Wednesday, April 25, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 7

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on April 16th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 15, Issue 6

Canine capers in the Five Cities


The Elm Street Dog Park in Arroyo Grande offers dogs big and small a chance to interact and run free.

On a recent sunny day, my fiancée, our two chihuahuas, and I embarked on an afternoon out. Lucy and Pepper (yes, both named after songs by The Beatles) were best friends at the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society, and we were lucky to keep the feisty little duo together when we adopted them many years ago.

A lack of means, including a full gas tank, has never stopped us from having a great time out and about as an interspecies family.

Our crazy little chihuahua/rat terrier mixed pooches, which we playfully refer to as the “goof troop,” can’t help but get excited when they hear the jangle of our keys. They love to go for rides, so just cruising along Highway 1 offers them all the sights, sounds, and—most importantly—smells they can enjoy. Right before we hit Oceano, though, we hang a right on Halcyon, and a left on Fair Oaks Avenue, which brings us to the Elm Street Dog Park in Arroyo Grande.

Our dogs are regulars at the Woof Pac Park in Santa Maria (Lucy thinks she runs the place), and though the Elm Street Dog Park is markedly smaller than the sprawling Woof Pac, there is no shortage of fun. There was quite a crowd of crazed ankle-biters waiting to sprint and sniff with our dogs.

Dog park chemistry is an interesting thing. What one minute is a placid symposium of wagging tails and lifted legs can turn with the introduction of one rogue canine—a rabble-rouser—stirring things into a swirling vortex of furry frenzied chase. It’s a perfect way to tire out a rambunctious dog and free them from the shackles of leash laws.

The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center iPhone app helped us find a nearby dog-friendly beach during our daytrip up Highway 1.

Barely a mile away, where Oak Park Boulevard meets Grande Avenue, Higher Groundz Coffee House and Eatery sits on the southeast corner of the intersection. It’s a small coffee shop and has recently changed owners who, thankfully, stock a fine locally roasted espresso. An iced Americano with some cream, a good book, and the shady connected patio make for a nice spot to relax while the afternoon sun cools. Our dogs—who are mostly a breed reared by the sun-worshipping Mayans—found a nice sunny patch on which to stretch out and recoup after all of the dog park politics.

Grand Avenue will take you through the rest of Arroyo Grande to Grover Beach where, if you aren’t in the mood to stop at any of the kitschy shops, you can hop back on Highway 1 and make for Pismo Beach. Pismo is a fun walkabout, even with the dogs. The pier’s weathered and foot-traffic-worn wood was more than safe for our pooches’ paws, but the little quadrupeds maintain a paranoid relationship with the ocean, perhaps becoming aware of their place in the food chain, so we ventured just far enough to find a picnic table at which to eat a sustaining clam chowder lunch.

We were eager to take to the beach but desired a walking place that wasn’t too crowded and was also dog friendly. It was then that I remembered my Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center app I had downloaded onto my iPhone. Not only did it provide maps to the nearest beach and dune parks and walking trails, but it also included nifty little icons relating the amenities of each location as well as whether they were dog friendly.

After a long and leisurely walk in the Pismo Dunes, our tired little family cruised back down Highway 1 through Pismo, Grover Beach, Oceano, Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, and finally through sleepy Guadalupe, to head back home in Santa Maria. All the while Pepper and Lucy sat happily on my fiancée’s lap, Lucy dozing contentedly, and Pepper sticking his face out the window. All our sun-exposed skin was cooled by the soft marine layer, and the sun went down over the Pacific Ocean.


Arts Editor Joe Payne loves cruising with his pint-sized pooches. Contact him at

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