The Dog Bar

The surfers had enough trouble honing their skills on the less than crashing waves without their dogs tagging along to Ditch Plains. So they’d just leave them, incrementally at first, at Jimmy’s bar “just for a few minutes” in the morning.

Jimmy O’Dea, the proprietor was a good guy and not stupid. He knew that some of the surfers were taking vantage of his kindness but that most were loyal customers and spent a good deal of money in his establishment. In addition, unlike a few of the hodads from down the island, they never started trouble and tipped his employees most of the time.

It could be quite the scene some days when there was an offshore wind and healthy beachbreaks. The concrete floor of Jimmy’s bar looked like a canine Penn Station with labs and collies and shepherds and retrievers scattered about making it difficult to walk from the bar to the pool table. When nobody was looking Jimmy would bring them water and treats. He was their favorite, like an eccentric uncle who let you get away with things that your parents would never allow.

He warned the surfers that he ran a tight ship but the dogs already knew that. They loved the place and their manners reflected that affection. They also knew that good behavior was imperative and that Jimmy was a soft touch. All they had to do is conduct themselves as “ladies and gentlemen” and they’d never spend the day out in the rain or snow. On hot days the concrete was cool and on cold days there was the little potbelly in the corner.

But what was the most amazing is that there were never dogfights. Almost never. It was if the mongrels understood the perplexities and nuances of Jimmy’s tavern. Tact and refinement was the order of the day. Dogs, although they may not exhibit much logic, are quick to learn with a nose for reality and instincts that people don’t possess.

Most days in winter one could pass by and look through the window at Jimmy and his patrons. Lots of tails wagging. Lots of sniffing. Lots of hanging out waiting for their owners to show back up, thank Jimmy and slam a beer or two before going home. Doggie Day Care at it’s finest.

No growling would be permitted. No accidents on the floor or leg lifting, a very impressive display of excellent manners. Share the water. Share the treats. No aggressive behavior would be tolerated at Jimmy’s.

Then one day a spacey surfer, who looked worse than the mangiest of breeds, left his dog Max at the bar. Poor Max was a mess just like his owner. Max was smaller than most of the other hounds and one uptight asshole. The first day he tangled with Mona, a no-nonsense Rottweiler. He got pinned to the floor and nipped on the nose before retreating to a neutral corner, ostracized by the rest of the day’s pack.

“Don’t be sniffing Mona,” said Jimmy to Max, who would not listen worth a hoot.

Jimmy later warned the surfer who brought Max to the bar telling him his dog was disrupting the peace and interrupting the cosmic flow. He would give the dog one more chance but if he misbehaved he would be 86ed (That’s 602ed in dog years). The surfer nodded and stumbled out of the place, an oaf with Max on a leash when maybe it should have been the other way around.

The next day was a Saturday when Jimmy often hosted a full house until he threw the mutts out in the late afternoon. He would never really throw them out but you had to pick up your dog in the early afternoon of risk losing preferential status. There were tourists from The City in town and the cash register would be humming. These folks didn’t appreciate slobber on their designer footwear or climbing over dogs to use the facilities. Some were even afraid of the dogs when these teapot refugees probably should have been afraid of each other.

It was on a Saturday that Max blew it. Moments after his dippy owner dropped him off he started it with a German Shepherd named Alfonso who was not about to take any guff from the insolent Max. The smaller dog circled and Alfonso nailed him. That was it. Max was banned.

No matter how much the oafish surfer whined Jimmy would not budge.

The Dog That Smokes Saloon in Montevideo, Uruguay

“Rules are rules,” said Jimmy.

The canine congregation seemed to nod their heads in approval. Max was history. And still to this day Max sits across the street under a salty sun waiting to be reinstated and trying to figure out what went wrong.

This was some years ago and Max is no doubt six feet under. But the story still circulates in Montauk warning bad dogs and bad owners that the spoils of comfort and joy are earned not handed out like kibble.

As the years went by Jimmy got old just like the dogs. He retired and left the place to his daughter, Fiona, who carried on the tradition until the bar began serving food and all dogs were kicked out. On his retirement day Jimmy received a remarkable gift from the surfers who had enjoyed his kindness and hospitality for a good many years. It was a felt painting: not of Jesus or Elvis but from a long-closed bar in Montevideo, Uruguay called El Perro Que Fuma. The painting (above) now hangs in a place of distinction in a small cabin on Jimmy’s Boston Whaler.

– Connor Sturgeon

Filed Under: Soft News

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