Monday, November 17, 2014

Walks on the Beach

One June not too long ago, my mom, sister and I rented a house at York Beach, Maine for a week. We’ve been to York Beach countless times before, first at a tent in a nearby campground for a week at a time, year after year when I was a kid. As adults, we all stayed for a few days in a hotel across from the street from the beach. But this was the first time we had an entire house for our comfort.

The rental house was three stories tall. From the top floor, which featured a pool table and futons, we could see over the tops of the neighboring houses and see the ocean. There was a footpath from the neighborhood to the rocky end of the beach, which was great for morning and evening strolls with the dogs.

I was anxious to see how my dogs would react to the beach. They came to live with me when I lived in Tennessee, and the few times we walked along the Cumberland River, the two dogs had different reactions to the water. Moose tried to charge down the boat ramp and explore the river, while Winston had no interest in it at all. The ocean was going to be a whole new adventure.

In York during the summer season, dogs were allowed on the beach in the early morning. Accompanied by various combinations of one, two, or all three nieces, depending on the day, I would take the dogs to the beach. Other dogs were running off leash, chasing discs and balls, chasing the waves, and swimming. In keeping with my Hollywood-inspired notion of dogs and beaches, these other dogs (and their humans) looked like they were having fun.

In spite of my efforts to teach them, my dogs don’t seem to know how to play. Although Moose is a champion of consuming any and all fabric or plastic toys (in their entirety), neither dog has grasped the concept of fetching, catching, or returning an item, so I didn’t bother to bring toys to the beach. It was us and the leashes and the great oceanic outdoors. Because I wasn’t sure how they’d react during their first time at the ocean, I kept them on the leashes. We walked near the rocks and over the rocks and down towards the water. Or more accurately, I dragged them to the water. They stepped in the shallowest skim of water and were not impressed. They tried to drag me away from it.

Moose and Winston not really enjoying the beach.
One morning later in the week, I let them off the leashes when we were on the beach, and they ran. Not like I thought they would, though. They did not frolic happily on the beach. They did not explore the water. The second the leashes were detached, they turned and sprinted at top speed away from the water, across the sand, and up the stairs to the sidewalk, with my nieces and me chasing after them. These dogs had spoken, and they said they wanted no part of this beach business. Luckily, some people who were just arriving at the beach stopped my fleeing canines on the sidewalk at the top of the staircase.

Afterwards, every time we approached the little wooden footbridge on the path to the beach, Moose would make himself immobile by tensing up all four of his legs and bracing himself. It’s one of his favorite tactics at home. He whips himself into a frenzy of excitement upon seeing his leash, then after about twenty feet of walking, suddenly decides he doesn’t want to go walking after all. I have never determined what in our neighborhood (if anything) has him periodically boycotting our walk, but on our Maine vacation it seemed pretty clear it was dread of the beach.

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