Friday, November 18, 2011

Only in Key West by Roberta Isleib aka Lucy Burdette


Only in Key West 
by Roberta Isleib, 
aka Lucy Burdette

When my husband and I visited Florida six years ago, we never imagined we'd end up spending so much time in Key West. It has a lot going for it, but for an animal lover, the place is irresistible.

Roosters are protected by law. That means no matter what hour the banty next door wakes up crowing (think five am), you'll find yourself in the clinker if you wring his neck. And if you eat in an outdoor restaurant--like the well-known Blue Heaven--the chickens may be pecking around your feet in the dust from appetizer to dessert.
Cats are popular in the city too. The Cat Man of Key West is probably the biggest draw at the Sunset Celebration on  Mallory Square.


Most nights he arrives at the harbor with eight or ten cages of cats, and sets up his show. Once the crowd gathers, he puts the cats through their paces: walking on tightropes, jumping through hoops of fire, hopscotching over each other--all while keeping up a loony travelogue in a French accent. (The man, not the cats.) Ernest Hemingway was probably the most famous writer to live on the island and he also was very fond of cats--big furry specimens with an above-average number of toes. Fifty or sixty descendants of the original denizens still lounge on the antique furniture as tourists troop through Hemingway's former home.

Key West may be fond of roosters and cats, but the city really loves dogs. Dogs are invited for meals, welcome in any outdoor seating area.

Of course there is the standard dog run, with separate spaces for the bigs and the littles, and there's Dog Beach, and the dog bar, but it's also a matter of pride for stores and restaurants to provide doggie rest stops outside their front door. 

Where else in the world would you be towed past a bed-and-breakfast by your sometimes unruly Australian shepherd and have the owner call out: "We're dog friendly!" So on our second visit, I persuaded my husband to include Tonka (our Aussie) on the permanent travel team.

Every morning we're in Key West, we walk to a local deli for our Cuban coffees--an indoor space where dogs are certainly illegal. But they wave him in anyway and whoever's working the lunch counter is instructed to get him a treat. No dry dog biscuits here--he gets big wads of Boars Head roast beef.

Lots of people pour into Key West from cruise ships, missing their pets and dying for a furry fix. We take Tonka out to enjoy the Sunset Celebration most evenings and we get stopped every 10 or 20 feet.  "What kind of dog is that? He's beautiful. Look at those eyes! Can we pat him?" Tonka, of course, thrives on this, especially if treats are involved. I suppose that could happen anywhere. But when a group of co-eds dressed in St. Patrick's day duds stops us, cooing and ahhing over the dog, asking "Can we have our picture taken with him?" That can only be Key West.


The first book in Lucy Burdette's Key West food critic mystery series will be published by NAL/Obsidian in January 2012. You can follow Lucy on twitter: @lucyburdette, or read more about AN APPETITE FOR MURDER on her website ( or Facebook ( Lucy aka Roberta also blogs with the Jungle Red Writers: (Thanks to my Key West pal Sandra Bartlett for the dog bowl photos, and to Jerry Touger for the picture of Tonka with his girlfriends.)


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Roberta/Lucy - WHAT a fun post this is - Thank you!

We had snow here yesterday, so this was a welcome piece.

I am very much looking forward to this newest series (including recipes, oh boy!).


Lucy Burdette said...

Thank you so much Kaye for having me over to your blog. This was fun to write (though it seems a little silly after Maggie's inspirational piece!)

Tonka says thank you too!

Love, Roberta/Lucy

Pj Schott said...

Sounds like Paradise to me.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

So excited to read the new book..huray! And everyone looks so happy in those photos!

E. B. Davis said...

Looks like a fun read, Roberta. I like the cover, and although I've never been to the Keys, the islands also sound fun. I'll put it on my list of "must reads."