My mother loves dogs. Ever since her parents bought her a toy dog instead of a real puppy, something changed somewhere in the depths of the universe. She rescued our first dog when I was six, discovered a whole new community at a dog park, founded a kennel and began to go to dog shows with the same excitement as others go on vacation.
After 25 years, dogs are more than just karma for her. They are a gravitational anomaly.
Mom came to visit me a couple of weeks ago with a promise of taking her to a Japanese Chin Specialty show and to California. She only other time she’d been to Cali was also to a chin show in Del Mar and it turned out that she’d never actually seen the Pacific Ocean.
So it was time.
On the morning of our trip, the temps dropped 15 degrees and the winds kicked up dust storms in the desert. We set out for Oceanside but half-way there we discovered that mom had never been to downtown LA, so we turned onto I-10 and prepared to battle the traffic. An hour later she was documenting skyscrapers, street signs and just weird people on the streets with her little camera and preparing to post her findings on Facebook at the first opportunity.
By the time we made it to Newport Beach, it was late afternoon. My foot was falling asleep from driving all that time, and we took the first exit to the beach that we came across. When we parked, we saw a sign that said, “Entrance to Dog Beach.”
The wind was so strong sand was flying everywhere. That didn’t stop my mother. Wrapped in a fleece jacket and armed with a camera, she joined determined Californians clutching their dogs to their chests and headed straight into the wind for her first beach experience.
A couple of hours later, the weather had calmed down some, or maybe sun just like Oceanside better. We stopped at my favorite marina for a meal with a view of sailboats and sunset and skinny palm trees. I was telling mom about oysters and whine that we had with friends here recently when I noticed that her attention was glued to something on the lawn by the marina.
“Are those service dogs?” she asked.
Sure enough, several German Shepherds and a few Boxers were learning basic commands from guys in Camp Pendleton t-shirts. Mom pulled her camera out and documented the dogs, their owners, and the service vests that the dogs were sporting.
The next day, after a morning in Old Town San Diego and a few hours at the zoo, it was time to start heading home. But it was sunny and warm and impossible to leave, so we decided to drive north of Highway 1 through beach cities and to have a little more time with the ocean.
In Del Mar, the azure water and a sprawling sandy beach were irresistible, so we parked by the curb and realized that we are at a … dog beach.
Dozens of dogs of all sizes were racing though shallow waters, chasing balls and each other. A pair of Jack Russell terriers hit the waves to fetch a stick and then couldn’t decide who should bring it back. A giant husky on a chain was watching all this with a tortured look on his face. I guess socialization wasn’t in the cards for him that day.
Mom was standing in the middle of this quintessential California experience, soaking it all in and not even taking photos. Packs of happy dogs galloped past her, showering her with wet sand. Pelicans soared above. The ocean kept rolling its waves, closer and closer to her. Then she took out her camera and started shooting a 360-degree panorama of our last beach. Completely content, she said, “I guess they only got dog beaches in California.”