Maryland’s top dog: Meet the newest Government House resident, Tucker Balti Moore


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Dec 09, 2023

Maryland’s top dog: Meet the newest Government House resident, Tucker Balti Moore

Perhaps you’ve run into him confidently strutting the streets of Annapolis, on a

Perhaps you’ve run into him confidently strutting the streets of Annapolis, on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe you caught a glimpse as he was hitting his stride on one of Maryland's hiking trails. Or you could have been among the many to offer congratulations on the announcement of his move into Government House.

No, he's not the governor. He's Tucker Balti Moore — Maryland's new first dog.

In February, Gov. Wes Moore and first lady Dawn Moore delivered on a campaign pledge to their children. "We made a promise to the kids," he explained. "We said, ‘Win, lose or draw, we’re gonna get a puppy.’"

Tucker, a Shih Tzu-poodle mix (also known as a "shih-poo," Moore said), weighs about 11 pounds and won't grow much bigger. The Moore family proclaimed Sept. 24 as his birthday, after learning the pup was likely five months old when they took him in. And like most youngsters, Tucker is full of energy.

"He's fun-loving, he's active, he bites everything," the governor said. "When he gets out…there will be, like four state troopers chasing him around, trying to grab him, because he is incredibly fast."

"He's an all-purpose puppy," Moore added.

Tucker tugs at the tie worn by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

The family of four, including the couple's two young children, Mia and James, adopted Tucker from the Maryland SPCA in Baltimore. He came to the shelter "a little bit malnourished," Moore said, but not much was known about his upbringing except that he was probably born in the city.

The Moores’ search for a pet had many requirements: Their daughter wanted a small dog; their son, a large one. It was the first lady's dog allergy, however, that presented the greatest obstacle. "The biggest question we had was, what is the compromise dog when you have all these different dynamics?" Moore said.

Tucker proved to be the answer.

Though it's the family's first time adding a pup into the mix, the governor grew up with dogs. His previous pets were of a slightly different stature: Ensign, a Rottweiler; Africa, another Rottweiler; and Cushions, a German shepherd.

'That's his baby,' first lady Dawn Moore says about Tucker and his bond with Gov. Wes Moore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

Nonetheless, Tucker has quickly nestled his way into the governor's heart. "That's his baby," the first lady said.

The Moore kids are responsible for keeping tabs on Tucker around the house, feeding him and taking him on walks. "One of the things that's gonna stay constant is when they get home, Tucker's going to be there waiting for them," Moore said. "Waiting to jump on them, waiting to kiss them, waiting to follow them wherever they go."

So far, he's proven an easy sport: Tucker enjoys playing a game of catch or tag in the yard, meandering through St. John's College campus and making appearances downtown. "He's got a higher name recognition than I do," Moore said.

So Tucker, sounds like you’re already top dog in Annapolis.

But if you’re reading this, we have some ideas to help you settle into the area. Maybe you want to treat yourself to something sweet, or get to know your four-legged constituents. In Anne Arundel, you can grab a bite, earn your sea legs and walk with the pack.

Michael Bass, founder of MD Pup Scouts, walks a dog pack in Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Walking with humans is fun. But stepping out with other dogs? Unbeatable.

MD Pup Scouts — launched in Annapolis by Michael Bass in September — offers dogs the chance to do just that. "Pack walks" involve "pack leaders" (aka human chaperones) guiding groups of roughly eight dogs on a stroll.

"Being around the other dogs in this comfortable environment allows them to thrive and build confidence," said Bass, 33, who grew up in Pikesville and founded the first Pup Scouts outpost in Orange County, California.

Using two school buses, he and other walkers pick up dogs from their homes each morning, Monday through Friday, to corral them for three-hour walks around downtown Annapolis, Quiet Waters Park and the B & A Trail, starting around 9 a.m. Dogs must sign up for a minimum of one outing per week ($60 per walk).

"It's the best way to socialize and teach your dog manners," Bass said. "There's no competition between the dogs, they’re all working together toward a common goal."

Dogs of varying breeds, sizes and dispositions are welcome, but bigger dogs are in the majority. MD Pup Scouts also organizes free "community pack walks," during which participants walk their own dogs.

All that exercise will surely work up an appetite.

At Pour Dog House in Millersville, the "dog" in the name references not just the menu items — an array of hot dogs and sausages, with a wide variety of garnishes — but also the dog-friendly outdoor seating area, according to Shah Alston, one of five co-owners who opened the restaurant in 2021.

It's patronized by pups ranging "from Great Danes to Pomeranians," Alston, 55, said. "I don't look at the dog as a pet. It's a family member."

The restaurant has hosted two adoption events with the SPCA — one during its grand opening and another in tandem with a car show — and plans to continue the partnership, which Alston said has been "extremely successful."

Capital SUP's yappy hour takes you and your dog on a guided paddle tour of Back Creek and downtown Annapolis.- Original Credit: Handout (Courtesy of Lindsay Cook / HANDOUT)

Now that you’re an Annapolitan, Tucker, you’ll be expected to get out on the water. What better way than on a paddleboard.

For 10 years, Kevin Haigis, who grew up in Arnold and attended Broadneck High School, has run Capital SUP, a stand-up paddleboard rental company he started with two friends in his early 20s. The business operates out of Quiet Waters Park and Nautilus Point in Eastport, and the season typically runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Dogs can join a regular session on a paddleboard or kayak (starting at $25 per hour) for the added cost of a life vest rental ($10), if needed, or can partake in "Yappy Hour," an event Capital SUP hosts several times monthly, for dogs and their owners ($35). The weekend or early evening event is capped at 12 dogs and always sells out, according to Haigis.

"You have to coach a dog to get onto the platform on the board, but it's easily done with a treat," he said.

Haigis has seen people hit the water with large dogs — like a 110-pound Great Dane — but said Tucker "would be a perfect kind of dog to enjoy a board with."

Local Maryland products are featured in the boutique such as Annapolis-owned "Baydog," owned by a USNA graduate. Sea Dog Pet Boutique, a pet supply store, has opened at 172 Main Street in Annapolis. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Capital Gazette)

Everyone knows Maryland's first dog has an image to maintain.

Sea Dog Pet Boutique, on Main Street in Annapolis, offers collars, bandannas, toys, treats and other goodies made in the United States and from small and women-owned businesses.

"That was really the goal of the store, to have unique things that you wouldn't find in big-box stores," said Karen Komisar, 55, who opened the boutique last year. "We try to really support other small businesses."

Komisar said Tucker has visited the boutique with the first lady and Mia, to pick out a bandanna and a Maryland flag-printed leash. Next time, you can tell your humans to consider a nylon toy or bone, suitable for puppies to chew on, or an "enrichment toy" shaped like a chili pepper, pineapple or eggplant that can be filled with treats.

Lisa Fontaine of Annapolis gives her dog Kona a spoonful of Maple Bacon doggie ice cream at Salty Paws, a shop in Annapolis that specializes in treats for dogs. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Any pup in need of a pick-me-up would be remiss in not paying a visit to Salty Paws, Annapolis’ very own ice cream shop for dogs.

Suzanne Tretowicz opened the store in 2020, after originally launching Salty Paws in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. "We wanted a place where people can take their pets and enjoy experiences like [the ones] they enjoy themselves," she said.

Birthday cake ice cream for dogs is a popular flavor at Salty Paws, a shop that specializes in treats for dogs. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

At the store, each table is complete with dog beds so that canines can dine in. From 12 to 16 ice cream flavors made from lactose-free whole milk and goat's milk bases are available at any given time, ranging from peanut butter to maple bacon. The ice cream is made in-house and there's a topping bar, too.

With Tucker, "we would do taste testing, because the smaller dogs can be a little more picky," Tretowicz said. "So we would find his favorite flavor, we would let him try the toppings from the topping bar."

"He could really be spoiled," she added.

Two dogs splash around in the new pool at Dogwood Acres Pet Retreat in Davidsonville on a sunny afternoon. (By Matthew Cole, Staff, Capital Gazette)

When your first birthday rolls around, Tucker, perhaps you’ll want to round up a group of your closest pals and soak up the last of the warm weather.

At the Davidsonville branch of Dogwood Acres Pet Retreat, which specializes in pet "lodging" (aka overnight boarding) and doggy day care, canines can rent out an "in-ground, bone-shaped dog pool," according to Jill Schellenschlager, the general manager.

The pool, which is ankle-deep at each end and hip-deep in the center — on a human, that is — can be used by day care pups anytime during the day and by overnight boarders for an extra fee ($10). It can also be rented out for two-hour private parties on Saturdays and Sundays, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. ($400 for up to 15 dogs, $550 for 16 to 30). One or two lifeguards, depending on the size of the party, will monitor play.

When dogs that are familiar with swimming get a chance to visit, "they’re doing a cannonball into the pool," Schellenschlager said. Others that are newer to the idea "don't necessarily have to be full-out swimming, they can just stand and splash," she added.

The pool is popular for breed meetups, among rescue groups and as a birthday party venue — and stays open as late into the fall as the weather allows.