The beach at Chelsea, in Victoria, is a secret gem. Pale white sand, surprisingly turquoise water and thunderclouds on the horizon are the norm. It could be a 10˚C day and Chelsea’s beach could fool you into thinking you were on a tropical island watching a summer storm roll past.
Jellyfish the size of dinner plates wash ashore most mornings. Their stinging cells are negligible to all but the tiniest of fish, and by the time they hit the beach, they’re harmless. Most beachwalkers avoid them anyway, so too their dogs who enjoy the freedom of an off-lead outing.
Sheldon, however, is an exception. A handsome Labrador with a distinguished grey muzzle and jaunty tail, Sheldon will examine each and every jellyfish. He looks for The One—a jellyfish whose edges have been crusted by the sun, whose solid bulbous centre has turned slightly to mush. To this chosen one, he gives a lick and a gentle nibble on the side (just to be sure), before he cocks his leg and continues on his explorations.
It’s only half an hour later when the debacle begins. On our return along the beach, Sheldon, eyes bright and tongue lolling, will hunt out that special jellyfish. It has been sitting in the sun, seasoning, if you will.
It’s clear the moment he’s found it. His muscles seem to loosen, his very bones turn to liquid, and he flops down onto the jellyfish shoulder-first. Then comes the joyful rolling, the happy wriggling and victorious bark as the jellyfish turns to slush.
Sheldon eventually rises, covered in gloop and his own urine.
I give an embarrassed shrug to horrified onlookers, but I don’t stop him. A bucket, shampoo and towel are waiting for us beside the back door at home.
But Sheldon has one more act in this daily show. He snuffles the sand and digs out the dirtiest, smelliest remnant of the jellyfish.
And then he eats it.
I don’t know of any other dog who pees on jellyfish, rolls on them and then eats them. But his simple joy is one of the many reasons I cherish him.
My love requires no seasoning.