Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CELEBRATING CANINE COMPANIONSHIP ON THE BEACH


            Each year, thousands of visitors find their way to ocean-side vacation spots on Oregon’s coast, and for a host of very good reasons. To name just a few, the relatively warm waters of the Pacific, magnificent sunsets, wide sandy beaches, miles of gorgeous breaking surf, and predictably good dining are a given. On top of all that, the State of Oregon had the foresight and courage years ago, to declare that access to the ocean belonged to all the people, and could not be contravened by any other interest. It is a matter of law. From the northern corner to the southernmost border, people, PEOPLE own the places where the land meets the sea. As a New England Yankee, who considers the rocky shores of Maine my home, I especially appreciate this matter of guaranteed access, because it would seem a remarkable concept to my east coast family members.
            There is yet another local charm that keeps us coming back to our Oregon coastal haunts each year. The places we love – Cannon Beach, Manzanita and Seaside at the top of our list - are the most “dog-friendly” communities I know of anywhere. Not just because they say so, but because the fact of it is so visually self-evident. In no other community that I know of can we count on seeing so many canine varieties, and such an abundance of human-canine companionship on display as on Hemlock Street (the main drag) of Cannon Beach. In fact it has become our much-anticipated practice to sit on a sheltered bench in front of our favorite ice cream store and watch people and their dogs – or more properly dogs and their people - stroll by, or stop to sit beside us.
            We see the “small dog” people, with their Bichons, Scotties, Chihuahuas, mini-Poodles, Terriers, Spaniels, Pugs, Shih Tzus and a myriad of mixes, and the “big dog” folks with their Great Danes, Pyrenees, Retrievers, Short Hairs, Samoyeds, Shepherds and ‘Berners’, and now and then if we’re lucky, a rare Shiba Inu or an Akita.  Often, we strike up a conversation with the walkers, and – if approved - with their four-footed companions. Invariably our approach is both welcomed and memorable; Cannon Beach dogs and their owners are altogether the most socially-habituated segment of vacation society imaginable, and it is obvious that the canines we meet here are the luckiest of domestic creatures to be paired with owners who take their companionship seriously.
            Any time we walk the beach, we know we will see lots of dogs, playing in the surf, showing off with impossible Frisbee performances, and just socializing with people and other dogs. (Because of a personal bias, we especially seize opportunities to shake hands with Golden Retrievers and their lucky owners.)
            Often in our wanderings we see family groups, and the dynamics we observe going on between parents, children, siblings and pets tends to restore our confidence that America still is a pretty good place, and we are reminded of the wisdom of one writer who observed “dogs are miracles with paws”. 


A good place to meet canine visitors at Cannon Beach is a store known as “Puppy  Love By the Sea” where owners bring their pets to pick out their own toys.

Visitors from Germany head toward a sidewalk cafĂ© with their two Golden Retrievers.  

A couple visiting from Portland pause for a rest with their 100 pound Bernese Mountain dog, and their 100 pound Bernese/Golden Retriever mix.

Proud of her colorful beachwear, a Poodle/Bichon mix puppy waits to pick out a gift in “Puppy Love”.  
Photos by Al Cooper