Somerville author considers the city dog

On October 9, 2015, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times
Daisy, Dr.Sipperstein’s dog, with Melissa McCue-McGrath, who has just written a very useful book for dog owners who happen to live in the city.

Daisy, Dr.Sipperstein’s dog, with Melissa McCue-McGrath, who has just written a very useful book for dog owners who happen to live in the city.

By Amy Swain

Dog owners of Somerville, rejoice. There is finally a book dedicated to knowledge about the urban pup, and it was created by one of our own. Considerations for the City Dog was recently published by twelve-year resident of Somerville and CPDT-KA (certified professional dog trainer – knowledge assessed) Melissa McCue-McGrath.

McCue-McGrath’s path to a career with dogs is, in her words, “One of those things that were probably foreshadowed a long time ago, but I didn’t notice.” As a young girl, she arrived one day to her home in Maine to find her father had been gifted a pack of snow dogs. “Most kids have to beg for one dog.”

She later attended Lake Eerie College with an interest in the equestrian world. She liked the idea of horses as therapy. After being bucked, however, she changed gears, showing an interest in police work and doing ride-alongs with their K-9 unit. After realizing this wasn’t for her, she found work at an animal hospital. Although she didn’t see herself as a veterinarian, she was seeing a common theme in her endeavors. She was already doing competitive frisbee with her own dog, when she was approached by a dog trainer to become his assistant. She became certified, and stuck with it.

Melissa McCue-McGrath’s “Considerations for the City Dog.”

Melissa McCue-McGrath’s “Considerations for the City Dog.”

In 2006, she began the blog Mutt Stuff as a way to share fun photos and stories with dog enthusiasts and students. Over time, more serious topics and inquiries arose that she, not being medically qualified, was uncomfortable responding to. Now she participates, along with veterinarian Dr. Sipperstein, in Car Talk Fido, a blog in the vein of car talk radio.

A book may seem like the obvious next step, but it might not have come about if not for an incident many will remember, the tragic episode involving Rocco the dog on Halloween 2013. The book is not about the case, but the case was a catalyst for its creation. “I saw the comments online, and heard the terminology being used even by the lawyers in the court case. Seeing the back and forth, and hearing this terminology that was inaccurate was incredibly frustrating.”

She saw victim blaming, threats to the animal control officer, she saw an injury that is by definition multiple bites being described as “one bite.” She saw a petition with three thousand signatures to save this dog. Essentially, she saw passion, on both sides.

Witnessing this lack of accurate information paired with good intentions gave the author reason to say “Hey, we’ve got this terminology that we’re all using, let me define it a little more clearly, and maybe this will bring both sides to the table.” The misinformation she witnessed in the Rocco case is a small part of what is included in the book, much of it is created based on questions from her students. “I’ve been doing this for twelve years, and people are still asking the same questions. We can’t look at them and think ‘look at this bad student.’ They’re not understanding something because this divide is here. How do we make this smaller? How do we bridge it?” The author attributes lots of the confusion to the fact that there are no informational books for raising city dogs, who face very different issues.

The best placed to start in ensuring success with a city dog is immediately when you meet the dog – which, she says, you should absolutely do before committing to adoption.

McCue-McGrath has begun and encouraged the #handsonfirst campaign. This notion encourages contact with dogs before they enter a home. To see more about #handsonfirst, visit There you can check out the Pet Finder loophole Melissa has discovered, find conversation on the book, read excerpts and author information, and purchase the book.

Considerations for the City Dog is not an owner’s manual. It is not Rocco’s story, nor Melissa McCue-McGrath’s. It is a book full of insight useful to dog owners, potential dog owners, dog lovers, and any curious body in between.


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