The Oregon Coast, where the skies didn’t reign but dogs did

By Tim Henney
Reader Contributor

This article is mainly for Sandpoint dogsters. What is a Sandpoint dogster? It is a citizen who couldn’t imagine walking in a park or on Mickinnick or Pend Oreille Bay or Pine Street Woods trails without a dog — or dogs. 

Tippy, of Sandpoint, keeps a wary eye on incoming waves as she makes an abrupt turn on the sand at Cannon Beach. Photo by Tim Henney.

Local dogsters include Charles and Rinde, with Luki; Steve and Molly, with Ole; Bailey and Brian, with Tank; Michael and Catherine, with Bodi; Ezra and Megan, with Ted; Phil, with Puppy; Katherine, with Molly; Jen and Nate, with Lina (who accompanies them to their Pend Oreille Vision Care business every day); Liz and Harold, with Sadie (another lucky dog who spends every day at the Paint Bucket with her owners); Angela and Justin with alpha dog Tally, a bossy chihuahua, and Bodger, a giant, who does what Tally tells him to do; and Aileen and Don, with granddogs Lilly and Lyle. 

The foregoing are brothers in the bond of dogdom who, meeting a fellow dogster on the trail, will stop and visit. They become immediate, if perhaps temporary, pals. The dogs, on or off leash, take that up a notch. They posture importantly, maybe bristle up a bit, sniff butts, then dismiss the bristling and, if off leash, dash off together to cavort, explore and piddle on every rock, twig and tree. If dogs ran the White House or the United Nations we’d have a much friendlier, if perhaps more damp, world. 

Speaking of which, New York City — home of the UN — has long maintained sprawling acres of Central Park where man’s best friends run off leash before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. Central Park dogs are not only man’s but woman’s best friends. Having lived in and around that mutt-happy metropolis for decades during much of a corporate career, it became obvious that if NYC guys and dolls (Broadway’s all-time greatest musical about New York) were on the hunt for a mate, the surest path to success was to walk a dog in Central Park. 

There, as dogs sniff and woof, owners fall in love. I remember in the olden days bringing family dogs into Central Park on Sundays from our various suburban homes just to watch them romp with newfound buddies. (And, time permitting, for my 1957 bride, Jacquelynn, and me to lunch with our adult kids who had apartments near the park). Thanks to dogs, generations of amorous relationships have been launched in Central Park. Yet, despite the park’s pooch-imbued reputation for romance, I don’t remember ever flirting with a lady dogster there. (For one thing, my wife was always with me. For another, I was not that cool.) 

Tucson, Albuquerque and Las Vegas are recognized dog-friendly cities; but, like NYC, they are too doggone far from here. Which is why I address the following to fellow Sandpoint dogsters: Head for Cannon Beach, Oregon!  

Jacquelynn and I accompanied our kids and grandkids to the Oregon Coast recently and took three dogs. Since roughly 1947, when I started driving — and thanks to college, the U.S. Air Force and especially to corporate America — this dogster has visited and lived in countless cities, towns and hamlets. Never have I known a community so enthusiastically dog-ified as Cannon Beach. 

When we phoned for a reservation they asked if we were bringing a dog or dogs, and their names. When we checked in, our pooches’ names were writ large on a welcoming lobby blackboard, above water bowls and milk bone snacks. 

To stand on a balcony above the beach, three football fields distance from famed Haystack Rock, is to marvel at scampering, jolly dogs of every size, color and breed — and scampering, jolly owners to match. Sort of like attending the famed Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden, magically transported to the sands of Oregon. 

We met a devoted dogster, a middle-aged bachelor, on the beach with a large, friendly, furry companion named Lil’ Bear. They were celebrating a 10th dog birthday. The owner said he traditionally gave Lil’ Bear a filet mignon on his birthday, but this being No. 10, he had driven Lil’ Bear from Portland for an overnight at the resort to sprint up and down the beach, chase waves, and sniff and piddle with new pals. When the owner casually mentioned the reason for their visit to the lobby staff, they sang happy birthday to Lil’ Bear. 

Being a public beach in a town that considers dogs distinguished guests, most everyone is off leash — dogs, dogsters and families. Leaping, laughing, chasing the ebb tide as it recedes, then dashing shoreward as the ocean roars and the waves come crashing and sliding in. Tippy at first assumed the ocean to be as placid as Lake Pend Oreille, where she swims. The first morning on the beach, she was standing innocently in a foot of water watching an incoming wave. It arrived and knocked her ass over teacup. Tippy came tumbling in with the advancing foam and for the rest of the week was content to race up and down the beach, sniffing tidepools but adroitly dodging the tide. 

Tippy loves Sandpoint’s woodsy trails and quiet water, yet eagerly awaits a return to Cannon Beach. And, who knows, maybe another hook up with the dashing, handsome Lil’ Bear. 

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