Lucas was our turtle dog and camp defender when I lived on Playa Caletas, Costa Rica with my 6 other fellow turtle folk. He was a special companion to all of us, but I always felt like he was extra special to me since I had never had a dog of my own. Maybe he had a way of making us all feel that way. He never discriminated against any of us, and as his duties called for the protection of the turtles and of the camp itself, it also called for the protection of each and every one of us as we went out on our nightly patrols. He'd often go out with one set of patrollers--either South or North--often stealthly running between the two divides to check on both groups. His hearing was faultlessly tuned to the sounds of the ocean and could hear poachers whispering to each other in the darkness, away from our view. He'd bark and growl like a wild beast when poachers were near, and we'd tell him to hush as to not frighten approaching loras, but what fuss he was causing probably saved our hides more than we ever really admitted.
He was 100% instinctual to the beach, as he was also to the inland--keeping coyotes away as we slept, and bandits away from our barbed wire doorstep. There were many occasions when I awoke in the middle of the night or early next morning to find him asleep outside Sarah and I's tent, which was isolated slightly from the rest of the camp. One particular evening that I will never forget, was when I had an evening off from patrol and was walking freshly hatched turtles down the beach. Sometimes releases can take up to 20 minutes if you have a bucket full of 50+ baby sea turtles, and after every last one of my turtle babies had disappeared into foamy surf I remember sitting in the sand for quite a time more. For the ocean breeze, crashing waves, the night, the moon, and even the day gave us lots of time to think, as well as lots of quiet. And as I sat there contemplating, I turned to my right, startled to see Lucas sitting right next to me, only a hairs length away. I hadn't even notice him approach. He was that good.
I had tremendous respect for his duty and for his demeanor, but he wasn't all work and no play. When we'd walk into town he'd often travel with us, frolicking into the bushes after lizards, chasing our other straggler camp dogs, Kitty, and Maggie, crashing into low tide pools after black-necked stilts, or rolling in the sand after ghost crabs. He was an amazing companion, and the first time I went into town after living on the beach for three weeks, he sat with me lovingly under a canopy out of the rain to share my favorite carmel popcorn with me. Amusingly, he also was my lookout when I had to pee in the bushes on the side of the road (walking 18K in intense heat is rough!), and he protected me from this one particularly frightening dog that I was absolutely terrified of when walking by the owner's house.
He was amazing, right up until the very last second of my time in Playa Caletas and San Francisco de Coyote. Margarita, Natalia and I stayed up to catch our 2am bus to Jicaral. Or director wouldn't let him inside, but wouldn't you know when we opened that door he was sitting right there waiting for us. He sat there the whole time we waited as we worried if that bus was ever going to come, and he nervously waited, too of his own regard about what was about to happen. How does a dog deal with his family leaving him so often, time after time again? Did he bond this way with everyone, I often wonder? And that bus rolled up just after 2:30am, and we picked up our bags and cried and hugged our dog goodbye one last time. We knew we'd never see him again, and he knew it too... and he got on that bus with us and didn't want to let us go. But he had to, and he knew that, and it crushed us all to dust to pull away from that bus station and see him running alongside and then behind for a good mile for one last moment before we'd be gone forever.
But he's my dog, and he always will be. Our turtle dog, Lucas. Now resting peacefully by the sea and the camp he loved so dearly.