- photo by Ryan Burns
My wife and I have a misshapen dog named Delroy. A boisterous mutt born into a dirt patch in the Fieldbrook hills (and a product of sibling inbreeding, we suspect), Delroy looks sort of like Pete the Pup, that floppy-eared pit bull from The Little Rascals, with some unfortunate exceptions. He's proportioned like a dwarf -- short, awkward limbs, the front ones curved like little bananas -- and he has a pronounced under-bite, so his upper lip often gets lodged behind a bottom row of haphazard tombstone teeth, lending him the air of a hillbilly moonshiner.
When we walk Delroy on a leash he has trouble coordinating his dwarfy, malformed legs. Each one hops and stumbles independently; his chaotic gait brings to mind a Radio Flyer wagon on square wheels. Not that it bothers him much; Delroy's fairly amiable by nature (unless you ask a mailman or our vacuum cleaner). But lemme tell ya, set him loose in an open field or unleash him on the beach and Delroy can fly. Those stubby limbs become a blur, his droopy lips flap in the breeze and his eyes light up. Nothing makes him happier.
All dog lovers share the joy of such moments. But unless you live somewhere like the Fieldbrook hills, these opportunities can be hard to come by -- assuming you follow the rules, which you totally should. Here are some basics: If your dog's not trained to come every single time you call her, sorry -- no off-leash privileges. If your dog gets aggressive with other critters (humans included), better keep him tethered. Does your dog poop? Yeah, I thought so. Pick that $#!t up, people.
And here's an important one: Only let your dog off leash in places where it's allowed. Liberated dogs can wreak havoc on sensitive wildlife in areas like the Arcata Marsh, and it's against the law to set 'em loose in all but a handful of Humboldt County locales. A few such glorious places are listed below, but remember the rules and check signage for specifics. Cuz I don't know about your dog, but Delroy can't read.
Eureka: Samoa Dunes Recreation Area; Headwaters Forest Reserve.
Arcata: Mad River County Park.
McKinleyville: Clam Beach County Park, Hiller Dog Park (beyond the split-rail fence) and adjoining Mad River Bluffs.
Ferndale: Centerville Beach County Park, Lost Coast Headlands.
Trinidad: Big Lagoon County Park; Luffenholtz Beach County Park; Moonstone Beach County Park.
Manila: Mal-e'l Dunes (South), the waterline trail at Humboldt Coastal Nature Center.
Loleta: Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, South Spit Humboldt Bay.
Six Rivers National Forest: Except in swimming areas.
Shelter Cove: King Range National Conservation Area.