by Chrysa Smith
Seems on the East Coast, during the warm months, everyone heads down the shore. In NY, it was the beach. Regardless of what you call it, there’s just something so calming, soothing about ocean air wafting up through your nostrils and sand firmly planted under your feet. It seems a naturally great place to take the family for a few days, a week— and settle into some serious relaxation. Or so I thought.
It was quite a few years ago, when my son was young and we were accustomed to spending time on the NJ shore each summer. I had the brilliant idea to take everyone—including some furry fellows along with us. After all, they would love running around in the surf and going for long walks on the packed, wet sand. I soon discovered that there was no such place for four -legged fellows. But what there was, was a dog park. We went there daily and it was fine. But as I walked near the boardwalk, I noticed one of those posted signs that say ‘No Dogs Allowed.’ And it was then I got the spark. This experience would make a cute story and a good lesson. And ‘No Dogs Allowed’ would soon take shape.
I sat on the beach with my paper and pen and began sketching out a tale about a family of poodles that has to readjust plans due to unexpected circumstances. Based on the personality of each canine, how would they react if they could talk? Who would love it? Who hated it? Who has just the slightest hint of an attitude? And ultimately, how would the tale reconcile itself with a happy ending.
The truth? There were two dogs in the story, but soon to be three in my actual household. So Daisy, the only girl–and quite a princess added a glamorous aspect to the character line-up. Woody, the oldest and know-it-all, made for the perfect obstinate son. And sweet Archie? He was the perfect middle-man between gregarious Daisy and grumpy Woody. The characters were in place. The story took shape.
Ultimately, Woody’s resistance to go to the park, rather than chasing crabs and romping in the surf led to the tension in the story, as wonderfully clueless, low maintenance Archie was perfectly content. Dramatic, self-centered Daisy loved meeting new souls. It was a human, with a dog of his own, that brought Woody out of his funk—playing a perfectly pitched game of fetch, which had him forget all about his woes, and finally come to find some enjoyment after all. This lesson about changing directions when your sails are turned around is so valuable, told in a fun way. I know first-hand how a stubborn Taurus can plant her feet firmly in sand, pavement, grass or wood floors and refuse to let plans change. Wrong! That’s life. And learning lessons about trying new things and encouraging ‘plans B and C’ can go a long way in helping us along this life’s journey.
My son is 30 and now it’s just my husband, me and our gray and white poodle that go down for a few days. But now, there is a dog beach, and a place to romp, sun and surf. And life is indeed good once again—on the NJ shore.
‘No Dogs Allowed’ is from the second book in The Adventures of the Poodle Posse series—and a nice beach read for those 7+. More information can be found on my website: www.wellbredbook.net. School author visits are presently done via zoom, where stories like No Dogs Allowed are told, and inspiration, such as that described above, is discussed.