In cabarete, a seaside town on the turquoise-blue northwest coast of the Dominican Republic, street dogs roam the beach protecting their turf and food sources. Among them is a sturdy, well-cared-for pooch with soft, thick fur coiled into perfect ringlets by a lifetime’s accumulation of wet sand, and eyelashes so long they look like they’re fake. His name’s Scooby, and he’s the beach’s acknowledged top dog. He’s also the only dog with a security badge and a job in guest relations at the Velero Beach Resort.
Scooby’s rise to prominence is a testament to his uncanny intelligence and sense of self-possession and purpose. The 10-year-old offspring of Lourdes Perez’s dog Cece has been independent from a young age. Though he took to the streets as a puppy, he would regularly check in at the Perez house. Lourdes’ cousin, David, says, “I grew up with Scooby and saw it all. He would go alone to the beach to swim. Because of his long hair, he was hot, and he was smart enough to know how to cool himself off.” Chico Perez, a cousin, recalls, “We all laugh about it. Scooby would go to the disco at night — Bamboo Disco is a couple of miles up the beach. Scooby would show up, find people he knew, then find his way home.”
In 2005, Gordon Segal moved to the Velero Beach Resort, which is across the road from Scooby’s birthplace. Segal suffered from chronic migraines and when he couldn’t sleep, would walk the beach at night. Scooby began joining Segal on his walks. Back then, Velero’s security service would not let dogs on the property, so Scooby had to wait for Segal outside the gate. At the time, Scooby’s white and golden-gray fur was matted with sand and dirt, and he had fl eas; Segal cleaned him up and began to feed him regularly. Who saved whom is hardly the question anymore. It was nothing formal, says David Perez. “Scooby just became Gordon’s dog.”
Rick Brackins, who has been coming to the resort since 2004, points out another of Scooby’s accomplishments. “I used to see Scooby in all the restaurants on the beach; he’s been around a long time. And he’s the reason Velero’s previous management was fi red.”
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According to Brackins, Segal began asking questions about the resort’s financial management. To punish him, the management company falsified the bylaws and claimed the facility was off-limits to dogs. Undeterred, Segal uncovered original documents proving that, to the contrary, dogs were allowed; he also brought to light other instances of deception and theft. The management company was dismissed and Scooby became a hero.
Now, Scooby greets Velero’s guests in the lobby and roams from the pool to the bar to the porches of guests he particularly likes. Children pull his fur, yet he maintains a Dalai Lama–like calm. He remembers everyone and makes them feel appreciated and loved. After they leave, guests send the hotel letters about how much they miss Scooby. As Francois Beaudoin, whose family visits two or three times a year from Montreal, says, “Scooby is now the mascot of the hotel. And he’s so nice with kids.”
Scooby’s newfound position at the Velero is a source of pride as well as amusement to the Perez family. On a recent Friday night, David Perez sat in the Dominican bar next to the Velero with his friends and cousins, drinking Presidente beer and watching the Dominican baseball playoffs on television. Scooby was splayed out on the pink cement floor under their wooden chairs. His Velero Hotel security badge, which he wears around his neck, identifies him as Scooby Perez Segal. “He is Gordon’s dog and the Velero’s dog now,” says Perez, “but he will always be a Perez. He hasn’t forgotten where he comes from.”