I WAS at our local bank the other day, withdrawing biscuits for my dog, when it occurred to me that there is a special character to Cape Cod canines. The bank also dispenses money. But the most important aspect of the transaction at the drive-up teller's window is getting biscuits for your accompanying dog. As each car drives up, the teller checks to see whether there is a dog in the car. If there is, dog biscuits come back in the slide-out drawer along with the necessary paper work for your deposit or withdrawal.
Maybe this practice is widespread throughout the country, but Cape Cod dogs take it very much as a right. The teller who slips up and forgets the biscuit gets an excruciating look of disdain.
Smart dogs know the difference between a stop at the gas station, which is boring, and a stop at the bank, which is rewarding.
Some dogs will sit up front with the driver, but most Cape Cod dogs ride in seignorial fashion in the back seat. They may not have reached the heady stage of European dogs, who often go to restaurants with their owners, but Cape Cod dogs know who's boss. They are.
Some dogs get excitable and jump back and forth between front seat and back. This is considered by most Cape Cod dogs to be very bad form. Dogs who do this are thought to be recent arrivals on the Cape.
More dogs seem to be being driven back and forth on Cape Cod than any place I know.
Perhaps it is because water is all around Cape Cod and there is a great deal of beach-walking. What, after all, is a walk on the beach without an accompanying dog to roll in dead fish, to chase seagulls, to slither around in the marsh-mud, and generally discover all the messy ecstasies that elude mere humans?
Cape Cod dogs tend to be large. The Labrador retriever is probably the favorite. Labradors are no guard dogs. Leave a Labrador in your car and it will greet even a friendly burglar with slobbering, tail-wagging joy, and probably show him where the ignition keys are.
German Shepherds are popular too. But they are generally all business. Sidle up alongside a parked car with a Shephard inside and you get a suspicious gaze and at least a curled lip, if not a gnashing attack upon the car's windows.
There are smaller dogs, and their owners love them. But the small dog is sometimes hard put to maintain decorum when its car is driven through the auto-wash. There is no snapping frenzy when a larger dog goes through. He knows it is smart to stay calm, and inside, when it is wet outside.
The real super-dogs of Cape Cod - the Rambos of dogdom - are those who ride around in the back of open trucks. The dogs of lobster fishermen pride themselves on patiently enduring all kinds of weather as they wait for their masters to emerge from some eating place. Needless to say, any dog who jumped out of the back of a truck would be barked out of the Rambo fraternity.
Builders' dogs like to ride around perched on truckloads of debris and construction equipment. Often they point into the wind, ears aflap like that character from the flying nun TV show.
My special wrath is reserved for the owners of dogs who make them jog. If dogs had been meant to jog, they would have been given running shoes. Dogs know that running should be conducted in short, erratic bursts after other animals, and fascinating smells, and not for exercise. Yet some insensitive joggers persist in dragging along panting dogs at the end of ropes, apparently in the belief that this is comradely.
There is a young man in my neighborhood who is an exception. He has a dog on a rope, the other end of the rope being knotted about the owner's waist. But the dog is always out front, galloping along with abandon, tugging at his perspiring owner in the rear.
Now that's a Cape Cod dog who knows his proper place.