The lurcher is not a marine animal. It rarely dives into the sea for herring, or migrates across leagues of trackless ocean. It does, however, like a paddle now and then – and may, very occasionally, go full swim. We confess that none of ours have ever been of the total-immersion persuasion. Top of the legs is usually quite enough, and anything oceanic which looks as if it’s going to involve a serious bath is avoided. But being at the seaside in general – oh yes.
Firstly, there are huge stretches of flat sand which are perfect for mad zoomies. With few others animals around apart from malevolent-looking gulls, the open space allows for unfettered running around in great circles, with a selection of disgusting items available for games of fetch. Dead fish, half a crab, rotting seaweed, and something which is either a piece of kelp or a decomposed arm. All are popular. We say fetch, but in general our lurchers prefer to run after the thrown object, tussle with it a bit and then run off again. Which means that we do most of the fetching, frankly.
Secondly, there is wave-hopping. Labradors and similar types tend to throw themselves straight into the sea and go for it. Most lurchers wave-hop. This is an intricate and popular process, during which one or more lurchers walk or run just in the water, splashing and pestiferating in the first six inches of the incoming tide. Despite your best efforts, this inevitably involves you getting your shoes soaking wet, and a cod or two up your trouser legs.
The third attraction of the seaside is that it smells. Whilst you take in the bracing air, a nose festival is going on below. Apart from all the above items which you tried to use for fetch, there are heaps of items washed up by the last tide; every single spot where another dog has peed on the beach; some dubious looking cold chips; a pile of horse or donkey bottom-produce; gull droppings (the beach alternative to fox poo); a sewage outlet pipe, and many, many more things of intense interest.
There are few dogs which sniff things more than a sight-hound, which has always puzzled us.
Structures are also neat. Every upturned boat, ice-cream stand, WW2 pillbox, beach hut and jetty is a source of fascination and will get you dragged across the beach to investigate. Especially when the owner of one of these is present, so that they are privileged to watch you go red while your lurcher pees on their property.
So what are the downsides? Well, you don’t want your fine doggies getting into trouble, so we always watch out for i) getting over close to one of those cliff edges, and ii) letting the pups go too far out in case there are undercurrents. More common nuisances include the following:
a) None of those rock pools is drinkable. Despite the fact that everybody knows this, each must be given a tentative lick, and then an icky face, before you are allowed to move on.
b) Lurchers are very agile. Which means that they run halfway up low cliffs, choose stretches of the shore covered in ankle-breaking loose boulders, and bound over that wet, slippery, seaweed-strewn section where you fell over seven times last time you came.
c) Your car is full of sand. It is absolutely everywhere – deep in the upholstery and probably in the gearbox. The average lurcher, even short-haired, carries approximately 27 kilos of sand in with them every time they come off the beach. Included in this weight is sandhoppers, the ubiquitous beach flies, bits of the aforementioned crab and so on.
d) Your car is full of wet lurchers. The entire vehicle smells of dripping dog, and will do for months to come.
We have always taken the Little Donkeys to the long Yorkshire coast, especially the Holderness part which runs all the way down from Flamborough Head to Spurn Point.
This provides most of what a lurcher requires. Each has had his or her own response. Our late Jade, for example, used to stand right in the middle of the beach and bark, for no apparent reason. Chilli responds as if she’s suddenly been given amphetamines, and rushes around like a mad puppy in wider and wider loops, until she can barely be seen. Django, short of trees to run into, skitters in and out of the waves, and then tastes every rock pool, only to find that yes, the water still tastes funny.
Is it worth it? Absolutely.