Day 456 – On the Coast with Kaylee
Six days away on the Oregon coast is a gift. And, what’s even better, I learned something new about Kaylee!
Annette was away for six days dealing with a work meeting and parental obligations. Sensing opportunity I booked three nights at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park and three nights at Bullards Beach State Park for just myself and Kaylee, the ginormous dog.
For six days we bummed around the Oregon Dunes, Florence, Yachats, North Bend, Charleston, Coos Bay, Bandon and Port Orford. In town, I always had Kaylee on a leash, but whenever possible on the open beach, I let her off leash. This didn’t present a problem because one thing I knew about her was she wouldn’t venture too far from me in an unfamiliar place. To make certain of that, I was careful to not visit the exact spot twice
First was North Jetty Beach at Florence. Oregon beaches are mostly on spits running north or south of whatever river is emptying into the Pacific. There are often multiple parking pull-offs along the spit. I preferred to pick unoccupied pull offs and given the temp never exceeded 67 degrees, and the wind rarely dropped below 35 knots finding less populated spots was pretty easy.
I parked, hooked up her leash, and we clambered up the dune heading for the ocean. We got to the top, and I nearly did a header right off the 15-foot drop. The walk down to the water was not a gentle descent. The beach here was narrow, and the waves cut sharply into the ocean-face of the dune.
I let Kaylee off her leash, and she leapt off the dune. I negotiated a path off to the left. Fully realizing she was off-leash, she went, in technical parlance, bat-shit crazy. She ran, chased her tail, ran again then rolled and rolled doing what I call “doga” a four-legged form of yoga.
Craziness interspersed with calm was repeated at different spots on every subsequent day of our trip.
We walked for miles along the beach each day. Kaylee, free to do whatever she wanted, was never more than, uh, 500 feet, from me most times. No doubt she thought the endless walking pretty dumb, but she stayed with me, or at least near me.
It’s important to restate that this was on a different beach each time. I’m pretty certain if we kept going back to the same beach she’d go farther and farther afield until finally she’d be a dot on the horizon.
But here’s the really cool part: on five separate days, after walking for at least an hour (sometimes four hours), on different beaches, with a 35 knot wind erasing our footprints and scents, every time I said “ok, enough of this, let’s go home” Kaylee successfully led us to the exact spot to cross over the dune and get back to the truck.
Seriously, look at the earlier picture of her rolling on the beach. Look at those dunes. You pick the spot we came over. Sure, I had an idea where to cross, but she was exact each time. And in the photo above it is important to note she did not go up the way she came down. Left of her disappearing butt and tail in the above photo is another opening in the grass; that’s the sheer drop she descended, a good 20 feet apart from the path back up.
Because of the unending wind and the sandblasting and trying to manage all the crap I brought along whilst keeping an eye on the dog I only managed to photograph her actually leading over the dune once, but it happened five separate times.
I’m just about finished with a dog cognition class via Coursera. It’s pretty good insofar has it has helped me fight the urge to anthropomorphize Kaylee’s behavior. The class demonstrates, through research, how dogs learn and then apply learned skills to new situations. My assumption is when we’re away from home my white truck is Kaylee’s safe place. She knows when we’re not home the truck becomes “home” and she remembers where she left that safe place.
Clearly, my dog’s a genius ;-)