So here's the thing about the dog beach: there are LOTS of dogs.
I know, I know - sounds improbable. But there are more off-leash dogs at the dog beach than there are at the dog park. Add that to the fact that there's a mile or two worth of open beach, tennis balls being thrown in every direction, and more doggy smells than a trash heap on a hot day - and you have yourself one hell of a dog owner's dilemma:
Should I let them off the leash? ... Will they come back?
Seriously - it all boils down to that great conundrum. It's the ultimate experiment in trust, letting go, and honest-to-goodness hope that the trust and letting go doesn't get ruined by two drooly canines who love to get excited about damn near anything. And the chaos that is sure to ensue.
I have been putting off the dog beach purposefully. Hagrid and Hermione's acclimation to our household notwithstanding, I wanted to make sure that they really were good, kind dogs. The dog park was phase I of my plan. If they can handle the dog park, chances are they can handle the dog beach. It even took me a few weeks to get brave enough to go to the park. But: not one fight started, not one bite given, not one growl uttered. We've been dog-parking it for awhile, and now they get a bit elitist about the whole thing. They kind of ignore most of the other dogs and would rather play fetch with me ... I say that, because I'm *still* chasing my own tennis balls half the time. Which brings me to....
Phase II: Will Hagrid come when he's called? This phase is more complicated and time consuming than Phase I, primarily since there was an episode in June, consisting of my dad forgetting that we had brand new, rescue shelter puppies, leaving the front door wide open to make a phone call, Hagrid taking off like a Lear Jet down the street, and my sister and I trailing him (she was running, I was jogging), frantically calling his name. He stopped suddenly, Caitlin grabbed him, and we walked him back home. It was this solitary jail break that mitigated the need for a gate in our front yard. Hagrid had a huge listening problem when he first arrived home. I spent many, many hours, coaxing him with food and toys to listen to the sound of my voice. And it's paid off. There have been two or three times where he's started to take off down the street, I've called him, he's stopped, turned around, and come right to me. I never have to chase after him at the dog park, and I even let him walk himself to our newly built gate when we return from aforementioned dog park.
But the *real* test is the dog beach, and I have to admit - it didn't start out well. As we were in the parking lot, waiting for the cars ahead to claim parking spaces, watching the numerous dogs on leashes. I heard a scratch in the back of my car, and Hagrid is half way out the window. Let it be known, the window was only half-way rolled down. I frantically got out of my car, and tried to help the nice young man who was holding onto Hagrid so that he wouldn't get caught by his leash. If I've been more simultaneously scared and mortified, I surely can't recall. I almost packed it in and drove us back. But no - with all of the packing and prep work I had done in order to get us there, I was going to see this mother through! [Note: Dogs, like children, take plenty of prep time]
We finally park. It takes me 5 minutes just to get the quarters into the meter, the dogs are way too excited and squirmy. [Sidenote: Huntington Beach parking meters SUCK! a quarter for 10 minutes??? You've got to be kidding me!] We walk ... slowly ... as I hold the hounds of Hades back with most of my strength. The other bit of my strength was dedicated to keeping me upright. I'm sure we look like one massive whirling dervish of insanity. I'm trying to keep my dogs from pouncing delightedly on other canines with full anticipation of a good sniff, who's owners are glaring at me with a look of, "Don't you let those things near my dog!" To which I wanted to say, "You're at a DOG BEACH." We slowly, painfully make our way through the sand to an area that isn't packed in with people ... I figured that any attempts to avoid disaster would pay off in the long run.
I took them down to the water. There I was, face to face with the ultimate question. It was just me, and the beach, running on either direction. Would I lose my dogs forever? Would they come back? Would they do something so terribly heinous that we're never allowed back here?? And then a voice in the recesses of my brain said, "Let them go." And I did. And they sat there, anticipating the throwing of the great purple wubba, the water toy to end all water toys. So I threw it ...
One bounding golden body, and one white one, vying for the best toy known to dogkind. Through the waves and foam they leaped, swam, frolicked and ran, their tongues lolling out the sides of their mouths with pure happiness....
And they were fine.
They didn't go more than 15 yards in either direction...they'd go play with other dogs, and then come back, sometimes bringing their new friends back with them. Hermione chased a little cockapoo around in a circle for 5 minutes. Hagrid was on a tennis ball chase, wanting to race with each new ball that he saw; but he always came back for the purple wubba. I was so proud of them! And I was proud of myself. We stayed for about an hour [see:aforementioned parking meter suckiness], and then made the painstaking trip back to the car, and drove back home. Wet, sandy, and very happy, we all made it back to the Bradac homestead safe and sound, with naught but a few scratches on my rear passenger door.
Regrettably, I don't have any photos. Being the single parent with two 65 lb. dogs has many challenges, not the least of which is my misfortune in not having 2 extra limbs - photo taking on this adventure would have been impossible. But ... my monkey is coming to visit next week (squeeeeeel!!), and there will be more opportunity for photos.
In other news:
King Lear opened this weekend, and seems to be getting great responses from both critics and audience alike. You can read this review, if you'd like. And here's a photo:
Also ... a friend of mine posted this on facebook. "King HROTHGAR!" Ahhhhh...there's nothing like a bunch of a classics nerds putting a musical on. They're in Montreal. If I were there, I'd TOTALLY go.