Dogleg Island is a fictional barrier island located on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is a little over three miles wide and twelve miles long, with a state-run wildlife refuge at one end and the three mile long Cedric B. Grady Memorial Bridge connecting it to the mainland at the other end. Its full-time population is 412, although in the summer that number doubles, or even triples on weekends.
According to geologists, Dogleg Island, like most of the other barrier islands that dot the Gulf Coast of Florida, was separated from the mainland by a great prehistoric seismic shift that tilted the ocean like a giant’s wading pool and submerged half the continent. It was officially discovered by the French in 1583—French pirates, to be exact, whose success in the Western Caribbean during the sixteenth century accounted for a considerable percentage of the wealth of France, to say nothing of their own. They named the island Petit Fleur after the tiny wildflowers that blanketed the island, and used it as a source of fresh water and wild boar meat for the voyage home. Rumors persist, of course, that they had also used it to stash treasure, and every few years a new batch of fortune hunters will show up with dig permits in hand, but if so much as a gold doubloon has ever been found, no one is talking about it.
In 1720 a massive hurricane virtually cut the island in half, creating a dangerous reef of broken boulders upon which hundreds of ships have been lost throughout the centuries. Those sunken ships have yielded up genuine bounty over the years, and the waters off the western shore of Dogleg Island remain a popular destination for recreational divers and treasure hunters alike into the modern day. The reef also provides surprisingly good surfing, which is one of the best kept secrets on the Gulf Coast. In 1843, the island, which was then being used by the United States Navy as a munitions storage facility, was dealt another devastating blow by Mother Nature. The storm surge from one of the most powerful hurricanes in recorded history virtually submerged over half of the island. When the waters receded, a deep lagoon was all that remained of the main portion of the island, leaving behind the dogleg shape from which it eventually derived its name.
The lagoon is now enjoyed by fishermen, boaters, and kayakers, and provides a home for sea birds and dolphins, as well as a lush setting for the homes that are built there. Most of the full-time residents,well-accustomed to the fury of the Gulf Coast's killing storms, live inland, in cottages built on pilings fifty or sixty years ago. But when the toll was taken off the bridge several years ago more and more people from cities like Atlanta, New Orleans and New York began to discover the island, building their million dollar houses along the beach and bringing with them their big-city greed, corruption and crime.
The islanders, having lived in isolation for so many years, have developed their own culture, a fierce protectiveness of their fragile paradise, and a natural suspicion of outsiders. Most of the island is still owned by the descendants of the families who first settled there, most prominent of which is the Grady family. Pete Grady, proprietor of Pete's Place Bar and Grille in the center of the island, is president of the island council, and his brother Ryan is a captain with the sheriff's department. Both are strict environmentalists dedicated to the preservation of their legacy, but not all property owners share their views.
Until recently, Dogleg Island was under county governance, but with the increased tax base generated by beachfront development, it is now an incorporated community with its own fire and rescue, utilities, and police department. That police department is headed by Aggie Malone, who made headlines some time back for her role in one of the most notorious murder cases in Florida history, and who is still considered a hero by most of the island community. Aggie's staff consists of Maureen, a former weight-lifter and prison guard, Sally Ann, a nineteen-year old administrative whiz, and Flash the border collie, who was recently awarded a medal of honor by the Dogleg Island Businessman's Association for valor beyond the call of duty, as well as official status as a member of the Dogleg Island Police Department.
The Dogleg Island Chamber of Commerce invites you to visit any time. Take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints on our beautiful sugar-white beaches. Lights out beachfront from May through October, which is nesting season for the sea turtles. And while you are advised to take the ordinary precautions of anyone living in a modern society, rest assured that the streets of Dogleg Island are safe. Aggie and Flash make sure of that.