You know your dog.
You know your dog almost as much as your dog knows you.
I mean: if you are angry when you come home from work, Dog watches apprehensively, tail erupting in a speculative wag of joy before—wait for it…!—the next one. OK to spaz out completely? Doggy’s eyes plead. Can your lousy work day please tolerate it?
If you are sad, who is the first to notice? Who shlumps on the sofa, nose down, to sigh and bear your weight for you? When you are discouraged, so is Dog. When you are happy, Dog is in a state of bliss. Dogs are our extensions, our better selves, our cherished icons of acceptance and play and loyalty and love.
My Dog needed something. Therapy? Me to quit jobs and stay home more? More vigorous and frequent walks in the same old neighborhood (yanking on the leash because all Dog wants to do is pee on weeds)? More growling and barking at the passel of psychotically yipping Chihuahuas penned in the yard across the street?
No. Oh my, no. The remedy for a listless, glum looking dog who may be in the midst of a midlife crisis is…dog beach.
Allow me to back up a step. Our dog is named Pumpernickel (Yes, like the dog in my novel TWICE BEGUN, though I promise that I am NOT Paris Jablonski!). When my son was small he announced he wanted to own a dog named Pumpernickel. He didn’t know “Pumpernickel” meant bread. He only knew what he needed, and Pumpernickel he indeed got. We kinda do food names at our house. Cat named Nutty. Cat named Apples. Cat named Milky (aka “Malachite”). Dog named Pumpernickel.
THIS dog…Pumpernickel…is sweet, jealous, social, affectionate and not interested in going alone to the backyard. She has been a moody little thing lately, miffed about her owners’ daily activities out there in the world without her.
I did not know what to think. I have never had a dog before. I never did understand the allure of a beach where my ever so jealous dog could run off leash to bark at and, thus unfettered, attack every other dog daring to breathe in my air space.
I did not see how a disobedient small dog that had once attacked a horse (because I petted it) could become significantly happier by a short, stressful trip to the beach.
I didn’t get it. Now I do.
Today I could have blogged about something serious or tragic, like the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington. I could have blogged about the problems in Syria or the ongoing slump in the economy or whatever else might weigh on our collective minds.
Instead I went to Dog Beach. We went to Coronado’s dog beach and managed to get through the leashed area without picking up Pumpernickel more than a couple of times. At the “dog run” area, we hesitated. To unleash or not to unleash? Pumpernickel doesn’t know she’s small. Which one of these other huge, sloping, soaking wet dogs darting to and fro would remind her?
After a short dispute with family members who voted not unleashing, we did, in fact, unleash. Click, just like that. Pink harness off too, and small dog in midlife crisis released amongst the dirty masses.
And what came next…well, it felt magical, almost transcendental—at least to me (and apparently, Pumpernickel). Her ears up, her tail accomplishing new musical beats, she began to run. She also darted, dipped, jumped, sniffed, begged, circled and gleefully ricocheted across the white sand and into the lapping surf. First time her paws touched the water she stopped—cold! Do I like this?
Then the symphony of ears, tail, paws, lapping tongue, wiggle of ecstatic recognition—THIS is what it means to be DOG!—continued. Cautious with the water, she accepted it. Delighting in her own furry skin, she accepted other dogs. And they accepted her. No one got hurt, no one attacked. The hour—one short hour—transformed her.
And transformed me.