On this particular occasion, the ‘Stare of the Dog’ was fixed firmly on the ocean and focused on a passing yacht. Dudley, like the rest of us, was in Anglesey on a summer break and with a ‘Welsh’ rare bit of sunshine in the offing, a day at the sea was in order.
First up, a boat trip around Puffin Island – a must for ornithologists and brown Labradors alike. Apart from being one of Anglesey’s foremost attractions, Puffin Island itself is very much what I’d call ‘Ronseal’ in nature given it’s an Island and has puffins on it. We’d have left Dudley at home to amuse himself if boat trips had forbade dogs but the website clearly said ‘well behaved dogs’ were welcome. After much debate regarding what part of ‘well behaved’ could be stretched wide enough in definition to include the digging up of gardens and the plundering of worktops, his visa for travel was granted.
Beaumaris Pier was to be our embarkation point but not before the hound had dived headlong into the sea. Wet dog. Small crowded boat. You do the math. On the pier itself with the fabulous little seaside town behind us, Dudley scattered a few children here and there who’d been excitedly pulling crabs from the murky waters below as well as brushing cold sea water over the bare legs of many a patiently waiting day tripper.
To my surprise and relief, all it took from the excellent ‘Starida Sea Services’ captain was a knowing nod and a wink and Dudley was aboard and quickly stowed away like a fused bomb – safe now but for how long? The trip lasted over an hour and the heat on deck was intense by British standards. Dudley’s main intention was to climb the sides of the boat in search of cool air which suited us fine as he was not pestering the other passengers. Around Puffin Island itself, cameras emerged en masse as all eyes strained to catch a glimpse of the diminutive yellow-billed birds. All except Dudley’s that is who, taking advantage of his handler’s distracted state, had slid under two rows of seats and was now acting as an impromptu foot warmer for a lady behind us whilst licking her husband’s feet. Luckily his advances were taken in good faith and before we knew it we were back at the pier no real harm done.
With the boat trip a resounding success, spirits were high and a plan was hatched to visit a local beach. At the car park, kit was unloaded. Despite hollow threats, I still have not fashioned a ‘doggy rucksack’ for Dudley and so he stood about waiting in excited fascination as his human porters buckled under the weight of beach paraphernalia. I opted quite sensibly for the ‘selfless mule’ role, making absolutely sure I had no free hands therefore ensuring my wife took Dudley – a ruthless decision I would not regret. As we trudged wearily along the deep sands of Traeth Lligwy in pursuit of a place to pitch camp and circle wagons, I caught a glance of Dudley scattering sandcastles and pouncing on unguarded beach balls. The look on my wife’s face as she was dragged along in his wake spoke volumes. Worse to come, he urinated all over a child’s upturned bucket and spade with the same casual dismissive arrogance as a playground bully or a celebrity tax dodger.
With the ‘bucket and spade’ incident now seared in our collective memories, we nervously set up camp like fur trappers in search of a safe place from polar bears. Soon beers and picnic sundries were passed around and all fears of the hound’s recent indiscretions were put to one side though not before the brute cocked his leg on a freezer bag of our own. Some while later, our nearest beach neighbours were heard referring to Dudley by name in a manner that suggested an over familiarity. As my mum’s deckchair was no longer providing a stern enough land anchor for him anyway, this was taken as a cue to move on and so I poured myself into a wetsuit, drained the remnants of a wasp free beer and spirited the hound off to the shoreline for a much-needed cool down.
Upon entering the water that day I discovered Dudley is more of an ‘inshore vessel’ than an ocean going liner. Decked out in my wetsuit and goggles, I had greater plans for this dynamic duo but in the end was reduced to an ungainly trudge along the surf line at waist height whilst he contentedly paddled beside me.
Proud of my canine fan club though I was it left me feeling a tad overdressed for the occasion.