The following story was once told by 'beach-folk' along the East Anglian coast:
An Italian gentleman once appeared in a small seaside hamlet. He spoke English and soon befriended a local fisherboy, offering to take him abroad. The boy refused and so the stranger asked him to look after his dog instead, a large black retriever.
The Italian left the area, the dog being left in the boy's care. It was noted that the dog and man had never been seen together during the gentleman's time there.
The lad often went for a swim in the sea, and the dog always joined him. One day, he swam far out to sea and was horrified to find that the dog would not allow him to return to shore, snapping and snarling at him as he tried to turn for land.
On and on he swam, the dog never far behind. At one point he turned and was terrified to see, not the dog but the face of the Italian! Grinning the man changed back into the dog and made for the boy's neck. At this point, the boy hailed a passing ship and was quickly pulled abroad. The dog, deprived of his victim, dived like a whale, never to be seen again.
John is a producer, TV/Radio presenter and writer living in Suffolk