Dog Days Of Summer
From snoozes in sunbeams to chasing tidal waves, our four-legged friends find ways to make beach life even more joyful. By Margaret Pilarski. Photos by Steve Rosamilia.
As if life by the beach weren’t splendid enough, the addition of a canine pal has the capacity to sweeten the scene. The laidback lifestyles on Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms are a natural ft for four-legged friends, who enjoy the area’s natural environment and the embrace of dog-friendly locales. We stopped a few beach walkers to tell us about their furry friends and what they love most about island life.
Puppy love comes in all sizes
To others, Luka the Great Dane looks less like a dog and more like a Chincoteague pony when she gallops into the surf. To owner Beth Cavanaugh, she’s still a happy, eager puppy. “She loves the beach,” Cavanaugh says. “Grabs my hand when she wants to come down and runs like the wind kicking her feet up. Even when it's cold and rainy I have donned ski clothes, rain boots, hat and gloves to bring her down.”
The two are inseparable, thus beach walks are as frequent as other outings. “She goes everywhere with me, she loves her friends at boot camp and makes sure she steps on everyone's mat with dirty dog paws, but she’s probably the best dog I have ever had. She got me through the most difficult year of my life.”
Frequent beach walkers might recognize Fin the French Bulldog, who’s quite the opposite of Luka the Great Dane. Fin’s fan club might not know his proper name though, and he’s not quite sure either. He receives so many compliments that Fin thinks “He’s so cute” is his name. “It’s become a nickname of sorts,” says Caroline Knopf, who grew up spending summers at a family beach house on Sullivan’s Island and met her husband while she was attending College of Charleston and he was in the Navy.
Knopf and her husband Mark Stetler frequently work out of New York City, doing photography for fashion, advertising, commercial and fine art assignments. In their spare time they are slowly but surely restoring a beach cottage. “It holds so many great family memories of treasured times and we love being able to again spend time on the island and become part of the community,” Knopf says.
One thing that won’t make it into the cottage is one of Fin’s beach finds, a hollowed-out horseshoe crab. “It was as large as he was at the time—he grabbed it and ran back to the house with the treasure, fighting the dog door to get it inside,” Knopf says.
The Buckhannons know a thing or two about adventurous beach dogs as well. Ryan and Sonya have two German Shorthaired Pointers—Folly and Goose. The breed is a high-energy hunting dog, which was the reason they got Folly. But they didn’t realize the full extent of pup’s ambition until they were on the beach in the Outer Banks.
“Folly was still young and was ‘on point’ on a bird, and when the bird took off, so did Folly. We chased her for miles and finally caught up to her in a bog where she was hopping around like a gazelle chasing dragonflies,” Ryan Buckhannon says.
On the upside, Folly has a much more chilled-out sibling in Goose. “Goose most often lies around on the couch or on your lap,” Ryan says. “If you are lying down on the couch, she has no problem slowly crawling up and lying down on top of you to sleep.”
Owners of Mount Pleasant-based Buckhannon Brothers Tile, the couple have been on Isle of Palms for 19 years, and Ryan was one of councilmembers who amended the times that dogs could be off-leash on the beach during the of-season.
The pull of the sand and surf
For Joe and Dottie Stubel, whether leashed or not, beach time is a bonus for their family of pups. Brandy, 6, is the Stubel family’s “big, black, beautiful Bouvier Des Flanders”—the second Bouvier they’ve had. “We love the breed for their intelligence, loyalty and affection for their family,” Joe, who found Brandy on a rescue site and few her cross-country when she was 8 weeks old, says. “If it were up to Brandy, her perfect day would be going to the dog park for an hour, coming home for a rest and fresh water and then heading to the beach where she can run into the surf for a dip, chase seagulls and greet any and all with a big smile.”
The couple moved to Wild Dunes after Joe retired from Coca-Cola in 2013 and Dottie put Isle of Palms on her list of top spots to live, and the pups clearly agree. However, Abby, a Yorkie/Cairn Terrier, chooses socializing over surf. “She has no reservations about going to up just about anyone who is sitting on or walking along the beach to say ‘Hi’ and get some love from them. Most people are more than happy to oblige,” Dottie says. “We’ve lived here a little over two years. We were introduced to the Charleston area when our daughter attended the College of Charleston. Fell in love with the area immediately. We have the best of everything: the quaint small-town atmosphere and proximity to a mid-sized city.”
That quick embrace of the Lowcountry is something Jen Owens can attest to as well. “We moved back to Charleston on a Thursday, enrolled my daughter in school on Friday, and adopted Georgia on Saturday,” Owens says. “When we le f for the Charleston Animal Society I said, ‘No pit bulls and no puppies.’ But we got both. And we wouldn't have it any other way.”
“You can’t say the word ‘beach’ in our house unless you're committed to a walk,” Owens says of Georgia’s passion for the wide-open spaces of sandy beaches. “She will stand by the door until you give in. She loves to play in the waves and chase birds.” For Owens, who moved here in 2014 from Washington, D.C., the beach means family time too. “One of my favorite things about IOP is when my daughter gets home from school— we go for a walk on the beach with Georgia and she tells me about her day, usually what she learned in history. We couldn't do that in D.C., and I wouldn't trade it for the world.”
Quality time on the beach is a hallmark of longtime Isle of Palms resident Mary Alice Monroe. The author is known for her bestselling novels and her loyalty to the Island Turtle Team, but two tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniels keep her company in between book signings and beach scouting. “Maggie is my old girl at 12, and Gigi is my 10-month-old puppy. They’re best of friends, though Maggie sometimes gets tired out by Gigi’s antics,” she says.
Maggie is the original beach babe of the two. “My daughter, Gretta, used to surf with Maggie on Isle of Palms. Maggie loves the ocean and swims far out but I’m always afraid she’ll go too far. Now that she’s old, I keep her leashed. Gigi is pleased to just walk with me on the beach with her jaunty gait,” Monroe says.
Another slightly famous dog you might spot on the beach? Brooklyn, the namesake of Lucky Dog Publishing—publisher of SiP magazine and local bi-monthly newspapers The Island Connection and Island Eye News. The pit mix was previously a bait dog in underground dog fighting rings in New York and even had her teeth fled down. Publisher Lynn Pierotti’s brother initially adopted the dog from a no-kill shelter in 2005, but her rambunctious nature and history of trauma made the South Carolina coast a better ft for the pup.
“She took to the beach immediately,” Pierotti says. “We walk the beach every day and she’s very friendly. She loves to fetch and swim in the ocean—and she loves being on the boat, especially the ferry to Dewees, which is her favorite place.” When Brooklyn isn’t day tripping, she’s a regular part of the Lucky Dog office. More than just a mascot, she’s a greeter and a local celebrity, having regularly appeared in the newspaper over the last twelve years.
It’s tempting to say that every local dog is a lucky dog. For anyone who strolls the beach with a pup, taking a moment to consider the walk from their point of view reminds you that you should really grab that leash and go. The wide expanse of sand, the rolling surf, the tiny crabs tottering over gullies and streams—it’s endlessly fascinating and equally calming. With a wag of a tail, a stranger becomes a friend and a curiosity becomes an adventure. We should probably take more cues from them.