In this world there are few bonds stronger than that of a man and his dog. In the Keys, where bars and restaurants kindly open their doors to people and canines alike, many of the four-legged animals begin to socialize and create their own circle of friends. While most locals know each other in the small communities, their pets are often more ubiquitous than their owners. There's Layla, the barrel-bodied pitbull who's bull-dozing gait clears tables and chairs if left unattended. Then there's the half-blind basset hound, Beauregard, a dive bar junkie who lumbers along mopping the beer-soaked floor with his ears. But while these dogs are well-known for their quirky personas and general presence, there's only one dog who actually engages, entertains, and receives invites at every social gathering. Meet River.
River attempts to place a coconut husk in my hand for one more throw while Badger looks on
River, an Australian shepherd and labrador mix was adopted by Garl Harrold four years ago. Within the first few months River managed to get her tongue stuck in a Kong ball and Garl faced either a $4,000 surgical procedure or the option to put her down. Fortunately, it was a good year for Garl's Coastal Kayaking and he footed the bill. To this day, it seems she has tried every possible way of repaying her debt with the hundreds of coconuts she fanatically peels. Piles of husks litter the front lawn and Garl is always quick to offer a fresh coconut water to anyone that visits the house. Her half tongue has left her uncontrollably drooling, sliming anyone that dares to walk near her mouth. After years of shucking the hardened coconuts her canines have eroded down to what looks like a dentist's solution for delinquent dogs. Garl has tried to ease her into tennis balls, racquetballs, and even baseballs, but she destroys them all the same as if there were something delicious waiting at the center of all round things.
Garl paddles River in Florida Bay on one of his sunset cruises
While Garl is out leading trips into the wilds of the Everglades he has to leave his dog behind. At home, unleashed and unbound River commonly takes off to explore the neighborhoods and retrieve anything that strangers offer to throw. When she's not out on her own, friends and coworkers come by and voluntarily pick her up to spend an afternoon with the legendary dog. Unfortunately, her forever-loving labrador naivety has landed her in the cars of strangers excited to claim her for themselves. That is, until her captors cease from throwing objects, and finally bored, she follows her internal compass back home. So River, this post is for you. Even though you can't read, I'll feel better telling the world that you have made my last few years brighter. Oh, and I'll go ahead and confess that I may have dropped your name once or twice at Sharkey's to get the locals discount. So thanks.