Bank Holiday weekend and all that it entails! Thus, the end of the holiday season approaches and we boys have reason to feel relieved; never before have we seen so many folks around and for so long, too. Our daily routines have negotiated the tides as usual but, additionally, the timings of the beach crews on warm, still days, of which there have been plenty. Weekends are the worst, visitors leaving in their wake piles of litter where it falls: blisteringly hot ‘throw-away’ barbecues – agony for dogs’ innocent paws – jettisoned tin foil, plastic bits and bobs of all kinds, balloon strings, cola bottles, broken sandals, spades, and toys, bags full of dog poo, nappies full of baby poo (yes, most disgusting of all), ice cream boxes, fish and chip cartons, crisp bags, shopping bags, biscuit wrappers, used baby wipes – on and on and on. On the afternoon walk we gather up and deposit safely whatever rubbish we come across, sometimes filling two bags and dragging bigger items from the beach and dunes. Wind-breaks are parked as and when it suits but too frequently at the point where the pathway from the dunes just meets the sand, forcing everyone else to negotiate their trenches even though it’s obvious we are not welcome, innocent and disciplined as we come. Taciturn faces, returning silence for cheery greetings whatever time of day. Aren’t you enjoying yourself, I want to ask? We might also ask the little seabirds the same question, choking and catching the detritus on their beaks and legs as they do.
Then there is the matter, a serious one, of danger to life and limb. Every season several of our friends are attacked by unknown dogs, as Barnaby and Newman have been too. Using a lifetime’s experience of identifying at long distance dangerous breeds by what bird-watchers refer to as their GISS*, we have so far this year managed to steer clear of such unpredictables just in case we came off worse against passive-aggressive creatures who only see the light of day rarely and have never had the freedom of a massive beach before. Our dear Shar-Pei friend almost lost her life to a sudden and unprovoked attack from a newly re-homed rescue dog whose owners had never taken her out before, but simply let off the leash with catastrophic results. Dog owners’ ignorance and insouciance are breathtaking.
If this sounds a bit cynical for a small pondering spaniel, it is what the world this summer has made me: after all, things have been terrifying, wouldn’t you agree? The Four Horsemen are stalking the world with barbarous efficiency, setting us all at odds with guns, germs and knives, hatred and despair. It takes great faith to lean hard on the good, but ‘the rest is not our business’, as someone famous once said. Looking up, I look for leaders to find the world’s way forward and hope they show the confidence dogs look for in their humans.
When my little frame is borne down upon by a massive beast who has no idea how bouncy and brutal he feels, even if he only intends fun, it is very frightening, and frightening for us all. Barnaby with his massively booming single bark is always alert, always on his guard, our joint welfare his way of life. With characteristic, consummate style, he warns those who come down on us like the Assyrian (i.e. ‘like the wolf on the fold’!), usually but not always giving the harmless ones pause. On our behalf Kemo Sabe is one step ahead of him, bringing Barnaby to heel immediately, securing him to the lead with Noggsy, taking us up into the dunes if need be, to avoid crossing the path of the wayward and uncontrolled who are traversing the beach at will as though their owners own it. The twist from colliding with a sprinting lurcher or labrador can easily result in a torn cruciate ligament but this knowledge eludes those who permit their beasts to charge around and indeed seem fearful of laying hands of restraint upon them: interesting that. ‘Exercise authority!’ I hear myself shouting, were I able to tell them. Why do the best appear to lack all conviction?
*General Impression of Size and Shape