Dog Beach in Grief.

Dog walking is a funny thing because it throws complete strangers together and builds a community. That’s not necessarily through design but more by chance, serendipity or just meant to be. There are those you connect with better than others or see more often and you’re no longer just two strangers whose dogs both happen to sniff a pole at the same time.

Fortunately, we have a section of our local beach where dogs are not only permitted to legally leave their paw prints in the sand, but they can even run off the lead and be “free”. While I might actually equate such freedom with running full pelt along the sand, especially in pursuit of a ball, the dogs often have other ideas. More often than not, they’re more interested in sniffing. Sniffing the sand and and clumps of desiccated seaweed for doggy scents and, of course, sniffing each others’ you-know-whats.

Welcome to: “Dog Beach”.

A few of the characters at Dog Beach.

A few of the characters at Dog Beach.

As most of us humans are creatures of habit, I usually see pretty much the same dog walkers every day. So, we get to know each other and our dog walking community even boasts a few romances and I’ve celebrated a birthday or two down there. Indeed, I see and speak to these people more than my closest, long term friends I’ve known forever. So, in a sense, we’ve built up that sense of family, even though we might not know each other beyond the beach and our dogs.

Somehow, the dogs and I developed quite an affinity with Spitz and his Dad. Spitz is an effervescent pup and Dog Beach’s resident extrovert and live wire. Always trying to be everyone’s friend, the older and more mature dogs didn’t always appreciate his puppyish zest for life. They’d sort of look at him a bit like how we’d look at our human kids as if to say: “Why can’t you just sit still and not run around all over the place?!!” Yet, Spitz was not deterred. He went back and tried to befriend the big old dogs, as though it was some kind of challenge. “If I keep trying, I know you’re going to like me because I’m simply irresistible!”

Gorgeous little Spitz!

Gorgeous little Spitz!

When it comes to breeds, we were never really quite sure what Spitz was. He was supposedly Jack Russell x German Spitz but it certainly looked like a terrier had got
in on the action.

My kids threw Spitz a stick a few weeks back...more of a branch.

My kids threw Spitz a stick a few weeks back…more of a branch.

Spitz and Lady had quite a thing going. Spitz loved kissing Lady all over her face but at times I could see she was only just tolerating it. She’d have this haughty look as if to say she was too well-bred for all of that…a “Lady” after all. At the same time, Lady liked hanging around Spitz, possibly because his Dad had a bag full of dog food in his pocket. For some reason, Spitz wouldn’t eat breakfast before his walk but would then become peckish. Lady, knowing full well how to turn on those huge puppy dog eyes, would sit next to Spitz and stare up at his Dad so lovingly, that Spitz was forced to “learn how to share”. Of course, he wasn’t always happy about his older girlfriend getting his food but Lady was soon forgiven and there would be more kisses.

Spitz wasn't daunted by that mighty challenge.

Spitz wasn’t daunted by that mighty challenge.

This morning, I’d been helping out at the school and we arrived at Dog Beach later than usual. I couldn’t see any of the usual dog walkers and was a bit disappointed to miss them again. I’ve been late other days this week and we haven’t caught up.

Roadworks at the Beach

Roadworks at the Beach

Moreover, things are also quite problematic at Dog Beach at the moment. Now that council is trying to repair the severe sand erosion from the recent storm, Dog Beach is looking more and more like a scene out of Bob the Builder, or a children’s sand pit which has become enchanted, coming to life. What with all the bulldozers, diggers and ginormous trucks digging up the sand making sandbags to save the road from total collapse, the beach has morphed into a construction site. There are roadworks signs, Keep Out and with all that heavy machinery around dogs off the leash, it’s a case of “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”

This, of course, means that the dog walkers have become somewhat displaced. Given the beach works and being late, I wasn’t really surprised no one else was there and we actually ended up walking the opposite direction today, as the point was blocked off.

I was also trying out this new dog ball throwing gizmo and the ball was really flying along the beach. So much so, that you’d almost think there was a motor inside. The ball was going about 4 times further than my usual feeble throws and while I was amazed, the dogs were thrilled. They were off and running…especially Bilbo!! He just LOVES chasing that ball!!

Indeed, my throws were so good that I thought I might apply for a position with the Australian Cricket Team. I’ve heard they’re looking for a few new players after recent performances (or lack thereof!!)

Bilbo with his ball. Actually, that's another dog's ball. Humph! Just call him obsessed!

Bilbo with his ball. Actually, that’s another dog’s ball. Humph! Just call him obsessed!

Anyway, as we were heading back to the car, I noticed a lone figure sitting on the rocks in the distance. I’d thought it was Spitz’s Dad but couldn’t see Spitz and wasn’t sure. The sky was grey. The sea was a darker shade of grey. It was threatening rain. Way off in the distance, you could just make out Palm Beach Lighthouse perched upon the headland on the other side of Broken Bay.

As the figure walked closer, I could see that it was Spitz’s Dad but there was definitely no Spitz. That was very odd. Spitz is always bouncing around at the beach wanting to play, looking for treats and keen to catch up with Lady and shower her in kisses.

“Where’s Spitz?” I asked.

I certainly wasn’t expecting the response.

Spitz had died.

I was in shock. Totally numb.

Recently, I’d reflected that some of these dogs are getting older. I mean, Bilbo is almost 9 and there is a cluster of older dogs at the beach who I’m very fond of and it hit me that it’s going to be hard when they go. I pat and talk to them along with their owners virtually every week day and you form a bond. That sense of community, family. You care. Some of the dog walkers have become exceptionally good friends. I am relatively new there but there are people who have been walking their dogs there every day for more than ten, fifteen years and you do put down roots and make connections in that time.

However, I’d never thought in a million years that we would suddenly lose Spitz. Not Spitz. He was only 9 months old…still a pup!

With all his friendly exuberance and being such a character dog, I was very smitten by Spitz. He’d found a place in my heart as well as my imagination, joining the many dog characters I’ve created and written about over the years. I’d only known him for a few months and I’d never even considered whether this was the beginning, middle or end. After all, Act I isn’t supposed to suddenly skip to Act IV…especially for one so young and bursting with beans.

It is looking like Spitz was poisoned. Most likely accidentally but nevertheless, such a tragedy…especially for such a young dog. He was only 9 months old and had barely wet his paws. While he wasn’t my dog, I’ll still miss him terribly and I know the other dog walkers will feel the same. That’s what it means to be part of a community. You share each others’ joy but you also share each others’ grief.

I remember the dreadful silence at home after my last dog, Rufus died. You just get used to that clatter of claws on the floorboards behind you and no person can ever give you such unbridled, unconditional love than your dog. I still remember how that emptiness echoed and within a week we had bought Bilbo as a pup. When you are a dog person at heart, it’s like part of you ceases to exist if you haven’t got a dog. There’s a dog-shaped hole in your heart. I make no apologies for that. I love my dogs…and I also loved Spitzy. I hope he has found some other fun loving, energetic dogs to run around with in heaven and he’s still making the old dogs feel tired just watching him run. He might even have found another Lady and a bottomless pocket of treats.

We will miss you Spitz!

Love, Rowena, the kids, Bilbo and Lady xxoo

25 thoughts on “Dog Beach in Grief.

  1. New Journey

    Wow wasn’t expecting that for an ending…I too love dogs and with a 12 year old on her last days hopefully years it really touched me….Spitz was such a cutie…I am so sorry for him and his owner..,,love the pictures of the beach…..are they ever going to finish working on yours…???

  2. merrildsmith

    Oh gosh–he was only 9 months old? That’s extra sad. It’s always so sad to lose a pet–dogs and cats, too, become family members–and friends, too, as your lovely post shows.

  3. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Geoff. Spitz was such a fantastic dog and really interacted with everyone, both human and canine, at the beach. He’ll really be missed and his Dad is guttered. Don’t your pets just find a spot in your heart that a person never could!! xx Ro

  4. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Merril. The beach is going to be much more quiet without him and the older dogs will be able to sit in peace, which isn’t really such a good thing. We all need a bit of that youthful exuberance to get us moving! xx Ro

  5. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Laurie. I really tried to get it all out there onto the screen (a surrogate for the page) and because most of readers would be from overseas and not even local, I had to factor that into the story as well.
    It’s really reminded me yet again of the fragility of life. That is a sense day seems to follow day and then for some it suddenly stops. We re-think what happened as though somehow it’s going to bring them back but they’re gone. There is no rewind and that’s so hard to grasp at times..and so sad, especially in the young xx Rowena

  6. roweeee Post author

    Thanks so much, Monika. I was thinking of you as I wrote it. Spitz was a bit of dog therapy for me every morning. The kids and I aren’t morning people and it’s a strain to get out the door so by the time I’ve dropped the kids at school and finally make it to the beach with the dogs, I am often in need of a pick-me-up. Yes, I’ll really miss my little fur-friend! xx Ro

  7. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Kathy. I know what you means about having an elderly dog on their last legs. We actually thought Bilbo was there last year. He is not far off turning 9 now but before we got Lady, he was struggling to move and was quite overweight. I started walking him more and taking him to the beach and he is now a running billboard of incredible fitness. He’s now slim and able to climb up on my lap (Border Collies really are too big to be lap dogs but Bilbo hasn’t read the manual.) He’s also quite impressive chasing that ball at the beach. He looks like a pro and really gets up some speed. I am hoping that this new lease of life will give him a few more years. We’d basically bought Lady expecting the worst.
    They are now filling up sandbags at the beach. Who knows how long this is going to take but I’d give it another couple of months. The road is closed to non-residential traffic and everything xx Rowena

  8. roweeee Post author

    That’s such a beautifully comforting image, Monika. I can see him doing just that…and running backwards and forwards as well. Thanks! xx Rowena

  9. crocheticknits

    Aww poor Spitzy! What a sad but lovely post. Although he may only have had 9 months of life it sounds as if his life was full of love, enjoyment and adoration – what more could you ask for in life.

    I have to say though that that is my worst nightmare, the dogs being gone. I don’t know how I will cope when it happens, yes they are only babies really in the grand scheme of things but I still worry about it!

  10. Ian

    Thanks to all the friends who have paid tribute to my lovely companion and friend
    Rowena special thanks for such a moving tribute.
    I miss him terribly it hurts.
    I have buried him in a special place in garden and light a candle for him every evening
    Thanks to you all
    Spitz. Dad

  11. roweeee Post author

    We have a connection with our pets that defies explanation and is so intense and precious that while in the overall scheme of things, our pets may not seem significant and yet they are. They mean the world. Lady is quite the scallywag and has crossed busy roads while looking for rabbits and was literally picked up off the road and deposited at the vets. I was walking her at the time and she literally vanished from right under my nose. I was very confused until he vet called. She’s also eaten a wild rabbit which could have been poisoned but was lucky and yet Spitz was unlikely. I find that sort of thing a bit hard to process and understand. The odds can all be in your favour and yet your number still comes up. I guess that’s why we have to make the most of each day and treasure what we have xx Rowena

  12. roweeee Post author

    You’re more than welcome, Ian. Maybe we could get a few of us together on sunset one night and light candles for him. I’m sure the other dog walkers down there are just as shocked and sad and myself, although I have had a particular fondness for Spitz. He had more energy than all the other dogs put together and it’s just so hard to comprehend what has happened. That said, it is also comforting that even people you’ve never met or had contact with care and offer their condolences. xx Rowena

  13. Clowie

    It’s very sad to lose a friend so young. That must have been a shock for his person.
    The phtoographs of the beach are lovely and I can see some serious sniffing going on. I hope the work they’re doing doesn’t spoil the beach.

  14. New Journey

    Hello, glad to hear your border is doing well, Chika has hip dysplasia, she had it when I got her, she loves to run for the Frisbee but we have I t down to a toss of about 2 feet now…she is on rymadil for inflammation and takes that daily and has a pain pill incase the arthritis kicks in…we also cut back on the food, as the extra weight is hard on joints..don’t I know it…LOL my husband has always said no more dogs but he is wondering what he is going to do when we loose Chika…I keep mentioning another rescue but he hasn’t given in yet…LOL time will tell…we are on the Oregon coast and it is windy, but sunny and no smoke…Yeah!!!! ..

  15. roweeee Post author

    Kath, looks like you’ve been having quite a few bush fires over your way. Hope you’re okay.
    Sorry to hear Chika has hip dysplasia. That seems nasty. I had thought Bilbo was having troubles as he wasn’t very mobile before his weight loss. He really did look like he was fading and was having joint troubles. I was watching him at the beach this morning while throwing the ball and he’s now taking off like an athlete. There’s been such a radical change. He could be an inspiration to us humans. I really didn’t think he could lose that much weight.
    Spitz’s Dad and I were discussing new dogs and options today and having those conversations. One of the dog walkers there has had three OLd English Sheepdogs in a row and no one ever accuses him of replacing the last one with a younger model or substituting the new dog for the old. You’d never get away with that with human partners. After our last dog died, we only lasted a week before we bought Bilbo as a pup and during that time, the silence and emptiness was awful…even though the house was bursting with humans and kid noise. I keep coming back to the thing that dogs connect with us in a way that humans mostly do not. Perhaps, it’s just their undying devotion and that we can do no wrong, which certainly isn’t true of people! xx Rowena

  16. roweeee Post author

    It has been a huge shock for his human who is a very kind-hearted bloke. I was very pleased I’d taken the photos of Spitz and was able to give them to Ian and to have them for myself as well. I really loved seeing Spitz every morning. He was so bright and animated!!
    The sandbags are now rising on the beach. I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out but they’re certainly working hard at it xx Rowena

  17. New Journey

    Yes CHika would be better with some weight off, she is 55# and the vet said 7-10#’s would be great t get off her, but she can’t and has never been able to walk very far….she goes about 1/4 of a mile and lays down, finished, so we are cutting back her food….she is a wonderful traveling dog…I can’t imagine a day without a dog….like I said time will tell……how your friend finds a puppy to love, I am sure it will help with the pain…and yes seems the western states are on fire….pretty sad…I am glad we are on the coast, really messed up our vacation plans but you can never go wrong with the ocean…..happy weekend to you….and yours….pull the dogs tails for me…LOL your friend….kathyxx

  18. maxwellthedog

    Even under the best case our dogs are with us so short a time. To lose a loved pup prematurely is so sad. But they pack a lot of joy and living into every moment and their lives were full and happy ,if only briefly.

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