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Nothing Wrong With a Dog's Life

Pet Owners Find Many Orange County Parks and Beaches Have an Open-Door Policy


HUNTINGTON BEACH — Lucy the butterscotch Labrador emerged from the surf and then promptly took a tumble in the dry sand, squirming on her back as she chomped on a tattered tennis ball.

Lucy's owner, Susan Carter, shook her head at the sand-matted creature and predicted she'd have to hit both the dog wash and the car wash before heading home from the dog beach--a stretch of Huntington City Beach where leashed dogs are welcome to frolic.

"She just makes a mess of herself and the car, but there's nothing she loves more," said Carter, who incorporates her daily walks into her trip to the beach. "I love watching her have so much fun."

Orange County offers a variety of spots where dog lovers can enjoy the outdoors and bring their four-legged friends along for the ride. Or the hike.

Eileen Pinder, a kennel manager at Orange County's Humane Society, calls on pet owners to be extra cautious and responsible when bringing their pets to recreation areas. Some tips:

* Animals should be leashed at all times, the only exception at so-called "bark parks," fenced in areas where animals can run freely and safely. Bring a ball or flying disc.

* Ask your veterinarian if your dog is healthy enough to go on long hikes and walks. Gradually introduce your pet to extended exercise, and always watch for signs of exhaustion. Avoid the hottest hours of the day--from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m.--and always bring ample water.

* Stay alert. A passing cyclist, a skater and even a larger dog could seriously harm your pet, which in turn could become frightened and attack. Practice caution at all times.

* Always clean up after your pet.

"Unfortunately, you can't always trust the next person to be as responsible as you," Pinder said.

Huntington Beach ranks as one of Orange County's most dog-friendly municipalities.

The so-called "dog beach" located between Seapoint Street and Golden West Street is a popular spot, as is the bluff-top park running along Huntington Beach at street level. Many mornings see runners, in-line skaters and occasionally cyclists zooming by, dogs in tow.

Not far away, there's the Park Bench Cafe, one of the few restaurants in Southern California where owners and well-behaved dogs are welcome to dine together. There's even a special dog menu.

There's also a dog park within Huntington Central Park off Edwards Street and Ellis Avenue, in Costa Mesa at Arlington Drive and Newport Boulevard and in Laguna Beach on Laguna Canyon Road.

Dogs are also allowed at 14 of Orange County's 29 regional parks and historic sites, including Peters Canyon Regional Park in the Tustin area and O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon.

The parks offer everything from perfectly manicured laws to rustic, scenic hikes and walks, officials at Orange County Harbors Beaches & Parks said.

San Clemente also offers a place for leashed dogs to frolic at San Onofre State Beach.

Pinder's personal favorite is a walk along Upper Newport Bay off University Drive.

"It's just a beautiful nature walk," she said. "Dogs love it and owners can get a good workout while they're at it too."

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