Sunlight skipped off the surface of the lake and pierced the eyes of the dog owners and their charges.
"Oh, Dan," said Imelda. "The new laws about dogs who attack people are so strict. Don't you think?"
Dan turned away from his Great Dane, who was tentatively stepping into the low surf, and said, "Hey, if you can't control your dog, it's three strikes you're out. People shouldn't even own dogs if they don't know how to properly take care of them. And taking care of them means conditioning them to get along with other people and animals."
"But to make the penalty death? After just three attacks whether or not the dog actually bites anyone?"
Dan turned to Imelda and glared, "If it keeps idiots from mismanaging their dogs, I'm all for it. Are you worried that Malachite might go out of control on someone?"
"No, of course not!" Imelda scanned for her red boxer, finding him snuffling in the sand several yards away. "He's had nothing but the best from the very beginning. He wouldn't hurt a squirrel."
"Well, then I guess we have nothing to worry about. Bilby! Here, Bilby!" The Great Dane loped over to her owner. As Dan led his dog out off the beach, he said, "See you later."
Imelda watched the two of them pass the gate with the out-of-date sign that said the beach was for people only. No, they didn't have to worry, but she knew someone who did. Since the revised law for dog attacks was passed, one of her neighbors had gotten a German Shepherd rescue dog. It was the cutest thing, but at two years old, it hadn't been socialized well. It eyed everyone suspiciously and even snapped at Larry, its new owner. Twice while Larry was trying to train it to walk on a leash, it lunged at someone who hadn't paid attention when Larry had warned them to stay back. Twice. One more time and someone wasn't going to be going on any more walks.
Imelda let her eyes drift over the lifeguard's chair. The woman in it had binoculars to her face, scouring the water for the slightest sign that a dog was in trouble. Imelda felt better since they'd increased the lifeguards on this beach. Her Malachite liked water, but tired easily and Imelda wasn't quite strong enough to lift him herself.
The next day Imelda happened to open an email that gave updates on local news. She ignored the latest crime statistics and announcements about new businesses and then gasped at the item in the "Loving Our Babies" section.
It had happened. Larry's dog had bitten a third person and that was it. Imelda started to email a fellow dog owner, decided that wasn't fast enough, and picked up her phone to dial. She got her friend's voicemail.
"Malaquito!" she called her boxer. "Let's go for a walk!" She hustled the two of them out the door and towards the beach.
"Dan!" Imelda staggered over the sand to the first person she knew. "Did you hear? Larry's dog tried to bite someone three times. He'll be the first person caught by the new law!"
"Yup," Dan said. "That's how it goes."
"But it's not right!"
Dan looked coldly at Imelda. "There are no bad dogs, Imelda. Only bad owners. If you're too imcompetent to train your dog to behave, you get what's coming to you."
Imelda gazed at the shining water, speckled with frolicking dogs. "But Larry's not a bad person," she said mournfully. "He doesn't deserve to die."
They stood in silence for a minute. Then Dan said, "At least his dog will get a second chance with a better owner."