Murphy’s Leash Law

A lady in a bathing suit and a coverup trudged through the hot sand and brought him two huge plates of food. The first one had a mountain of steamed shrimp, fried snapper, mac-n-cheese, hushpuppies and cheese biscuits. A little bit after that she brought over a literal stack of grilled hotdogs, backyard burgers with all the fixins and potato salad. “Here you go, Shuga. I hope you’re hungry. You sure are a sweet boy.”

A little while before that, another woman had already walked over to him with her hands on her hips. “Sir!” she said. “YOUNG MAN! Can you please tell me what the animal regulations are on this beach?”

“There aren’t supposed to be any animals on the beach, ma’am.”

“Well! That’s precisely what I thought!” And then she asked that nice young lifeguard to march right over and tell those other people to remove their dog from the beach immediately.

He did. Kind of.

Sort of.

But not really…..


Last week, I was walking my own dog on a leash, and trust me when I tell you…  he was not meant for a leash. He wasn’t raised on one, he doesn’t know how to act. It’s not his fault, it’s mine. When I walked him when he was little, I let him run in fields and he chased tennis balls, both being things you cannot do if your dog is on a leash. Now he’s seven years old and it’s too late to change him, and I’ve found myself living in a neighborhood, on a beach, populated with people who are not dog people. I don’t like people who are not dog people.


Scout had been inside all day long, like he is every day while we are at work. That’s ten hours. Normally, in the evenings, I take him way down the beach to play. We go far beyond where the people are, and I let him go. He runs and jumps in the surf, he loves to chase the birds, he rides the waves, and I get to sit in the sand and enjoy myself, without having to chase down a wayward tennis ball over and over and over. No, he doesn’t usually poop on the beach, but if he ever did, I picked it up like I would want others to. Still, I am breaking the law by taking him there. I am always aware of this.

See? Not hurting anyone.

So since he’d been inside all day long, he needed to get out for a bit. It was getting too late in the evening to drive all the way down the beach, so against my better judgement, on the leash he went. He pulled me all the way to my mailbox while my feet dug in, and my legs braced and locked up with every step. We checked the mail with tremendous awkwardness and just as I closed and locked the tiny metal door, a breezy gust of beach wind came. It took all my junk mail and circled it high above my head and right on down the road, because I had no free hands. As I chased newspaper pages up the street, my dog put it together that we were headed towards the beach, and he kicked his horsepower into high gear. My tennis elbow screeched in pain. Once we hit a grassy spot, naturally, Scout decided he needed to poop. I let him finish his business and used those thirty seconds of stillness to crumple all of my mail into a tight wad and crush it into my chest with my one free hand. Then I retrieved one piece of newspaper and picked up his poop with it, and then crushed that into my chest as well, as I held on to the tug of my 80-pound dog.  He should’ve been on the Iditarod as he mush-mushed his way towards the beach.

If you’ve ever owned a labrador, you know exactly the kind of walk I speak of.

I dropped all my mail-papers into the trash can right on the beach just so I could free up my good, working hand, the one that didn’t have a brace on it. I definitely smelled the dog poop I’d been carrying in my bosom, and I may or may not have lost my power bill or a water bill in the public trash that day, I can’t be sure. I scanned the beach and there was no one out there, so I decided to go for it. I walked Scout down to the water and let him off his leash for two glorious minutes so I could allow the feeling to return to my injured, throbbing arm. It was practically dark outside. Sunset… peaceful calm and solitude.

Murphy’s Law says that if something can go wrong, it will. And it did. Four people walked over to the beach at that exact moment and stood on the boardwalk with their hands on their hips, working themselves up into a frenzy over my dog being on the beach.

Not one to hide from my mistakes, I walked right up to them so I could apologize and leave in shame.

She yelled at me. Yelled! Like I was a child. She screamed loud enough for everyone on the block to hear, to make her point clearly.

You are breaking the law!” she screamed.

Yes, I knew this. It’s a dumb law, but still, I broke it.

Then the gentleman with her asked me sarcastically if I would walk through a dog park barefooted. I pieced it together that he thinks I allow my dog to crap on the beach.  I had the stench of dog shit still on my clothes at that exact moment, to prove that he was wrong. Then, the very mad woman did that thing people do when they want to put someone (me) in their place without giving that person (me) a chance to explain. She told me she took my picture, and she knew I was a teacher, and that I should be ashamed of myself.  She yelled and walked away, then yelled and walked away a little further, and so on, until she was all the way home. Then she marched on inside her expensive condo and probably justified her temper tantrum to herself all evening. Clearly, she’s not a dog person. I get it.

I did apologize, y’all. Or at least I tried to. I didn’t defend myself or my right to be there. But she didn’t hear a word I said.

Sadly, the world is full of people like her. I am not one of them. I can’t think of anything in the world that would make me that angry, mad enough to dress down a complete stranger who was simply minding their own business and trying to be good to their animal. Sure sounds like a lot of work to me, to worry about what other people are doing all the time.


So, back to my first story. The lady with the steamed shrimp apparently had a dog on the beach, too. A little puppy, no more than twelve weeks old. He was on a leash, playing in the surf, chasing birds, riding waves, not hurting a single person in the whole world…but still breaking the law. Fortunately, that lifeguard is a dog person, too. I raised him that way. That’s why he got all that good food.

“I don’t trust people who don’t like dogs. But I do trust the dog when he doesn’t like someone.”



About Dawn Quarles

Dawn Quarles is a high school political science and American history teacher who moonlights as a blogger and writer. She lives on Pensacola Beach, Florida.

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