Minding Your MV P's & Q's: Piping Puppies and Hospital Privacy

Minding Your MV P's & Q's: Piping Puppies and Hospital Privacy

— Illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole:

In the winter my dog and I like to stroll around a certain beach. The signs saying, “Keep out of this area, plovers nesting,” have just been put up, but I know this beach very well. I’ve been combing it for years, and I know that there aren’t actually any plovers here yet. My dog is obedient and sticks beside me; even if there were nests, he wouldn’t be disturbing them. But there aren’t nests yet. The other day I caught hell from some other beach-combers for being on that part of the beach. Wouldn’t you say it’s okay for me to be in the dunes until I see plovers start to nest? Isn’t this a little like hanging out on a private beach in the off-season?

Confidentially yours,

Curious on the Shore

Dear Curious:

NO, IT’S NOT.  If the signs are up, GET OUT OF THERE. Of course the plovers haven’t started to nest— the area is being regularly disturbed by human and canine presence. I’m not an ornithologist but I doubt the birds will casually return to a place where they sense the intrusion of Man, and certainly of Dog.

Let me give you the benefit of the doubt for a moment. I’m going to presume that you and your dog do this every year, and that every year, despite your presence, the plovers return, and as soon as they do, you leave. Let’s say that you know the timing even better than do the naturalists who are responsible for posting the signs. In fact, I’ll go even farther: let’s say you and your dog have a special mystical relationship with the plovers and they actually consider you a part of their tribe. They have asked you, during a vision-quest, to please walk around the dunes with your dog at the start of their nesting season.

Even then: don’t do it. Respect those signs. They are not put up there as a dare to you; they are an invocation to the entire community to collectively respect the seasonal rhythms of our ecosystem. To disregard the signs is to say that not only do you not consider yourself a member of the community, you don’t consider yourself a member of the ecosystem.

You yourself might know how to finesse the use-of-dunes, but other beach-walkers might see you — confident in your certainty that it’s okay to be there — and assume it’s okay for them to disregard the signs as well, even if they weren’t invited in by the plovers. You’re setting a terrible example. Please don’t do that. I’m sure if you explain it to the plovers, they’ll understand.

That’s my take.



Dear Nicole:

I was recently at the MV hospital  for a procedure, the nature of which I’d prefer not to mention. While I was at the hospital, I ran into four people I know. Each of them, without fail, asked me if I was okay and why I was at the hospital. I don’t like to lie, but my procedure is my business. I know people will be even more curious if I say I’d rather not tell them why I was there, so I told them I was there to visit a friend who is sick, but each of them, without fail, asked me who my friend was. So I panicked and blurted out my neighbor’s name. Nicole, what should I do? Do I need to tell my neighbor about this?

Confidentially Yours,

Oak Bluffs

Dear Oak Bluffs:

Oh my God, they don’t pay me enough to answer these questions.

That’s my take.



  1. Oak Bluffs,
    Sorry you were given such a crappy response by Nicole. Tell your neighbor. In a small community such as this, its very possible (s)he is going to hear about it from one of those four people, and then make you out to be a fool when they have no idea what the person who mentioned it is talking about. Tell him/her you don’t expect them to cover for you, and explain why you did it. If they choose not to cover for you, its an important lesson learned – a lie, no matter how small, or for whatever reason told, becomes your master. You are a slave to it by continuing to lie and be stressed out by it, until you come clean. In the future, simply telling someone you were there for an appointment does the job without needing to lie. After all, there ARE doctor’s offices in the hospital, and not everyone who has an appointment at the hospital is ill/injured! : )
    Good luck.

  2. Um… not sure I’ve ever read a response like that by an advice columnist. The first answer was so right on that I’ll still give her a couple of stars, but it ain’t right to leave a question twisting in the wind like that. I agree with VineyardMom, whose advice is sound.

  3. Plovers or not, you shouldn’t walk in the dunes at all. I hate to see people in the dunes as it aids in erosion. I always see summer people in the dunes and warn them about ticks, but I’m actually worried about the beach grass and erosion.