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September 2, 2019

Just when I needed her, Lily came into my life. I’d always had big dogs, but after my last venture with a very damaged rescue Aussie, I decided I needed to try a little dog.

      I’m prone to severe depression, but this little terrier mix is so happy, so ready to hike or play, so eager to greet the world, I can do naught but follow in her stead.

      Her coat is black and wiry with white markings. So wiry, in fact, that people have said she looks like a Brillo pad. Her full name is Lilypad. I often just call her Luvy.

      Her scruffy tail wags constantly, and I say, “Long may your tail wag, little Lily, the world needs more dogs like you.”

September 1, 2019

Point Isabel, the single busiest spot in the entire East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), is famously peaceable and self-policing. With nearly 1.5 million human visitors and probably that many dogs every year, though, incidents do happen. Here are tips on how to respond.

FIRST, don’t escalate. If a person is a jerk or a dog is a nuisance, walk away. If someone doesn’t clean up after a dog or lets it dig, feel free to remind them what the rules are and leave it at that.

SECOND, know how to get help or report problems. Carry these numbers:

911:  Medical or public safety emergency, park visitor acting belligerent or windsurfer in trouble

Contra Costa County (CoCoCo) Animal Services (925-608-8400):  Stray dog, person bitten by a dog, serious dog-on-dog injury. (In addition, report dog bites to EBRPD Dispatch.)

EBRPD Dispatch (510-881-1833):  Car break-in, person bitten by a dog, serious dog-on-dog injury, chronic bad behavior by park user or dog. (In addition, report dog bites to CoCoCo Anim...

May 1, 2019

The worst-kept secret at the park this winter was the burrowing owl camouflaged among the granite boulders on North Point Isabel. Sharp-eyed park visitors first spotted the tiny bird near the end of October.

Burrowing owls can stand 10 inches tall, weigh up to six ounces, and live eight years. Until relatively recently, not very much was known about them. Ours was an adult. Then, depending on which theory you subscribe to, it was either a bachelor wintering along  the shoreline before flying to the Central Valley to mate or a female killing time for six or seven months before heading to Idaho. 

It may have chosen Point Isabel because there are few bigger owls, hawks, or feral cats. Perhaps it appreciated having its choice of gopher holes to commandeer. These cunning birds are known to leave scat lying around to attract dung beetles, and maybe it just felt it had hit the jackpot when it found Point Isabel.

Settling at a big off-leash park may seem unusual, but burrowing owls can be fo...

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) manages 73 parks with 1,250 miles of trails. Each park or trail may have unique requirements, but these nine rules generally apply wherever dogs are allowed:

NO DOGS in buildings, at food concessions, designated bathing beaches, golf courses, tot lots, swimming pools, nature study areas, marshes, wetlands, streams, creeks, ponds, and some lakes.

DOGS ON LEASH for the first 200 feet of dirt trails, whenever cattle are present, when approaching goats behind an electrified fence, and on paved trails, sidewalks, streets, parking lots, playing fields, and at picnic areas and campgrounds.

YOU MUST HAVE A LEASH no longer than six feet for each dog. Retractables in on leash areas must be locked at six feet.

DOG(S) MUST BE UNDER CONTROL.You have to be able to see your dog and it must come when you call it.    

DOGS MAY NOT HARASS OR HARM other dogs, park visitors, wildlife, or livestock.

DOG OWNERS MAY BRING UP TO THREE DOGS to the parks. With an...

May 1, 2019

For Cooper Chisaki, a trip to Point Isabel is simply part of life’s grand adventure. “He just loves going there – it’s like doggy heaven,” says owner Jane Chisaki. In many ways, Cooper is a typical golden retriever: He loves to swim and play ball, easily tracking one down even if he and Mom don’t come prepared. He always finds friends to play with on his regular outings to the Point, whether with Jane on weekends or midweek during group outings from nearby Metro Dog day care.

But like all dogs, he’s got his own personality. “He’s probably the barkiest golden I’ve ever had – and the gassiest,” says Jane, who owned four goldens before Cooper. “And he bays, which is unusual. When he gets home, he likes to run to the back yard and tell the whole neighborhood he’s there.”

Perhaps above all, Cooper likes adventure. “Oh, he’s an adventure dog for sure.” Nowhere is this more evident than on his multi-day trips aboard a 95-foot former Coast Guard cutter for river outings with the Sea Scouts troop...

December 21, 2018

It is hard to miss the changes happening at Point Isabel. The East Bay Regional Park District  (EBRPD) is working on several projects.

Improving Water Access and the Shoreline

Construction on the west side of the park opposite Mudpuppy’s is scheduled to be completed December 31, 2018. It includes the following changes:

•   Upgrading the water access for non-motorized watersports, replacing the concrete steps with a ramp

•   Creating a new, concrete, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) path to the ramp, connected to the other paved paths

•   Reconfiguring boulders at the bottom of the existing dog ramp at the end of the Hoffman Channel to make getting out of the bay safer

•   Repairing erosion on the south side of Hoffman Channel

Strengthening the Hoffman Channel Bridge

This project involves reinforcing the pilings under the bridge to make it last longer and also make it strong enough to carry big vehicles, such as fire trucks, on the Bay Trail side of the bridge.

Most of t...

December 20, 2018

About eight years ago, I was inching home to the East Bay in terrible traffic after visiting family in Laguna Beach for Thanksgiving. I finally pulled off somewhere between Bakersfield and Fresno to feed my whippet-pitbull mix.

It was pitch-dark and cold. As Zoë ate, I noticed movement nearby and thought it might be some wild animal. I rushed Zoë back into the truck, but when I turned around the creature was already devouring her food and water – and then I saw that they were puppies.

Yes, cute and adorable itty-bitty pupsters! One, much bigger than the others, turned out to be the mom. They were underweight, dehydrated, and appeared to have been dumped. I waited an hour for someone to claim them, and then I packed them in Zoe’s crate and got back on the road.

That was their lucky day. I found good homes for the others but kept tiny Shindu who, with his floppy, silky ears – and back problems – may be a Dachsund mix.

Every time I see Shin bound joyously around Point Isabel, greeting dog and...

September 2, 2018

Visitors to Pt. Isabel sometimes wonder if a snake they have seen at the park is a rattlesnake. If there are rattlers there, they have been very rarely spotted. The snake most commonly seen at the park is the gopher snake, whose coloration and behavior are similar to that of a rattlesnake. Gopher snakes are harmless, unlike rattlesnakes, so it is important to know the difference.

A rattlesnake has a triangular head much wider than the neck, a thick body with dull skin, and a blunt rattle at the tip. If it is disturbed, it will shake its tail. The rattle sounds like bacon sizzling.

A gopher snake has a narrow head only slightly larger than its neck. The body is slender and usually shiny. The tail is pointed. A frightened gopher snake will flatten its head, hiss loudly, and shake its tail rapidly, doing a convincing rattlesnake imitation.

All park wildlife is protected by law. If you see a snake, leave it alone. Do not try to capture or harm it. Wait for it to go by. Do not approach it or l...

September 1, 2018

Sky, ground, smells, gophers. These are what Dakota loves about Point Isabel. She is a former puppy-mill dog who was locked up in a warehouse without access to daylight, walks, and most importantly, human affection. But that is the past and this is the present. Now she is a prima sunbather and does her happy freedom belly-rub dance every day. And she loves her humans deeply.

I volunteer at a local shelter and met Dakota there. There was no reason for her to trust me, but she did. When I sat on the concrete floor of her kennel, she coyly crept into my lap and, as lightly as a butterfly, rested her paws on my chest. Of course I took her home. I am currently fostering her through the rescue group, Power of Chi.

If you are looking for an affectionate goofball and devoted companion, a rescue like Dakota is your girl. But not on the first day or even first week. Given their pasts, it will take time for a rescue dog to warm up to new people. Be patient, though, and soon they will smother you wi...

July 15, 2018

Dogs share Pt. Isabel with a great many birds, and park visitors and their dogs must obey rules so the birds are not disturbed. Birds that feed in the mud at low tide are vulnerable to dogs.

Rules for the dogs:

* Dogs may not harass birds at any time, neither on land nor in the water.

* Dogs are never allowed in Hoffman Marsh.

* Dogs are not allowed to swim in Hoffman Bay (the northern edge of North Point Isabel) or in Hoffman Channel at low tide.

Dogs can play in San Francisco Bay -- but not chase birds -- any time, and in Hoffman Bay and Hoffman Channel at high tide.

May 1, 2018

This Spring, East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) repaired some erosion on North Point Isabel (PI), the half of Point Isabel Regional Shoreline reached by the pedestrian bridge near Rydin Road. It is also installing a mesh fence along Hoffman Channel on that side to prevent erosion of the bank and keep people and dogs off dangerous boulders.

Both sides of the park are former dumps capped with several feet of clay. North PI is in a category of its own, however. Decades ago, it was a dumping ground for “lead-acid storage battery casings” and “other unspecified fill material,” according to a 1986 report by the California Water Quality Control Board. At least one park user still remembers clambering about back then on what appeared to be old car batteries along the edge of the mudflat.

Legend has it that North PI was a Superfund site, but that appears to be not true. However, the land owner, Santa Fe Land Improvement Company, was required to haul away tons of soil that was contaminated wi...

December 26, 2017

They may never see the more exotic wildlife, such as the endangered salt marsh harvest mice in Hoffman Marsh, but many visitors to Point Isabel (PI) are familiar with several common creatures.

People often encounter skunks near the bridge at dusk and whole skunk families have been seen in the field across from Mudpuppy’s. These mild, pretty creatures have poor eyesight, are omnivorous and nocturnal, and live up to four years. When threatened, they can spray a noxious fluid up to 10 feet from their anal glands. They can also carry rabies. Just give them space; if you see one, grab your dog and go the other way.

The squat little mammals with big front teeth whose burrows perforate Point Isabel are pocket gophers. They eat plants, are loners except when breeding or nursing, and can live for three years. Other PI rodents include ground squirrels and tree squirrels, the East Bay’s ubiquitous rats, and possibly the occasional mouse or vole.

Rattlesnakes prefer the hills and inlands, but PI has...

July 25, 2017

A local dog advocacy group sponsored by Point Isabel Dog Owners (PIDO) was recently awarded a grant to help remove toxic microplastics on Albany Beach, a mile south of Point Isabel.

PIDO has a history of more than 30 years of parks stewardship and off-leash activism. In 2014, it became the fiscal sponsor for Albany Landfill Dog Owners Group (ALDOG), which has a similar mission.

ALDOG advocates for responsible off-leash recreation on Albany Beach and plays an important role in keeping the beach clean. As a California Coastal Commission adopter of Albany Beach, it coordinates three cleanups every year, in collaboration with East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and others. Over the past four years, cleanup volunteers have removed more than 4,500 pounds of trash.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Alameda Countywide Clean Water Program (ACCWP), ALDOG plans to deep-clean the beach by sifting tiny microplastics out of the sand.

Plastics are well known to trap and poison birds and sea creatures....

July 25, 2017

Molly is a beautiful German Shepherd with the classic appearance of that large and athletic working dog:  a glossy black saddle, tan and cream markings, and a shorthair coat. Irina and I adopted Molly three years ago when she was about two. She had been abandoned.  She had had a litter, and was probably someone's idea for a backyard German-Shepherd puppy mill. For whatever reason, she was left on the street somewhere in the Central Valley. She was picked up and then sent to the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in Walnut Creek. By then she was underweight and being treated for kennel cough. But her gentle dignity and warm spirit were apparent. As soon as we saw her, we knew we wanted her to join our family. She knew it, too. 

Molly evidently had had no obedience training, but she is very intelligent and eager to follow directions. She did well in obedience classes and enjoys her active social life.  She comes with us to restaurants with dog-friendly...

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