It was a big decision for me and Rodney to come to the beach this year without the dogs. Since Sadie has been my dog the last 13 years, I have only been to the beach once without her and that was the first year she came to be my puppy. We quit coming to Kiawah after that because there were very few dog friendly properties and none of them were ocean front which was our one non-negotiable requirement. Rusty has not been to the beach with us yet, but when two dogs are so much a part of your life, it’s difficult to not think of them constantly when away. I know they are safe and well taken care of…I miss them…it brings back memories of when we first took Sadie to the beach yesterday…but it was actually a dozen years ago.
We’ve had some changes and challenges lately and wanted to celebrate our anniversary the way it all began for us…just the two of us on our first beach trip. So it was a difficult decision, but we agreed together and here we are…dogless at the beach.
When it became apparent 12 years ago that Sadie would be part of all our beach trips, we started travelling to new beaches, mostly in North Carolina which seemed more dog-friendly and we began staying in quite different accommodations than we’d been used to as a single couple. Rodney and I weren’t used to sparing any expense on vacation. We began saving money every January for our fall vacation. That was our one time a year for us to spurge, live on the beach for a week in a condo we couldn’t afford to own…but for a week, it was ours and we enjoyed it.
Beautiful kitchens, walk-in closets that swallowed up the few clothes we’d bring for a week, numerous televisions because we rarely wanted to watch the same thing, and most of all…big balconies on the ocean where we would spend hours looking up the beach…and down the beach. Except for one run down condo one year that we chose to put clean sheets over all the furniture and tough it out because we loved the view, we were used to living in very nice luxury that one week a year.
So we made our first dog friendly reservation and took off to Oak Island, North Carolina. We’d found a small house right on the beach with a back yard, a large porch facing the ocean on the first floor and another deck facing the ocean on the top floor. And they not only allowed dogs, the owners LOVED dogs.
We found our little wooden house and just stood and looked at it. This was no luxury hi-rise like we’d been used to. Sadie whined and barked from the back seat of the convertible while Rodney and I looked for an elevator that didn’t exist. Oh well, maybe the steps weren’t so steep and we began to lug our stuff up the steps to the door at the top where there was an outside light hanging on two wires, Funny, neither of us said a word after a quick glance at each other, and Rodney unlocked the door and we went in.
There was a nice welcome gift on the wooden kitchen table for Sadie with gourmet treats from a local pet shop, a water Frisbee, a beach towel, and three tennis balls. She was happy to nose through the basket and began playing with one of the balls. We looked for the basket we were used to getting with a nice bottle of wine, cheese, crackers and fruit…it was not there.
The kitchen was small…no fancy appliances…no icemaker…no breakfast bar. Just clean and neat and serviceable. On the floor were two new dog bowls welcoming Sadie. As we proceeded to the living room the furniture was older and obviously has seen many ocean guests. There was one television and one in the master bedroom.
The tour didn’t get much better. Upstairs wasn’t much better with one room full of bunk beds and one with a sagging double bed and an old TV. Two very small standard bathrooms…no Jacuzzi…no steam shower…no walk in closet. As Rodney and I toured the house without speaking, I was thinking “how will I stay here a week,” I believe he was thinking, “how will I control both televisions to see all the football games,” and Sadie was running around in absolute delight.
We walked out on the porch and the view was amazing. We were right on the ocean…just down a few steps…out through the path in the back yard which joined the walk to the beach boardwalk. As Sadie was tugging and whining on her leash, I kicked my shoes off and ran down the steps with her, over the path, and to the beach.
Sadie was furiously sniffing the sand and I was watching the blue/green waves crashing on the shore when it happened. Sadie stopped moving and she stopped sniffing. She walked very slowly to the edge of the water and she sat down facing the ocean. She just sat and looked for what seemed the longest time. She turned and ran to me jumping up and down, twirling around, standing on her hind legs and pawing me. Obviously, Sadie loved the ocean as we did.
A few seagulls landed by us and she was startled and hid behind my legs. A group of long- legged sandpipers came leisurely past us and Sadie was immediately on ready alert. She paused and began slowly following them…then she looked at me and I nodded my head and she was off. This was her first bird chase and for a new Dog Mom…it was a moment of pride and wonder I will never forget.
After chasing more birds, gathering a few shells, we returned to our beach house and met Rodney on the back porch binoculars in hand. He had been watching us. Sadie ran joyfully up to him wriggling as she did when excited to “tell” him all about it. Then she went and took a long drink from the bowl of water he’d placed on the deck for her
We didn’t say anything, but stood with our arms around each other looking at the lovely beach as the sun sank lower. Sadie soon joined us laying across our feet and left out a contented sigh. We looked at each other and just knew…we were a family now and this is how it should be. Transitions happen in life sometimes so naturally and quietly that you just know that you have moved on to a different phase of life and it is a good thing No one should be left behind unless absolutely necessary. We needed to be together…where there was room for all of us and all of us were welcome. As for the television battle, Sadie and I discovered a very dog friendly town where we could shop together which in all the world sure is better than football!
Later this year, four of us will be back here at Kiawah. Rusty will share his wonder of the beach with us and we will again feel that transition that we are four who must be together. Accommodations that welcome dogs have changed so that when we come back we will have all those creature comforts we gave up for many years to have Sadie with us. But we will never give up these precious living creatures that are our fur children. Looking back…it’s been a great journey together…leaving behind…yes…some things in life will be left behind as time goes on, but I am not ready for that…not now.