Pup, pup and away – An Irishman’s Diary on a small dog and a big beach

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock


It’s amazing what you learn when you take a walk on the beach in the rain, alone except for the snuffling and splodging of a small black and white dog and the other walkers. They have also been guilted by persistent stares and glances back and forth at the drawer that holds the lead.

Everybody has been using the beach during the the Great Warmth, but only hardcore enthusiasts and their dogs go to the beach in the rain.

And it is truly hard to believe what you discover there. For example, dogs don’t like mustard. This factoid was ventured by a stranger, a fellow dog walker, on a recent jaunt down the beautiful beach that stretches from Termonfeckin to Clogherhead on one side and to the mouth of the Boyne on the other side opposite Mornington, Co Meath.

“Put it on anything precious”, the lady volunteered after I told her my pup Fenton liked nothing more than to chew whatever presented itself to his eager little jaws, “and he’ll never touch it again”.

Dog people are special people, we know that, drawn together by their shared love of canine friends and rain-soaked walks on the strand. What did we do to deserve dogs, we ask ourselves day in day out. And what did we do to deserve such beautiful beaches where dogs and owners can go to breathe, be alone in their thoughts and swap dog stories.

This lady had an adorable-looking cross between a springer spaniel and a golden retriever, which seemed a little less friendly than her owner, but happy enough to be examined and sniffed up and down by my baby mutt. We had stopped to talk, knowing immediately we had at least two things in common – dogs and beaches.

Dog people are so generous with their advice, especially when you walk up the beach with a newborn. Young dogs are easy to spot and become a beacon to other owners in the vicinity. Pups are over enthused by everything, they often trip over their over-sized paws and their heads look too big for the bodies.

On occasion, as they run, their back legs start to slide out behind like a car losing control going around a bend at high speed. They are scared of little waves as they roll up the sand towards them even though in only a few months they will be straining at the leash to go in and splash.

Mine picks up random bits of seaweed and driftwood and carries them for a period of time until he gets bored and picks up a shell or the wing of a dead seagull. So we are easy to spot.

On this early summer day I had decided, after a particularly stressful 48 hours to take a trip to the beach, just me and the dog. They say canine company is good for the relief of mental stress and beaches too are proven scientifically to lift the mood.

Combined, they are surely more effective than a lifetime supply of happy pills or 70 hours of intensive therapy.

However, my impending zen on this particular day was banished soon after arriving at the shore when the pup demonstrated another thing I did not know before I embarked on my walk – that young dogs like catching hold of the dangling cardigans of passing strangers as they saunter onto the beach with their husbands. It was only a passing, opportunist lunge but those teeth are awfully sharp at that age. Did he put a hole in it? I’d be surprised if he didn’t. We made quick apologies with a half smile and kept going. Note to self: short lead around cardigans. Another lesson learned.

But the mustard lady took our mind off this unpleasant incident and got us thinking hard. I mean if we were to apply her old wives’ tale to our situation, I would, for example have had to have smeared the poor unfortunate golf lady’s cardigan with mustard prior to our chance encounter. We’d have to employ mustard smearers to walk ahead of us with large vats of mustard, smearing it on anything that may look attractive to a little black and white dog’s sharp little mind. All small children’s legs would have to be smeared as the little black and white dog likes to nip around young ankles. He thinks it’s a game. Their mothers are not so sure. We’d have to smear mustard on dead seagulls and washed up discarded fish crates.

Applying the mustard theory to our home life, the legs of all of the armchairs in the sitting room would have to be smeared with strong English mustard, as would the edges of the former news editor’s couch, which takes pride of place in the playroom/dog room.

But as we came closer to Clogherhead it was drizzling hard and there was nobody else to be seen on the beach except us. The only notion in my mind was that Fenton was unlikely to grab one of my favourite lunches – a ham and mustard sandwich on white bread. And with this thought, my mind was finally settled for the first time in two days.

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