This week’s ‘Stare of the Dog’ is a wet and soggy affair, as it is high time I turned my attentions to Dudley’s magnet like attraction to H2O. Of course, it’s not just him, as the Labrador breed generally seem utterly addicted to the stuff.
As he is my first Labrador, the water gene came as a surprise to me. In childhood, As a boy, the family’s go-to dog of choice was a German Shepherd, and each dog took the same approach to water as your average teenage boy. Approach with caution and use sparingly. Not so Dud, who, Charles Darwin will be relieved to learn, has wasted little time putting those hard won evolutionary tools of webbed feet and double fur lining to good use.
It wasn’t always thus mind, for Dudley’s inaugural trip to the sea was a pretty bashful affair. Standing all of a foot tall and trying not to look intimidated by the rapidly approaching North Sea shoreline, the little mite took some persuading to get even close to the water’s edge. The same was true of our first visits to the nearby river and water park, but with a little coaxing and a foot up his arse, he now spends more time underwater than the Florida Keys.
One definite benefit to his aquatic obsession is a clean smelling and soft coat, but there are times when his H2O habit can be a hindrance. For starters, I remember all too clearly fighting for purchase on the algae carpeted bank of a nearby pond as I tried to drag his sorry, soggy backside out. The rescue itself I did not begrudge him, what else could I do? However, I was less impressed by the menacing presence of an angry and clearly annoyed swan whose ire had been rattled by the ‘waterboy’ as he flailed unsuccessfully to break free from his watery web. Then there was the curious incident of the dog and the hot tub.
The list of fisherman Dudley has aggrieved in one way or another in pursuit of ‘the drink’ is extensive too. The sight of him ploughing his way up a lake towards a patient and pensive angler is one that instantly causes consternation. Making his final approach, like a cross channel ferry steaming into harbour, I can almost see the hitherto patiently coerced fish fleeing in all directions as bait and tackle are snagged and dragged under. Though this nightmare has not yet come to fruition, my wife and I have been verbally reprimanded on at least one occasion for his unruly maritime behaviours. He doesn’t even need to be in water to cause affray either, nearly knocking one fisherman’s maggot tin into a canal in an effort to get into it.
Still, at least these aquatic dalliances all involved clean water. What about the pungent matter of stagnant water. After all, I can understand the keenness these semi-sea lion like creatures have for a nice dip on a warm day, but with a Labrador, it just gets silly. And it isn’t just Dudley either, for a friend of ours has a black Lab named Jasper who is physically incapable of passing even the most stagnant and diminished puddle on a walk without a wallow. Amusing enough perhaps when he finds a nice clean one but less so when stumbling about on top of Welsh mountainsides, where he’s been known to require extricating from one peat bog after another using brute force. By the end of that particular trip, I didn’t know whether to suggest his owner hosed the blighter down or stood him in four wellingtons before planting geranium seeds on each corner.
Still, I’d take a peat bog over a spillover sewage tank any day, not that Dudley shares my opinion. Far from it, he much prefers a good old bathe in someone else’s ‘brown water’ and who am I to judge. The lady whose holiday cottage we had just arrived at may well have taken a less liberal view mind as he trotted in through the front door confidently and smelling like a waste treatment plant.
Finally, there’s the inevitable bi-product of all this aquatic indulgence, that is, a car that smells like a Mediterranean landfill site in high summer. To this end, I confess, I am still bemused by the nasal onslaught that awaits me every time I climb in to our car. I mean, it’s reasonably big, allowing ample airflow, has a waterproof dog tray in the back where he sits contentedly and contained, and to cap it all, Dudley himself does not appear to smell that bad on entering the vehicle. But it is simply no use trying to explain this phenomena. Far easier to simply file it in the same drawer as the Roswell Incident or Diet Coke and just accept it. For the smell he leaves behind after a ‘wet walk’ is insidious in every way. And do you know what the worst of it all is?
With a sense of irony to rival Alanis Morissette, Dudley hates the hosepipe, simply refuses to be cleaned that way. Some Waterboy he turned out to be.