An older couple approached me on the beach yesterday and asked "Do you think it would be OK for us to bring our poodle out here?" I recognized their accents--these folks were from my area of the country, raised on catfish and corn bread and pinto beans, just like me.
"That's a tough one," I said. "People are friendly here, but there's a chance that someone might be rude to you or threaten to report you. You never know."
Berkeley was sitting and being a good girl, waiting and watching the sea gulls dance nearby. I explained to them about the guide dog program and about how Berkeley gets to go places that other dogs can't. But they looked at me with the most confused expressions, reminding me again of many of the folks in my small home town--happy, but often confused.
"But our little dog ain't very big," the woman said. "Do you think it would be OK to leave her in the car?"
"Oh, no, no, no," I said, sorry now that I didn't just run away from them at the start. "You don't want to do that. Especially not in Florida. The sun gets really hot here." And so it went, a strange conversation, until I finally got away from them. Very strange.
Berkeley and I continued down the beach. She was such a patient and good girl yesterday. Not more than 5 minutes later, a man marched up to me, spitting mad and spoiling for a fight. "It's against the law to bring a dog on the beach," he said, getting closer to my face.
And all I wanted was a nice, quiet walk on the beach with Berkeley.
"This dog can go anywhere a person can go," I said, squinting back at him but with as nice a voice as I could manage.
I can't say that we parted friends, but that's OK. In the end I was polite with him, and I invited him to review Florida state law. I noticed that he was dressed in slacks and shoes--not your usual attire for the beach. Where did he come from? Maybe a house nearby? Did he just want to make sure I never came back? (Too bad.)
More likely: he didn't want other people to get ideas about dogs on the beach. On my way to the restaurant I looked around for the poodle--nowhere in sight. Oh well, at least I warned them.