A Canberra Christmas tradition for many is the trek over the Clyde to the south coast.
I’ve been spending Christmases at the beach for the past 11 years with my partner and his family, and there’s something uniquely thrilling about crossing the Clyde river, smelling the salty air and continuing along the winding highway until we reach our corner of the coast.
In recent years, the trip has been further sweetened by the company of our dog, Charlie.
I don’t think you’ve truly seen joy until you’ve watched a kelpie sprint up and down the beach, tongue flapping and tail wagging. Charlie is also a rescue, who had to have hip surgery when we adopted him, so we’re extra sentimental about his energy and enthusiasm for running on the sand (something he couldn’t do pre-surgery).
But as much as we love sharing the beach with our dog, not everyone is a fan of dogs on the beach. And there are definitely some instances where even I question their attendance too.
Most beaches have either timed off-lead periods or timed periods where dogs aren’t allowed on the beach at all. Some have dogs banned permanently, and these are usually busy beaches. We always stay mindful of the rules and often walk Charlie early or late so he can make full use of the beach during the off-lead hours.
And we only take him to the beach if one or both of us aren’t swimming, so someone is in charge of him the whole time. Sadly, not everyone is this mindful.
For a start, there’s nothing worse than going to the beach and discovering dog poo that some inconsiderate owner has left on the sand instead of bagging. Not picking up dog poo is universally bad behaviour, but it’s extra rude in the context of the beach, given people like to lie, play and frolic in the sand.
But equally bad are off-lead dogs that aren’t well-behaved or don’t have a clear owner.
Last year I spent a fair amount of time on Broulee beach anxiously trying to determine if the friendly staffy that had appeared with a collar but no tag belonged to anyone. She was very friendly, but if she wasn’t, it could have been a safety issue, and more importantly, not everyone is comfortable with dogs and should have to deal with one suddenly appearing.
Just as I was thinking about trying to take her to find a vet who could check for a microchip, her owner wandered up from the other end of the beach, casual as anything, and off they went. I would say it was at least a 10-minute period of her wandering around before he was in earshot. Anything could have happened in that time.
Selfishly, I want dog owners to be more considerate and respectful of everyone’s enjoyment of the beach because I want to keep taking Charlie to enjoy the sun, sand and surf. And I worry that if people take it for granted, we could end up with dogs banned from the best beaches for good.
As it is, we’ve promised Charlie the beach for Christmas, and we’ll make sure he’s on his best behaviour, role modelling being a very good boy in the hopes that other dogs (and their owners) follow his lead.