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Dog Walkers, by Carol Rowlands





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Three times the madness


Isn’t the seashore the most fabulous place to take a dog?

There is only one other person in view along this entire stretch of beach. He’s by the water’s edge, not far off. Young, sturdy, agile. I reckon he thinks the same as I do about this setting for a walk.

There’s much activity over there. Three dogs of differing sizes and shapes are leaping at the lone figure, bouncing off his torso or twirling in the air beside him. His hand stretches high up above his head, holding whatever elusive trophy it might be … a stick, a ball? His body is now bending, now swaying back and forth in a tug-of-war, now crouching for a hands-on tussle.

The biggest of his companions is a rough collie. Fine features, dainty yet strong legs, thick white-and-sable coat twisting and turning lithely. Gorgeous. His sparring partner is a scruffy west highland terrier who’s jumping repeatedly as though fitted with springs.

Number three dog is a blue roan cocker spaniel, just this moment vaulting into the arms of the laughing young man, who almost loses his balance with the momentum of the catch.

The whole scene is all the more exhilarating and memorable because the beach is covered in a thin blanket of snow. Everywhere is a strangely merging greyish white. Sky, sea, land. It won’t be like this for long; there is already a surface sparkle on the snow from the lukewarm sun, with hints of pebbles peeking through. But what a day!

I’m all togged up in heavy coat, mittens, scarf. My dog, too, clothed. I gulp the icy air.

“What about this, then…”

“Miraculous!” his face glowing with wide-eyed humour.

“We need to put in an application for more of these …” says I.

“Make sure it’s in triplicate …” is his quick reply, as his shins are buffeted by a crazy whitish bundle of dog. “That should do it.”

“You like things in threes!…”

“Three times the madness … wheeee!” He whizzes the dog round and round in the air, like a propeller. They’re linked by a gnarled lump of wood, which duly snaps, and: “Whah! That was your fault, Eldridge!” The dog goes flying, landing for all the world like a tumbling snowball.

The collie is barking, demanding more action.

“Shut up, Arty, I’m talking.” The young guy yanks his green woolly hat further down over his ears.

“Last time I was here it was heaving with bikinis and screaming kids,” he says. “Had a top game of hit-the-big-stone-with-the-small-stone, though.” Roguish look. “Nerves of steel and a steady hand.”

“You won, of course.”


I grab a stone for Arty and totter up the beach, aiming for a fine Ian Botham delivery. Ah, feeble! But Arty ecstatically careers after it. Meanwhile the young man approaches my little Rosie.

“This beach a bit much for you, mate?” She’s not young and is rather slow and precise in her pebbled beach manoeuvrings, snow or no snow. He bends to pick her up, with a questioning look to me.

“Sure,” I say. He’s very gentle as he arranges her little legs in his arms. Much protest from his crew, of course. I grab the now diminutive piece of gnarled wood and run a few steps along the beach with it, the three of them muscling around me. Up it goes in the air as I duck out of the ensuing mêlée.

The young guy wanders closer and carefully puts Rosie down again to pick her way to me.

It’s getting late. I reluctantly have to leave the beach to him and his gang and move on.

He looks out to sea, then slowly all around him, taking a huge breath.

“Wondrous!” he says quietly.

Now up on the esplanade I look down over the expanse of white seaside. Down at the water’s edge a figure in a green hat is mid-fall, with a muddle of dogs piling in on top. Ouch!

I catch the strains of frenetic barking mingled with one man’s raucous laughter.


© Carol Rowlands 2009





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