Monday, April 13, 2009
So Callie, Marika and I spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon lounging at Manresa State Beach, south of Santa Cruz. Marika and I were completely content to splash in the waves for a minute, then lay out on the warm sand in bathing suits and read novels. But for Callie -- being that she's a rather-dense, hyperactive dog -- this was not enough. She really wanted to dig stinky things out of the sand and chase the coastal birds.
After awhile, I decided a quick barefoot beach run might calm Callie, count for my daily run and warm me up enough to take one more dip in the water. Plus I was reading accounts of 30-mile overnight runs in "Ultramarathon Man" and felt a little lazy.
Callie and I took off down the beach at a good clip, running in the wet sand right at the tide line. Now my dog loves water but has a crippling fear of waves, so sticking to my right (where she is supposed to run) with waves crashing feet away was not going to work. Early into the run she pulled hard on the leash and darted in front of me.
I should have seen it coming, but I was watching the water and birds or taking in the sunshine or loving the sand underfoot -- something other than paying attention to the dog. I went down hard.
Now this wasn't just a trip. Try splatter. Belly-flop. Face-plant. And right on that hard, packed, wet sand. Did I mention I was THAT GIRL running in my bathing suit and hadn't worn sunscreen all weekend? My sun-burned belly became sand-scraped. Ouch!
So a woman walking toward me stared at the entire ungraceful episode, but said nothing. She would be the first of several inconsiderate (perhaps drunk on sunshine?) people Callie and I would encounter on our 30-minute beach run. But -- interestingly enough -- as we made our way up and down the sand, everyone who made our jaunt difficult were other dog owners.
There was cell phone guy with a Labradoodle that loped happily toward Callie, her loose leash dragging through the sand. Callie tugged mercilessly toward the free dog (but was luckily deterred by the incoming waves). Dude never bothered to get off the phone and get control of his dog.
We picked out turnaround point based on a trio of off-leash, rather unsupervised dogs because I knew full well Callie would pull like hell to join them, then the lackadaisical dog owners would freak out a little bit at her size and energy level and I would be left apologizing (even though they were the ones breaking the leash-your-dog beach rule).
But the most ridiculous encounter came at the very end as we neared the beach entrance. Several families with little kids were congregated there, the children wading in the water or digging in the sand. A seemingly unclaimed black and brown Australian shepherd wandered among the kids. Just as Callie and I got to the crowd, a small boy (maybe 3?) grabbed the shepherd's leash. Of course the dog walked toward us and Callie turned to jump (read: play). No parents moved toward the boy -- who probably weighed less than the dog at the other end of the rope he held) or yelled at him to move away. Callie and I stopped, she sat down and we calmly waited it out. Never did the mom (who wandered nearby) come over to corral her dog or check on the welfare of her child. Luckily, the moment passed without any teeth-barring or other calamities.
I love taking Callie to the beach for a nice romp and run. We chase birds and get wet and it's a grand time. But other dog owners, with their off-leash beasts, can really ruin our beach experience. I understand that everyone's dog is the best pet ever and wonderfully well-behaved. Sure. Except that's at home or in some other controlled environment the animal is comfortable with. The beach -- with water, people, creatures, smells, kids and all -- is not the same and that is one of the reasons why dogs are supposed to be leashed at most of these sandy sanctuaries. Otherwise they run after other dogs or skimboarders, ignore you while they chase birds a half-mile down the beach and alarm folks who aren't dog lovers like yourselves. It's not just your beach.
But if you really do feel comfortable letting your dog off-leash where it's not allowed, at least have the courtesy to grab ahold of its collar while my dog and I pass by. I really hate that dirty look you give me when my leashed dog charges playfully at your uncontrolled animal.
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"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."