© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2002
THE SETTING: The city's new dog beach on the southern tip of Davis Islands, latest resort for the pampered pet. It's a sunny Saturday, the day before Easter. Balls fly into Hillsborough Bay, dogged by labs and retrievers. A fence keeps everyone safe. There's a dog-high shower. It seems too good to be true.
FOURTEEN RULES are posted for humans, who nonetheless manage to misbehave. Among the oddest: No. 12, which states, "Dogs are the type of animal permitted in Dog Park."
Canines, meanwhile, adhere to their own 14 rules, which, if written, would sound like this:
1. No shaking after swimming unless a human is nearby.
2. Bonus points for drenching newcomers.
3. The only good fish is a dead fish.
4. If you find a dead fish, roll on it.
5. Possession of a dead fish is nine-tenths of the law.
6. No monopolizing the fire hydrant. Magazines prohibited.
7. If your wet collar loosens, drop it in deep water, tags and all.
8. When weary of toys, balls, etc., set them adrift at sea.
9. Clear the beach of all shoes. See Rule No. 8 for guidance.
10. It is each dog's responsibility to carry home sand.
11. Hairless varieties exempt from Rule 10.
12. Salt water ingestion is recommended for proper post-beach carsickness.
13. After getting carsick, maintain innocence.
14. Once home, pout for a week to ensure a swift return.
TURMOIL: People are talking. Men are meeting women. Women are meeting dogs. Suddenly, a big dog gets into a scuffle with a little puppy, one of a half-dozen toddling around. Strangers separate them and call out for the big dog's owner. "It takes a village," a bystander notes, before dogs return to play.
QUOTE: "Pit Bulls will not cure the personal inadequacies of any individual and should not be owned by such a person. If you feel inadequate, get some counseling and a pet frog." -- www.pitbullregistry.com.
THE MAN looks to be in his 20s; the puppy, about 12 weeks. The man could weigh 220; the puppy, 25 pounds. Maybe the man is having a bad day. Not as bad as the puppy. The puppy growls in play. The man snatches him by the collar and kicks him, hard.
The puppy is a pit bull. I see the future.
My friend begins politely. But the man wants no advice. No suggestions about puppy class. He tells us 10 times that we just don't understand pit bulls. His point: They have to be hit.
Later, curious, I turn to the Internet. "Firm guidance will lead to respect and trust," I read. "Physical penalties will lead to disrespect and distrust."
Not that this guy deserves much respect.
POSTSCRIPTS: Colonnade waitress Mary Fabiano says life isn't the same since a story appeared in City Times detailing her luck at winning contests. Every day, customers ask to meet her.
"People are rubbing my arm," she says. "They want to touch me for good luck."
Luck eludes Rob Bohan, the man who lost a young woman's phone number and posted a sign on Church Street last week looking for "Grace."
His best lead: Someone named Katie called, thinking his Grace might be her Grace.
"It was a different Grace," Bohan says. "But her Grace might want to go out with me, which I found amusing."
- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.