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'A man with a mission'

Martin Senat, Feb. 12, 1929 – July 25, 2010

Memorial for dog beach preservation society co-founder is set for Saturday near Tower 26.

August 04, 2010|By Michael Miller, michael.miller@latimes.com

The afternoon the news broke of Martin Senat's death, the waves crashed, a sharp ocean breeze blew, and a dozen dogs gamboled around their owners on a short strip of beach off Pacific Coast Highway.

Senat, who died July 25 at the age of 81, co-founded and served as president of the group that maintained the Huntington Dog Beach for more than a decade. When the beach's nonprofit preservation society announced his passing three days later, there was no memorial for Senat anywhere on the shore between Seapoint Avenue and Goldenwest Street. Still, the scene showed off the legacy Senat left for Huntington: a lean strip of the shoreline where dogs ran around without leashes and splashed in the surf.

Among the dog owners at the beach that afternoon were Gail and Eric Segal of Orange, who brought their 3-year-old miniature poodle, Molly. They had come to the Dog Beach at least once a week since they moved from the East Coast five years ago, they said. Gail Segal added that she had never met Senat, but she appreciated his efforts.

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"Thank him, his family and the foundation," she said as Molly darted along the sand. "I hope it continues. This is very unique and wonderful."

Senat, a native Brit who retired from a career selling insurance before co-founding the Preservation Society of Huntington Dog Beach in 1997, was a common sight on his beloved beach, where he often walked with his dog, checked the doggy bag dispensers and even gave tours to out-of-town groups. Even to those who didn't know him, though, he left an indelible mark on Surf City.

Or, maybe, he left a mark on DogTown USA. A year before he died, Dog Fancy magazine awarded that title to Huntington Beach, in part because of the dog beach's reputation.

"We do have a number of really dog-friendly cities in California," Ernie Slone, the editor of Dog Fancy, said this week. "Carmel is a very dog-friendly place. San Diego is a very dog-friendly place. But Huntington Beach, what makes it special is just that there's a dedicated group of local people who are volunteers."

That group of volunteers came together in the late 1990s when the city was considering closing the Dog Beach, according to Amy Tucker, the chief financial officer for the preservation society. Senat and others set up the nonprofit to clean and maintain the Dog Beach, which had existed under the city's care for years.

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