“Sit, and Stay,” are  important commands used by dog owners to direct and lead their active and inquisitive pups, but during my four week stay down here in Big Pine Key, I’ve used those directives on myself to keep focused on enjoying the slow pace of the days here, that collectively seem to race by in a blur.

Rise, eat, exercise, write, are the activities that command most of my time here.  With so few distractions, it’s easy to settle down to this laid back rythym of life here.  And of course, when visitors arrive, it’s always fun to explore new sights, or to see the local landscape with new eyes, or meet new people.  With the ongoing research and writing about National Dog Week, it’s not hard to find great sources of inspiration in this dog-loving place.  Around each corner it seems I meet dedicated dog devotees eager to unleash their dog “tails.”

On Saturday, Rich, Hooper, and I paid a visit to the Yard Sale held to benefit the Big Pine Bark Park.  There, we met in person, Michele, Amy, and Sandy, dog-loving volunteers who are working hard to raise the $20,000 needed to complete the park.  Hooper also met their dogs, Coral, Fathom, and Ellie Mae, all patiently waiting for their chance to run off-leash in their new park.  The Yard Sale is just one of many events planned for this effort.  An event held at Boondocks on April 11 will feature an exciting auction of big ticket items, and of course, the Florida Keys Triple Slam fishing tournament to be held in conjunction with Reef Light Tackle of Big Pine Key will take place on May 21-23 (Please note the correction from my last post).  The contact for the event is Donna Hart, and the number for RLT is (305) 872-7679.

As it so happens, Donna has been living right next door to me all month.  Donna and her husband, Buddy are great dog-lovers themselves, with five living under their roof.  Jilly and Choco are big labs, Kahlua and Lulu the tiny Chihuahuas, and then there is little Cruiser, a Yorkipoo.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know them all.  The other night, at the BPK Moose Lodge, we had the pleasure of meeting Mike, and Hambone, his sweet dachsund rescued from a shelter in Key Largo.  Hambone was so quiet, sharing a seat with his owner, I hardly knew he was there.  Sunday afternoon, Rich and I tracked down the elusive Geiger Key Marina and Smokehouse located about a mile down Boca Chica Road.  Geiger Key is very dog-friendly with its “Quiet Beach,” aka “Secret Beach,” aka, “Magic Beach.”  After a romp on “those beaches,” with your best four-legged friend, stop at the Geiger Marina for a glass of wine, a beer, and some good food, dog in tow.  Sitting at the bar were owners Bobby Mongelli, and his lovely wife Michelle, and their adorable little Min-pin, Yorkie mix, Wheezey.  Michelle and Bobby are also the propietors of the Hogfish Bar and Grill located on Stock Island, another dog-friendly Key eatery.  Not to be outdone, sitting on his very own bar stool, sporting a bright pink Geiger Key bandana was a little Chihuahua with a big attitude named Pike (upon my return North, a photo gallery of all these adorable pups will be on display).

Will Judy, founder of National Dog Week wrote about how dogs in an ideal world, would love to be with us around the clock.  In 1949, Judy wrote, “He [the dog] can’t go with you to your work in the morning-but he never gives up hope.  He’s at the door, saying “Come on, let’s go.”  Judy further explained how it felt to be shamed by the glances of disappointment given by “a good soldier,” that obeys the order to stay, and then conceals that disappointment.  I think every dog owner can relate to that timeless story.

 Although we don’t take Hooper with us wherever we go, it is nice to know that when we travel with her down here, we can bring her into most establishments, which is not something I can say for my home state of New Jersey.  In our travels from Amelia Island, St. Augustine, down to the Keys, we are so impressed by the way dogs are welcome in most instances, and by the work being down on behalf of dogs, and their welfare, in these vicinities.

So, as we pack up, and head North to Jersey in two days, we take away all these dog-friendly memories, “Key” ingredients for a project to be shared with the world in the not too distance future. 

Are you a dog-lover that is planning something nice for canines for National Dog Week, observed the last week of September?  If so, please let me know!  Are the Florida Keys, and the east coast of this state, the dog-friendliest places in the entire nation?  Please feel free to weigh in with your comments about dog-friendly places in your own back yards.  A great site to read more on this topic  is BringFido.com.