Oct 12

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Beanie is now a double-digit Beagle and while her advancing years haven’t exactly slowed her down, I have noticed some changes.

The most welcome development has been a growing appreciation of human affection. She has always been – on the surface – the most outgoing of our pups, greeting passers-by with full-body wags and a two-legged dance routine, but this was akin to celebrities smiling for cameras and signing autographs to keep fans happy. Away from the public gaze, Beanie has traditionally been a rather cuddle-averse and intensely private little Beaglet. More recently however she has become surprisingly accepting of strokes, kisses and snuggles. It started during trips in the Beaglemobile, where being moderately fondled on someone’s lap was a price worth paying to gain a better view of the outside world. This progressed to actively seeking cuddles during scary events like thunder, fireworks and beeping noises on TV shows, and in the last couple of months I’ve had some wonderfully soppy Beanie moments for no obvious reason at all.

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There’s nothing soppy or affectionate about her style of play however; if anything, she’s become even more of a vandal. The above birthday hotdog lost its strip of green “lettuce” almost immediately and would have lost much more if she hadn’t switched her attention to the squeaky smiley face. She’s even tried to win Biggles over to her destructive ways, encouraging him to rip open a soft fabric bone and spit out the squeaker. At least he felt toy-wrecker’s remorse after his orgy of destruction; Beanie just goes looking for the next victim!

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At the same time, she’s become much more tolerant of the attention of other dogs; even just a couple of years ago she would have cross words for any dogs that pestered her excessively on beach runs. Now she just ignores them – even the really pesky small ones – and she positively enjoys seeing the local farm dog, even though he has a strange obsession with sticking his nose right in her earholes. Actually maybe it’s not all that strange – I’ve caught myself rubbing my nose in her ears as well, although I don’t make quite such pronounced sniffing noises when I’m doing it.

Speaking of beach runs, both Beanie & Biggles have generally become much more manageable during offlead sessions this year, though Beanie did something very out of character this morning when we encountered a rather handsome, younger Beagle. He was also offlead, but trotting smartly just a few yards in front of his owner. Biggles – who was on an important mission at the time  (the ultimate goal of which never became clear) – totally blanked the youngster as he sprinted by. Ordinarily I’d have expected Beanie to do the same, but instead she made a bee-line directly for the little fellow, picking up speed all the time. At the very last instant she veered around him, woofed jubilantly, then shot another 60 yards down the beach, dived onto her back and engaged in a particularly vigorous rolling session on a bird carcass. Smelly break-dancing notwithstanding, this was essentially a classic Biggles fly-by maneuver. He does this to Beanie all the time (often incorporating a shoulder-barge), but this was the first time I’ve ever seen her do something similar. Obviously Biggles’ technique is superior due to years of diligent practice, but still I’d have to give Beanie a score of 6 out of 10, especially as this was her first attempt. I can only assume it’s some kind of flirting. Is my ten year old girl turning into a furry floozy?

I’ll finish with some shots from last week’s visit to Loch Chon in the Trossachs region. The autumn colors hadn’t reached their height, and recent harsh weather had already stripped some trees of their leaves, but it was still a very attractive place for a stop-over in the Beaglemobile.

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Loch Chon Autumn [5D4_6028]

Loch Chon - North End [5D4_6055]

One of the few dwellings by the Loch – Frenich Farm perhaps?

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The sniffage was of the very highest quality

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And abundant heather offered endless possibilities for picking up ticks

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Cow ears are the usual in-van treat, but on this occasion a big red sausage made an acceptable alternative

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I expected it to be swallowed in seconds, but it was surprisingly chewy and long-lasting

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Beanie seemed particularly taken with hers, even finishing it ahead of The Bigglet

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Happy Birthday Beanster!

Oct 1

It had to happen eventually, and last week it did; our nineteen year old Beaglemobile suffered a breakdown. We were on our way to Loch Turret for a long and probably very sniffy walk along the water and up a modest hill when – without any warning – the alternator quietly shuffled off its mortal, corroded copper coil. We were kind of lucky that it happened where it did – on a main road just the other side of the Erskine bridge; if it had occurred further into the drive we could have been stuck in the middle of nowhere without a phone signal. Obviously our planned walk was now off the cards, but that’s not the lost adventure from title of this post. Nope, real “adventure that wasn’t” happened (or rather didn’t happen) on the way back home.

Our breakdown service sent a big recovery vehicle capable of loading the van onto its back and taking it, and us, right back to our house. Immediately I had visions of our return journey being much more exciting for the furry contingent than the loch-side walk could ever have been. Both our Beagles love sitting on human booster seats in the cabin of a high vehicle; they can sniff deeply from the air vents, spy on people in little cars, randomly mess with the controls on the stereo unit and – with an appropriate amount of squirming and a bit of luck – maybe even sound the horn with their bottoms. Alas none of this came to pass; the driver of the recovery vehicle wanted them locked away in their crates in the Beaglemobile, and that was that.

Within an hour we were safely back home. All kinds of beeping noises had sounded off during the loading and unloading of the van, yet amazingly the bed in Beanie’s crate had remained pee-free; proof that at least she hadn’t been scared. She had however been very, very bored. And so had The Bigglet. Once back in the house there were lots of heavy sighs and snouts between front paws, so I did the only thing I could to recover the situation: I took them for a beach run.

I normally time my beach runs carefully so that the tide is incoming but hasn’t yet swallowed the beach. On this occasion however, low tide had been and gone some three hours previously, leaving us with only a narrow strip of sand on which to run. The biggest problem with running in these conditions is that the many interesting things washed in by the tide are right under your nose – or specifically, right under Beanie & Biggles’ noses. I found the clearest spot of beach I could, unclipped their leads and really upped my running pace in the hope that they’d stay with me. For a while it worked, but then they fell away behind me and I saw eight paws go up into the air: a synchronized roll was in progress. They were clearly having fun, so I didn’t have the heart to stop them.

In due course they sprinted back to me and I examined them for some indication of what they’d been rolling in. Poo? Assorted dead animal parts? I didn’t see anything like that, but I did notice a blood-red stain on one of Biggles’ thighs. Fearing he’d cut himself on a sharp can or something similar I reached down and began gently parting his fur to determine the extend of the injury.. but found nothing. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Beanie had a similar mark on one of her legs. This was was no injury – this was what they’d rolled in! A pleasant feeling of relief passed through me but quickly faded when I rubbed at those red stains and snifffed my fingers. As a Beagle owner I’ve experienced some pretty vile smells, and while this wasn’t the worst (“shitvom” comfortably occupies pole position!), it was pretty bad. I clipped on their leads and the three of us headed into the waves for a scrubbing session; sadly this was only partially successful. Why is it that I always get a powerful desire to scratch my nose and wipe sweat from my brow when my hands smell like a sewer?

In the absence of any walk shots I’ll finish with a couple of portraits I took ahead of Beanie’s birthday – she’ll be 10 in a week or so!

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Sep 11

Last week Beanie and Biggles sniffed, pulled and aarrffed their way up no less than two distinct peaks in one day: Ben Luibhean and Ben Ime.

An adventure of Beagle proportions [5D4_5613]

We’d had a go at Ben Luibhean earlier in the year, but that expedition had been marred by snow. We had made it to the top, but it had been a very hard slog with no pay-off other than a handful of overly-refrigerated meat and cheese nibbles. This time around with no snow to fight through I was sure our journey would be easier and more rewarding.

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As it turned out it was a little easier, but not much. Instead of frozen earth with a thick coating of snow we had to trudge our way over slippy, boggy ground; it soaked up energy like a sponge and gave nothing back. To add to the difficulty we also encountered groups of sheep which made certain team members very noisy and prone to pulling in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, after about a hundred minutes of slog we finally got to see what the summit cairn looks like without all that pesky white stuff on top of it.

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I was a little worried that its central upright stone might suffer a mishap when I dug into my pocket for the first serving of mini-jumbones; things always get exciting when the edibles come out and Biggles seemed intent on winding his lead round everything he could. He tied up my legs, he tied up the legs of my tripod, and he even tied up his own legs, but somehow he didn’t knock over that pretty summit marker.

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We hung around the top of Luibhean for a few minutes while I took photos, but I was very conscious of the need to get moving if we were to reach the summit of neighboring Ben Ime before sunset. For her part, Beanie was very conscious of the fact that there were still two mini-jumbones in my pocket, and became very irritated when I refused to release them. She was clearly unware that we had another climb ahead of us, just as I was unaware of the trouble I was storing up by not serving all the treats in one go.

Ben Narnain & The Cobbler from Ben Luibhean [5D4_5673]

Ben Narnain (left) and the distinctive serrated head of The Cobbler to the right

Ben Ime & Ben Chorranach From Ben Luibhean [5D4_5638]

Ben Chorranach and Ben Ime in shade on the right. 

Before we could get started on Ben Ime we first had to make a partial descent of Ben Luibhean and cross the very marshy “Bealach a’ Mhargaidh”. This part of the route was as pretty as it was wet. I tried to use Beanie & Biggles as indicators of the best and worst places to tread to avoid going deep into the mush. Biggles seemed particularly good at finding unexpected mud baths so I put my faith in Beanie, but as I discovered not everything that supports a nimble eleven kilo Beagle can also handle a human.

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Crossing Bealach a’ Mhargaidh. Presumably “Mhargaidh” is Gaelic for “wet feet” (if it isn’t, it should be)

Ben Ime looked a lot bigger as we got closer to it. I’d climbed Ben Ime solo some years before and found it pretty tough, but that had been in snow and from a much lower starting point. Still, I began to have doubts about my ability to get to the top before sunset, especially with the “help” of Team Beagle. Don’t get me wrong: put our two pups on a well-trodden path and they’re great, in fact Biggles could even be described as an asset for hillwalks in the right conditions. However, on an open grassy hill with pockets of sheep and no clear path to follow they can best be described as.. troublesome. I decided I’d be happy enough just to get to a reasonably high viewpoint, but every time I set myself a target and checked my watch, I found that we could go on just that bit further. Quite suddenly we intersected with a path coming from Ben Narnain and our rate of progress increased dramatically. We reached the summit very shortly afterwards!

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The summit cairn of Ben Ime has a low stone windbreak around it, but on this day the windchill was pretty mild. 

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Cloud blew over us almost as soon as we arrived, but I still managed to grab a few shots.

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In between those photos I handed out treats to my furry companions (obviously), but I made a crucial error in judgment: I served up the two big cow ears in my bag instead of first dishing out the remaining jumbones from my pocket. This might not sound like a big deal, especially for food-obsessed Beagles, but it demonstrated the huge difference in outlook between Beanie and Biggles.

Biggles is a “glass half full” kind of a boy. He approaches each day unburdened by expectations; when something good happens he just enjoys the moment. When I held out the cow ear to him on Ben Ime he wagged furiously, grabbed it, found a place to settle down (within the bounds of his lead) and set about chomping down on it.

Beanie is the polar opposite of The Bigglet. She’s acutely aware when routine isn’t followed, and is always careful to ensure sure she isn’t being cheated out of something owed to her. At mealtimes if a crumb hits the floor she’ll pursue it obsessively,  even if that blinds her to the many bigger, easier mouthfuls of food still in her bowl. Accordingly when I gave her the cow ear, she was still thinking about the other treats that were still in my pocket. She took the ear half-heartedly, but then dropped it and started scratching at my pocket and grumbling. I pointed at her ear (the cow ear, not her big furry lug flapping in the breeze) and tried to convince her to go back to it, but she wasn’t interested. Biggles however was. “I don’t mind if I do!”  is a phrase we often attribute to Biggles, and it was written all over his face as he merrily grabbed Beanie’s ear and carried it over to his own.

Beanie wasn’t immediately concerned about the ear she’d just lost; all that mattered currently was the jumbone still in my pocket that had her name on it. Stupidly I gave in and handed it to her, and she devoured it in record time. Biggles was still knee deep in cow ears at this point, but he’d noticed that extra food was on offer and of course shot me an appealing “can I have some too?” look. I directed him back to his ears, which he accepted quite happily; in Biggles’ world it’s always a good idea to ask for things, but if it doesn’t work out that’s OK too.

As you might expect, the moment Beanie finished her jumbone she remembered the lost cow ear and began whining about it. I could easily have taken an ear back from Biggles – he wouldn’t have objected – but that just didn’t seem fair, so instead I gave Beanie the remaining jumbone. That finally seemed to settle the issue, but now of course Beanie and I had to sit on our bums for an extra ten minutes watching Biggles battle through jaw fatigue to finish the last chunk of cow ear.

After this – even in the dark – the journey back to the Beaglemobile passed surprisingly quickly and easily; from time to time I could see the eyes of sheep glinting in my torchlight but the pups thankfully remained oblivious!

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