Like many, we spent quite a few hours enjoying the outdoors during Memorial Day weekend, and we met quite a few cute pooches out with their people doing much of the same, including a very spunky Labradoodle at the local park and a beautiful husky mix while walking the neighborhood. There were countless “beach dogs” at the local (very packed) swimming hole as well; of course the girls and I stopped to meet practically every one of them, but I have to reluctantly admit that I’ve always felt torn on the idea of dogs at the beaches (I know, I know…but bear with me and I think you’ll understand why).
My first example of why I feel this way involves a somewhat embarrassing incident a few years ago in which I defended, almost to the point of argument, a couple and their gorgeous Weimaraner who had set up “camp” a few yards down the beach from us. It was the “pre-kid” time in our lives, but the friends with us had small children, and were going on and on—ad nauseum—about how “gross” it was to have dogs on the beach. Not long after our “discussion” came to an agree-to-disagree end, I watched in absolute horror as the dog squatted down and emptied her bowels of the most putrid, green, liquefied stuff you can imagine, just feet from where the young kids we were with were playing. After the first “mess” was followed by a gagging fit and a good few minutes of vomiting, the couple deduced that the dog had eaten something she shouldn’t have, and left. I felt like a fool as I helped pack up all of our stuff to move further down the beach (no one was up for standing in all that to play Bocce Ball or build sand castles), and nauseatingly wondered if we were merely—and unknowingly—moving into yesterday’s “mess” from the same or possibly another “beach dog.”
This story serves to explain that my concerns for dogs on beaches do not just involve people (yes, I fully understand that, aside from the gore I witnessed, sand is already loaded with oodles of germs and gross things that we often choose not to think about as we let our kids roll around in it), but the dogs as well. I’ve watched as people have forced their terrified dogs into the water when they clearly don’t want to go in, and I’ve watched dogs sit, tied to a beach chair, for hours in the blasting summer sun almost to the point of heat-stroke because their people think they “LOVE the beach!” I’ve also watched as dogs have consumed sand and sea water during play time, both of which can be very harmful to the pooches, causing painful intestinal blockages, life-threatening dehydration and exposure to organisms that are present in ocean water, and have seen dogs limping off the beaches after playing too hard on a sandy terrain that their ligaments and joints are just not accustomed to.
Of course there are exceptions—people who responsibly care for their dogs at the beach and respectfully clean up after them—and I completely support the idea of beach-going as a means of exercise for our four legged fellows. I just feel strongly that beach time for dogs should be limited, for both their safety and well-being and for the sake of the families they may share the beaches with. If you share your life with an avid “beach dog,” I hope you’ll visit the various animal charity sites out there that provide tips on how to keep him or her safe this summer during your beach visits, including http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2011/09/beach-safety-for-dogs/ and http://suite101.com/article/dogs-on-the-beach-safety-and-precautions-a378003.