Dec 5

Even by lowly human standards my nose is a poor performer; it can detect quite strong smells – you know, the kind of thing that wafts your way when you’re sat next to a sleepy Beagle – but more subtle things escape it. In spite of this dysfunction, I know for a fact that ground-frost dramatically heightens the nasal allure of discarded food. I gained this knowledge the hard way – by dragging Beanie & Biggles away from things over and over again – and trust me, the dragging has been particularly hard over the last couple of weeks.

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Beanie is always the peskiest offender in this respect. In mild weather she can walk on lead reasonably well until she encounters something edible, at which point she becomes a crazed scavenger, lunging at anything she sees on the pavement. During the recent cold snap however she’s been in scavenger mode on every walk, right from the first slippery step to the last. The worst example of this came when I foolishly chose to take our party along the main road out of our village.

The route takes us by many Beagle points of interest such as bins, front gardens, lamp poles and so on, and the resulting stoppages have led us to rename this stretch of road “Muck-about Street”. However on one particularly cold morning the pesk level was dialled right up to eleven, thanks to a discarded takeaway meal. I never managed to identify exactly what the meal had contained, but the packaging suggested that it was Chinese in origin; regardless, Beanie wanted it really, really badly. My first thought was to dodge round it by walking on the road, but a constant stream of cars made this impossible. If I’d been smart, I’d have simply held my ground until a break in the cars opened up, but as it was I decided to pin Beanie & Biggles to my side and frog-march them past as quickly as I could. Unsurprisingly I wasn’t fast enough and Beanie managed to get a solid grip on the bag of frozen goodies. Past experience has taught me the futility of trying to manually extract a takeway bag from her jaws; the bag tears open, spilling its contents all over the path, and suddenly there’s not one but two Beagles with their mouths stuffed full of forbidden items. Instead I went for speed approach: break into a sprint, dragging Beanie & Biggles behind me in the hope that either the bag or its contents would eventually fall out of reach.

Beanie knew what I was doing; she hung back as best she could, digging her paws into the pavement and clinging on desperately to the bag. Unfortunately for her, Biggles got into the spirit of things (he always loves a sprint) and shot past me on his lead to provide an extra burst of acceleration. This dragged The Beanster into motion and I was certain she’d have to ditch the bag any second; it was just too big for her to carry out in front and still keep up. However, she quickly found a solution to the problem: keeping her jaws tightly anchored on the top of the bag, she rested her front paws on its lower half. It was almost like her front end was surfing on top of the takeaway, with her little rear legs working extra hard to keep up as she was dragged along. She kept going like this for several yards before friction finally destroyed the bag. I saw the panic in her eyes as the contents spilled out and fell behind us, leaving her clutching nothing but shredded polythene. Victory was mine, but Beanie shot me her best Clint-Eastwood-style mean look and suddenly I didn’t feel like celebrating. She went into Greta-Garbo mode for the rest of the morning, only emerging from her custom-made bed to slurp from my unguarded coffee cup.

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Beanie in Garbo mode. Those WOOFs on her bed are back to front; they should actually read “FOOW” – an acronym for “F-Off Outside World”

Nov 15
Little Devil’s Trail
icon1 Paul | icon4 11 15th, 2016| icon34 Comments »

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When people meet Beanie and Biggles in person they often get a completely false impression of their personalities. Unless they’re otherwise busy bursting eardrums, Beanie comes across as a gregarious, hyper little puppy and Biggles presents himself as a quiet, obedient and slightly dull mature boy. This of course could not be further from truth. The Beanster always puts on a joyful, waggy facade if she thinks there’s a possibility of getting a treat off someone, but once they’ve been found to have empty pockets she quickly loses interest. Back at home, most of the time she’s in Greta Garbo mode: tightly wrapped up in a blanky and liable to grumble if anyone makes too much noise.

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Biggles on the other hand is a wily thief with a really bad case of woofy Tourette’s. If you leave an item of value within his reach, it’s guaranteed that he will eventually get hold of it and take it on a little adventure from which it may never return (at least not in one piece). He’s the main reason we’ve got not one but two baby gates permanently installed in our house. His compulsion to steal things is matched only by his patience and cunning; he notes every opportunity, but only takes action when he’s sure that your guard is down and he’ll have a reasonable chance of success. That’s why I was just as surprised as he was when a recent sock heist went so very wrong.

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Susan had been to the gym earlier in the day, and as often happens, she’d left her discared clothes – including a small pair of ladies gym socks – on the floor of the bathroom. Biggles knew they were in there, but opening the bathroom door is still beyond him so he just had to wait patiently for one of us to do that for him. In due course a window of opportunity presented itself: I left my desk to answer a call of nature. With my head full of work I didn’t bother to close the door properly, and as I attended to the task in hand I became aware of the door opening just a little wider behind me. Sometimes it does that on its own, but sometimes it’s a sign that a little furry person has entered the room.

Trying not to be too obvious, I turned my head so that Susan’s gym clothes entered my peripheral vision, and yep, there was The Bigglet, hovering over them. He threw me a quick glance to check whether I was watching him, but seemed satisfied that I was still otherwise engaged. Slowly and silently he began probing the pile of clothes, trying to find the socks that he knew must be in there. They seemed to be embedded inside Susan’s leggings, and in his determination to get at them both Biggles and the pile of clothes started shuffling across the floor towards my feet.  Those socks were playing really hard to get, but after a couple more seconds of digging Biggles’ nose found its prey, and with the utmost precision and delicacy, he grasped the tip of a sock between his teeth. I knew this instantly because the silly little bugger had pushed the clothes right over my feet and latched onto one of my socks – while I was still wearing it! He started to tug, and I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

“Oi! That’s MY sock, buggerlugs, and I’m still using it!” I exclaimed. He looked up at me and though he knew the game was up, his face showed not the slightest sign of guilt, shame or embarrassment. He just released my sock, did an about turn, and trotted calmly and happily back out of the bathroom, his tail held high. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; it’s all the same to Mr Biggles.

I’ll finish with a few more shots from a recent walk near Barr village while Autumn color was still on the trees. There are a number of waymarked routes in that area, but after the sock incident I decided on the one know as the (little) Devil’s Trail.

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Autumn Lane [IMG_0081]

Oct 29

The area we live in doesn’t seem to get much Autumn color; one minute the leaves are on the trees – green and happy – and the next they’re lying on the ground, brown and soaking wet from relentless rain, and there doesn’t seem to be much in between. The region around Callander however is different, so we headed there in the Beaglemobile one weekend when work eased off.

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Our first stop was at Bracklinn Falls, a popular beauty spot with an easy circular walk that takes in not one but two pretty waterfalls. It was while we were on this circuit that I realised why I don’t generally get a lot of Autumn photographs: the weather is usually really, really crap at this time of year. In this case we were fortunate and it was only moderately crap, but it still kept trying to rain every five minutes or so.

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The colors however were spectacular, as were the sniffs. This was one of those rare walks that perfectly hit the sweet spot between stimulation and excitement; Beanie and Biggles eagerly scampered around from one nasal treat to the next, their noses sounding like Geiger counters, and yet there was no desparate pulling or baying outbreaks. By the time we got back to the van the pups were seriously ready for a naptime, even though they hadn’t gone much further than on a regular walk at home.

We spent the night in the van close to Loch Lubnaig, and though Beanie and Biggles started out in their own beds on the van seats, they didn’t stay there for long; even before the clock had ticked over into the next day there was a bed migration. Beanie was the first, curling up neatly by Susan’s stomach, and shortly thereafter Biggles also burrowed into our bed. I’ve noted in previous years how Biggles often seems to acquire a new ability after each birthday; I’d have to say that his eighth birthday has granted him the power of extreme expansion. I’m well used to him taking way more space than his little 13kg frame requires, but on this night he took it to a new level. At one point he actually managed to force not only me and Susan out of bed, but Beanie too. If the Beanster hadn’t been so sleepy she’d probably have bitten his bottom, but as it was, she ended up perched on a corner of the bed with no covers and a look of drugged bewilderment on her face. I was actually grateful when my smartphone’s alarm sounded; it meant it was time to embark on my hillwalk in the cold and dark, but even that was preferable to spending more time contorted around The Incredible BiggleHulk.

The target hill this time was Beinn Each. At just over 800m high it belongs in the “corbett” class, but the actual ascent listed on the Walkhighlands site is only 693 metres, so I wasn’t expecting it to be particularly taxing. My feeling of confidence seemed to rub off on my furry companions as we walked; despite having slept poorly the Beanster had a spring in her step and Biggles was walking wide and tall, his back legs making extra room for an enormous pair of imaginary testicles. Perhaps it was those imaginary testicles that had forced the rest of us out of bed. Regardless, this morning he was a Beagle at the top of his game and he wasn’t afraid to let the world know it. He started aaarrrffing, not necessarily because he smelled something, but just because it felt good. About ten minutes later he really did have something to bay at – a couple of sheep – and his cries sent them scurrying away. Perfect – just the way things should be! He let out another warbling, grunting aaarrrfff in triumph as the sheep disappeared from view but then suddenly – out of the darkness – something answered him!

At first the response sounded a bit like a group of disgruntled politicians in the House of Commons, but then it grew deeper, louder and more piercing. It lasted for what seemed like an age, and when it had finished Biggles wasn’t in the mood for aaarrfffing any more. He had his head down, pretending to concentrate on a sniffy bit of the path, and his tail was lowered. Even Beanie was looking round at me in the torchlight, her face asking “is it OK Dad, or would now be a good time to put on my soothing Christmas jumper?” I didn’t answer her straight away; for one thing I didn’t have her Christmas jumper in my backpack, and for another I was still trying work out what had made that sound. After a second I reasoned that it had to be a deer, but one with a really, really powerful call – every bit the deer equivalent of Beanie’s Howl of Death. I relaxed now that I knew what I’d heard and this put Beanie’s mind at rest too, but Biggles stayed silent for the rest of the walk; his bubble had been well and truly burst.

It soon turned out I’d been over-confident too; despite its modest ascent and length, the later stages of the climb were surprisingly challenging physically. The weather didn’t help either; the forecast had promised sunny intervals, but all we got was mist, rain and wind. We made it the summit in time for sunrise, but the only visible confirmation of that was the mist turning a slightly lighter shade of grey. The three of us huddled by the summit for a few minutes. I figured it was worth hanging on a while to see if the weather would clear, but once we’d run out of cow ears and bone-shaped biscuits we had a show of paws to determine if we should call it quits, and I lost. On the way back down we got an occasional hint of the color and beauty that was hiding behind all that mist.

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The way back from Ben Each [IMG_9892]

About half-way down the hill I felt the irresistible urge to do one of the many things that bears do in the woods. As we weren’t actually in the woods at that point I just a took a little detour off the path and prepared to squat; the only complication – other than the absence of toilet paper – was that I had two Beagles tide to my waist, one of whom had previously snacked on her Mum’s forbidden brown fruit. Biggles genuinely showed no interest in the proceedings, but Beanie was watching me closely, and believe me, I was watching her right back. I held up a cautionary index finger as I finished and pulled up my pants, and she held her position. As I reached down to pick up my backpack my eyes slipped from hers for a split-second, and though she lunged forward slightly, my finger brought her to a halt before she reached the drop zone. Ever seen that Doctor Who episode where deadly angel statues can only move when you’re not looking right at them? The writer of that episode must have owned a Beagle.  Anyway, I was almost there.. I just needed my tripod now. I reached to pick it up but fumbled slightly and my concentration on Beanie wavered a second time; unfortunately this was long enough for Beanie to tick another item off her bucket-list.

I guess I learned three lessons from our trip to Callander:

  • Never trust BBC weather forecasts in Autumn
  • Never aaarrrfff at a deer because it might answer back
  • Never accept kisses from Beanie when she’s been on a hillwalk

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