Astorians Christina and Greg Merten and their two enormous Leonberger dogs, Gully and Murphy, and the boys’ canine sidekick, Sadie, caused an international incident at the South Jetty recently. Here’s what happened:
The Mertens were taking the dogs for a walk on the dune trails near the jetty where the dogs can go “full crazy bouncy without causing any trouble,” Christina said. Halfway through the walk, they got soaked in a surprise hail and wind storm, so they slogged back to the jetty parking lot.
Just as they got there, two tour buses and four cars pulled in. Nope, it wasn’t tourists who poured out of the vehicles. It was the Chinese Army. At the beach? Greg figured that since once a year China sends military personnel to the U.S. to conduct disaster preparedness drills with the U.S. Army, that’s probably what was going on. He was right. Actually, it was the first time Oregon hosted the exercise, at nearby Camp Rilea.
The Mertens’ started to walk by the group, when “suddenly there was lots of pointing and ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs,’ and familiar-looking ‘big dog!’ hand gestures,” Christina recalled, “and then the large group of important serious-looking military men all started walking towards us.” A translator came forward, eager with questions about the Leonbergers, and he translated Christina’s answers for the group.
“Thankfully, the Leo boys were absolute rock stars … and patiently sat as 20 to 30 uniformed Chinese generals carefully pet their soaked heads, and excitedly posed for photos with them. … I think a few even did bunny ears.” One of the photos is shown. In gratitude, one of the generals gave “the Leos” honorary Chinese warrior names.
“One of the American officers came over to me laughing and shaking his head and said with a Southern accent, ‘Ma’am, I’ve been traveling with this group for a while now, and we’ve shown them all kinds of stuff,’” Christina said, “‘… but this is seriously the most excited I’ve ever seen them. This is like the highlight of their trip!’”
“Just goes to show that you never know who you’ll run into at the beach,” she added, “and that almost everyone loves Leonbergers.”