Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another reason why dogs are so much fun

I'm greatly entertained by a report from England about two surfing Labradors, Branston and Pickle.

The pair of chocolate Labradors have become addicted to the sport since owner Mark Berry took them on a trip to the seaside.

Without any tuition, the four-legged beach bums have learnt to stand up on a surfboard and ride waves in to the shore.

And while the surf was only knee-high and unridable for their human counterparts at West Wittering, West Sussex, the pooches enjoyed tail-high waves to themselves.

The surf-mad mutts swim out to where the waves are breaking with Mark, 39, and then take it in turns to ride the 7ft board while the other one howls until it’s their go.

With a gentle push off from their master, they can manage rides of more than 10 seconds, barking all the way to the beach without wiping-out.

But unlike people learning to surf, the dogs aren’t content just to ride the whitewater - they've even started turning the board and riding along the face of each wave.

Their ability has stunned fashion photographer Mark, who now admits his pets are better at the sport than he is.

Dog Branston and bitch Pickle, both aged two, began surfing after Mark and his wife Gill, 39, a hairdresser, took them for a day on the beach.

While throwing a ball out to sea for the dogs to fetch, the couple were shocked when they spotted them riding back to the shore by body surfing in on the waves.

Realising their natural talent in the water, Mark and Gill decided to try them out on a surfboard.

And they were staggered when immediately the pair, who are half brother and sister, were able to balance on the board and catch waves.

The pooches are now hooked on the sport and have lost interest in trips to lakes or rivers - where there are no waves to be had.

And the couple from Ickenham, Middlesex, have even invested in a 7ft foam surfboard for the dogs.

Mark, who is a keen snowboarder and windsurfer, said: ‘Branston and Pickle have gone absolutely mad for surfing - they've really got the bug.

‘They're both very laid back, chilled out dogs for most of the time, but when they get to the beach they just go bananas.

‘They love water and we used to take them on walks to lakes and rivers so they could go for a swim but now they turn their noses up at anywhere that hasn’t got good waves.

‘When you get them in the sea, they howl and bark each other into waves and when one of them hasn’t got the board they paddle about waiting their turn and whining.

‘As soon as I get their board out they go crazy and it’s a race to see which one of them will get the first go - I think we might have to get them a board each now.

‘I can’t believe how good they are at surfing - it’s a bit embarrassing because they're already much better than me.

‘Maybe it’s something to do with having four paws on the board but they've got great balance and they're really competitive.

‘I just give them a little push off so the wave can pick up the board and then they're off - they've even starting to ride down the line - along the face of the waves.

‘Next thing they probably won’t need me at all and they’ll be paddling the board out themselves and doing tricks.’

Mark and Gill, who have their own artistic hairdressing business, are planning to buy the dogs a 9ft longboard, so they can try tandem surfing.

The dogs have also been invited by Wittering Surf Shop, which supplied them with their board, to provide a dog surfing demo at a contest later this year.

Great stuff! I've always loved Labrador retrievers, having grown up with one, and had a couple since then. The only reason I don't have two of them now is that my property is unfenced, and it's not fair to keep dogs if they can stray and get killed by cars. I've seen too many dead dogs and cats at the side of the road to want that to happen to my pets. If I can ever afford to fence the place, I'll be off to the animal shelter to see what Labradors - or Lab crosses - they may have needing a home.


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