1. Archive

Belleair Causeway beach is a dog's best friend

Published Oct. 8, 2005

It's Tiffany's birthday, and Karl and Fran Lund figure that like a lot of 7-year-olds, she wants to spend it at the beach.

So they pile into the car for the drive to the small stretch of sand at the east end of the Belleair Causeway. The trip doesn't require pails and shovels and sunscreen and blankets and blow-up floats. There's usually a gnarly old tennis ball or a stick or two for recreation.

With a gorgeous sunset reflecting off the Intracoastal Waterway, Fran Lund smiles as Tiffany, a Yorkshire terrier, and a half-dozen other dogs splash along the calm shoreline, challenge each other for sticks and engage in the time-honored tradition of mindlessly retrieving a tossed ball, over and over and over.

"Tiffany's pals came to her birthday party," Fran says.

And above all,

No Dogs Allowed

The Pinellas beaches sometimes seem more like exercises in restraint than recreation. No alcoholic beverages. No fires. No glass containers. No fishing. No cast-netting. No motorized vehicles, no launching of boats, no personal watercraft. No bathing suits that expose certain parts of the body.

No golfing, for heaven's sake.

And above all, No Dogs Allowed.

Which makes this beach a slice of heaven for people like Maria Saenz of Largo, and her cockapoo, Blue.

"This is nice. It's perfect," says Saenz, a pet groomer who takes Blue to the causeway once a month. "I live right around the corner, so it works out good."

Saenz says the saltwater is good for dogs and takes care of any fleas that Blue might pick up. She brings a jug of freshwater to rinse him off after a swim, and carefully covers her passenger seat with a towel for the trip home.

A joyful Blue can't stay put, however.

"And I just vacuumed," Saenz complains. But a little dog hair won't spoil this trip.

"It's not creating

any kind of hardship'

"When we started about two years ago, we put restrictions on Jet Skis, drinking, oh, three or four different ordinances," Belleair Bluffs Mayor John Diller says. "The possibility of also not permitting dogs to run down there came up."

But the small beach on the south side of the roadway along the Intracoastal Waterway isn't a big draw for human bathers. Swimming conditions aren't the best. And Diller and his fellow commissioners concluded if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

"They seem to enjoy it, and it's not creating any kind of hardship," Diller said. "The beach and the water is there to use, and there are quite a few dog lovers in the area. . . . We felt that as long as it does not become a problem, we wouldn't close it to unleashed dogs."

There are a handful of other spots around the county that allow dogs to paddle. The narrow strips along the Gandy Bridge and Courtney Campbell Parkway are popular sites, though the reputation there _ that the humans howl louder than their pets _ turns some off. Dogs are allowed on a beach at the southern tip of Honeymoon Island, but leashes are required _ even in the water _ and can be no longer than 6 feet.

Rules, rules, rules. There are none addressing canine recreation at the Belleair Causeway. Dog owners say they police themselves.

"I'll tell you something," Karl Lund says. "People have told me, "We don't have dogs on our beach because they make a mess.'

" He gestures around Tiffany's favorite hangout. "This is as clean as Clearwater Beach. I can walk around here barefoot."

And there's little trouble between dogs. Even though he stands hip-high at only 8 months, Theresa Williams' Rottweiler, Bear, only looks intimidating. "I've never seen any dogfights. Nothing," she says.

Contrasts are evident

up and down this beach

Bear, resplendent in his spiked collar, clumsily tries to avoid stomping on tiny Tiffany, the Yorkshire terrier. Contrasts are evident up and down this beach.

On the western end, Suzanne Hinesley, 22, runs her golden retriever, Arrow. She's taking a break from college in Georgia. "He's been trapped in the house, so it's good exercise for him," she says.

On the east side, Rick Weatherwax follows as 17-year-old, Max, a Labrador-shepherd mix, ambles slowly ahead.

"Sometimes I get home from work and I don't feel like going out," says the auto parts delivery driver. "But he's ready to go. He starts barking."

Clutched in Weatherwax's arms is Mita, his cat. A cat on the beach? That's nothing, says Weatherwax, who has seen ferrets and even a skunk. "I presume it was descented," he says.

Karl Lund loves the mix. "This is as diversified a group of people as you'll see anywhere," he says. "The dogs don't seem to know the difference.

"As people, we love to go to the beach. And they're doing the same thing."