Stories We Could Tell: Dogs on Big Beach

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On Playa Grande, low tide pushes the surfers back to sleepy verandas and re-hydration missions while the locals come out to enjoy the high sun. Kaleidoscopic kites soar. Sun lotion is lathered on bronzed skin. The famous modesty of Central America is nowhere evident in the choice of swimwear.

The unmistakable silhouette of a three-legged dog approaches. The puppy has recently lost his back left limb. He can keep up his unpracticed, awkward hop for a few metres but he quickly tires, and starts to drag his hip across the packed white sand. His focus: a length of shipworm-riddled driftwood in the hand of his owner.

“How did he lose his leg?” I ask.

“We are not sure — maybe a car accident,” answers the tall, striking woman with an Argentine accent. She throws the stick. The puppy’s hip sweeps the beach as he pulls himself towards his target with joyful ignorance. She laughs, grabs him by the tail and pulls him up onto three legs again. He is happy.

The sun falls rapidly behind a tall ship on the horizon. Students in a yoga class supplicate themselves on the warm sand. In child’s pose, they extend forward to the teacher. A big, gangly black-and-tan mutt strolls up, lays down between teacher and class, and puts on a clinic of his own. The subject: Relaxing for Humans 101. The group, moving towards the downward pose named for their new friend, break into chuckles. So does everyone else on the beach. His name is Bucho. We are happy.

On a post-dinner stroll a nameless, deaf pup with begging eyes passes on the road to Playa Grande. When I gesture for her to come, she latches onto the opportunity with cautious enthusiasm. She is young and alone and afraid. Possibly a stray. As I rub behind her ears, she leans into me. Her tongue lolls out and her pitbull smile stretches for miles. A scooter approaches. It’s the dog’s owner. She has a wide smile of her own. We help coerce the anxious dog onto the scooter and back into her friend’s life. They are happy.

A lazy old dog stretches out on the steps of the surf shop. Legs fully extended backwards like a tiny Superdog. When I rub her belly, she rolls onto her back. Her body is covered with scars. She is happy.

Returning from a late afternoon surf check, I pass bored parking attendants throwing stones at an iguana. A young curly haired man wings a sidearm pitch and barely misses the proud lizard’s head, who answers with a threat display, rapidly bobbing his neck up and down. The man offers a stone to me.

“You want try?”

“No, gracias.”

I wonder if they are happy.

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