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Most people have heard of gun dogs, sled dogs, tracking dogs, trailing dogs, and seeing-eye dogs. And then, of course, there are bloodhounds and deerhounds, coonhounds, and foxhounds. But the West coast has produced an entirely different variety of dog, namely… the surf hound.
Surf hounds are the vagabonds who thrive on California’s beaches even though there are multiple signs forbidding their presence. Can’t they read??
Nearly all surf hounds are well fed. In fact, it’s very clear that some have been fed too well. Some even wear collars.
What does that tell us?
I think it means that they have homes where they enjoy regular meals. Yet they run around unsupervised and in unruly packs, with nothing better to do than play and squabble amongst themselves. Sometimes, unfortunately, they can’t get out of the way of a car speeding down Highway 1.
It’s apparent that their owners don’t care enough about them to keep them in a safe environment. Or perhaps the owners are proponents of complete freedom for all.
Yes, their antics are amusing enough to watch – sometimes even hilarious. But surf hounds are a nuisance to beachgoers, since the dogs seem to consider the beach their personal territory. They tear around in noisy pursuit of each other, leaving a sandy wake wherever they go – and heaven help whoever gets in their way.
Of course, they are friendly enough on the whole, but that just adds to the problem because they tend to leap all over people in an effort to engage them in their games. Or else they park themselves on beach blankets and lick whatever faces are handy in a show of their appreciation and gregariousness.
Above all, they seem to be immune to all manner of threats to chase them away.
Surf hounds come in all shapes and sizes. Most are of mixed ancestry and look like composites of about a dozen different breeds, but there are even some that are unmistakably pedigreed. Are owners of such valuable dogs really letting them run around wild, not so much at the beach, but on the streets, where traffic is a constant danger.
Although surf hounds may look scruffy and unkempt, they are generally not dirty because they clean themselves off when they run into the sea to fetch things or to chase each other. Of course, the long-haired ones are a pretty sorry sight when they’re wet, with the sand sticking to their coats as though they had been sprinkled liberally with salt.
Many of them constantly dig and scratch themselves. Is that because they have fleas or is it just the salty sea water which makes their skin itch? It’s probably a combination of the two.
Some surf hounds are young, sleek, and bouncy, but others are old and fat and can hardly manage to waddle along behind the rest of the pack. Still, young or old, they all seem to know the favorite picnic spots and the trash cans that yield the juiciest treasures.
Hey! Where’s My Lunch?
Not only are surf hounds vagabonds, they are also thieves. They steal things from people’s blankets – food, toys, sometimes even the blankets themselves. But sometimes they also come bearing gifts – old bones or sticks which they want you to throw for them to fetch.
Their inexhaustible desire to play, non-stop biting and frolic can be quite disarming, especially when they streak through the sand hell-bent – not to reach any particular destination but just for the joy of running. Seeing them enjoying themselves so much makes a person wish for the same kind of freedom.
Of course, in their exuberance, they do not hesitate to bowl over anything that gets in their way. I once observed two strapping, happy-go-lucky boxers strong-arm a bright colored ball away from a little boy.
Naturally, in the scuffle they managed to push him down in the sand, where he sat clenching his little fists in frustration while the boxers pushed his ball out to sea with their paws and noses. Luckily, the little boy enjoyed the whole episode so much, that he got up and went chasing after the boxers.