The Dog, the Mother, and the Dead Whale

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 PressInternational 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.

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The Dog, the Mother, and the Dead Whale — 7 Comments

  1. Alas that Readers Digest is essentially defunct, because your travel tales would fit in so well there!

  2. I think I have injured myself laughing…fortunately, I put down the cup of tea before reading. I’ll definitely mention this post on my LJ!

  3. “Finding a seat in a packed pub is no problem . . .” Chris, you are the funniest!

    Out here, there’s a beach hiking route that would be more popular if it were not for the half-dozen rotting, headless baby seals or sea lions often found along the way. Whale would be REAL special.

  4. Ah! Tales of Stinky Dogs! Going out of your way to find a dead whale indicates a true artist.

    My late dog, Fiorello LaGuardia, used to swim in the local river (the Housatonic) which at that time was unspeakably polluted and vile. Fio, with the pinpoint-accurate instinct of dogs, would go swim in the river, run the quarter mile back to the house, picking up bits of flotsam and fleh as he ran, and would launch himself unerringly at my mother (who was not a dog person) in all his befouled glory. Shrieking would ensue, and then I got to bathe the dog who, in the way of all his kind, would sit in the tub with the look of a martyr, silently asking but WHY.

    Zaphod’s an artist, though. Really.

  5. I nearly snorted up my tea reading about the dog. And of course the most un-dog person is selected for special attentions.

    My introduction to stenchiferous dog wallowing was when I was walking my dog after a parade had been by, but before the street sweepers. I swooped around some horse droppings, but to my surprise my elderly dog took a nose dive right in, wriggling around before I could get him away. Ick!

  6. mouthing that bemused question all dog owners ask themselves several times a day, “why?”

    Don’t worry. Cat owners, too, ask themselves that several times a day. Madeleine is right thought, that one’s an artist!

    MKK