GUEST COLUMN: Sarnia needs a leash-free beach – for the love of dog

In this file photo, Oscar the dachshund tests out his new life jacket while fetching sticks at the Bright’s Grove beach. Glenn Ogilvie Photo

Susan MacFarlane

When I was a kid, we had a dog called Lucky. My mom would say, “Lucky to be alive.”

Lucky was a black lab mix and I don’t remember how he came into our lives. He was an interesting sort of dog, one that would get loose and jump up on people as they walked by our house, and had the really irritating habit of chewing on my leather penny loafer shoes.

From my point of view, he was more irritating than not.

Susan MacFarlane

My dad, however, had a different relationship with Lucky, which involved the two of them hanging together downstairs for hours on end while my dad worked on his coin collection or other hobbies.

To me and my sister, Lucky was a fixture we had to chase after now and again after he escaped from the backyard.

When Lucky passed away at a ripe old age my dad had tears in his eyes, and would often reminisce on what a great dog he was in the years following. I have to admit I didn’t understand.

Fast forward to me as an adult and our youngest, newly turned teenager begging us for a dog.

Into our house came Rosie, a Havanese poodle mix, who turned into a 13-pound bundle of energy. She’s a clown who runs in circles when meeting other dogs. Her antics seem to always bring out smiles in others when we’re out walking in our Bright’s Grove neighborhood.

I often joke that I can’t get another job because Rosie is so used to having me home to keep her company. “Princess” Rosie rules the roost at our house. She loves to take walks and sniffs – on the Howard Watson Nature Trail and along the Nick Malik Walkway near our local beach.

When we go for beach walks, it always makes me smile to watch other dogs frolic in the sand or swim in the water, fetching a stick their owner might throw. Their joy becomes my joy.

Rosie is not a swimmer, so I don’t take her there for that. But if she was a swimmer, you bet I’d be looking for a suitable beach.

Which is why I don’t understand how Sarnia, with its abundance of beachfront, has decided it can’t find a slice of space somewhere for an official dog beach.

Right now, we have an equity issue that I find sad for all of the community’s dogs. Owners who can afford to risk paying a fine continue to use the city’s beaches, while less advantaged owners don’t get to see the smiles of pure bliss on their pets taking a swim or frolicking in the surf.

Sarnia needs a dog beach – for the love of dog.

Susan MacFarlane is an environmental engineer who dabbles in screenwriting and other artistic endeavours.