The mayor of Coronado once wrote that his city’s bridge has the potential to become the deadliest in the nation. Not every visitor to the Coronado Bridge came for the view.
We had beat rush hour that day; traffic was not heavy, so we made the crossing in little time. Still, as we flew past the famous view on our way to the island, I glimpsed one sign sternly prohibiting fatal leaps from the bridge.
The crossing complete, we wound our way through side streets in a very pretty, very posh neighborhood. No two houses looked the same. Few were mansions by any stretch. And we couldn’t pass even two or three without calling out to each other to come admire either the remarkable architecture, so different from any houses where we’d come from, or else the fabulous gardens, which gave off scents that filled the streets. The home-owners don’t seem to mind the gawking tourists who stream past their houses every single day on their way to the ocean. Come to think of it, I never even saw any of the residents at their houses or in their gardens. They were probably all at the beach.
The beach was crowded that day. The weather was too fine for anything less than a packed beach. For a little while we sat on our towels, surrounded by scores of sunbathers. Beside us two teenage girls were snapping selfies. The sun was burning my shoulders, and its reflections off the water dazzled my eyes. Coming from a resolutely temperate and decidedly landlocked state, I hadn’t thought to bring either sunscreen or sunglasses.
My sister and I fast-walked across the hot sand to the shoreline. Neither of us could quite contain our squeals when our feet met water much colder than our trips to the Gulf Coast in years past had led us to expect. The Pacific, it would seem, really is a different ocean.
We walked until we were tired, but the day wasn’t over yet. Our guide, my brother, insisted that there was one last thing that we absolutely must see.
This turned out to be the Dog Beach, a magical place where dogs get to play in the sand and in the ocean. Those whose owners trust them get to play unleashed and with minimal supervision. Standing in the midst of the resultant chaos, we spent the next half hour laughing to ourselves at the completely disparate cast of canine characters who had assembled that day. I remember three in particular.
A little ways off from where we stood, far from where the rest of the dogs played, there sat a handsome Husky, very big, very furry, and very, very uncomfortable. We could read his thoughts on his angry, unhappy face. He was dreaming, no doubt, of Siberian wastelands, or the Russian steppes, or the Arctic plains, anywhere but the beach with its relentless heat, a far cry from everything he’d been bred for. I am glad to report that before we took our leave, this Husky was tempted into joining his friends and forgetting his discomfort for a while.
In the middle of all the confusion there stood a smug Frenchie in full harness who clearly ran that beach. He carried himself with the air of a dog who knows his own importance. Maybe it was the handsome harness that gave him this imperturbable superiority. We weren’t sure, and we couldn’t give our reasons for it afterward, but we all came away somehow persuaded that the Frenchie had been in charge that day.
But the dog that really had our attention was the Bulldog. Short, stout, and with all the buoyancy of a similarly-sized granite rock, this Bulldog charged unhesitatingly into the foaming surf until he was up to his chin in the ocean – and that was before the waves hit. We watched, first with amusement, then with uneasiness, and then with alarm, as the stout fellow was pummeled by massive waves that left nothing of him visible except his short, flat snout sticking bravely above the surface. Repeatedly we asked each other, “Should we go in after him? Is he drowning?” And repeatedly the Bulldog would reappear, seemingly only half-drowned, to charge headlong into another wave.
The Coronado Bridge had the best view of the trip, and Coronado Island itself did not disappoint. But as for the Dog Beach, our guide did not lie. That was not to be missed.