Jan 21
Scallywags!
icon1 Paul | icon4 01 21st, 2017| icon3No Comments »

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It seems that our Beagles have thoroughly embraced the tradition of the New Year’s resolution. Beanie’s pledge was apparently to play more tug games, and thus far she’s been doing a great job of sticking to it. She’s always enjoyed a good tug when invited, but over the last couple of weeks she’s been initiating play sessions herself by grabbing a toy, dropping it at my feet and making very purposeful eye contact. If I fail to respond in a timely manner, indignant howling ensues.

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I know that standard training advice says that it should always be the human who decides when a game kicks off, but I’m having a hard time sticking to that rule because a tug session with the Beanster is really, really nice. If I get down on all fours with her I can pull her close and get something approaching a cuddle. It doesn’t last for long of course, but that’s about as good as things get in the Beaniverse – unless she’s scared that is, or I’ve spilled hot chocolate down my t-shirt.

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If I had to guess Biggles’ resolution, it would simply be this: “Get more things”. It almost goes without saying that socks rank high on his list of qualifying “things”; his sock acquisition rate for January 2017 has already smashed all previous records. Just the other day he got four in the space of a couple of hours, and successfully swapped them all for treats and chews. Filled with pride from this achievement, my little boy was quite a handful on his evening walk. He spotted a Golden Retriever frolicking on a patch of grass across the road, locked eyes with him, and squatted down for a huge but well-formed dump on the pavement. It wasn’t just a poo, it was a statement, and Biggles wasn’t the least bit surprised when I started loading it into a poo bag; as the holder of the new world sock trading record, of course his poo was going to be a keeper!

I held my bag of brown gold under a streetlight for a moment in the hope of identifying a foreign body emerging from one of the logs. After a couple of seconds I realized it was the remains of a little plastic dipping pot that Biggles had snaffled two nights previously; lined with chilli sauce, it had been hot and spicy enough to make him cough, but just like everything else it had eventually succumbed to the awesome processing power of my boy’s gut. Buoyed further by my satisfaction with his output, Biggles unleashed a biblical woofing on the Retriever, causing the owner to quickly put him on lead and steer a wide path round us. The Bigglet was truly having a Conan The Barbarian moment: “Woof at your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their owners”.

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A distinctly less “Conan” moment occurred early one morning when Susan opened the crates. Disturbed by the sound of the crate latches but still not properly awake, I slipped into my well-practised morning routine: shuffle over to make a Biggles-sized space at the edge of the bed, wait for a paw on my arm, then lift the covers and issue the “Go on, get in” command. The paw signal didn’t come however; instead I heard a thump on the floor followed by a series of grunting noises. Even in my partially conscious state I was able to recognise the sound of a roll in progress, and  slipped back into a light sleep while waiting for it to finish. The next thing I remember wasn’t a paw on my arm, but Susan laughing and saying “Paul, you’ve got to look at this!”

I sat up, struggled to open my eyes, and there at the base of the bed was Biggles, standing motionless the way he does when he’s got himself into trouble and needs help. I rubbed my eyes to get better vision, and finally saw the cause of Biggles’ predicament. He was wearing Susan’s knickers. I have absoutely no idea how he’d managed to get himself into them, but there they were, stretched across the back of his shoulders like a mishapen rucksack. Susan extricated him and he crawled into bed with me as normal, but he was a little subdued for the rest of the day :)

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Dec 31
Christmas Bulls**t
icon1 Paul | icon4 12 31st, 2016| icon33 Comments »

For some years now we’ve felt the desire to go against the flow at Christmas; one year we tried to spend December 25th up in the mountains, but foul weather derailed that plan. This time around we’ve taken the time, effort and expense that normally goes into Christmas and poured it into decoration of a different kind. Instead of putting up trees and tinsel, we’ve painted and re-tiled our kitchen!

Despite this success we still had to observe some Christmas traditions: we’ve done the ritual exchange of cards and of course there have been presents – at least for the furry members of our family.

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That thing under Beanie’s paw is a rolled up edition of The Daily Dog. It has everything you’d expect from a doggy tabloid: all the latest gossip on celebrity dogs, articles on food, a photo of a Bassett with huge ears, a squeaker embedded in the centrefold – and crucially this particular edition also has.. a crinkly bit.

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Beanie absolutely loves loves anything that crinkles, and this new toy has been an instant hit. Amazingly it’s proved to be quite durable too, though I did have a to step in a couple of times when harmless play threatened to tip over into wanton destruction.

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Biggles is very much a traditionalist when it comes to toys; the crinkle didn’t interest him in the slightest, but when he found the squeak he suddenly felt the need to read this new publication in the privacy of his Corridor of Doom.

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If anybody wants me, I’ll be in my office. Squeaking. A lot.

The Daily Dog was followed by a serving of filled bones, and I’ve got to be honest, those bones were in part a present to ourselves. For two hours after they were delivered we were able to go about our work in the kitchen without anybody sneaking in and playing at being a furry paint-roller.

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One evening later in the festive period I was called away from our DIY project by an explosion of woofing in the living room. On my way to investigate I pondered what had triggered the noisy outburst. I half expected to find Biggles engaged in a heated negotiation with Beanie over a sock that he’d just pilfered from the laundry basket, but instead both of them were woofing directly at the blind-covered front window.  The woofing paused briefly as I entered the room, and I heard raised voices and car doors slamming in the street outside. I figured it was just Christmas revellers visiting our neigbors and thought nothing more of it, until the following morning that is.

I’d got up really late and Susan was just returning with Beanie & Biggles after their first walk. One or both of them had just put black, almost tar-like pawprints on the wooden floor (trivial to clean) and on the hall rug (not so easy to clean). I assumed it was mud, but when Susan told me what she’d learned from the neighbors, I realized that it was bulls**t. Literally the poo from a bull. That commotion I’d heard the previous evening? That was the sound of local farmers trying to herd one their prize beasts out of our street and back to where it belonged. During the bull’s visit some lawns had suffered hoof damage, but ours had been the lucky recipient of an all-you-can-eat-and-roll-in poo buffet.

So there you have it. You can refuse to put up a tree and tinsel, you can re-decorate your house instead of sitting in front of crap TV shows while trying to digest a week’s worth of food eaten in one day, but no matter how hard you try you still have to deal with Christmas bulls**t.

Dec 20
Short but not curly
icon1 Paul | icon4 12 20th, 2016| icon32 Comments »

Ever since Susan started winning against her hip osteoarthritis, other OA sufferers have been enouraging her to write a book. The work on that book started some time ago, but intensified massively over the last couple of months as we prepared to submit to Amazon’s self-publishing programme. Part of this preparation included a photoshoot to illustrate the various physiotherapy exercises, and it was while processing the resulting shots that I realized just how often we must leave the house with our clothes covered in pubic hairs. Not our own I hasten to add; we’re both slobs with zero appreciation for fashion, but we do still have some standards! No, I’m talking about Beagle pubes. They’re white, they’re straight rather than curly, and you could technically refer to them as fur rather than hair, but they’re still pubes. I had to digitally remove a ton of them from the calves of Susan’s leggings in each of the book’s seventy-four photos, and I still haven’t a clue how they all got there…

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To break up the tension from all that hard work – in a way that didn’t involve shedding even more short-but-not-curlies – I took the pups on a trip to our favorite destination when the weather is grim: Knock Hill, near Largs.

The very first time we journeyed up the hill we followed the circular route on the WalkHighlands website. This is an absurdly long 13km, much of which is spent on pavements in Largs. We skipped most of the town-based section this time and got straight into the countryside, but still had to run the gauntlet of aggressive free-range chickens on our way through Brisbane Mains farm. Beanie and Biggles really like eating chicken – it might even be their favorite food – but they were very subdued as they came face-to-face with the raw ingredient for all those comestible good times.

After being their staple treat on beach runs for the last six years, the beaglets probably think that all chicken comes pre-cooked, wrapped in foil and buried deep in one of my pockets. Those weird noisy things with sharp beaks? Whatever they were, they weren’t chickens.

The Walkhighlands guide gives the Knock Hill walk a “bog factor” of four out of five. This time around, after days of heavy rain, six out of five would have been closer to the truth. Biggles coped surprisingly well with all the marsh and mud, somehow always finding ground that would support his weight; Beanie – who I normally credit with more smarts – just ploughed straight through it all, going thigh-deep more than once.

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Whatever the weather, the views from Knock Hill are always worth seeing. This time around it was the sunny spotlight on the island of Great Cumbrae that really delivered.

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After capturing that light show I was keen to stick around on the summit for a while, but with high winds, rain on its way and a desperate shortage of bone-shaped biscuits, Beanie and Biggles didn’t share my enthusiasm. We had a vote on staying but as often happens I lost by eight paws to none.

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The last biccie meets Biggles’ chewing gear, along with my thumb

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The news that there are no more snacks is not well received by The Beanster

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OK, OK, I get it! We’re going!

By the time we got back to the van we’d been thoroughly drenched by rain; on a more positive note I couldn’t see a single naughty Beagle hair on my trousers thanks to all the mud.

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