Murphy’s Leash Law

Happy dog

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 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. Sort of.

***

Last week, I was walking my own dog on a leash, and trust me when I tell you that 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, far beyond where the people are, and I let him run. 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 it without having to chase down a wayward tennis ball over and over and over. No, he doesn’t poop on the beach and if he did, I would pick 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 the 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 took all my junk mail and circled it high above my head and right on down the road. As I chased newspaper up the street, my dog started to put it together that we were headed towards the beach and he kicked his horsepower into high gear as my tennis elbow screeched in pain. Once we hit the grassy spots, naturally Scout decided he needed to poop. I let him finish 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 the poop with it, and crushed it into my chest as well, as I held on to my dog (who should’ve been on the Iditarod as he mush-mushed his way towards the beach).

If you’ve ever owned a labrador, you know 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 and I may or may not have lost my power bill or a water bill 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.

Murphy’s Law says that if something can go wrong, it will. It did. Four people walked over to the beach at that 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 to hear, to make her point clearly. “You are breaking the law!” I knew this. It’s a dumb law, but still, I broke it.

Then the gentleman asked me sarcastically if I would walk through a dog park barefooted. I wasn’t following his line of questioning at first but pieced it together that he thinks I must think the beach is a place I would allow my dog to take a crap. AS IF. I had the stench of dog shit still on my clothes at that exact moment to prove that point. Then the very mad woman did that thing people do when they want to put someone (me) in their place with out giving that person (me) a chance to explain. She told me she took my picture and knew I was a teacher, and that I should be ashamed of myself. She yelled and walked away, 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. Or at least I tried. I didn’t defend myself or my right to be there. She didn’t hear a word I said.

Sadly, the world is full of people like that. I am not one of them. I can’t think of anything in the world that would make me that mad, mad enough to dress down a complete stranger who was simply minding their own business and trying to be good to their animal. People like that take it upon themselves to make sure everyone else in the world is behaving themselves. Maybe you are like that, maybe it makes you mad that I had Scout on the beach. If you are, I suppose I should apologize to you, too. Sure sounds like a lot of work to me, to worry about other people like that all the time.

***

The lady with the steamed shrimp had a dog on the beach, too. A little puppy, no more than twelve weeks old. On a leash. Playing in the surf, not chasing birds, sort of riding waves, still breaking the law. Not hurting a single person in the whole world. 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 in Pensacola Beach, Florida.

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