Aug 31
Eight-year Old Overture
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 31st, 2016| icon3No Comments »

Eight years ago a hamster-sized mostly white Beagle boy popped out of his mum and almost immediately began an illustrious career in the field of noise pollution. About seven weeks later we saw “Shercroft Overture” (or Biggles as I named him) in the flesh for the first time. He was curled up on the seat of his breeders’ van, totally exhausted after having spent the entire morning sounding off. I handed over a cheque, and that little white pudding of a puppy was transferred to the crate in our car alongside Beanie. We had absolutely no idea what we were letting ourselves in for.

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I don’t remember much of those early days with him, other than the noise. Soon after getting him, we took him and Beanie on a sponsored walk for a doggy charity. He hadn’t been immunized yet so we carried him in a purpose-made puppy carry bag, and that bag was wailing and jiggling about for the entire walk as Biggles made it clear that he wanted out. Back at home, playtimes between Biggles and Beanie were deafening, and when we put him in his fabric crate he would cry and bounce it around the floor until sleep finally overtook him. I remember feeling almost panicked the day he broke through the zip on that crate and I realized we no longer had a way to contain him in the living room…

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Eight years on things have changed, but not that much; Biggles is still by far the noisiest little boy in town. Everybody knows when the postman comes to our house. Everybody knows when one of our neighbors’ dogs is out in its garden without Beagle permission. And most especially, everybody knows when it’s mealtime. He’s even noisy when he’s asleep; I’ve never heard a congested walrus breathing, but I’m willing to bet a tenner it sounds just like my boy during a snoring session.

IMG_0872 - Beagle Karaoke!

Fortunately that noise is a price worth paying for all the good stuff that he brings, not the least of which is cuddles. Some mornings if I go back to bed after after opening his crate, Biggles wiggles his way into my arms and goes to sleep with his head under my chin. He’s also an excellent companion for watching sci-fi films at home, at least until the popcorn runs out.

So, how do you celebrate the eighth birthday of the cuddliest noise machine on the planet? Well you start by taking him for a run on the beach with his sister and a handful of chicken, and on the way back you deliberately follow a horse’s hoof prints right to a big pile of poo it left on the sand. Then you get him back home and serve up sardine cake and pressies.

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Yep, I know it looks like we’ve just given them a pair of old boxes, but those boxes are packed with little treats to eat, paper to rip up, and a new toy!

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Unfortunately getting all those nice things out of the box can be difficult, especially if your head gets stuck in there.

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Beanie’s already eaten all her treats and is checking out her toy. And Biggles?

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Yep, head still stuck in the beer box.

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Lately I’ve been quite good at guessing what toys my boy likes, but sadly this time I got it wrong. A soft squeaky fabric football might seem like a good idea, but it’s a non-starter if it doesn’t easily fit in your mouth.

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Beanie’s squeaky lamb went down much better!

Still, the football flop was quickly forgotten thanks to a helping of Pedigree Tasty Bites (“Cheesy Nibbles” flavor), and they helped him deliver one of his best portrait sessions ever.

Biggles' 8th Birthday Portrait [IMG_1237]

Happy Birthday Biggles, and sorry about the football!

Aug 23
Self-service holiday
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 23rd, 2016| icon34 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.

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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..

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..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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