Family Friday: How Our Rescue Lab Earned a Place at the Thanksgiving Table

We’re actually three.

Me, to our waitress on Thanksgiving

Oh, let me get you another set of silverware.

Our waitress

I pointed down to where our six-year-old rescue black Lab lay quietly at my husband’s feet on the outdoor deck, his Thanksgiving napkin bandana bunched into a make-shift pillow.

Yes, we took our dog out with us to Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Florida law permits dogs in outdoor dining

Dogs were banned from Florida restaurants until 2006. A new law that year allowed local governments to let restaurants apply for a permit to welcome dogs in outside patio areas. Now, many restaurants welcome pooches sans permit more often than not.

Waiters are so used to it now, when they see a dog, they don’t bat an eye; they just bring them water.

State Attorney for Palm Beach County Dave Aronberg who sponsored the 2006 legislation when he was a state senator (as quoted in The Palm Beach Post article by Hannah Morse, November 15, 2021)
Django on Dog Beach in Jupiter FL

Dog Beach gave us our first canine restaurant experience

When we drove with our first Lab, Django, from New York State to Florida to buy our retirement property in 2009, my husband found us a dog-friendly hotel nearby at which we could leave Django when we closed on the house. At the restaurant abutting the Holiday Inn Express in Juno Beach, we learned that we’d landed minutes from Palm Beach County’s leash-free dog beach.

Dog Beach became Django’s slice of heaven that week and in the years that followed. He would run into the surf in pursuit of a tennis ball for as long as my husband had the strength to throw it.

Django and our next Lab, Pancho, were welcomed at Juno Beach’s Thirsty Turtle Seagrill outdoor deck along with lots of other sandy paws.

On the weekends, sometimes it’s like a kennel out there on the patio.

Thirsty Turtle manager Ed Lohmann (as quoted in The Palm Beach Post article by Hannah Morse, November 15, 2021)

Kumba grew into going out on the town

When we adopted our black Lab Kumba a month before the pandemic, he had learned to protect himself during his months in a Puerto Rican shelter with aggression towards other dogs. We intervened with a muzzle, training, and love, and when he was able to be his sweet self reliably in public, we took him to Dog Beach. We thought that the ocean would be a happy recollection of his puppy life in Puerto Rico, but he was sort of “meh.” He was happiest lying at our feet with a bowl of cool water on his first visit to the Thirsty Turtle.

Kumba at the Thirsty Turtle

Juno was again the setting for Kumba’s next restaurant outing when we brought him with us for my birthday weekend overnight at our “staycation” dog-friendly Holiday Inn Express. Leaving him in the room alone was a risky proposition, given his separation anxiety, so we’d factored outdoor eating into our plans. The dinner waitress at the Seminole Reef Grill (great new place!) had no idea that there was a dog under our table until I asked for a bowl of water. After an equally relaxed overnight, Kumba and I got to Dog Beach on a morning run, where I let him off leash amidst a handful of other dogs.

Kumba overlooking Dog Beach

For Birthday Breakfast that morning, my Foreign Service family tradition, we again were outside enjoying the weather and great food at another new Juno Beach find, the Garden City Cafe.

Kumba at the Garden City Cafe

We created a new Thanksgiving tradition

When our daughter and son-in-law’s work schedules made it impossible for them to travel here for Thanksgiving, my husband and I began exploring dog-friendly restaurant options. Deck 84 in Delray Beach had outdoor dining, a Thanksgiving Dinner menu, and, even better, a Doggie Dinner menu. But would the weather cooperate? After two near-misses from Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole here on South Florida’s East coast, we held our breath as Thanksgiving week arrived.

The weather dawned clear and warm. Kumba and I did our usual Thursday run. Then it was time to get dressed up for our holiday dinner. Kumba was the most festive of the three of us.

Kumba in his Thanksgiving bandana

We were valet-parked and at our table at the quiet end of the patio by 3, with Kumba attentive but calm at my husband’s feet, so quiet that the waitress didn’t understand when I said: “We are actually three here.”

Soon, there was butternut squash bisque and turkey’n-all-the-fixin’s on the table, and chicken, rice, and yogurt under the table. We gobbled happily, all three of us.

I think he liked it!

So, that’s how we’ve kicked off the holidays in South Florida. Hope yours are as merry and silly as ours, and that every meal is shared with people and other creatures of whom you are fond.

Leave a Reply