You view the world differently once you have a dog. On a sunny day, instead of thinking, “What can I do?” you think, “What can we do?”
TurtleWhen I adopted Jasmine Blue in September 2006, she was four months old. She spent the beginning of her life in a Hayward backyard, with brief stints at the shelter and two foster homes. When I brought her to San Francisco, she had no idea what furniture was (that has changed), or “people food” (that has also changed), and, to my amazement, the ocean scared her to death.
Our first visit to Ocean Beach, which I thought would be an amazing experience, was a nightmare – she cringed every time a wave crashed on the shore, and tried to hide under an old cement block jutting from the sand. On subsequent visits she got used to the crashing waves, but still had absolutely no interest in going into the water.
I had all but given up hope when we made a trip to Crissy Field one summer afternoon. We had been to lunch with a friend at Rose’s Café on Union Street, so she was wearing her fancy pink collar with crystals. A golden retriever bounded into the water chasing a ball and, much to my surprise, Jasmine – fancy collar and all – bounded in after him. From that day on, she and the beach were fast friends (and I invested in some waterproof collars).
After some frightful weather recently, we had a few days of respite as the sun peaked from behind the clouds. My friend Steve and I were thinking about what we could do (meaning the three of us, of course), and he mentioned Muir Beach, a spot he frequented often with his Irish setter, Kelly, way back when.
Muir Beach is small and sheltered by rolling hills; perfect for dogs to run and play. Jazzy met a boyfriend, a handsome lab-mastiff mix named Sklyer visiting from Tahoe (with his equally handsome human). An hour or so later she had flirted her way to exhaustion, and Steve and I parked my car under some shady trees in the parking lot of the Pelican Inn. With the afternoon cooled by the ocean breeze and Jazzy snoring away on her dog bed in back, we headed to the patio for a late lunch of fish and chips and bangers and mash.
Just 30 minutes of windy roads or so from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pelican Inn nestles amidst the ocean, Muir Woods, and the great redwoods of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. When you drive up the gravel path, you feel like you’re in another world – it’s hard to conceive that the bustling city is a short jaunt from this idyllic country setting, reminiscent of England’s southwest coast.
Because the three of us had so much fun, we decided to return the next day. We parked under the same shady tree on a remarkably similar afternoon and headed to our favorite table on the patio for some more pub grub – a deliciously rich shepherd’s pie, which we hiked off with another visit to Muir Beach and the surrounding trails. This time, we remembered to bring a tennis ball.
Jazzy doesn’t care for fetch, except when there’s water involved. While her muscular frame prevents her from competing on dry land, it propels her through the sea like Moses ahead of the stunned retrievers and labs. She’s a sore loser, shaking the ball in their faces and prancing around them in circles.
She also likes to play head games: when she decided she liked the German shorthair Berlin’s ball better than her own, she stole it right out of his mouth as they swam side by side back to shore. She promptly dug a hole, dropped the ball in it, and sat on it like an egg. Berlin was not amused. He turned to his dad, barking incessantly. “We are trying to discourage the ‘if I bark I get human help’ behavior,” he explained. “It’s best to just let this play out.”
Thirty minutes later, Jazzy was still sitting on the ball, Berlin was still barking, and his dad and I knew each other’s life stories. When Berlin finally grew weary and flopped by his dad’s feet, Jazzy got up, grabbed the ball from the hole, and brought it over to gloat.
“No one likes an always-winner,” I told her like I do every time she chases away playmate after playmate.
Later with an exhausted pit bull snoring on her bed, Steve and I returned to the Pelican Inn for a dinner of beef Wellington, this time in the cozy dining room by the blazing wood-burning fireplace. I can’t remember having two more relaxing days in a very long time. Unfortunately, the inn’s seven rooms don’t allow pets, so lingering for a nightcap in the Tudor bar, filled with inn guests, locals and jolly laughter, was out of the question.
Instead, Steve and I drove home to San Francisco; Jasmine Blue nestled all snug in her bed, while visions of tennis balls danced in her head.