Liz Farrell

Questions some dog owners might want to ask before going to Hilton Head beaches | Opinion

Sometimes I whisper “I love you more than I love the cat” straight into my dog’s ear.

Other times, such as when I’m leaving for work, I call out “Good-bye! I think you’re both great!” and then finish it with “But one of you is waaaaay better” while giving my dog a knowing look and mouthing “Not you” to the cat.

I don’t know why I do this. The cat’s fine. He’s ideal, actually.

He’s orange and the size of a tiger cub. He’s cuddly, purrs a lot and generates a perfect amount of body heat. He’s laid-back and best friends with the dog despite what society says about this kind of relationship.

But ... I don’t know. He can’t go to the beach.

This puts him at a real disadvantage when comparing him to the dog.

Liz Farrell Staff

I get it. A cat on the beach is just silly.

Plus, he’s a maniac. If I took him to Folly Field, it would ignite his worst instincts. He’d turn the place into the litter box of his dreams and — with feathers sticking out of his piping-plover-filled mouth — look me dead in the eye and say, “I think I might be the Sphinx. Hang on, I got a riddle for you” before belching.

It’s just not a good idea.

But I’m starting to think it also might not be a good idea to bring my dog to the beach anymore because the people there are — how do I put this nicely? — letting their animals act like they just broke down the door of a kibble factory and have 10 minutes before the cops get there.

This is not the Town of Hilton Head Island’s fault.

Those folks have rules. They are:

  • No dogs are allowed on the beach between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • From the Tuesday after Labor Day through Sept. 30 and from April 1 through the Thursday before Memorial Day, dogs must be leashed between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • When your dog is off leash, he needs to be under positive voice control.
  • Clean up your dog’s excrement.
  • Don’t let your dog harass the wildlife.

I’m not crazy, right? Those are very fair rules that pretty much cover it all.

But obviously someone around here needs to speak slower so the right people will better understand them.

In the interest of making the beach more pleasant for everyone, I am happy to offer some clarification.

Infrequently Asked Questions About Dogs on the Beach

Question. Hi. I like to huddle in a group of neighbors and chit-chat it up while our dogs frolic, so I don’t notice when my wet and unleashed dog charges toward other people who are walking with their leashed dogs and trying to listen to a podcast in peace. That’s not a problem, is it?

Answer. This depends on what you and your neighbors are discussing, of course. If the conversation is centered on how all of you have decided never to return to the beach because you have collectively and finally realized that you’re rude, reckless people not worthy of having dogs on the beach, then I would say IT’S STILL A PROBLEM. I know your dog is “perfect” and “would never” bite another human or dog. But is your dog a “dog”? Yeah. Thought so. He didn’t sign a contract with you, lady. You don’t know what’s on his bucket list.

Question. I notice the town says that unleashed dogs must be “under positive voice control.” How do I know if my dog is being complimented enough while he is off leash?

Answer. Dear God. Well, this explains things. Positive voice control does not mean listing your dog’s many fine qualities until he falls in order. Can you imagine? “Sparky! No! Come back! Uh, wait. Right. Positive! Um, Sparky ... not only are you a handsome and brilliant canine, you have a lasting je n’ais se quoi that will inspire future men to write psalms about your life.”

Here is an easy way to test whether your dog is on positive voice control at the beach: The first time he does something off-the-books and you yell out a command to correct the behavior, does he immediately stop what he’s doing and return to your side? Or does he keep sprinting away from you while shouting “Can’t hear you! Must be bad service! I’ll call you back after I accost this woman!”?

I see. That’s some real food for thought. Quick follow-up question, so at what point do I “do something” when my dog, for example, is maybe running full-speed toward a family with a toddler and not acknowledging my yelling?


I mean, like how many rings do I give the “phone call,” as it were? How many times do I call my dog’s name before I decide he’s not going to listen to me? Seven? Eight times?

One time.



And then after he, let’s say, “scares the family with the toddler” and I yell out “RUFUS! NO! BAD!” and then everyone is like “It’s OK!,” do I have to put the leash back on him? Because my dog needs to tire himself out so I can watch Netflix without any hassle tonight.

You should put the leash back on him now and never take it off, you serial killer.

Question. Hey. How’re you doing? I’m a dog. My name is ... actually, it’s in my best interest to remain anonymous here. Anyway, I’d like to think I’m a good boy. I get lots of feedback on that, and it seems to be the prevailing opinion. I LOVE the beach and certainly don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone else but I pooped in the dunes.

Answer. OK. Is there a question?

Um, no. It’s still there.


The poop. It’s still in the dunes.

Where is your owner?

I ... I waited by it for a second so he would pick it up but he didn’t. In fact, he made eye contact with me and gave like a slight shake of his head? I swear he was trying to pretend he didn’t know me. But that can’t be right. He loves me.


There were lots of other poops there. I SWEAR they weren’t mine. I’m really a good boy. I hate that this is my reality.


Question. My dog dug a hole on the beach. He had so much fun doing it! It was hilarious. At one point, he was using both of his paws in unison. Like a furry steam shovel. Anyway, I’m going to walk away now and not fill it back up with sand!

Answer. Wait! Stop! Someone might fall in it.

Right. But also someone might NOT fall in it. Don’t be so cynical!

But —

Question. I wouldn’t call my dog a “bird killer,” but ...

Answer. Stay home.

Question. Hello. Thank you for taking my question. You’ve done such an amazing job here. You are intelligent, dazzling and, I’m just guessing here, a generous giver of treats. So listen, I’m not going to lie, I am a big fat bird killer. I would also love the opportunity to sample any fish that might come ashore and maybe lick some shells. If I promise — PROMISE — not to do ANY of those things, will you please please please bring me to the beach. I just want to hang out with my bestie and sun myself in the litter box. Dang it. I mean the sand. Pleaseeeeeeee?

Answer. And this is why I love the dog more ...

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Columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell graduated from Gettysburg College with a degree in political science and writes about a wide range of topics, including Bravo’s “Southern Charm.” She has lived in the Lowcountry for 15 years, but still feels like a fraud when she accidentally says “y’all.”