In this particular week, the ‘Stare of the Dog’ was spotted glancing up at me from the other side of a body board, for Dudley had gamely decided to join us in the surf.
Making the most of the early September sunshine we had decided to travel up to Hells Mouth beach at the top of the Lyn Peninsula in North West Wales for one last day in the sea, before Autumn would once again cast its darkening fingers across our path. We figured Dudley could use a wash in the sea too. The peninsula itself is big enough to swallow an F1 track and virtually empty even in August, owing to its lack of facilities. There are no toilets or cafes to be found here and as most of today’s Britons cannot function correctly beyond a two mile radius of a Costa, Nero or Starbucks, beach goers could be counted in their tens.
One person’s loss however is another one’s gain and so we parked up at a quiet spot behind the dunes and unleashed the beast. Safe in the knowledge he stood more chance of finding a caramel macchiato for sale than any ice-cream wielding child to savage, we let him charge off ahead, leaving us to labour stoically through the deep sand, weighed down by boards and wetsuits. Before any surfing began, the hound found time to squat above and crap onto a large, flat, one foot high stone in the middle of the beach – the type of stone picknickers might swarm around and adopt as a centre piece for their al fresco fare. Dudley’s resulting handiwork was a presentation piece with sufficient artistic prowess to warrant exhibition space at Tate Modern or the Guggenheim. In an act of callous cultural vandalism, I bagged and binned the offending item in the appropriate fashion before striding into the surf with board and canine in tow.
With more webbed feet than a dust-bowl trailer park, Dudley’s built for water and it’s hard to keep him out of the stuff. As mentioned in earlier tales mind, he likes to stay close to the shore and this didn’t endear him to the other wave riders, as he insisted on swimming parallel to the beach and scattering them as they shot past him at speed on their boards. His other trick, as alluded to above, was to swim out to meet us and clamber half way onto the bodyboard in order to take a breather in water too deep to stand in. Fending off these hostile takeovers like a FTSE 100 CEO became tiresome for us both and I soon noticed puncture marks in my wetsuit caused by his flailing claws. It was time to admit defeat and head ashore to survey the damage, my wife and I deciding instead to take it in turns to keep an eye on the hound from the shoreline whilst the other embraced the surf line unmolested.
And so it was, he and I cut a sorry and dejected sight, watching the lady of the house retreat into the water, board held casually to one side like a gnarly Hawaiian as we sat there shedding salt water like a couple of Salmon. Somehow, and owing to Dudley’s failings, the scene had gone from ‘Baywatch’ to ‘Marley and Me’ in a matter of seconds.
Not sharing the same crestfallen mood, Dudley looked up suddenly and took flight along the beach. Another dog was in his sights – eta around four seconds and with a closing speed of 25mph. Fortunately both were playful enough with each other and no harm was done. Mutual nods and pleasantries were exchanged by both owners before it was time to call them back to their respective leads. Or was it?
“Dudley get back here” called out the other fella first. “That’s a little forward” I remember thinking, though was impressed he had picked up our Dog’s name so observantly.
“Dudley, get back here now or we”ll be taking you back to the car” the guy shouted again, at which point I was ready to impress upon him the merits of keeping his own house in order before criticising mine.
Then I realised. Two dogs. Two Dudleys. Relief was the first emotion followed by pride, pride that someone else had chosen their woofer’s name so well. Then came a feeling of jealousy and frustration, for we’d enjoyed 13 months of constant flattery for our choice of name whenever Dudley had encountered anyone new. This man, with his counterfeit canine in tow, I thought would be the type of man who would steal the clothes off your back and tell you he bought them first. Grabbing the real Dudley, I shot him a forced and superficial smile before walking away.
“There’s a good rock over there to set up camp around when you’re done body boarding” I called out over my shoulder helpfully. “It’s just the right height to lay your lunch out on too.”