The Adventures of Skylar Grey

Chapter 12: Beach baby

Skylar and Hula Girl at Crissy Field (photo: erica ramos)

Beach baby, Beach Baby give me your hand
Give me somethin’ that I can remember
Just like before we can walk by the shore in
the moonlight
Beach baby, Beach baby there on the sand
From July ’till the end of September
Surfin’ was fun, we’d be out in the sun every day

— “Beach Baby,” by The First Class

Jazzy never had any interest in fetching unless I threw her toy in the ocean. She swam like a champ, using her tail as a rudder to keep her big butt from sinking below the surface. People were always amused: “I didn’t think pit bulls liked to swim,” they’d say. I don’t know where that idea came from because most that I’ve known love it. OK, some may not, but I know quite a few Labs and golden retrievers that don’t care for swimming, either.

One of my first road trips with Skylar was a visit to Santa Rosa to meet her uncle Johnny and cousin Abe, another great pit bull mix and one of my favorite foster dogs of all time. Johnny likes to say it was an arranged marriage. I invited him to my house in San Francisco for a long weekend and let Abe sleep with him. By the end of the weekend, he was in love. No surprise — Abe was incredibly sweet and perhaps the most balanced dog I’ve ever known. He loved everyone and everything and had an easygoing temperament that matched Johnny’s. It was a match made in arranged marriage heaven, if I do say so myself.

That weekend in Santa Rosa, we took the dogs to the Russian River with some friends on a hot summer day. Skylar, just a few months old then, dove in without hesitation, and began swimming in circles like a little motorboat around the rest of us as we stood waist deep in the water. So when she was a little older and a little bigger, I decided it was time for her inaugural trip to the sea.

The first time I took Jazzy to Ocean Beach the sound of the waves scared her; she crouched under a huge log and wouldn’t budge. It took me an hour to coax her out. I chalked it up to those first six months spent in her previous owner’s backyard with little to no experience outside of it, but after several more outings, she learned quickly how much fun surfing in on a big wave with a pink rubber chicken in her mouth could be.

Sky, usually shy and afraid of many things at first, couldn’t wait to get out of the car at Crissy Field. Her big green eyes bugged out when she saw the water, the sand, and all those potential four-legged friends. She started whining because I wasn’t walking fast enough, so I told her to go ahead. Next thing I knew she was in the middle of a pack of dogs, swimming alongside to “help” them get their tennis balls. As much fun as she was having, Sky always checked in to make sure I was still there, and as I headed down the beach, she left her new friends and followed me. “What’s this?” I asked, waving her favorite Kong Water Wubba. I threw the Wubba out as far as I could, and she did a giant belly flop into the sea. For a second she disappeared completely, then I saw her little blockhead bob up, the purple Wubba firmly between her teeth.

Going to Crissy Field became a morning ritual, and Skylar began to make friends. She particularly liked Charlie, a female chocolate Lab about six months older who enjoyed a good hole in the sand as much as Sky did. One would hunker down in the hole and bark at the other as if to say, “Hey, come check this out! It’s the only hole on the beach and it’s all ours!” Charlie and Sky also got some laughs riding the waves together while they each held one end of a toy all the way to shore. Inevitably Sky would get the toy from Charlie, tuck her butt under, and take off with a serious case of the zoomies, periodically turning her head to make sure Charlie was right behind her. Sometimes Sky was like the Pied Piper with five or six dogs joining in the chase, which she loved.

That’s how she met Hula Girl, a rescued pointer mix, whose mom, Erika, is a professional photographer. Since then, Erika has done some work for the Marina Times, and we’ve had several doggy play dates. I guess making friends at the beach hasn’t gone to the dogs after all.

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