live: Road to WrestleMania, at the Cross Insurance Arena (1 Civic Center Sq) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 25. Visit for tickets, which start at $15.


One of the wrestlers scheduled to appear is WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens, known for betraying his tag-team partner Chris Jericho. The resulting back-and-forth between the two men has been a source of refreshing excitement for fans. (One blogger describes the rivalry so far as “a simple story made enthralling by Owens and Jericho playing their roles remarkably well.”) The two men are scheduled for a United States Championship match at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando on April 2. Needless to say, Owens will have plenty to say about it at the Arena here in Portland.


Raw Women’s Champion, Bayley, is also slated for an appearance at the Cross Arena, bringing drama of her own. She’s been scripted as an up-and-coming underdog since last August, and has also played the part well. It was almost a foregone conclusion that she would gain the Divas title belt (recently redesigned from a pink bedazzled butterfly to the current, slightly less bedazzled, trademark double W). However, some analysts say that her victory happened too soon, that it should have been written into Wrestlemania instead. They say that the frequent title bouts in the women’s division only devalue female wrestlers’ status as athletes in their own right, and not just a novelty or a bow to cries of sexism. We don’t know who Bayley will face on the 25th, but she will be fighting hard and hamming it up.

And isn’t that what professional wrestling is all about?

  • Published in Sports

Was Your School Librarian a Real Character?

People that love books are a special breed. They can disappear into the pages of some volume for so long that you’re afraid they’ll never come back. But when they do, they always have something interesting to say.


The ones who are so in love with the magic of reading that they make a career out of sharing it with children, well, they’re even more special. And we as Portlanders are lucky. Our library is full of such unique souls, all striving to show kids the wonder of words. The Portland Public Library features three events this week that will get the youngsters excited about literacy and all it entails.


First, the PPL joins with the Portland Youth Film Festival to present a screening of The Art of Memory: Stories from Maine's Outer Islands, a shadow puppet film co-created by students from the islands of coastal Maine, telling stories about history and regional folk tales. The film will be shown on Thursday, March 16 at 4:30 p.m. Join library staff and other viewers for a Q&A session with director and puppetmaster Ian Bannon, of Celebration Barn and Figures of Speech Theatre, shortly after. The presentation also includes individual student films.


Next, for younger kids, it’s Let Them Play! Nature Play with Lynn Rutter, on Saturday, March 18 at 2 p.m. This interactive program is about the onset of spring, and what birds do in nature during the season. For every kid who has ever brought home an empty bird's’ nest and set it on the windowsill, or spent all afternoon watching the jays, finches and chickadees outside, Nature Play will teach them everything they wanted to know. The series Let Them Play! is about developing children’s early literacy and language skills. Lynn Rutter, M.A. is the director of a nature-based preschool in Portland that encourages unstructured play in natural environments to support physical, intellectual, academic, emotional and social learning, right at home.


Speaking of home child care and teaching, if you are a homeschooler, or thinking of becoming one, check out the PPL’s Homeschool Meet & Greet on Thursday, March 23 at 10:30 a.m. This half-day event is your chance to meet the Teen and Children’s librarians at the main branch, get a tour, network with other like-minded families, and learn about the library’s resources. There will be a light schedule of activities, but nothing so stringent as to prevent plenty of exploration at your kids’ own pace. And, don’t forget, always fun and games.


So go see some of these rare literary souls right in Monument Square.

Portland Public Library: or 207-871-1700.

  • Published in Kids

A Shout-out to Cats and Kittens

Did you know that Maine has one of the highest rates of cat ownership in the country? We’re in the top three with Vermont and Massachusetts. That means more purrs, leg-rubbing and hazy sunshine naps. But it also means more cats that are homeless or in need. And that, in turn, means financial need on the part of organizations like the HART (Homeless Animal Rescue Team) Adoption Center & Shelter for Cats (302 Range Rd, Cumberland). HART spends about $192,000 on medical care alone per year, without even taking into account their costs for food, toys, overhead and payroll.


Feel your purse strings loosening yet? Good, because there’s a fun way for you to help. This month, HART is putting on the Meow Madness Online Auction ( from March 17 to March 31, to raise money to care for their furry felines. So, starting Friday, log on and shop for things like getaways, gift certificates, pet products, and services, with proceeds going directly to help cats and kittens in southern Maine.


The people at HART, a no-kill, cage-free, all-volunteer, non-profit shelter, are in their 20th year of operation. So, to celebrate the anniversary, they’re making the auction extra-special with a follow-up event, Spring Fling, on April 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Woodfords Club (179 Woodford St, Portland). The event is free. This is where auction participants get to pick up the items they’ve won. It’s also where these cat lovers can learn about keeping their cats healthy, at sessions on pet acupuncture, first aid and general wellness, even a presentation on TTouch.


TTouch stands for ‘therapeutic touch’ and is a type of nonverbal, tactile communication through cellular memory. TTouch’s circular rubbing movements create a kinesthetic interspecies connection that has been found to be effective in soothing ‘challenging’ animals and improving health, behavior and owner-cat rapport.


Also at Spring Fling, attendees can engage in a little kitten-play therapy, enjoy great, free refreshments, meet animal-centric vendors, and even take part in the beer and wine tasting at the end of the day. Rising Tide, Tomaso’s, and Maine Beer Company are among the participating sponsors.


Click, buy, learn, and drink, all to help our felines. What could be easier than that?


FMI on Meow Madness: Julie Mahoney: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


FMI on Spring Fling: Marcia Carr: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


HART: 207-829-4116

  • Published in Pets
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