Big Pine Key, Florida, is a special place. Twenty miles south of busy, built-up Marathon, and about a 40 minute ride south to bustling Key West, it has a unique rythym of its own. When visitors make their way down here, they ultimately ask, “How on Earth did you find this place?”
Those guests expecting the action of Miami, or the beaches of Boca Raton might be in for a let down. Here locals, and visitors, adhere to a strictly enforced speed limit of 35 mph that helps to protect those tiny Key Deer that keep popping out of the woods. Our rented 2 bed/2 bath cottage sits high across from some of those dense jungle-like woods packed with vines, palmettos, and big (and little) pines. Just beyond those woods, a coral dessert opens filled with sun-bleached, twisted driftwood, a landscape that is stark, and mysterious, something straight out of a National Geographic Magazine. In the evening, we are serenaded by the chirping of crickets, soft breezes rustling palm fronds, and screen doors slamming.
And the area attracts people, and their dogs, from all areas of the United States. My neighbors include folks from Michigan, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Montana. And of course there are those who live here year round. Some of these locals stand out for me, a little weathered by the sun, and their daunting task of trying to make a living in an area that has been hit by tough economic times. Their lives contain seeds for short stories, and novellas. It’s no wonder so many writers are inspired to write while spending time in the Keys, and why so many of those books become classics.
When it’s time to shop, we drive a few miles to “Winn-Dixie Town,” the main shopping center for Big Pine Key, and surrounding areas. It is also known as “Winn-Chicksie Town,” as shoppers are often greeted by colorful wild Roosters, hens, and their little chicks as they run about the parking lot!
Up the road, you’ll find the Blue Hole, a pristine fresh water pond and nature sanctuary. Unfortunately even professional wildlife conservationists cannot keep all of the wild residents safe, however. A few years back, a pair of alligators inhabited the Hole until a couple of young men lured one of the gators, beat it to death, and posted the episode on the internet. A few years later, the remaining alligator choked on a child’s plastic toy that had dropped into the pond. All it takes is a few stupid individuals to deprive thousands of others from learning about nature, and this special environment. No matter what you think about gators, it was a great loss to the people of this area.
As I write this, I watch across the lagoon as Killian, a Border collie, paces back and forth, protecting his territory. German shepherds Logan, and Koda, stare back, barking occasionally as if to protect us all from those terrifying tiny deer. As the weather warms up in the coming days, Hooper will get a chance to swim down off Blimp Road in Cudjoe Key. She’ll splash among kayakers, and mangroves, and an occasional Ray.
While these dogs enjoy good and loving homes, all is not the case for local dogs. A friend of my husband’s told him about a woman in Summerland Key who seems to be going around depositing homeless dogs on people’s property. Of course I will follow-up on this story as it intriques me. Is she so upset about the number of abandoned dogs that she is literally taking it upon herself to play matchmaker for dogs and humans? Stay tuned for more on this.
I am sure Captain Will Judy, founder of National Dog Week, would commend her spirit, but there can be dangers involved in playing God when placing these dogs in this manner, ultimately doing more harm than good. But there is a part of me that would love to hear that some of these forced matches worked out, and makes me keep checking our backyard to see if we have been become a recipient.
My question of the day is, what would you do if this woman chose your home for one of these dogs?