Rank smells – the ranker the better – would drive our dog, Zaphod, nuts. He was drawn to them. He’d roll in them, grinding noxious substances into his fur by repeated dives, rolls and shoulder slides. No amount of calling could drag him off. And a bath would have to follow – with much scrubbing, rubber gloves, and Hasmat clothing.
One incident stands out above all others. The incident with the dead whale. We’d taken my mother to Saunton Sands for the day. A nice day out, we thought. A stroll along the beach followed by fish and chips at the nearby inn.
Then Zaphod found the dead whale. The rotting-for-several-days, putrid dead whale. He’d rushed off into the distance towards a black speck on the edge of the sand dunes. No one had thought any more about it. Until we walked closer and the smell hit us.
Our dog was in the belly of a whale. And the belly of a whale was all over our dog.
Noooooooo! Leave, boy! Come here!
As he’d had a good five minutes rolling in the whale, he decided that that was one command even he could obey. Of a sort. The beach was empty for miles except for us, Zaphod, the whale … and my mother – who, standing in her Sunday best some fifty yards further down the beach and not being a dog person…
Was the obvious person for Zaphod to run towards.
Time – as it does during emergencies – stretched. Noooooo! We shouted at Zaphod. We shouted at my mother. Don’t touch him! Keep away! But she turned towards us, brow furrowing and mouthing that bemused question all dog owners ask themselves several times a day, “why?”
“Because he stinks and he’ll jump up at you and get all that gink on your clothes and…”
But our words were lost on the breeze. And time, which hitherto had been happy to slow down and let us savour the approaching doom in all its whale-encrusted splendour, decided to speed up before we could run any closer. Dog and mother came into close proximity. There was an exchange of gifts. A pat on the head for one, globules of putrid whale blubber for the other. Screams rent the air.
Seawater is insufficient to remove whale smell from clothes. Trust me. Even after several scrub and rinse cycles in the ocean a lingering fragrance remains. And a locked car is no place to leave a ripe dog for an hour while you go and eat. Even if he’s been repeatedly dunked in the ocean.
But there is one advantage of having whale blubber on your clothes – finding a seat in a packed pub is not a problem.
There are few others.
We drove home with all the windows down and a smiling dog beaming from the back seat of the car. A car trip, a run on the beach and a dead whale. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
Recently released from Book View Press: International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth. Forget Bruce Willis and his team of miners. Send for the kitties!
Coming soon: Nous Sommes Anglais – true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.