Our family has never not had a dog. When the kids were born, my husband and I had two dogs: Kaysee and Bailey.
My husband and I got Kaysee, a German Shepard mix, from an animal shelter in Maryland. She was our baby. Bailey came later. He was a yellow lab. My husband brought him home as a puppy. He was an anniversary gift. He was as crazy as could be, but he was a great dog. He always wanted to be with us and truly believed that he was the fourth child. When the kids were babies, Bailey figured out how to open the baby gate so he could come with us when we were going outside.
After we moved to the Delaware beaches, Bailey’s hind legs began to fail him. We had to make the difficult decision to put him down. He was in a great deal of pain and it just was not fair to allow him to suffer. It was an agonizing decision, but the right one.
Bailey was a great dog and we still miss him. My youngest has taken it the hardest because he and Bailey were the best of friends. We waited almost a year before we even looked at another dog. Who could replace a dog like Bailey?
My husband got Bailey from a co-worker in Maryland who bred labs. We decided that we would go to a shelter this time. Rescue dogs are huge at the Delaware Beaches. Coastal Delaware seems to offer everyone, including dogs, second chances. People love their dogs here.
We drove to First State Shelter in Camden. My husband and my kids walked through the shelter, looking at each dog. It is hard not to want to take them all home. The kids and my husband stopped in front of kennel with a medium-sized black dog. He kind of looked like a lab. We asked if we could see him. That was it. There was no way we were leaving the shelter without this dog. The volunteer led the dog into a small room and he ran in and immediately rolled on his back and looked at us to scratch his belly. He then jumped up on a bench next to me and nuzzled me to pet him.
Here I thought we could just go “look” for a new dog. We left with “Conrad,” a black “lab” mix from Roanoke Rapids, NC. It must have been meant to be. I grew up in North Carolina and that’s where my husband I met. Everyone was a little nervous driving home. What had we gotten ourselves into?
Almost immediately we began pitching new names for our new friend from North Carolina. Conrad just seems like an odd name for a dog. We put a red bandana on our black dog with white markings, and it was clear he was Bandit. Bandit is about three years old and he is a runner. The first day we brought him home, one of the kids left a gate in the backyard open and off went Bandit. We all ran throughout the neighborhood trying to get this dog whose name we had not settled upon to come back. Oh the shame. Our neighbor caught Bandit, and we have tried to be extra, extra careful ever since. He also knows his name now and seems to like living with us. At least, he has not told us otherwise.
Bandit pulls and he is strong. Walking with him is a challenge. We are trying to train him not to pull, and it would be awesome if we could teach him how to listen. We bought a harness. That has has helped a little bit. We would love to be able to let him run off a leash, but we are not there yet. Right now, he walks us and we carry treats to encourage him to walk with us.
He loves going to the beach. He is a smart dog. We have taken to Broadkill Beach and Plum Beach Island. We also have started taking him to Prime Hook, where there is a 1/8 mile loop and plenty of wooded areas to explore. We have also taken Bandit to Cape Henlopen State Park. I have never been to Roanoke Rapids, NC, but I can say with absolute certainty that this dog is lucky to live at the Delaware Beaches.
Here are some of our favorite spots so far, and some others we would like to try.
- Prime Hook: The trails are peaceful, quiet and the trees offer a lot of shade. This also a great spot to fish and do a little bird watching. Prime Hook is a National Wildlife Refuge. It is just off Coastal Highway on Route 16 in Milton, DE.
- Cape Henlopen State Park: There are so many trails and beaches at Cape Henlopen State Park that we could go every weekend and still not cover the same ground twice. If you love nature and want a mixture of trees, beaches, wildlife and a bit of World War II history, this is THE place to walk your dog. A year-long park pass is $30 and well worth it to get into this state park in Lewes, DE. A park pass also gets you into all the Delaware State Parks. The year-long pass is a great value.
- Plum Beach Island: Bandit loves the beach! He will jump into the waves with our three kids. He loves it. He also likes trying to figure out what the horseshoe crabs are. This is a great secluded beach, where you do not have to worry about too many people and a lot of other dogs. This is bayside, so there are no real waves.
These are just some of the places we have visited. Some other spots we would like to visit are: Killens Pond State Park and Trap Pond State Park.