2012-07-13 / Community

Willard on site’s list of dog-friendly beaches

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Kim Salerno’s dog Tucker (top) plays with his brother Hoover. The two yellow labs were rescued from the same litter in Mississippi. (courtesy photo) Kim Salerno’s dog Tucker (top) plays with his brother Hoover. The two yellow labs were rescued from the same litter in Mississippi. (courtesy photo) At 8:30 a.m. on a hot and humid morning in July, it seems there are more dogs than humans on Willard Beach.

The popular South Portland beach allows dogs for four hours each day, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dozens of dogs come to run in the wet sand, chase a tennis ball into the shallow water or socialize with the other animals at the beach.

“It’s a real community,” said Megan McConagha. She said she visits Willard Beach with her dog Maggie only on occasion because she lives in Cape Elizabeth. But McConagha said that for the regulars, “it’s part of their routine. They can get their coffee and chat. It’s better than yoga.”

Liz Brazier walks from her house on Willard Street to the beach with her 18-month-old labradoodle Sonny almost every morning. She said the dog hours create a “stress-free” environment for dog owners and provide a great way for Sonny to expend some of his boundless energy. He trotted behind Brazier off the beach at 9 a.m. after running and playing into the water for more than an hour.


Russ Brewer’s dog Breezy carries a tennis ball back to her owner on a recent hot summer morning at Willard Beach. Brewer said 9-year-old Breezy has had some health issues with her elbow, but visiting the beach is good for her to get some exercise. (Jack Flagler photo) Russ Brewer’s dog Breezy carries a tennis ball back to her owner on a recent hot summer morning at Willard Beach. Brewer said 9-year-old Breezy has had some health issues with her elbow, but visiting the beach is good for her to get some exercise. (Jack Flagler photo) Kim Salerno, who is the president and founder of TripsWithPets.com, often comes to Willard Beach with her dog Tucker, an adopted yellow lab from Mississippi. Salerno moved to South Portland from Florida and started the site after working in online travel for major airlines.

Salerno said there are a few important tips to remember to be a good beach samaritan.

The most important thing for owners to be aware of is the time that their pets are allowed at the beach, Salerno said. Willard Beach posts signs at the entrance with the information, which is also on the city of South Portland’s website. Starting on Oct. 1, dogs will be allowed on the beach anytime between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. until April 30, when summer hours begin again.

Salerno also reminded owners to always have a leash on hand even if a dog is under voice control of the owner, and she said owners should always pick up after their pet.

Crystal Goodrich, president of the South Portland Dog Owners Group, added, “One of the best things you can do to be polite at Willard Beach is to keep your dog on a leash until you get past the playground area,” so that dog owners can avoid the possibility of their pet bothering children playing on the playground equipment or eating food out on picnic tables.

Three years ago, Goodrich was at the forefront of the debate over whether to ban dogs altogether from Willard Beach in the summer. She opposed the referendum, and since it was defeated in November 2009, she said there haven’t been many problems.

“I haven’t heard a lot of complaints. I think it’s going really well,” Goodrich said.

Russ Brewer came to Willard Beach with his 9-year-old lab named Breezy. “She loves to swim,” Brewer said, but a bad elbow has slowed her down a bit, although that would be tough to tell on a recent Friday morning as Breezy sprinted on the sand to chase down a tennis ball, then proudly displayed it in her mouth as she brought it back to her owner.

Brewer said the brief time periods for dogs in the morning and evenings at Willard cut down on potential conflicts.

“It’s all concentrated in the summer because you have to be off by nine,” Brewer said.

He added that the winter season also has its advantages, because he can bring Breezy any time of the day.

Salerno also reminded dog owners “to be wary of extreme temperatures” on the beach in hot summer months. She said dogs excited by the freedom to roam and play at the beach “have the tendency to go go go,” and it’s up to owners to make sure their dogs aren’t in danger of any health risks like heat stroke and hypothermia.

To do that, Salerno said, owners should always bring fresh water to the beach, keep their dog in sight, and look out for signs of heat stroke like excessive panting, bright red color, weakness and sticky saliva.

Her site recently added a directory of dog-friendly beaches across the United States and Canada that includes Willard Beach. It also offers listings for pet-friendly airlines, car rentals and hotels for owners who are moving with their pets or owners who want to bring a pet along for vacation. Visitors can also find a more detailed “do’s and don’ts” list for owners who bring dogs to the beach, which includes steps to take if owners recognize signs of heat stroke or hypothermia in their dogs.

Staff Writer Jack Flagler can be reached at 282-4337 ext. 219.

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