Aug 23
Self-service holiday
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 23rd, 2016| icon33 Comments »

The majority of our past holidays and breaks have been in the west of Scotland, but this time around we decided to give the east coast a try, booking into a small and (before we arrived) quiet campsite in Inverbervie, Aberdeenshire.

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The journey there was unusally comfortable for the pups thanks to a pair of plush beds Susan found on sale at our local ASDA store. Costing only a tenner a piece, the beds are a perfect fit for our fabric travel crates and come with that holy grail of Beagle bedding: the integral full surround chin-rest. As you can see from the above shot Biggles certainly made good use of the chin-rest component, but seemed a bit confused about how to use the bed itself.

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Our spot on the campsite was by a river that was home to a family of ducks and two mature swans. Biggles quickly accepted the presence of our feathered neighbors but Beanie immediately became obsessed with them. On our beach at home she’s a legendary bird hunter; over the years she’s nearly caught Sandpipers, come within twenty meters of snatching Black Terns out of the air, and only narrowly missed capturing a dead Seagull. Finally here was an opportunity to crown her career by also not catching a swan.

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While The Bigglet and us humies crash out in the sun..

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.. Beanie stays ever watchful by the riverbank

Beanie may not be any good at catching birds, but unfortunately¬† she is rather more successful when it comes to large insects. Unlike the west side of the country, the east of Scotland doesn’t seem to have a problem with midges but it does apparently have a considerable wasp population, which Beanie was determined to reduce. We’d read plenty of stories about closed airways due to stings, so we did our best to kill the wasps ourselves before they came within her reach, and dissuade her from attempting to catch those that made it through our barrage of fast knock-down spray. Needless to say it wasn’t long before she snagged one, then almost instantly spat it out, shook her head and leaped back from its still wriggling body. Over the next few minutes we kept a close eye on The Beanster for any adverse reactions, but happily none were forthcoming. I pushed a couple of doggy-safe anti-histamines down her throat as a precaution, but for once we didn’t need an emergency visit to the nearest vet. Instead, we made a distinctly non-emergency visit to the nearest castle.

Dunnotar Castle Sunrise [IMG_0947]

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Dunnotar castle has to be one of the most picturesque castles in the UK, especially when viewed around sunrise. It’s also bordered by clifftops that are satisfyingly sniffy, especially when sampled by a Beagle nose.

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Back at the campsite, I parked up the van and anchored the pups to it while Susan and I set about adjusting the tarp add-on to our tent. Apparently we took too long doing this, because when Susan returned to the van she found that Beanie and Biggles had helped themselves to a cow ear each. Exactly how they did this remains a mystery; just prior to embarking on our holiday I’d dropped a few days’ worth of cow ears in a bag along with a doggy toothbrush, toothpaste and a few cubes of dried fish (the traditional pay-off for letting me clean their teeth). I’d handed the bag to Susan who put it safely away in a cupboard, and there it had stayed until someone furry found a way to retrieve it. Even more remarkable was the fact that – after first consuming all the fish cubes – they had apparently rationed themselves to one cow ear each, leaving the rest in and around the shredded bag. As Beagle raids go, this had been almost civilized.

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Over the next couple of days we visited nearby fishing village Gourdon..

Harbour at Gourdon Village [IMG_1037]

Crab Pots at Gourdon Village [IMG_1043]

Golden hour at Gourdon Village [IMG_7903]

..and the beach at Lunan Bay. While Gourdon was notable for its splendid rolling-in-seagull-guano opportunities, it was Lunan Bay that provided the most entertainment, courtesy of Biggles’ reaction to its sandfly population. He’s encountered sandflies before of course, but never in such great numbers. By golden hour the beach was literally jumping with the little buggers, and The Bigglet decided that the only way to deal with them was to dig, dig, dig.

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The beach visit started out peacefully enough.

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The dynamic duo investigated the ruins of a sand castle..

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..peed on it

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..explored arches and caves

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..and chowed down on some particularly tasty barnacles

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But then those pesky sandflies turned up..

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..and the digging began.

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Most dogs look a bit silly when they’re digging, but with that big white bum of his Biggles takes it to a whole new level

The digging didn’t eradicate the sandflies but it gave my boy a damned good workout, and the long drive back home had heavy snoring as its soundtrack.

Aug 5

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Recently we helped out one of our neighbors by looking after their one year old pup for a few hours. It was the first non-Beagle doggy experience I’ve had in some time, and it began with me letting myself into their house to take the little chap for a walk together with our two hooligans.

The first thing that struck me was that he’d been trusted enough to be left in the kitchen without being crated. From what I can gather lots of dogs get to hang out in kitchens, which has always seemed bizarre to me, because that’s one place I would never, ever leave Beanie & Biggles unsupervised. After all what other room in the house has food of every possible type, from fresh meat to binned scraps, harmless veg to highly dog-toxic fruit, not to mention loads of potentially deadly cleaning agents? Of course all these things can be put out of reach, in the fridge, in cupboards or behind closed doors, but in my experience any self-respecting Beagle will either find a way to overcome these obstacles or do shocking damage to himself and/or the kitchen in the attempt. All it takes is sufficient time and opportunity.

The neighbor’s pup however had been gifted two hours or more of unsupervised kitchen access, and what had he done with it? Nothing! He hadn’t even made an attempt at liberating his evening meal – ready-served and waiting in his bowl – from the worktop! I was aghast. Had I just stumbled into a parallel universe of opposites where summer weather doesn’t mean rain, roads don’t have potholes, and every dog is a well-behaved anti-Beagle?

Fortunately things got slightly more normal when I approached the little fella to put his lead on. He did a play bow, evaded my attempts to grab him, and scarpered past me into the garden. I eventually managed to get him safely tethered using a dog biccie as a distraction, but his artful dodging reminded of Biggles. The Bigglet doesn’t mind his lead, but he will certainly give us the run-around if we try to put his harness on in the house, so much so that we sometimes sing “Catch the Biggle” to the same tune as “Stop the pigeon” as we try to corner him. It doesn’t help, but it does make it more entertaining.

Anyway, with the little boy finally on lead, I met up with Susan and Beanie & Biggles to start our walk. For the next fifteen minutes I’d say that my walking companion was almost a match for our two Beagles in terms of peskiness, though it manifested in different ways from them. Instead of trying to poo on other people’s driveways and in the middle of the road, or dive in front of approaching cars to grab dropped food wrappers, or woof provocatively at much bigger dogs, this little boy poured all his efforts into pulling unpredictably and stopping to pee on everything he saw. As we continued walking however I decided to try a few lead control techniques that I remembered from puppy classes long passed, and amazingly, they worked. For the last half of the walk he was trouble-free, trotting calmly at my side on a loose lead. By this time of course Beanie had swallowed some unknown item she’d snatched from the gutter, and Biggles had acquired a brown skid-mark on his bum-cheek after a roll attempt that hadn’t quite worked out. I dropped the furry neighbor off at his house, and he trotted back into his kitchen without even glancing back at the bowl of food on the worktop.

On the way back to my own house I must admit I briefly wondered how our lives might have been if we’d chosen a different dog breed over eight years ago. My musings were interrupted when I saw a little face watching me through the window; it was Beanie, perched on the sofa. As soon as our eyes met her tail started wagging furiously, and I got a particularly cuddly welcome as I opened the door. On entering the lounge I could see that Biggles already been busy; my cup – which had previously contained the dregs of a serving of hot-chocolate – had been removed from my desk and was lying on the blanket next to his lordship.

“Was that you Biggles?” I asked.

Biggles just rolled over onto his back, exposing his tummy as if to say “Check this out Dad, it’s all furry, and you can tickle it if you want to.”

I did tickle it of course, and while I was doing so Beanie practised her fly hunting skills, nearly wrecking the window blinds in the process.

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We’re not spying on the neighbors in this shot (though we like to do that from time to time); nope, it’s just a fly hunt in progress.

What would things have been like with a “normal” dog? Simpler, probably more economical (vet induced vomiting ain’t cheap), but at the same time so much less colorful and entertaining. Give me a Beagle any day.

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In fact give me two of them, because one busy Beagle bottom on its own just doesn’t look right.

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Jul 17

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About six years ago – not long after we’d moved house – we introduced Biggles and Beanie to our nearest doggie neighbour, and let him have a runabout in our garden. Beanie didn’t mind this at all, but for Biggles the experience was very different. He stood bewildered and helpless as this intruder, a busy little Spaniel, rapidly hunted down all Biggles’ favorite hangout spots and pee-marked everything (and I do mean everything). Ever since that day Biggles has always had more than a few choice words for any Spaniel who crossed his path, but he never got the chance to exact pee-for-pee revenge.

Not until a few days ago, that is.

Susan was busy tending flowers in our front and rear gardens, repeatedly opening and re-closing the gate that separates the two and which – more crucially – keeps the little fury people from going walkabout. I was indoors at the time at work on my computer, Beanie was lying on the sofa slowly recovering from an extended nap, and Biggles was stretched out on the rear patio, snoring and catching rays. At some point in her frequent journeys to and fro, Susan got distracted and forgot to close the gate. She came indoors for refreshment and watched a bit of our favorite 24 hour news channel, which here in Britain has recently offered more drama and political intrigue than even the best Game of Thrones episodes (albeit without dragons and giants, although Boris Johnson looks kind of big when he’s filmed close up with a wide angle lens). Anyway, some time later one of our neighbors knocked on the door.

“Er.. I think Beanie or Biggles has got out” he said.

Hearing this, I stood up and peered over my monitor to check the sofa. Beanie was still there – still comatose – and therefore the Beagle at large had to be Biggles. Susan headed straight out on the recovery mission, while I held the fort. I expected Susan to be back in a minute; after five minutes had passed I was getting concerned. Just as I was reaching the point of putting a lead on Beanie and joining the hunt, Susan finally returned with The Bigglet safe in her arms.

We’ll never know precisely how long Biggles was on his walkabout or exactly what he did during it; that’s Biggles’ secret, and he’s not telling. However, going by eyewitness testimony from the neighbors, the circumstances of his capture, and nearly eight years of observing his habits, I think the following is pretty to close the mark…

Though apparently snoozing on the patio, Biggles would have noted that the garden gate had been opened and not re-closed. He may not be the smartest doggie on the planet, but he’s learned the opening and closing sounds of every door, cupboard, drawer and baby-gate we’ve got, and he has a gift for tactical thought.

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While Beanie would have tried for the opened gate immediately – even while Susan was still on hand to grab her – Biggles would have known to bide his time. About a minute after Susan went into the house, he’d have got to his feet, stretched, and trotted nonchalantly through the opened gate. His first destination would have been a point about halfway up our drive. This is where one of the local cats likes to relieve itself, and as every Beagle knows, you never turn your nose up at a bit of fresh cat poo. I’m always pulling him away from that spot when we head out on a walk, but now he had complete freedom to indulge himself.

Having dealt with the cat poo, Biggles would have been unsure what to do next. My boy is tactical, but he doesn’t plan beyond the initial objective. There have been times when he’s got onto the kitchen worktop but missed some really choice items because he hadn’t considered what to do when he got up there. I’m guessing that he went for a little tour of the nearby front gardens; this is borne out by reports of neighboring dogs raising the alarm at about the right time.

After considerable dithering, Biggles would have eventually realised that he had access to our nextdoor neighbors’ back garden: the Spaniel’s garden. That’s where he was spotted by the neighbor, and where he was subsequently apprehended by Susan. No-one saw him with a cocked leg, but when he got back home he had a huge drink of water and didn’t need to be let out again for some hours. Bottom line: I’m pretty sure that Spaniel is in no doubt that The Biggly Boy was in his garden.

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If you’re a Beagle boy, revenge is best served warm and wet and in lots of little puddles

 

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