Wilbur’s big morning prowl in Cayucos

March 10, 2022

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


I think possibly the only thing keeping my 15-plus years old brown Lab, Wilbur, alive, is his morning ritual of heading a few blocks down the hill to the seawall to mooch treats. Wilbur’s hips are shot and restored by doses of CBD since last April, when he could no longer walk and penetrated me with the calm, resigned expression that said, “I’m done, end this misery, please?”

The sight of his movement is pity-grabbing; he is swayback and his right hip dips and sways in a winding waddle. His muzzle and eyebrows are white and water cysts ooze from his sides, and he’s missing a couple teeth though his molars crunch hard biscuits perfectly. When I walk him, often people stop and ask how old he is, and when I tell them, they show immediate compassion and near teary eyed concern and want to pet him as he pretends to be a day away from the reaper.

He’s been a day away from the reaper for a couple years now and when people ask how he’s managed to stay alive, I always tell them the truth: He’s a lionheart, a rescue who spent too long in the mean streets of LA and is thus an alpha warrior living out his past 8-plus years in dog-crazy Cayucos—perhaps this town’s last redeeming quality.

So, the first stop is the Shore Line Hotel handyman/manager Lowell, who awaits him with the most expensive and tasty treats brimming with joint healing elements. Wilbur is taken off the leash from across the street and in a lumbering, dipping, waddling gait, tail aflutter, he wobbles across the street and over some plants straight to where Lowell awaits him in his work shed.

After Wilbur gobbles five pieces of crunchy jerky, he sniffs around for more and finally settles on hugs and ear scratching from Lowell before deciding that more treats await him, often on the way to the sea wall near the pier, for we usually run into people on the way who go out of their way and against the best behavior of their own dogs to hand Wilbur biscuits, large and small.

The trek to the sea wall picks up with a pathetic speed wobble, for awaiting him could be Nick and Greg with biscuits, but also Pete with ham from a roll purchased at Cayucos Coffee and shared with his dog Boomer, a newbie Golden named Crosby, a three legged occasional psycho named Achilles, and now Teddy, a Labradoodle who, when he first arrived as a perfectly behaved 9-yearold, has been so influenced by Wilbur and the rest of the pack that he’s turned into a whining, yipping, demanding goof incapable of controlling his greed and emotions.

The seawall is a morning meeting place (already written about in Cal Coast News) for a bunch of us old windbags and blowhards, yes, but in a sense, the dogs have taken over and distract from what remains of our sanity, mental acuity and sad-sack anatomies when folks pass by and automatically ask to pet the surrounding, begging, entitled, spoiled, at times obnoxious beasts, Wilbur being the most motivated by far and often following people in his painful gait most of the way down the seawall for any hint of treats.

Now, the return home from this area is witnessing Wilbur imitate soldiers at the Bataan Death March during WWII. Walking him on the leash is impossible unless you want to pull a 90-pound ball and chain uphill. The trick is to come armed with a few broken up biscuits yourself, so that, him knowing this, off the leash, follows at a pace somewhat closer to the descent downhill for his biscuit hunt. Although, if we’re late enough, a crew of beach dog walkers assembled outdoors at tables in front of the Honey Girl Cafe on the main drag immediately go to their pockets upon spotting him (whereupon I extract biscuits for their dogs who see me coming and begin pacing and salivating), and his pace speeds up as he squeezes between dogs and people and entangles leashes in a sort of frenzy, ignoring compliments and questions until he has been properly fed.

Even after all this food, he tries to bust through the door of the Cayucos Sausage Company and Deli, which has the most flavorful treats in town. But I drag him away because they are closed and promise to hit them up on afternoons later in the week when I am occupied mornings with tennis.

The rest of the way home is excruciating as the death march continues on and I quicken the pace. All dogs are natural actors, unembarrassed by self-humiliation and mindless greed, and never cease looking for any angle possible to further spoil themselves and reach the ultimate comfort zone of total control of and pure servitude from their masters.

Only cats are slyer at achieving this level.

Most get what they want. I keep a biscuit in my hand all the way back. Wilbur smells it. He knows the game. On the final uphill march, as he wobbles and struggles, I usually give him a biscuit to get him home, where, after begging for more and getting nothing, he takes a nap in the sun on a blanket from the local thrift store, not realizing he’s eating better than most of the people in this world.