Four-legged friends love cavorting on the beach and the laid-back island life
They surf, catch fish and love long runs on the beach. Some even pull sleds on the sand. Dogs dwelling on the Texas Coast, including those who have overcome difficult starts in life, have lifestyles most humans would envy. Coast Monthly caught up with a few four-legged lovers of life by the sea.
In March 2013, Bentley, a vizsla breed, joined Tristan and Sara Cahill’s family at their island home. Bentley was 6 years old and had been removed from a home in North Texas. He carried a lot of emotional baggage, Sara Cahill said.
“He was standoffish, skittish and slightly aggressive,” she said. “He fought constantly with Rezi, our then 2-year-old vizsla, and displayed aggression to both Tristan and myself. His previous owners were so anxious to be rid of him they insisted the rescue organization sign a contract relinquishing themselves of all responsibilities involving Bentley. Bentley was going to be our first (and last) foster dog through Texas Vizsla Rescue, and we were determined to make him feel safe and loved.”
Bentley’s first three weeks with the couple were very long, Sara Cahill said.
“On more than one occasion, I was ready to throw in the towel and admit that he was damaged beyond our repair and would never trust either of us, or get along with Rezi,” she said. “We had to all but abandon sweeping our house because the sight of a broom would send him running up the stairs to hide. He ran from dog toys and flinched when he watched us play fetch with Rezi.
“A turning point came one morning about six weeks in, when I walked into the kitchen with a broom, thinking Bentley was outside. He stared at the broom but instead of running away he just stood there and waited. I lowered the broom to the ground and sat on the floor and waited. Eventually, he made his way across the kitchen, sniffed the broom and eventually crawled into my lap. That afternoon, I emailed the rescue organization and asked if we could keep him.”
Bentley has developed into a gentle, loving and playful dog, she said. She attributes Bentley’s progress to exercise, which includes long runs on the beach and around the island. His favorite beach activity is chasing sand crabs, she said.
“Vizslas not only crave exercise, like many dogs, but truly require it,” she said. “When we started, he couldn’t run half a mile without stopping, which is pretty terrible for a dog that is bred for endurance. We’ve given him — and us — plenty of breaks and over the last two years he has gradually worked up to over 6 miles. He is a more well behaved, more attentive and less destructive dog because of it.”
Sara Cahill said she’s occasionally reminded that Bentley still has lingering bad memories.
“Just earlier this week, I leaned down too quickly to scratch his head and he flinched away, but as time goes on, the rate of these incidents has decreased,” she said. “Bentley has taught us, especially me, more patience than I thought possible, and his gratefulness shows every day in his loyal personality. I can’t imagine our family without him.”
– Coast Staff
Rezi has been a part of Tristan and Sara Cahill’s family since she was 4 months old.
“She is so loving, expressive and adventurous,” Sara Cahill said. “Tristan and I joke that one day, she’s just going to start using words because her mannerisms and expressions speak louder than most humans we know. Her independent spirit challenges us and her need to run keeps us both active and on our toes. She’s terribly spoiled but — usually — maintains her manners and once she warms up to you, you’ll never have free lap space again.”
– Coast Staff
Doggie paddling takes on a whole new meaning for Babs, the surfing bulldog. Named for former first lady Barbara Bush, this rescue pet is a full-figured, 6-year-old female with an adventurous spirit.
“Babs will try anything,” said her owner Cat Cessac, who also is office manager of Galveston Island Humane Society. “She can’t swim, but there’s no way I can keep her out of the water; she just loves it.”
And, yes, Babs wears a life jacket while participating in all water-related sports. Babs is a high-fashion girl and prefers Cessac decorate her life jacket. She has dozens of outfits to don for special occasions.
Babs is somewhat of a celebrity about town. Passers-by were quick to give a shout out to Cessac’s pampered pet during a recent interview at Starbuck’s on 61st Street in Galveston, where the servers not only know her name but bring her favorite snack — appropriately named “Puppy Whip” — out to the patio.
What’s next on Babs’s bucket list?
“I want to teach her to work a skateboard,” Cessac said. “Seems like a natural progression to me.”
Cessac cautions that bulldogs are particularly sensitive to heat and asks pet owners to provide water and shade to any animal spending time outdoors.
Although Babs has never placed in a surf dog competition, she’s a regular at the annual Ohana Surf & Skate Surf Dog Competition held on the island each summer to benefit Galveston Island Humane Society.
But celebrity hasn’t gone to Babs’s head.
“Babs is humble, she remembers where she came from,” Cessac said.
– Coast Staff
Mojo and Kira
Mojo is a 3-year-old liver-colored male English cocker spaniel who came to his owners, John Havard and Carrie Derkowski, from Big Cocker Kennels in Manor, Texas.
Mojo is all about peace, love, fetch ball, fetch ball again and more fetching ball. Mojo can’t resist big water bowls; he loves to dip his front paws in them and splash. His coat, when not shaved for summer, is like a thick 1960s shag carpet. He loves to boat and swim.
Kira is a 20-month-old blue roan female English cocker. Her full name is Fallen Wings Cairo Kira, and she hails from Wisconsin. She came to her Galveston owners from El Corazon Kennels in Waller, Texas, where she enjoyed swimming in a large pond. She’s been a water dog ever since.
Both dogs come from field trial champion lineage. They’re bred to work in the field and have a keen sense of smell. At the Galveston Yacht Basin, they’re affectionately called the “Wiggly Butts,” because they’re happy to see nearly everyone and their tails rarely stop wagging.
– Irene Amiet
Nana, the 4-year-old old English sheepdog, can’t claim BOI (born-on-the-island) status. But when she was born on Thanksgiving Day in Abilene, owners Saralyn and Ed Richard drove there and back in one day to add her to their family. It didn’t take long for Nana to embrace Galveston and for islanders to embrace her.
In fact, Nana represents all that is best about Galveston: friendliness, spontaneity, diversity and fun, said Richard, who does happen to be a BOI.
Nana was the inspiration for children’s picture book “Naughty Nana,” written by Richard and illustrated by Rebecca Evans, and based on the real-life adventures of a sheepdog puppy who just wants to have fun.
Whether it’s walking on the Seawall or The Strand, making friends at the Galveston Children’s Museum or the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or wandering in and out of open-air festivals, Nana is all about people, Richard said.
“Take her to a Mardi Gras parade, and she’ll attract as much attention as the floats,” she said. Nana also happens to be the fluffiest aficionado of ArtWalk, a downtown island event that draws hundreds of people to galleries and shops every six weeks.
Nana’s good nature and affinity for people have made her an unofficial goodwill ambassador in Galveston, her owners say. Wherever she goes, she greets whomever she encounters by plopping at their feet and refusing to move until they pet her. Nana’s thick fur is soft, and children marvel at her missing tail and her one blue and one brown eye, Richard said.
– Coast Staff
Makar, Bacha and Pinahut
John Maitino was concerned about moving his beloved pets from a Canadian-border town in upstate New York to the Southern climes of the Upper Texas Coast.
Makar, Bacha and Pinahut (pronounced pee-na-hoot) are Siberian huskies originally bred for snow sledding and cooler weather. But Maitino’s concerns were unwarranted. These now coastal canines made an easy transition from dashing through the snow to sledding over the sandy shores of Galveston Island.
All three dogs are purebreds with rich ancestries. Makar, a 6-year-old male with soft brown eyes, has a sweet disposition. Bacha is a 9-year-old male with crystal blue eyes and is the leader of the pack. Both males weigh about 47 to 48 pounds. Pinahut, the only female, is 12 years old, has golden eyes and unique fox-like coloring. She weighs a svelte 42 pounds.
“She is, without a doubt, the most vocal of the pack,” Maitino said.
These huskies pull the weight of man and sled with grace and ease, reaching speeds of up to 15 mph, proving they’re every inch the athlete as their owner, who is an avid martial arts enthusiast and race car driver.
A mechanical engineer with Praxair, Maitino runs the dogs in Jamaica Beach on Galveston’s West End, where he’s lived since 2012. Always mindful of his pets’ health, he only runs the dogs during colder months and the coolest parts of the day.
“I love watching people’s faces as we race by,” Maitino said. “I believe we must make a very strange sight.”
– Esther McKenna
Rosalind Richard’s Labrador retriever was named Dixie, after the country music trio The Dixie Chicks, long before she got her six years ago. Richard took Dixie in after an elderly Cajun couple, who originally adopted her, realized she might be too much to handle after one too many bounding hellos from the Labrador.
Richard worked to train her and not let her become a spoiled “diva,” she said. But when Dixie was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, that soon changed. Dixie was treated at Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Two surgeries and year of chemo later, Dixie was cancer-free. But after her illness, efforts not to spoil her were futile, Richard said.
“The world was her oyster and she knew it,” Richard said. “We had started a ‘Save Dixie’ online fund to defray the costs of her treatment; friends, family and well wishers had pitched in. So, Dixie was now a star with a formidable fan base. And we have never been so happy to have a spoiled rotten dog on our hands.”
Dixie loves to chase a ball in the surf year-round, but prefers those beautiful, clear fall days when the speckled trout are running, Richard said. On those days, the Labrador will dispense with the ball and run through the surf until she spots movement in the water. She’ll suddenly dunk her head and come up smiling with a trout flopping between her teeth, Richard said.
Dixie has mellowed a bit, and is even willing to allow other dogs on her Galveston beaches, Richard said.
– Esther McKenna