A few years ago, Maddy died.
Maddy was a 13-year-old yellow Lab and she was riddled with cancer. We’d adopted her — rescued her from a wretched living situation — when she was about five months old. My husband’s first dog, she stole his heart and quickly became his closest confidante. She was a great listener, never judged, and loved unconditionally. Because of her, we discovered many a fantastic walking trail on the Long Beach Peninsula, from the North Jetty and the mouth of the Columbia in the south to the northern tip at Leadbetter Point.
Opening their hearts again
When Maddy died, she left a great big hole in our lives. Without Maddy, our daily walks disappeared and we were reduced pretty much to exploring nature through a bank of windows overlooking Willapa Bay. Well, clearly, we needed to rescue another dog who would, in turn, rescue us from our grief-stricken malaise. This time, though, we would adopt an old dog because, well, we were no longer spring chickens ourselves. A search of www.petfinder.com led us to the South Pacific County Humane Society and a deaf, nearly toothless 13-year-old Beagle with long Basset-like ears whose person had gone into an assisted living situation that did not allow pets. Mr. Beagy came to live with us late in the summer of 2015. He had some issues, to be sure. Including the fact that every time we left him alone — which was rarely — he howled inconsolably, as hound dogs often do. (Who knew?!)
We decided Mr. Beagy could benefit from a canine companion, so we searched for and found an old yellow Lab, Kaci, through Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon. All three of us — husband, wife and Mr. Beagy — drove down to Corvallis in the spring of 2016 to meet Kaci. Everybody got along pretty well at first meeting, so we loaded up the car with Kaci and her accessories. When we got about a mile out of town she vomited all over the seat coverings. She was a little stressed out, to say the least. But it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Mr. Beagy and Kaci have formed, by now, a very strong bond. He relies on her as his ears and she relies on him to figure out how to access the trash under the sink when Mom and Dad are out. Back in their old lives, neither was walked much beyond leashed strolls in their respective neighborhoods. So being part of the Smith-Bissinger household has introduced a whole new way of life, which the dogs seem to fancy. As do the humans. Just about every day, we hop in the car and dive into one of the many fantastic trails we are lucky enough to have nearby. Our favorites and most frequented are the Dune Loop at Leadbetter State Park, the Discovery Trail from Hwy 101 to Ilwaco (well, almost to Ilwaco — we turn back at the trail’s wooden bridge, just up from Main Street) and the trail to Benson Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park.
The trailhead to Benson Beach is located at the end of a graveled spur off the park road that wends past Waikiki Beach. Once one gets to the trailhead, it is a very pleasant half-mile walk through swamp willows, pines and dunes to the Pacific. We’ve seen a porcupine, bears and plenty of deer on that trail. And, of course, there is plenty for the dogs to sniff and, unfortunately, roll around in along the way.
Mr. Beagy is not a swimmer. Kaci is a consummate water dog. He romps on shore, ears waving wildly in the breeze, while she kicks up her heels in the shallows. One reason we love Benson Beach is because no cars are allowed to drive on it! So no worries that one or both of the dogs might get squashed under a wheel while frolicking on the sand or in the water. (This has happened, unfortunately, to more than one hapless dog on the Long Beach beaches, which allow cars.) Also, there are very few people on the north end of Benson Beach, even in summer. So, if you covet solitude, as we do, you’ll love it. But if you do see an older woman and man with an old Beagle and old yellow Lab wandering along, please give us a wave or a shout. And have a wonderful walk!
Note: A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, visit the Discover Pass web page.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in an occasional series modeled on the British television show “Walks with My Dog.” In both our series and the TV show, dog lovers talk about their pets and some of the favorite landscapes they experience together on walks. Lisa Smith and husband Buzz Bissinger live on Willapa Bay. A consultant, Smith most recently served in a variety of roles for New York University Abu Dhabi.
• Guide to some of the trails within Cape Disappointment State Park: tinyurl.com/Cape-D-Trails
• Guide to some of the trails withing Leadbetter Point State Park: tinyurl.com/Leadbetter-Trail-Guide
• Guide to Discovery Trail: tinyurl.com/Discovery-Trail-Guide