Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Dog Beach Provides ‘Peaceful’ Place For Pets, Owners To Play

By Megan CrepeauThe Daily Northwestern

The sky was overcast and the wind was brisk, but there was enough surf and sun to lure Ellen Esrick and her English springer spaniel, Luke, to the Evanston dog beach on opening day.

Esrick smiled as she watched Luke play in the waves and tussle with the other dogs.

“There’s something very peaceful out here,” she said after throwing Luke another chew toy.

The Evanston dog beach, located at the end of Church Street, opened for the summer Tuesday. About 10 people and eight dogs ran, swam and fetched on the afternoon of the opening.

All the owners have to show a beach token, available from the Dempster Street Beach Office for $40 per animal. All dogs must be licensed, healthy and up to date on their shots.

But Esrick said the rules can be too restrictive.

“This is a fabulous space,” said Esrick. “We’re very appreciative … (but) I think they have too many rules.”

Esrick and others admitted to coming to the beach before May and after October, when the beach is officially closed. They also said some of the new rules, such as forbidding dogs from digging holes, don’t make sense to them.

But these rules weren’t a problem Tuesday afternoon, when no one was patrolling the beach.

“We do quite well without authority figures,” Esrick said.

The atmosphere at the dog beach is more like a bridge club or a favorite bar than a public park.

“It’s as much social for the owners as it is for the dogs,” said Beth Geiger, who has taken her dog to the beach regularly for the last two years.

Patrons have bonded over their common love of dogs and the Evanston beaches, Geiger said.

Esrick and Geiger are part of a tightly-knit group whose members know the beach’s unofficial rules and taboos intimately: Don’t be too possessive of your dog toys, they said. Always bring plastic “poop bags” to clean up after the dogs and don’t drag the garbage cans onto the main beach. Don’t bring chairs to lounge on the dog beach. And definitely don’t bring food.

These are the rules agreed upon by regulars who show up in the late afternoon, but they likely apply to others as well, Geiger said.

The late-afternoon group has gotten so close they’ve started to meet outside of the dog beach. Susan Joenck, who came with her shepherd-labrador mix, Barney, recently hosted a wine and tapas party at her home for about 15 dog beach regulars.

The friends hope to make their non-dog-related socializing a regular event because it can be hard to pay attention to both their new friends and their dogs at the same time, Joenck said.

“You have to keep track of the dogs,” she said. “There’s a lot of interrupted conversation (on the beach).”

But patrons said they ultimately don’t mind the rules or the cost of bringing their dogs to this little stretch of sand.

“It’s a wonderful thing for the community,” Esrick said. “They make a lot of money off it, but it’s worth it.”

Reach Megan Crepeau at [email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Dog Beach Provides ‘Peaceful’ Place For Pets, Owners To Play