Monday, March 24, 2008

A day at the dog beach

Yesterday was Easter. To celebrate, my best friend Kris and her daughter Sara drove down from Saugus and we exchanged Christmas presents. I kid you not. That's how long it's been since we've seen each other. Actually it's been six months - since September. And Saugus isn't that far away. But life, especially life in L.A., gets in the way.

After we traded presents, we piled into the car -- Sara and the two dogs crammed in the back -- and went to the dog beach which is close to Belmont Shores in Long Beach. I should have taken my camera, but the battery was dead and I couldn't find the recharger. On the other hand, it's not the most camera friendly place - just imagine sand, sea water, wind, and several dozen very happy dogs all going in different directions and occasionally colliding with you in their exuberance. I don't think my camera would have lasted long, and I'm glad I didn't take it. This is a place for a disposable.

But, man, what a treat. It was a scene of what I can only describe as exhilirated chaos. It was perfect weather (at least 80, maybe 85 at the beach, and sunny), and spring fever was in the air.

For the first two years after I moved to San Pedro, I never set foot at the Long Beach dog beach. For one thing, I was loyal to the Knoll Hill dog park (now defunct) in San Pedro. I just couldn't get over the bridge to Long Beach to try anything differently. Plus, when you have two big dogs who get very excited in any new surroundings, crowd control on a leash becomes a problem. I didn't want to go unless I had another "supervising adult" with me, because just getting the dogs to the designated area - they have to stay on leash until you're there - can be quite a trial. To give you an idea, last year Annie, my 'little' dog, literally pulled my sister off of her feet. So I avoided it.

Then one day last summer, just walking along the beach with Kris, we happened to notice that there were a lot of loose dogs cavorting around, and it dawned on me that we had discovered the famous dog beach. (You can't really find it until you're on the beach itself, because it's set apart by orange cones from the rest of the beach. And the cones really aren't visible from the street.)

It's kind of like discovering Middle Earth. One moment, you're walking on a regular beach, with people laying in the sun, kids in the surf, then all of a sudden, you're surrounded by dogs in all stages of play and pandemonium, and then, if you keep walking, the dogs disappear and you're (sadly) back in real life.

I find that the dog beach is a little more dog-friendly than the dog park in San Pedro. Makes you wonder how a dog park could be unfriendly towards dogs, but it can. Maybe it's because it's fenced in and a smaller area, but for some reason, dogs tend to gang up at the park and overwhelm your dogs when you first arrive. It's not necessarily in an aggressive manner, but it's still a little intimidating. I'm grateful that my girls have good manners and seem to take it with aplomb.

But at the dog beach, it seems like the dogs are too busy and too happy to gang up on a particular unfortunate dog. At the beach, they will run up and sniff, but then they're off again to race down the sand. Dogs can go in the water, or not, It's a whatever kind of place. Some dogs love the water, some need a little coaxing, others like to just stick close to their owners.

My dogs seem to switch roles. The first time we were there last summer, Xena, my German Shepherd, absolutely loved the water and wouldn't get out. (Probably because we were in the middle of a ferocious heat wave.) Annie, on the other hand, who is normally fearless, did not want to have anything to do with the waves.

This time around, Xena stuck close to me. Annie at first didn't care for the water, but eventually she figured out that catching the ball in the surf zone was actually kind of interesting and way more gratifying than trying to deal with my lame attempts at frisbee throwing. It got to the point where she wouldn't fetch the ball unless we threw it in the water. Talk about a change in attitude.

Any breed of dog can be had at the park. And, for that matter, any kind of person. We saw all kinds of mutts, gorgeous whippets, several bulldogs, a yorkshire terrier, numerous small dogs who all looked alike, a Rhodesian ridgeback, even what looked like a foxhound. A King Charles spaniel was spending her first day their, her proud mother taking photos. One beautiful red pointer-type, with a grizzled muzzle, has a prounced limp; his owner said he was 14 and had a bone disease. Still, the sport managed to trot into the waves to fetch his ball. We also saw people adorned with various stages of dress, tattoos, and even pinwheels in the hair. Everybody was smiling and laughing, and it was certainly contagious, because there wasn't one dog fight to be had.

For somebody who doesn't normally celebrate Easter, this was a great way to un-celebrate the holiday. As for the dogs, we got them home, soaked, sandy and happy. Funny, though - when I took the dogs out to the back yard and tried to gently hose the sand off, it was like it was the end of the world.

Here's some photos of what they were like last night. Annie's on the left, Xena on the right. These are older photos, but you get the idea.


Lisamariesmom said...

Is there any wonder I'm nervous about going to dog parks! When Annie took me off my feet I just had this picture in my head of a cartoon character being dragged across the lawn on her stomach with a grip on the dog leash. Of course you had this look on your face of "I can't believe this is really happening!"

Laurie Powers said...

For those who haven't heard the story, when Linda came down to visit me one time, we took the dogs down to the park at the Point Fermin Lighthouse. Linda took Annie and I took Xena. Annie was so excited that she literally pulled Linda off of her feet.

dog beach said...

dog beach......nice post