Travels with Lucy - Our Time at Dillon Beach

Our family has a tradition of spending Father's Day weekend at Lawson's Landing in Dillon Beach. Dusting off the camping gear and stocking up the RV's, we kick off the summer relaxing on the coast for a week. Lucy always gets excited as preparations for this trip are underway. Daily walks on the beach, playing in the surf, taking in all the ocean smells, chewing on bones in the grass and napping in the sun: what is not to love? When vacationing in my self-contained camper it is easy to feed Lucy a fresh food diet. The refrigerator and freezer easily accommodate a weeks worth of meat and bones. I bring pulped vegetables, raw goat's milk and bone broth to prepare fresh meals for Lucy each morning. She has her special bone chewing travel bed that is easy to wipe down and keep clean. There is a leash requirement in the campground which many campers chose to ignore. When Lucy is outside chewing her bones I sit with her to insure she is not accosted by a marauding neighbor dog.

This is a week to spend time with family, catch up on precious sleep, sit around the camp fire, play games, read, disconnect from electronics, take long relaxing walks on the beach with Lucy and prepare healthy organic meals. We like to camp up against the sand dunes which makes beach access easy. The campground is clean with lots of green grass. There are no hook ups although fresh water and a sewer dump are available. Weekends can be packed when folks are trying to escape the valley heat. By Sunday afternoon the campground is transformed as the rowdy weekend campers head home and we almost have the campground to ourselves.

On Sunday it’s a treat to shop at the Sebastapol Farmer's Market. Sebastapol is a forty five minute drive northeast of Dillon Beach. This market is one of my favorites. I take the opportunity to restock my fresh greens, and load up on all types of delicious berries, which are in full swing. One of the vendors has edible flowers that add color to any salad and are a good source of Vitamin E. Pies, pottery, kombucha, goat cheese, vegetables, jewelry, soaps and lotions: everything you could want and more. As much as I enjoy the market, there was a blistering heat wave this year so it was a relief to return to the campground and the cool ocean breeze.

While at the beach I read Raymond and Lorna Coppinger's new book, What is a Dog?, which provided a new and refreshing perspective on our beloved canine companions and focused on village dogs around the world. Coppinger makes a compelling argument that dogs have not evolved from wolves. Many of the ways we feed, train and interact with our dogs are based on this belief and as I read I realized, we may be doing our dogs a grave disservice by ascribing to this theory. For example, wolves are hunters,  spend precious time and energy rearing their young and usually weigh 75 to 100 pounds. Village Dogs on the other hand are scavengers and wait for their food to come to them, spend minimal energy rearing their young and weigh about 30 pounds. While our purebreds and mixed breeds only account for about 15% of the world’s dog population, they too wait for their food to be delivered to them.

Ironically most fresh food diets are based on the nutritional requirements of a hunter not a scavenger. We love to imagine dogs evolved from the mighty, majestic wolf. Many training methods and diets have been developed based on these ideas. What if our dogs actually evolved from animals that lived near garbage dumps waiting for their next meal to be delivered? This explains why dogs have been able to survive eating processed foods, the equivalent of garbage, and why they thrive when we upgrade to fresh food. What we might actually consider is the transformation of the quality of human waste through this evolution and how this has impacted the life expectancy of the village dogs and ultimately the health of our domestic dogs.

While the transformation of the wild dog to the domestic dog remains a mystery, the symbiotic relationship between dogs and people has deep roots for both the village dogs and our adored pure and mixed breeds. This was apparent as I walked with Lucy along the beach and observed the interactions of the dogs with their people. Chasing birds, balls, frisbees, running ahead, walking behind, greeting other dogs and people, sniffing butts, taking in the smells of the ocean, on leashes and off, happy people and dogs sharing an experience, playing together, enjoying a full life. I thought about the village dogs around the world and they too have a full rich life, well adapted to their niche. They are independent, sexually active, promiscuous and interact within their social groups. They too are dependent on the humans with whom they share the garbage dumps and village streets. Problems arise when well intentioned people in wealthy countries rescue these dogs and they are adopted into family life, becoming isolated and restricted. As Coppinger writes, “the problem with being inserted into this life -altering experience is that they lack the ability to adapt to the new environment.” My dear friend Sharon Callahan and I were discussing this issue and she has observed that these relocations subject the village dog to a lot of human stress and discord that they are unable to process creating emotional distress which leads to devastating behavior problems. As part of the human condition we tend to complicate things. What is a dog? gave me much to think about  regarding our life and relationship with dogs. I highly recommend this book.

Lucy sleeps contentedly after four days of running on the beach and racing with the sea birds. Occasionally eating some nasty tidbit or rolling in a stinky long dead sea animal echoes her distant connection to the village dog. After each trip to the beach she loves to be wiped down with a towel and  stretch out on her soft bed or in the sun on the grass. Lucy would not like or choose the life of a village dog as she enjoys her comforts. My attention to her diet insures she sparkles on the inside and out. Barking with delight and joy, each walk we share on the beach is new and exciting. We head over to the beach one last time before packing up and heading home.

If you go to Dillon Beach and plan to camp at Lawson’s Landing, I would recommend making reservations as the camp ground fills up quickly, especially on weekends. Bring layers of clothing because the weather can be unpredictable and is often windy and cold. The combination of running on the beach and contact with the salt water can be dehydrating for dogs. When we are at the beach I add extra water to Lucy’s meals and always make sure she has access to fresh water, especially after a run on the beach.

Until we hit the road again.

Posted on July 5th, 2017

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