Walking Wilbur in Carmel-by-the-Sea

January 28, 2024

Dell Franklin walking his dog on the beach

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, “The ballplayer’s Son” is currently on Amazon.

Colleen, my lady companion, and Wilbur, my dog, and I made a two-day get-away trip to  quaint, luxurious, upper-than-up-scale Carmel-by-the-Sea to celebrate her birthday. Wilbur was a hefty, hyper friendly 9-year-old Chocolate Lab with a white beard. Colleen was slender and svelte, always elegantly dressed, quiet, sophisticated, highly educated. I was and still am somewhat of a voluble slob.

After we settled in our cozy third story room with private balcony and an ocean view of Carmel-by-the-Sea, I decided to take Wilbur for a walk before a swim in the pool, sauna, shower, and our traditional wine hour.

We started off down San Carlos Street, headed for the main downtown drag, Ocean Avenue. An athletically thin woman in designer sweatsuit, ball cap and shades headed toward us on the same side of the street. She began looking nervous as we approached, Wilbur pulling because he wanted to nuzzle and sniff her two immaculate toy poodles who looked to have come from a dog show.

The woman hastily, one hand holding a cell phone to her ear, the other a double leash, dragged her yipping dogs across the street like a frightened hare as Wilbur quickly pulled me to a tree where he lifted a leg.

I waved to the woman, but apparently she was no longer aware of my presence and skittered away.

We continued on. A middle-aged man with a mincing walk, whose sparkling leash pulled a small pedigree of Asian extraction, saw me coming and hurried across the street as Wilbur, 95 pounds and all,  continued to pull me along like a cork, even though I weigh 190.

I finally reached the main drag, which was a flow with Asian and European tourists, a few American tourists and flawlessly tanned locals sporting $200 haircuts and a thousand bucks of casual wear, who carried tote bags, cell phones and walked well-groomed canines almost as spiffy as their masters.

I noticed that the bejeweled dogs, like their masters, avoided eye contact and marched by an anxious-to-make-friends Wilbur and myself as if we might be a plague.

I admit to having worn a $2 pair of Cayucos thrift store shorts and 75 cent T-shirt, and hadn’t had a haircut in at least a year, and wouldn’t trim my beard until we went to the four-star French restaurant that night; but still, in Cayucos, all us locals make eye contact with each other and our dogs, who are beseeching in their need for a pet, a nuzzle, certainly a biscuit– while their masters engage in small town chit-chat, the dogs smiling and sniffing.

Up and down the main drag sidewalk we plunged, big old Wilbur clearing a path as Carmel-by-the-Sea denizens (among the highest dog owning population per capita in America) avoided Wilbur and myself, scurrying and darting to the edges of the sidewalk and sometimes into the street.

When Wilbur hinted at taking a dump at a manicured bush on the sidewalk, I was embarrassed, quickly pulled him away, and he was docile as I explained this was not Cayucos by the Sea, this was Carmel-by-the-Sea, where there were no price tags on any items in any of the myriad galleries and boutiques, not even in the drug store, and it was low class and a poor reflection on your master to shit in the street, even if I did sport a poop bag.

Wilbur held on, though he did pee on everything (I saw no foo-foo poodles and rare breeds peeing) and we continued our prowl, making sure to journey to the end of the business section before starting back up the other side of the street, where a local cop on foot flashed us the stink eye as Wilbur lunged at another mini-pedigree sitting beside a woman sitting at an outdoor cafe as I held him back.

Finally, we veered off the crowded main drag and entered a side street and headed to a residential area, where Wilbur dumped a good load beside a bush, which I quickly scooped with my Cayucos poop bag, sealed it up and dropped it into a trash can like a good citizen.

We emerged near the post office, across from Friar Tuck’s diner, to the side of La Dolce Vita restaurant, and spotted two park benches in a tiny enclosed area with one tree. I was limping badly at this point from recent knee surgery.

“Let’s take a load off our feet, Wilbur,” I said. “We still got a few blocks back to the room.”

We sat down, me lounging on the bench, Wilbur on his hind legs. Not a minute passed before I spotted a handsome middle-aged woman glancing at us before entering the post office. She was perfectly coiffed, though dressed as if gardening. When she exited she smiled at us and walked over to a Mercedes convertible and retrieved a package and headed toward us in full stride.

Wilbur straightened, tail wagging as the woman handed me a bag of treats, asked if she could hug Wilbur. I nodded and she immersed herself in Wilbur, who lay his face upon her chest and gave her the needy, sad, melting eyes of a rescue dog who’d been through hell and back.

The bag held super nutritional organic beef jerky.

“Oh, what a beautiful Chocolate Lab,” she gushed. “What’s his name?”


“Oh, what a perfect name—he is a Wilbur.” She smiled at me. “I think Wilbur will enjoy his treats.”

“Well thank you. Wilbur’s very pleased.” I fed him a beef jerky and he devoured it.

“Oh thank you for letting me meet Wilbur.”

They hugged some more, but then she had to leave, wished us a good day, and drove off.

Wilbur and I headed back to our room. More masters and dogs avoided us. So what. Wilbur had chewed four treats and wanted more. When we reached the hotel and our room, I told Colleen everything, ending with the wonderful good Samaritan giving us treats.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” she scoffed, long suffering. “The woman probably felt sorry for Wilbur, the poor thing being with a homeless-looking, crazy old man.”

(I wrote this story nine years ago, when these two dear companions were still alive, and submitted it to the local Carmel-by-the-Sea newspaper, but of course was rejected).

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Dell, lovely tribute to 2 loved ones lost.

So many people today will not acknowledge let alone interact without an electronic device, sad they are missing out on a common thread we all share, being part of the human race. A nod and a smile can make someone’s day.

Thank you, Dell for addressing our humanity or lack of it.