Driving to Fort Lauderdale the obvious stop was Dagney Johnson State Park to let the dog out and take a break in a the four hour drive. Rusty has probably never done so much driving in his life but he has adapted like a champ, lying down on the back seat and snoozing quietly.
I like Dagney Johnson, all it's wide trails and it's peculiar history that essentially comes down to over reaching developers who failed and left behind empty land and a few odd pieces of infrastructure as we shall see.
You need copious amounts of mosquito repellent here even in winter. And I mean copious as any square inch of skin left uncovered will be the target for some mosquito or other.
One other odd feature of this park is that it is actually quite close to the ocean even though you feel as though you could be in a wood anywhere on the east coast.
And as we strolled alongside one of the excavations that has filled with rainwater here's a piece of the history from Abandoned Florida.
The plans were extensive as you can see wedged between the straight line of Card Sound Road (State Road 905) and the beach on the south side of Key Largo:
From the State Parks website:
The park is named for Dagny Johnson, a local environmental activist, approximately a year before her death in 2003. Through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, Dagny led the Upper Keys Citizens Association and several other organizations that fought to stop the development that was planned for much of north Key Largo. Preservation of onshore communities was not the only purpose for protecting north Key Largo. The reefs offshore of developed areas in the Keys have been declining rapidly, and those off undeveloped north Key Largo remain in far better condition than most.
Somehow the developments failed and at least some of the land is now preserved for public use with extensive networks of trails. Not all are open:
Rusty had fun though I noticed he suffers from a lot of nerves in the woods. Any rustle or strange noise sets him off and he suddenly alerts with his ears up and his eyes flashing left and right. I let him off the leash for a little while on the main trail, no one was around and I wanted to test his ability to come when called. He actually did quite well because he really wants to oblige, he just has to know how to figure it out.
The irony was later when he spotted some innocent walkers through the bushes he jerked back and got away from me - was I surprised!- but I discovered if I let him trot to a "safe" spot he would let me corral him and approach the perceived danger close alongside me. It's a pain in the butt but I its to be expected from a dog that has been a stray and doubtless abused by anyone with range. Time will cure his nerves.
He is not, however a runner and he always wanted to stay close to me.
He does not have a lot of stamina so we took the short loop, a mile and that was plenty for Rusty.
As with so many of these walks, all of them perhaps, I am reminded of Cheyenne. Oddly enough this picture from 2011 (LINK) depicts me in the same shirt I was wearing last Saturday.
It was a good walk and even though Rusty freaked out when he saw a large friendly dog near the entrance I was ready for him and swept him into my arms to remind him where he's safe. He's supposed to weigh 56 pounds but he feels like a featherweight compared to Cheyenne who always hovered near 100 pounds.
Rusty is a great little dog and I am very happy with him. He can't erase my sadness at the loss of Cheyenne but he sure does help. Like her he too is freaked by elevators and I expect given time he like Cheyenne will get over that. My wife spends a lot of time reminding me how much work we had to put into training Cheyenne to be the laid back companion she rapidly became.
Rusty is well on his way.