There are a quarter of a million people who come to Ocean City in the summertime, and thousands of them walk the 27 blocks of the Boardwalk each day. In “What Are You Doing Here?” we stop a few of them and find out what brought them to our corner of the Eastern Shore.
Twelve-year-old Summer Brenner was perched on the end of the bench outside Thrasher’s while Duchess, a great, fluffy St. Bernard, held court on the Boardwalk on April 22.
“Her name’s Duchess, and she’s 11 years old,” Summer told the 10th person who stopped to marvel at this gargantuan pooch stretched out on the bench. Summer started the introduction on Duchess’s gender because people often mistook her as a male. “You can pet her, she’s really friendly.”
Her father Bob Brenner of Ocean Pines stood behind the bench and occasionally dropped a fry for Duchess to lick up.
“You know, we had our picture taken for the Beachcomber last year, and it showed up again in this week’s paper,” Bob said, as a somewhat explanation of why people stopped to pet Duchess.
“I got her a few years ago, when she was just a puppy,” Bob said. “It was right after my last one went to dog heaven and that was a hard time. You know, I always thought of the old song, ‘If you get to heaven before I do/ Just bore a hole and pull me through.’ Like my dogs would be waiting.”
Duchess, like many other dogs on the Boardwalk that day, were rescue dogs celebrating the 18th annual Boardwalkin’ for Pets fundraiser for the Worcester Humane Society. The Brenners and Duchess raised $500 for dogs just like the St. Bernard, which was taken in by the county when she was a pup.
“I wasn’t going to adopt another one, but I got a call from the humane society that they just got a St. Bernard and they couldn’t hold onto a dog that big,” Bob said. “She had flies in her ears and heartworms, and it was hard for away, but it went away with time and she settled right in.’
“You know people say that big dogs are hard to handle and that’s why they’re not adopted, but I haven’t ever had a problem,” Bob said. “Duchess has been trained, and in the end, that’s what it’s all about: training.”
Duchess seemed to agree, lolling on a Boardwalk bench as several strangers pet or took pictures of her.
Despite this interruption of her Saturday outing, Duchess took it all in good sport. After all, why shouldn’t she? She was out for a adventure on the Boardwalk, got to see the Ocean and when she got too tired or waterlogged, she had two owners who loved her enough to let her ride in the car back to a warm house, even if it meant dealing with the unpleasant smell of wet dog that clung to the leather seats afterwards. Right now, she got scraps of the best fries in the Eastern Shore. Sometimes, all you need in life are the basics.
Duchess’s life could have taken a different path, where she stayed in the humane society for her entire life. Without the kindness of a stranger, that’s all she’d know – and who’s to say she wouldn’t have turned out differently? What can be said is this: don’t underestimate the kindness of strangers, or the basics – like a roof over your head, a walk along the beach and a lifelong companion to grow old with like Summer and Duchess.