• Jill Reed, Ph.D.

Dogs Will Be Dogs

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Super special morning dog walk treasure surprise

Waking up with four dogs


This morning begins like most. Serena smooshes my legs and gets as close to me as possible to let me know she’s awake but she can be a little patient. Pippa huffs on her way out of the bathroom where she sleeps and crawls up onto the bed finding the last bit of real estate between Snoot and Christie. Jack stands up and shakes from the dog bed, “Hello, I am also awake.”


It is approximately 5:00am and I just need a little bit more light before I take them out. By 6:30am we are through the coffee and stretching and ready for our morning walk. 


Outside, the sun is hiding behind some light clouds, the mosquitos have found my thighs, the trash can lid has been replaced and covered with a large rock to deter native wildlife. And, thankfully the dogs have not killed said native wildlife, yet.

Loading them up and driving down to the beach

I spray myself down with deet, (not taking a chance on dengue fever) and then load the dogs into the back of the Nissan. I say load because the lab and the golden will only place their front paws on the truck, so we have to load their rears for them. 


We clickety clank down the hill to the beach club. The shiteous brake job we had done a month or so ago makes us sound like your dad’s old “go to hell” truck. It’s not hot.


As we pull in I notice a foursome walking into the club, one car in the golf parking area and none by the “dog entry” on the backside of the restaurant. We park, I get the water bowl out, fill it up, and then release the hounds.


Living in a conservation community with killler dogs

I let them read the news (sniff the smells) for a few minutes and then leash up Jack and Serena who are proven killers. 


I do this for two reasons: A. they killed an armadillo in our backyard while we were gone last week and I got heat from the management company because they killed it in front of workers; B. there are way too many visitors here using the beach during our 5-9:30am hours, that I dare not chance having my dogs kill something in front of them.


Pippa is of course a perfect angel who needs no leash. I keep them on lead until we are beyond the people perimeter in front of the club and then it’s a free for all. 

Wild abandon of the off leash pack

Off they go running with complete abandon down the beach, sniffing, frolicking, jumping around each other and having general dog fun. I usually walk about a mile down the beach, hang the leashes from a nearby mangrove and take a little swim. 

Three dogs walking on Playa Conchal beach Costa Rica

The ocean is gentle at the far end of the beach and usually very clear. We swim together, the dogs and me. I don’t go out very far, but they follow me. Some days, when it’s clear like this, we can see all manner of tropical fish. 


Today we are rewarded with a few brief encounters before they are frightened off by our commotion. The water is warm and feels so perfect, like a soft and weightless glove. I float. I taste the salt.


As I climb out of the water, I notice more of a debris line washing up today than I have seen before.

Lure of the salt and sand

Though we are living in the time of pandemic and our beaches are only open a few hours in the morning, I notice several groups of camping people just beyond the treeline. There are hammocks and backpacks hanging from branches. I can smell a campfire. Some have already started fishing. People have to eat.


As I am walking back toward the estuary and eventually the club, the sun is peeking through the clouds stronger than before, the water moves with the wind to the southeast, the birds are chatting and there are ripples coming across the estuary. 


WAIT, there are ripples on the estuary! I am 100% certain there are giant crocodiles in there so I ask the dogs to come back to me. Ask…yell…whatever.

There’s treasure in them thar sand dunes

As they trot back over (phew) they pause at a large log between the estuary and the ocean. Admittedly, Pippa is the first to roll, then Jack, and finally Serena works a bit to dig up the treasure they’ve found. Sand is flying, tails are wagging, and general dog happiness abounds. 

Three dogs on Playa Conchal morning walk

I groan, “Aw, c’mon.”


I begin to yell, “No, Serena, ah ah.” I repeat this as she happily trots away from me, tail swinging wildly with glee. Both of the other dogs have come back to me and they smell wretched, like dead and rotten fish. And they’re covered in sand from rolling. Fantastic.


I change my tactic with Serena, “Get over here,” and then, as she begins to meander over to me I say, “good girl.” Even a stubborn and sassy black lab can appreciate praise. I can see the treasure now, dangling from either side of her gentle (killer) mouth. This is not the first time she’s found a dead and delicious blowfish. I ask her to drop it, and when that fails, I pinch her muzzle and she lets it go.


I lead her by the collar for a few yards and then I realize, we all need to get back in the water and wash off the stink and sand. These dogs are a pain in the arse some mornings. 


Blowfish stink begets ray encounter

As we wade back in, sand sinking beneath my feet, I look up and see a whole gang of spotted rays gliding by about ten feet from us. They are majestic, beautiful, graceful and joyful. The sun dances on the water and the rays dance below. 


It is a perfect, stunning moment on a regular morning dog walk and it balances the delightful blowfish experience from seconds before. I stand and watch them until I can’t see them anymore. They sail off in the same direction as the wind.


This simple gift is the perfect reminder to me of the interconnectedness of our lives with everything around us. When I am feeling off-center, unsteady, not ready, unorganized and inadequate, I often find that if I keep moving, listen for input, and pay attention with my senses, the universe will offer advice or a quiet tip. (sometimes it’s like being a sailor in becalmed seas – keep doing boat stuff, but always be ready for signs of wind)

Accept the treasure and be grateful

My dogs are not perfectly trained. My body is not completely healed. My heart is often wandering aimlessly searching for the right answer when in reality, there is none.


But, if we pause while moving forward on our path and keep an open mind (even if it’s the size of a pinhole), we might be rewarded with treasure. 


The treasure is subjective, of course. Some people enjoy a festering old blowfish while others prefer live and frolicking ocean creatures. To each her own.

#wellness #costarica #dogs #walking #morning #beach

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