Carmel beach is a delight; there’s no doubt about it. Even an overcast day is, well, a day at the beach. White sand, fresh air, soothing sounds of crashing waves and muted laughter all bring the world into simpler terms. And then, there are the dogs. The glorious dogs!
Here on this one-mile stretch of sand, pups are permitted to run off leash so long as they’re well-behaved and obey voice commands. It wasn’t until I adopted a dog that I started frequenting the beach more often and got to know the regulars— the dogs, that is. I know many dogs’ names, while I only know the humans as “lil’ joe’s dad” or “gizmo’s mom” and they know me as “kevin’s mom.”
It’s no joke that my dog has a far more active social life than I do—he regularly goes to the beach with his pal reginald barclay, aka “reggie,” and meets up with several of the old guard, so to speak. Watching them recognize and greet one another is amusing. Some have grown up together. Some have met their friends’ predecessors and replacements. Some have forged friendships between their humans. And all have put smiles on the faces of countless locals and visitors.
“He thinks he’s the mayor of carmel beach,” says karl of his friendly black-and-white french bulldog bugsy who has what he describes as having, “a face only a mother could love.”
I don’t have the heart to tell him that Jim’s caramel colored Chihuahua-Terrier mix Reggie also thinks he’s mayor of Carmel Beach, as does Koa, the sociable bird-chasing short grey Boxer Terrier mix. I have to give it to Bugsy, though. He’s been a regular since before the other two were even born and is on the beach every single day, greeting his public.
“He’s well known and carries himself with a mayoral walk,” says Karl, adding, “He should have a seat on the City Council.” Bugsy gleefully greets all dogs and people in his path, and is known for his signature play move—the butt tap—wherein he forcefully throws his beefy hind quarter against another dog to scoot them along.
Old-timer Dixie, a Chow Chow and Australian Shepherd mix, and her “brother” Elmo frequent the beach at least four times a week, and each has their signature move too. Five-year-old Border Collie mix Elmo loves to jump to catch his Frisbee with a flourish. And at 13, Dixie prefers to greet people and check their pockets for treats.
“Dixie loves seeing Valentino’s dad, Michael. She can spot him from miles away,” says their mom Lisa, adding, “If she catches him in time, he’ll have a treat for her.”
Michael, who’s also at the beach every evening with his Chihuahua-Dachshund mix Valentino, has lots of canine followers—literal followers who run to his feet and offer up their best treat-seeking tricks and pleading eyes with high hopes.
Similarly, Bode’s mom Susan has her share of four-legged friends. “I have more dog friends than he does because of the treats I carry, and he’s very good about sharing them,” she says. “His greatest joy is finding someone who’ll throw the ball for him.”
I actually met Bode before I met Susan, when he dropped his ball at my feet and nudged it toward me with his nose. The two-year-old small black, grey and white mixed breed SPCA rescue is full of personality.
“Most people seem to take great delight in humoring him. He gets along well with other dogs, but much prefers humans,” says Susan.
Daisy also prefers to befriend people, and greets them at eye-level while riding on her dad Stacy’s shoulders. The short legged Puddin Jack Russell Terrier is enamored of people, and is now training her lookalike sister, 4-month-old Bailey, who follows her every move as they run along the beach, far faster than you’d expect their little legs to carry them.
Quite a few of the regulars come in pairs, including Jetson and Apollo, two sleek and swift Italian Greyhounds who engage in spectacular circular races, often collecting other dogs along the way.
“Carmel Beach is a wonderful place to be free and run like the wind with other dogs of all breeds,” says their dad Aaron.
Reggie loves to join in, running alongside the racing dogs, whether they notice he’s involved or not. For Reggie’s dad Jim, the most rewarding part about taking him to Carmel Beach is “his big smile.” Indeed, many of the dogs on the beach visibly smile, in turn eliciting human smiles and chuckles.
One of the broadest doggy smiles belongs to Tansy, a black-and-white short-hair mixed breed with perky ears. An Animal Friends Rescue Project adoptee, Tansy is all about her toys.
“She has little time for anything or anyone else when she’s focused on playing catch,” says her dad Eric.
Also focused on toys above all else is newcomer Abu, a 5-year-old energetic English Bulldog who goes to the beach a minimum of twice daily, and loves to chase after sticks, balls and Frisbees— whether they’re his or not. Abu’s charm and obedience keep him out of any scrapes.
Keeping a close eye and a tight tooth on his orange ball is Ziggy, a beige-and-white Australian Labradoodle whose broad smile is still prominent even as he’s holding the ball in his mouth.
“His favorite thing to do is run after another dog with it in his mouth, proud as can be,” says Ziggy’s mom Katy, who brings the bouncy teddy bear-like pup to the beach no fewer than three times each week, rain or shine, even as a parttime resident.
“Ziggy makes friends all the time at the beach,” says Katy, “from Great Danes to little Terriers.”
Another teddy bear, Gizmo, is also a friend to all. The five-pound, frequently clothed, Yorkshire Terrier walks the full length of the beach and back daily, and has come to know everyone.
It’s this effortless cooperation between so many dogs, large and small, that makes Carmel Beach so magical. Watching my clumsy Chihuahua Kevin try to run alongside the likes of Atlas, a majestic and graceful Rhodesian Ridgeback, is funny. Observing the young German Shepherd Tyla as she contains her energy to slow her leaps and peacefully places her paws flat on the sand, crouching down softly to greet smaller dogs, is beautiful.
And watching the most energetic and entertaining of them all, Lil’ Joe, is worth the price of admission. With his long black curls glistening in the sun, the Cockapoo jumps, rolls, lies on his back, and otherwise mugs for his audience. No matter how many times Lil’ Joe passes the same dog or same person on his daily patrol, he greets each one all over again with the enthusiasm of a long-lost friend, and he makes every single one glad they came.
For information on adopting or fostering a dog or other animal, contact Animal Friends Rescue Project (AFRP) at www.animalfriendsrescue. org or The SPCA for Monterey County at www.spcamc.org.