Sep 25

It’s not often you get to meet up with blog regulars who live more than 3000 miles away in the US, but last week that’s exactly what happened.

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Susan and Rob – owners of Beagles Lady and Ringo – were on holiday in Scotland and we arranged to give them a little tour of the Stonehaven area. The rendezvous point was Montrose railway station, and as we waited for the train to arrive we discovered that the station designers had provided Beagle Entertainment Pods (BEPs) on each platform. These loosely resembled normal bins but were completely transparent and had ill-fitting lids, allowing the curious Beagle not only to smell the contents but to see it too. Having bonked his head on the clear perspex several times, Biggles was just about to boing the lid off the nearest BEP when the train arrived.

With four people and 2 Beagles in the Beaglemobile there had to be some seating concessions; fortunately Beanie & Biggles were happy to swap their fabric travel crates for humie laps. It was while travelling in this configuration that Biggles discovered just how skilled US Susan is at Beagle ear massage. In the Star Trek universe this is known as “Oo-mox“, and it’s the thing Ferengi most crave besides money; in the Beagle universe, it sits somewhere behind food, socks, destruction of padded envelopes and rolling in poo, but it’s still a very important part of Beagle life, and Susan was very very good at it. So good in fact that eventually Beanie – who’s not normally a fan of human contact – grabbed US Susan’s lap for herself, relegating The Bigglet to UK Susan’s lap instead.

The first stop on our itinerary was Dunnotar Castle; we figured it would be best to enjoy this in the morning when the weather was forecast to be at its best. It’s a long held tradition with our two pups that number twos must be done an inconvenient distance from the nearest poo bank dropbox, but the excitement of meeting Susan and Rob threw off the timing of the first deposit, causing it to be dropped barely 20 yards from the car park. The second deposit was much better timed, coming when we were about half way to the castle, so I bagged it and left it by a gate for pickup on our return.  This was of course a risky move; dog poos are very highly valued on public footpaths (after all people always stop to pick them up) and there was a danger that someone would nick it, but happily the bag was still sitting there an hour later. Visitors to Dunnotar castle must be an honest bunch!

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For the first time we got to see the interior of the castle, parts of which had been restored with varying degrees of accuracy. Back in the day real castles had to be self-contained communities with their own independent supply of water and food, in order to sustain their occupants through a seige. Sadly – despite a thorough search – we found Dunnotar to be completely devoid of tins of Chappie, bags of Burns kibble, and freeze-dried cow ears.

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Admittedly it did have a rosehip bush, but that wouldn’t sustain a hungry warrior Beagle for more than a few minutes, let alone get them through a seige.

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We dealt with Dunnotar’s lack of food just as true Medieval residents would have done: we left the castle, piled back into the van and drove to nearby Stonehaven for fish and chips. Up to this point, our two pups had behaved themselves extraordinarily well, but as I sat munching through my fish supper Beanie’s halo slipped a little and there was an outbreak of indignant woofing. Over the years I’ve become quite good at understanding the Beagle language, but I can assure you that no translation is required when Beanie wants a chip. The chip and a few bites of fish were delivered when the woofing eventually stopped, and Biggles demonstrated to Rob and Susan that even after eight years of practice, he still can’t catch food in his mouth.

The next stop was RSPB bird sanctuary Fowlsheugh. At this time of year most of the birds have moved on, but as a Beagle owner that’s a big plus; you get to view the dramatic coastline without getting pulled to your death by a little furry person who’s intent on catching a winged Happy Meal no matter the cost.

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We stopped off in Gourdon for a final coffee, then headed back to Montrose just in time for Rob & Susan’s train back to Edinburgh. It was really great to meet them and swap Beagle stories, and thanks to them our campervan is now properly labelled as a Beagle limo, and our pups have been learning how to deal with squeaky pink hippos and purple dinosaurs.

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It always takes Biggles a little while to get used to a new toy..

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He likes to explore it thoroughly and find out where all the squeakers are before pouncing on it and parading it round the house.

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There’s no such caution with Beanie.

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She just rips it out of your hands and gets straight to it!

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Both toys use “Chew Guard” technology. So far, I have to say it seems to be working well!

Thanks Susan and Rob for the lovely pressies.. don’t suppose you have any tips on how to improve our Oo-mox skills?

Sep 15

Every now and then research shows that dogs are more like little furry humans than some might think. We know that they have basic emotions like us, that they can read human facial expressions, and more recently it’s been shown that they not only have an understanding of both vocabulary and intonation in human speech, but also use roughly the same areas of the brain as humans for speech recognition. I guess that’s why I’m a little taken aback when something happens to prove that Beanie & Biggles are still just silly doggies after all.

The most recent example of this concerns the sliding patio door in our kitchen. The lock on it has been a bit sticky ever since we moved in, but recently it failed completely, leaving us unable to get the door open. In fact even professional locksmiths have been unable to get the door open, so we’ve been forced into having the blummin’ thing replaced, and it ain’t cheap. But that’s not the interesting thing. The interesting thing is how Beanie and Biggles have dealt with – or rather completely failed to deal with – the loss of their customary garden access point.

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For the last week and a half we’ve been shepherding them in and out of the garden via the utility room door. We must have done so around 100 times by now, and still Beanie & Biggles haven’t learned that the old door doesn’t work. Now to be fair I must admit that the change in circumstances still catches me out occasionally, but the furry people either can’t or won’t accept the new garden protocol at all.

I’d say that Beanie – who I’d normally consider to be a bit smarter and more wordly-wise than The Bigglet – is the worse for this, especially when things have got a bit desperate. She’ll paw the baby gate by the kitchen with some urgency, and when I open it, she makes a beeline for the non-functional door. I grab her by the collar and remind her verbally that the door doesn’t work as I drag her toward the utility room, but she shows no recognition of the new route. If I let slip of her collar before I’ve got her through the utility door, she’ll almost sprint back round to the old door. If she could speak, our conversation would go like this:

Beanie: “Get the door open Dad, I’ve got to go!”

Me: “But that door doesn’t work Beanie – we’ve got to go out the other one.”

Beanie: “But I’ve really got to go Dad, just open the door!”

Me: “Just trust me Beanie and come this way.”

Beanie: “Nooo! I’m going to make a puddle and it’ll be your fault!”

Fortunately Both Beanie & Biggles are much better when it comes to returning from the garden. They still both sit, wait, and woof outside the patio door, but they do come running when I open the utility door. I think that this may have something to do with the fact that on the first day of the door crisis I tempted them back in using a biccie. In fact maybe that’s the problem right there: if they got a biccie for using the correct door on the way in, maybe they’re just holding out for a biccie on the way out too :)

Finally, a couple of shots from other notable happenings since Biggles’ birthday:

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When you’re rearranging things around the garden shed and concrete is involved, you’ve just got to do the pawprint stepping-stone thing.

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Getting them to make the paw impressions was easy; rinsing off their paws afterwards under a running tap was anything but!

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A contemplative moment on Loudoun Hill.

Aug 31
Eight Year Old Overture
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 31st, 2016| icon34 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.

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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.

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Happy Birthday Biggles, and sorry about the football!

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