Fun at the far end

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It’s surprisingly rare that Beanie & Biggles go off on their own long-distance adventure during the offlead section of our beach runs together, but if they do I can pretty much guarantee they’ll end up combing the rocks near the far end of the shore. On a particularly cold but sunny day last week I figured we might as well cut out the intervening 7km of beach and start our outing right by the fun bit.

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This decision was very well received; the rock pools were full of little seafood nibbles, and birds had gathered by the water’s edge, prompting some high speed attack runs by the Beanster.

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From my point of view starting here had an extra benefit; it kept us further away from the dreaded remains of a dead seal. Beanie & Biggles first discovered the dead seal some time ago, but it’s still hanging around and barely a week goes by without someone rolling in what’s left of it. The absolute worst point came when it turned into a kind of rotten seal soup; Beanie was smelling so bad after a roll in it that no amount of scrubbing in the sea could diminish the pong. The only solution was to frogmarch her into the shower with me and use a potent combination of tomato ketchup and human and doggy cleaning agents on her; I hadn’t needed to such dire measures since she was a pup, and she was huffy with me for days after.

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It was lovely being out there with them and getting to watch all their activities close-up; usually I’d be a kilometre or two behind them, desperately racing along the beach to catch them up and hardly daring to guess what they might be getting up to.

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For the most part they both moved easily between the rocks and the sea, and unlike me had no trouble negotiating the slippy moss and seaweed-covered bits. Still, every now and then Biggles would pause before gingerly taking his next step. I’ve observed the same thing when I’ve accidentally parked the van by a deep puddle; if he can’t properly see what he’s stepping onto, he’s very cautious.

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It’s a surprisingly sensible approach given that he’s a little Beagle boy, and on this occasion it did save him from a few unexpected soakings. The same cannot be said for The Beanster.

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Of course all that caution was abandoned whenever Beanie caught a scent and he had to double-time it to catch her up!

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This was probably the longest time the two of them have been (intentionally) offlead during a walk since they were pups, and I have to say they behaved impeccably.

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Of course all good things have to end sometime, and with the sun getting low in the sky I decided to get them back on lead. I put my camera away, got their leads out and called them to me. Predictably Beanie chose this exact moment to take off on a mad chase after a little group of birds, with Biggles baying his head off just behind her. I watched as they shrank into the distance, but remained unconcerned; something told me they’d be back soon, so I continued to prepare the handful of chicken they always get for voluntary lead re-attachment. Sure enough they came sprinting back to me almost as quickly as they’d left, and we walked back to the van together for a final round of treats before heading home.

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Even a year ago this kind of outing wouldn’t have been possible, or at least would have been cut short by naughtiness. I’m not going to claim they’ve suddenly turned into trustworthy, controllable doggies (I’ve done that so many times before, only to be proved wrong!), nor am I going to get complacent with them, but it was very nice to sample the kind of walk that is often denied to Beagle owners!

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You can take my lasers and my twinkle, but you’ll never take my trek!

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Here in our part of Ayrshire the last fireworks sounded about four days after Bonfire Night, and we should now be free of them until the New Year. Their affect on Beanie didn’t pass quite so quickly however; for about a week after she remained very sensitive to sudden loud sounds and her fear of beeping noises was re-awakened.

Unfortunately it was during this period that Susan consulted my help in setting up a new app for her phone – a timer to help her with interval training exercises. I use the same app when I’m running, and without thinking I configured its settings to match my own, including my choice of sound to indicate the end of an interval. Called “Laser” the sound is, as you might expect, a short electronic “zap”; I find this noise is hard to miss, even if loud music is playing in the background. As I demonstrated the app to Susan in our living room it was flat out impossible to miss, because it was immediately accompanied by a scared Beanie trying to get on to my lap. It took a few seconds for me to realize what had happened, but when I did, I stopped the timer and dived into the settings menu to find a sound less scary to little Beagle girls.

I came across various titles as I scrolled through the options until, finally, I landed on the most innocuous name possible: Twinkle. I could quite understand that after sitting through hundreds of end-of-the-world sci-fi movies with me, The Beanster might have cause to fear “Laser”, but surely nobody – even someone with really big floppy ears – could be afraid of something called Twinkle? Well, it wasn’t as terrifying as Laser, but it was still pretty unsettling. I decided to quit while I wasn’t quite so far behind and ended the demo at that point.

A few days later Beanie even reacted to noises on a repeat of an original Star Trek episode which she has sat through many times before, and at that point I publicly declared her fear to be silly and unacceptable. I don’t mind having a ban on lasers in the house, or even twinkles, but my right to watch old Star Trek episodes is sacrosanct. Oddly enough Beanie seemed to understand this and her beep-phobia has gone into remission once again.

On a different note, after all that driving around to distant hills and lochs I’ve rediscovered the joys of walking round our local park. Amazingly this was the pups’ first visit in maybe a year, so there was lot of re-sniffing to be done, along with rolling, stick chomping, and of course woofing (but only as a parting shot to big doggies that were safely on lead as we passed).

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Post-Traumatic Ears

This year November 5th landed on a weekend and the accompanying firework activity was particularly intense. As a kid I always used to enjoy Bonfire Night, but increasingly I just see it as a crazy waste of money that scares the life out of anything with four legs and sends scores of burns victims to hospital. It’s enough to make a person howling mad, especially if that person is already prone to howling.

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This time around we had a “Thundershirt” for the  Beanster and it certainly helped. She still spent a lot of time on my lap and still needed to be accompanied on trips to the outside loo, but at least it kept her from physically shaking with fear. I’ve read that many dogs seek out the best cave-substitute they can find at such times; certainly Biggles was keen to curl up in the corner of the living room behind my computer desk and chair. Beanie however seemed to want a clear view of her surroundings – to see any threats that were coming her way. During a particularly loud and extended series of whizz-bangs she sought refuge in the bathroom, but even then she wanted the door left wide open.

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Whenever the noise stopped Biggles immediately returned to his normal behavior, but Beanie remained on alert, her eyes scanning the ceiling for potential threats. To counter this we served up cow ears; those things take so long to chew through that on finishing even Beanie seemed to have forgotten about the preceding trauma.

Another thing that helped break the cycle of fear was a return trip to Loch Ard in the campervan. We drove down on the night of November 4th just as rain paused the fireworks. On arrival I dished up another round of cow ears, not as therapy this time, but simply to keep the furry types occupied while I tucked into a snack of my own. It didn’t quite work as planned; when Beanie came close to finishing she repeatedly tried to swallow her remaining piece early, gagged a little when it didn’t fit her throat, and then returned to chewing. This of course had me worried that she was about to choke, and while I was distracted, his Biggleship – who had finished his ear quickly – pounced on the bedding stored behind the back seat and began a vigorous bed-making exercise. I was suddenly torn between making sure Beanie was OK, keeping my own food from spilling, and protecting the delicate memory foam in the bedding from being torn to shreds by The Bigglet. Somehow I managed all three, though later the bed did feel lumpier than it had on previous outings.

Very early the next morning I struggled out of bed, taking care not put weight on any of the paws, tails, or ears that were in there with me. Beanie and Biggles remained under the covers as I dressed, prepared my camera gear and gulped down a carton of chocolate milk; however the instant I pulled out their harnesses and leads they were up and ready to go, with bright eyes and waggy tails.

Lochan a' Ghleannain [5D4_6776_WM]

Lochan a’ Ghleannain by Loch Ard, about fifteen minutes before sunrise

As on our previous visit we followed the longest waymarked trail by Loch Ard, but this time we did it in the opposite direction, making an early stop at Lochan a’ Ghleannain. I got some beautiful shots of one of the “islands” on the mini-loch, but getting into position meant traversing some marshland and slowly sinking while I waited for the clouds to get some pre-sunrise color. This was not popular with my furry companions and it cost me dearly in biccies and jumbones! Fortunately things got less noisy and marginally less hungry once we were moving again.

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Autumn Trail [5D4_6997]

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After we returned home Beanie & Biggles still had another round of fireworks to endure, but I think the walk recharged their batteries a little and helped them get through it. That and the cow ears.