Cozy Tales: 42. Down the Shore

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Lauren grew up spending her summers at the Jersey Shore, loving everything about it from the sand between her toes to the nasty jellyfish in the surf. For her birthday in 2002 she wanted to go back since it had been far too long since her bare feet had felt the sand.

We decided that it was far past time to take our water-loving dogs to see the ocean. We had talked about it forever, but somehow life had gotten in the way and it had never happened. While taking two huge dogs to the beach was difficult enough, we were now faced with the prospect of bringing two huge dogs and two small children to the beach. We figured it was never going to get any easier, so we loaded everyone into the Outback and trucked on down the shore.

In New Jersey we never say “lets go to the beach”, or “let’s go down to the shore”. Instead we say “let’s go down the shore”. If you say anything else people will look at you funny since you obviously ain’t ‘from ‘round here.

Everything you’ve heard or read about the Jersey Shore is probably true. Though I don’t know anyone who’s seen barge-fulls of trash or human waste wash up onto the beach, the images of fake-tanned muscle-bound blond-haired jersey boys with their high-hair girlfriends are painfully accurate. In the fall it’s pretty devoid of people, especially the stereotypical ones, and since I’m not a fan of crowds, the idea of a beach without people made a trip down the shore all the more palatable for me.

Contrary to Lauren’s love of the beach, I am not a fan. I dislike sand as it gets, well, everywhere. Sand also destroys electronics, which means I wouldn’t be bringing my nice cameras. Lauren and the kids were all more prone to simply enjoying life and not worrying about tiny grains of abrasive silicone destroying micro-gears. After labor day dogs were allowed on the beach which in addition to my willingness to set aside my neuroses made this trip a possibility. For two hours we drove down the shore, kids in their car seats and dogs in the back, dutifully slobbering all windows into uselessness until they got bored and lay down.

There are stories dating back hundreds of years telling of Newfoundland dogs saving people from dangerous seas. A Newfoundland is credited with saving Napoleon in 1815 during his escape from the island of Elba. In 1832 Ann Harvey, her father and a Newfoundland named Hairyman saved over 180 Irish immigrants from the wreck of the brig Dispatch. Cozy and Daisy had been trying to “save” Meghan and Colleen from the bathtub for years and Cozy had saved me from the canoe, not to mention the numerous pools she destroyed saving rocks. We were interested to see how they would react to kids near the ocean.

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We parked the car a short distance from the beach behind some dunes where we couldn’t see the ocean. From the moment the dogs got out of the car, their noses were twitching. The salt air was an elixir for them, and they wanted more. Without ever having been to the ocean, they clearly knew that they were somewhere special. Somewhere important. Somewhere they belonged.

Bundling up two huge dogs, two small kids and all the stuff that goes with them wasn’t a small task, but we gathered everything up and trekked through the path between the dunes to the beach. It was a mildly windy September day with some haze in the sky. Small waves washed up on the beach then retreated in an endless attempt to climb out of the ocean. The salt air was invigorating, even to those of us without a heritage of sea-faring rescue.

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We set up our spot, Cozy and Daisy sniffing the air the entire time. We were a bit skittish about the dogs. They were allowed on the beach, but Cozy was not known to like strange dogs. We also didn’t want her “saving” other children. so we kept Cozy on a long retractable lead while Daisy got the regular six foot leash. Lauren sat with the girls and I  took the dogs up to the ocean for the first time.

Cozy had never seen the ocean, and seemed a bit confused at first. Dealing with waves was a new experience for her. She would walk up to the water as it retreated, then turn and run as a wave crashed near her. She slowly realized that the waves wouldn’t hurt her, and started to get a bit deeper into the water. At one point she tried to take a drink, but was disgusted to find that the water was salty. What kind of lake was this? Daisy was more laid back as usual, and was happy just to get her feet wet.

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Lauren and I would take turns walking Cozy or Daisy up and down the beach while the other parent sat with the kids. I had just bought a cheap small digital camera that I could take to such outings without worrying too much about it being stolen or ruined. We both made sure to take pictures of the day for posterity, during which we learned that little fingers should not touch the glass on the lens. Many of our memories from that fine day are, shall we say, smudgy.

I was happy to be there for Lauren and the dogs even though I wasn’t a big fan of the beach. Meghan and Colleen sat and played in the sand with happy abandon as only two and three year olds could, which as history would prove apparently involved finding and licking camera lenses.

Cozy was not the spry young puppy that she once was, but the mind was willing and she was raring for more, so I took her for another walk to the water, and this time she was more brave. I struggled with the long leash in one hand and the camera in the other while Cozy tried to figure out the endless salty lake that seemed alive. This time she walked right in up to her shoulders and let the waves wash over her. Wearing a long black fur coat while sitting in the sun at the beach probably made a dip in the ocean extra refreshing for her.

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To my surprise Cozy leapt into the next wave and swam into the ocean. At this point I was kind of happy to have the lead since she seemed intent on swimming out to sea so I gently tugged her back in my direction until she stood when her feet touched bottom. She was a happy dog as she frolicked in the waves. She would jump in and swim away, and I’d reel her back in, again and again. Once she didn’t anticipate a wave and it knocked her on her side which was pretty amusing, though judging by the snort she gave me I might have offended her by laughing. Daisy was happy to sit with Mommy and the kids while Cozy earned her sea-legs.

CozyWatchingDaisy
After letting Cozy frolic in the surf for a bit, Lauren took the long lead and led Daisy to the water. Daisy, being of royal blood, would let her feet get wet, but she had no interest in frolicking. Lauren would wade into the surf up to her knees, and Daisy would stand at the water line looking at her as if to say what are you doing? The Duchess had her standards, and apparently decorum prohibited public bathing.

After a few hours we took each of them for one last trip to the water, then packed up the family into the Outback and headed for home. Since we were all tired and hungry, we stopped at a Burger King not far from the beach for some lunch. Normally we wouldn’t eat with dogs in the car because they would hang their huge heads over the back seat and drool on the kids.

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They were good enough not to grab from the kids, but the drool that poured from our two polite yet hungry dogs was considerable. At this point they had only enough energy to lie in the back and rest their chins on the top of the seat. We gave them their own cheeseburgers, after which they lay down and went to sleep without bothering anyone, their perfect day at the beach now a memory.

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