Dog Days in Ocean Beach
Where doing nothing is never boring.
My inner peace is a dog day in Ocean Beach. Walks along the shoreline. Exploring the rocks in the small jetty that separates beach loving dog people from the other side where dogs are not allowed. The lifeguard tower sits precariously on the rocky jetty wall right in the middle of the mix and watches over us all.
I can sit on my beach towel for hours, just letting the soothing rhythm of the waves lull the anxiety from my usually maniac mind. If I close my eyes and let my thoughts leave, I can hear God's voice tumbling in the waves when I search for answers. As the sea blue ripples reach the shoreline, they are in the shallows for an unusually long roll. The surf is gentle and caresses your feet. As the white, bubbly tide recedes it leaves treasures behind.
Ocean Beach has an abundance of these treasures, small shells that I can mindlessly fill my pockets with. And mindlessness is a perfect state of being for a restless mind to relax. The reward of this scavenging is spilling them on the towel and examining each for their own unique beauty. I must wear my reading glasses for this task because it's important to be respectful of small crustaceans that may still be living inside. I check their homes before they join the rest of the collection, but sometimes they are tucked deep inside. After they poke their head out, I return them to the sea of course. No living creature deserves harm.
Most of the shells are tiny, but surprisingly, there's a lot of variety. With these mermaid treasures, I make gifts for friends and family. A small bottle filled with my beach finds and I write, "wish you'd been here", on a tiny scroll tucked inside.
I want to be in their thoughts at my happiest, barefoot and playing in the sand. It's a mandatory exercise for my peace of mind and burnt reputation. Six months ago I had no Zen, no inner peace, no beach. My life was the polar opposite of seashells and sunshine. My personal Apocalypse played out in the alternative universe with everything gone wrong.
I was wrought with stress that broke me. I was in a bad place , stubbornly hanging on, up to my neck in stink, and banging my head against the bricks until I cracked. Specifically? For the first time in my adult life I wasn't living by the shore in San Diego. I was 20 miles inland with no car, no friends, just me and my dog on the outskirts of civilization and far from our beloved beach. Needless to say, neither my dog or I were adapting well.
My choice of self imposed exile was rented, a little room at the very back of a hoarder's house filled with generations of junk. Perfect for the pity party I threw myself. I lost my husband, my job, my mom, my best friend, and my home in a short, tragic 24 months. I was tired, broken, hopeless and pissed off.
I stayed longer than I planned because the first year and a half wasn't all that bad. I drank a lot of vodka and slept in. I listened to the landlord's memoirs that captivated me and made me laugh my ass off. He listened to my life story which had been incredible until it wasn't. He endured my sad memories because he had plenty of those himself. We were two old souls who shared a lot of common ground, missed our families, and loved our dogs more than people. We were each other's lifesavers in a sea of emptiness. Our losses had taken their toll, but together we didn't drown. Some days we sunbathed and drank champagne in memory of those we would never love again in this lifetime.
I made us dinner and for exercise, worked my ass off to clean up the home's many years of bachelorhood. That first year cleaning and organizing was my life's mission. Little by little, uncluttering the clutter was my therapy and a way to keep my mind off all the wrongs in the past couple of years.
I loved the landlord like a brother and I trusted him with my life. I never expected us to derail like a train wreck. Then again I never expected an evil toad would take over our living room couch. The froggy guy confiscated our chat room and diabolically destroyed our friendship.
That made me crazy literally. I won't bore you with my two month stay locked down at the funny farm, mainly because it has nothing to do with dog beach and how I came to spend my stress free days there. What is relevant is the after math and my sister's Leigh's part in the drama. She rescued my dog from the landlord and she rescued me from the looney bin 4 weeks later.
To my disappointment she didn't bring my beloved Maverick with her and didn't mention he would be absent at my coming home party. Leigh told me, "Maverick is waiting for you." I couldn't wait for my homecoming with my ride or die. If I hadn't looked like hell, I would have insisted on an Instagram of tail wagging, tears rolling, and wet sloppy dog kisses much like "soldier returns home to best friend" social media posts.
My cowardly sister handled breaking the news of my dog's passing by not handling it at all. Heartless. Cruel. Said nothing, as if it wasn't worth bringing up on the way home. Until I walked through the front door and called out for him. I stood there confused, doped up on these psycho psych meds and asked where he was. My sister wouldn't even look me in the eye, she shot me a pathetic sideways glance of pity. Shook her head and I knew. My whole world crumbled. The lithium the hospital gave me as a going away present, was useless. I could feel deep deep hopelessness. I couldn't breathe. Choking on sobs of disbelief. What the fuck! This had to be a freaking nightmare because no one could deserve this much fuckery. I wanted to wake up in my bed with Maverick curled up against me.
I was inconsolable and mad as hell at whoever was in charge upstairs. "God! How could you? How much loss must I endure to be strong enough for whatever it is you need me to do for you?" I was ranting," You want me to believe that Jesus is carrying me through this shit? Drop my ass NOW! Take back your angels, they aren't helping or protecting me. Kill me now cause you just took away my reason to go on living. You prick bastard!"
I am sure I said a lot more inflamed accusations. Yeah I did curse him, I didn't even say I was sorry. I wanted my baby dammit!
Leigh looked mortified. So I scared her, "You're next bitch."
I loved that fluff ball so much. Maverick was older, but he wasn't old. I never really knew his exact age. My daughter found him at a boatyard or rather he found her. She had noticed him eyeballing her from behind the boats. Chelsea tried to make friends, but he scurried away, afraid and distrusting. She could see this precious little dog was in need of help and a whole lotta love. Her heart was breaking for the abandoned baby when she left the yard.
As her truck pulled out, Chelsea noticed a black and white fur ball chasing after her vehicle at lightening speed. My Angel Girl stopped. The crazy dog ran ahead and plopped himself down in the middle of the highway, blocking her from leaving. The stray had a change of mind apparently. My dog rescuing daughter opened her car door and asked him if he wanted to go for a ride. Chelsea said he cocked his head to the side as if contemplating, then meandered to the side of the truck and sprang into her lap. Maverick loved car rides.
Chelsea called me on her way home, "I have a rescue baby with matted fur and an armor of sticky weed pinwheels from head to tail. Can you help me get him cleaned up?" She already knew my answer and was pulling in my driveway as I hung up the phone.
I asked her, "What if I said no?" She laughed at me, "That would never happen." She knew me best.
For an entire week, I used cream rinse and scissors in sensitive places on this puppy's nemesis - nasty, little, hard, thorny pods. Maverick and I bonded as each painful rock hard sticky thorn was ripped out as gently as possible. Poor little guy must have been on his own for a while. I thought he escaped from an abusive idiot who kicked him because he hated feet, snarled and snapped if your bare foot or shoe came anywhere near him.
The last thing I wanted to do was return him to a cruel owner. I fought my own conscience and reluctantly did the right thing. I advertised in lost and found and left muppy's information at the pound. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, nobody claimed him. I was relieved because I may have already promised him, I'd never let him go.
That was the end of the summer of 2012. Just nine short years ago. I figured Maverick to be one or two, maybe 3 years old when he blessed my life. So this year, he couldn't have been older than 12. He was very healthy, full of life with a jaunty little spring in his step and always eager to go with me everywhere. I had noticed a senior change in him this last spring. It made me think my calculations of his age might be off. My guy's beautiful, silky jet black ears were turning gray on the underside. At the beginning of May, I sheared his winter coat into a cool puppy cut. I sculpted his face hair to match and more gray appeared on his cheeks. He seemed to be napping more than normal but still had an exuberant abundance of energy for his walks and our outings. I really thought I had at the very least three, probably five, and if I was really lucky, a hell of a lot more years with my beloved bestie.
I went into shock that he was really gone. I couldn't blame my sister. More than anything I prayed that my precious baby hadn't died of a broken heart because I was gone for almost two months. No. I decided this was God's twisted irony, we are blessed with furry companions that live a tenth of our lifetimes. It's just not long enough and it's just not fair.
While in the denial state of grief, I came up with a solution. The next perfect puppy I give my heart to, I will clone before he goes. We have the technology but I canned that idea knowing that replacing any dog I love, like I loved Maverick, would be impossible to replicate. And then there's a slim to none chance that I would ever again let another muppy steal my heart.
So I didn't get out of bed for over a good six weeks. I had ghost limb experiences, except my body part was one that always slept between my legs or snuggled up into my ribcage. I swear I thought I could feel Maverick against me, his warmth, his even soothing breathing. I would reach out to scratch his belly for the morning wake up and find the lump under the covers was just the extra down pillow gone South.
Missing him was so painful, I mistook grief for psychosis. Out of the corner of my eye, I would catch movement that was so familiar. I would round a corner and expect to see him, my memory held every detail of our relationship of the last 10 years. Maverick's memory was so engrained, so crystal clear, I could make him materialize right before my eyes in every room. I would pet the air where he loved to be scratched, the middle of his back and all the way down his legs with both hands. Sneaky Leigh caught me saying, "You like that boy?"
I was horrified and so was she. Like a good nurse, she called the doctor and I spent some nights sleeping on the beach to avoid the asylum. I rode my beach cruiser all the way to Ocean Beach for some very sane reasons. I knew Leigh would scour P. B., Jolla and Del Mar for me first since they were closest to her condo.
Dog Beach was 15 miles away and she would never guess I had the stamina to make that trip. I didn't really, I was driven by adrenaline and fear. I also wanted to go to the place Maverick and I had our best times together, wow! Three years ago. Felt like I teleported from that day into the future, only difference was that the bike basket was empty where muppy used to lie down for the trip on his sheepskin blankie. I cried most of the ride, thinking I would have given anything to have him looking up at me right now. And because my thighs were burning and my heart felt like it might pop out of my chest before I made it to the surf. When I did finally arrive at my destination, I collapsed into the sand gratefully.
On day three of my beach front vacation, a police officer gently shook me awake where I lay on the sand using my hoodie as a pillow. He asked me if I was a missing person. There was an APB on a woman that matched my description. I laughed and gave him a fake name. He asked if I was stoned. I told him my eyes were bloodshot because I lost my dog the night before and cried myself to sleep waiting for him to come back. I was going home now to check the lost and founds. I ended with thank you, and he said, "Take care."
As soon the coast was clear. I rode back to my sister's like a maniac, trying to figure out what to do when I got there. "Do I walk in and act like nothing happened and casually announce that she could squelch the missing person's report? Or do I sneak in, brazenly borrow a suitcase, pack my few belongings and slither away while she was at the gym? I would have to count on the back door being left open for that. Piss poor odds on that one.
I needed a better strategy, like telling the truth.
And actually my real excuse for bolting was legitimate. . I left because I was embarrassed. I am a stubborn dumbass who wasn't getting over not having my best friend around to cheer me up. I wasn't even trying. I was holding onto this enormous guilt trip that Maverick didn't die in my arms like I promised him. And every time I walked into Leigh's kitchen and felt the cold, unsympathetic sterile white tile on my soles, I thought that's what he felt when he laid down to die alone and abandoned. It was tearing me up. I was probably a stone's throw away from a full blown breakdown that would have happened if I kept subjecting myself to this lament as part of my daily meltdowns.
When Leigh caught me playing with my imaginary friend, the spirit dog, my embarrassment told me to haul ass before the call went out to the cops. That's all I needed added to my psychiatric history was a schizophrenic label. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there and dog beach just felt right. Sunny Chastisement. I really didn't expect to stay more than an afternoon. I was just having too much fun pouring salt in my wounds as I envied the dog owners enjoying a day with their pets.
I'll say it again, "What I wouldn't give to have had one more day with Maverick in our favorite place." Chasing each other and splashing through the jetty's low tide surf. He ran like a rocket jetting back and forth, daring bigger dogs to catch him. Laughing at the little clown as he feverishly dug next to our beach blanket like a mini tornado, unbelievable amounts of sand flying from between his two back legs into a pile behind him. He was Hellbent on the perfect hole to lie down in the cooler wet sand. He would be so proud of himself, spin a little around the hole and then plop in, tongue out, huge doggie grin on his face.
I didn't cry the whole time. I slept, I gathered a huge pile of shells and made dogs in the sand out of them. I allowed myself to smile as I thought of our best memories. I even laughed a few times because dogs are naturally entertaining and there was a gangbang of them to watch in the perfect seventy five degree summer days. I also appreciated their sensitivity to my emotional state. Dogs are kind. Several plopped down next to me and let me pet them until their owners realized a stranger was monopolizing their doggie time.
And, if I am being totally honest, I might have scared a few of these dog people a little bit when I buried my head in their pets' fur and cried uncontrollably. One lady was kind enough to offer me a tissue and hang out with me for a while. She left kinda abruptly with her cute little Pomeranian though, when I told her that secretly, I was wishing somebody might leave their dog behind for me. As Pom Mom walked away, she was not too nice anymore, "Good luck with that." and moved her beach blanket next to the lifeguard stand. She didn't have to get bitchy about it, I would have been cool if she said, "there's plenty of dogs at the pound who need homes." I would have given her a thumbs up for that. Instead of flipping her off when she turned her back.
Anyways I was sorta glad when the cop woke me up because I didn't want to get a reputation as a dog thief or crazy chick that might claim someone's pet or mistake theirs for the one I lost. That's just creepy. And I was realizing how mean it was to make my sister worry about me and then there was the possibility of not dodging the bullet twice in one day, I didn't want to be put on a 72 hour hold again that could last weeks and handcuffs really hurt. I didn't want to add to my pain.
When I did walk through the door sunburned, dirty, and defensive, my sister couldn't help herself from commenting on my demented appearance. "You look like shit. Your eyes are so red, I can't even see the white anymore." So I said, "I forgot my sunglasses. Mind if I take a shower? and could you please do something about that missing person's report.? " She said, "yeah and you forgot your medication too so be sure to take it please." "Absolutely!" enthusiasm is always appreciated, " and, "Hey, I am very sorry. I'll explain later, ok?"
"You better and no bullsit," she still had that I really hate you pain in the ass glare. "
However when I got out of the shower she was still making eye comments, "Are your allergies flaring up because that's some puffy junk going on there."
"Thank you." I put on my sunglasses and wore them all week, indoors and out. I had to, make up had proven a worthless tool. I got to say, in my sister's defense, she is super nice, just not very kind when a dog is involved. It's because she is dogless and always has been.
We had a poodle growing up. It just wasn't hers. My real dad brought me the puppy when I was two. D'Artagnan, named after one of the very French three musketeers. He would sleep in my bed and my sister was jealous. When she was four and big enough to steal him while I slept, she tiptoed into my room and threw her arms around the unsuspecting dog. Little puffy poodle in his bikini cut instinctually morphed to Monster Guard Dog, stood squarely between me and my "assailant", lips curled back , snarling and barring his sharp teeth. Leigh should have ran back to her room, but no, she threw her arm past my dog to grab my shoulder and shake me because I'm laughing so hard. That itty bitty poodle sunk his teeth right into the fleshy part of her forearm. Leigh screamed, I screamed, the dog let go as mom and dad rushed in and I threw the covers over him. Leigh shoved her arm into Mom's face and said, "That's a wrotten dog!" Her reward for the night's criminal activity was a bruise that turned five different colors of ugly and was huge. She wore it like a purple heart, and made sure to get as much attention and unwarranted sympathy as possible. "A bad doggie bit me, "on cue the crocodile tears would roll as she pointed to her injury. The fibbing sibling conveniently left out that she was kidnapping D'Artagnan at the time. After that she always unfairly called him-Wrotten Dog. That made me lmao.
It's about time I get to the happy ending of this story. I continued the bike trip to OB for exercise and healing. I made a lot of friends mostly four legged fur babies, and a few of their people, once I was having more laughs than tears. Of course sunglasses helped a lot to camouflage occasional relapses of weepy heartache. Although I was more popular with the big dogs when they could lick the salt from my cheeks, I made up for that with lengthy butt scratching and tummy rubs. And, my secret weapon - organic turkey meat. Bribery always wins dogs over and it's a great way to meet cute guys. They have to come over to you when their dogs won't leave. Harmlessly deviant, I swear. And besides I am doing a lot of good with the turkey trick. I have saved countless dogs' lives by informing their owners about the cancer causing sodium nitrate found in hot dogs, processed sandwich meat, and beef jerky. People that really love their dogs, really do listen, probably because they are the same people that are giving their babies this people food as rewards.
When I am not being the OB dog whisper, I have been doing something that is very constructive, very peaceful. I have been pouring out all my wretched emotion on the pages of a journal. I wrote a couple new country ballads of love lost and cheating men that I know would make the dogs howl.
Life is pretty good. You're probably wondering if I've gotten a dog yet. No but I probably should, it would be good for my health. It is a published fact that petting your dog relieves stress. According to the American Heart Association, dog owners are 54% more likely to be active and exercise, than those who don't have a furry side kick. Many dog owners see a decrease in blood-pressure, making them less at risk for heart-disease. I always knew, dogs are good for your heart and soul.
Dogs are calming and they are loyal, constant companions. Dog owners are generally less stressed, have less anxiety and don't get depressed as people who don't have the love of a dog in their life. Dogs are great wingmen too, natural conversation starters making social interaction even for the shy guys, a walk in the park. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to engage in fulfilling relationships with people that make you happy. Happy Dogs and Happy Owners!
Oh wait, I almost forgot to mention the must do stress relieving moment of all. I always save the best for last. My favorite part of a Zen filled day in Ocean Beach is the end of the day. I can't think of anything more peaceful than to watch the sky filling with fluorescent orange and pink clouds that float inland as the sun begins its descent in the west. Surfers riding in on their last waves. All the dogs snuggled next to their owners, worn out from beach play. The soft strum of an acoustic guitar often serenades the gulls as they pillage for leftover lunches and half empty chip bags. The glorious conclusion of a day well spent. On dog days in Ocean Beach doing nothing is never boring, it is peace, satisfaction, and happiness. I relish each and every moment, every dog and dog person who grace the shores of dog days in Ocean Beach. They are the best.