Aladdin’s Cupboard

Even more than Beanie or me, Biggles is a creature of habit. It’s easy to see how some of his habits got started. Back when we’d just got him as a 7-week old pup, we’d rush him out into the garden straight after a meal to avoid any accidents that might retard his house-training. Now, as a fully grown up boy of almost 5 years, he still insists on being let into the garden straight after a big feed. He doesn’t necessarily need to do anything while he’s out there, but he has to go out nonetheless.

The origins of some of his other habits are less clear. At night when I shout “Crates” he sprints to the bedroom door along with his sister, but before I can open the door and let him into his escape-proof bed, he has to “boing” twice at the door handle. Always twice. Never more, never less. He does this so consistently that I’ve started counting his jumps out loud; it’s become part of our joint night-time ritual.  More recently he’s started woofing just before his food is served. We tell him to “leave” and “sit like a statue” as his bowl goes down, and he mostly holds position (his rear end has always wiggled a lot at mealtimes due in part to uncontrollable wagging), but he woofs. Even when I remind him that statues don’t woof, he still woofs. I guess it doesn’t matter; statues generally don’t have wiggly bums either.

His newest habit has me totally baffled however: a trip to Aladdin’s cupboard (as it’s now known) about ten minutes after his teatime meal. The cupboard in question lies along the corridor to our bedroom, and it’s where we store Beanie & Biggles’ least used toys, among other things. The toys in there mostly fall into one of two categories: (1) heavy duty chew-resistant toys that our pups wouldn’t touch with a barge pole because they can’t destroy them, and (2) fabric and soft plastic toys that we can’t let them have without extremely close supervision because they’re far too easy to destroy. Every now and then I break out a couple of the category “2”s for a short play session; sometimes the toys survive and make it back into the box for another day, and sometimes they go on a one-way trip to the bin. The thing is, to the best of my knowledge I’ve never held a play session soon after a meal (best practice to avoid bloat). Nevertheless, near as dammit ten minutes after every tea, it’s play time for Biggles. What’s more, he doesn’t need me to open the cupboard. It’s held closed by heavy duty velcro and a rubber door wedge, but still his Biggleship can open it with his powerful, paint-stripping paws.

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Once he’s got the sliding door open, the toy selection begins..

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This can take a while. Biggles likes to follow the “toy rotation” policy advocated by many dog trainers. He might pick his slightly damaged white and blue tug rope one day, but the next day he’ll give that a rest, instead choosing a somewhat punctured rugby ball that used to squeak. And the next day? Well maybe he’ll dig past the toy box to access the decorating section of the cupboard. After all, a sheet of 120-grade sandpaper or a two inch paintbrush can be just as entertaining as a toy to a resourceful, imaginative little Beagle boy.

On this particular occasion he opted for the remnants of an old “slow release” food container. It looks a bit like a squashed orange. Pieces of food can be pushed into one side, while the other side is supposed to be occupied by a special blob of chew resistant yet edible material. These blobs are available in ludicrously expensive refill packs, but if you believe the packaging and the customer reviews on Amazon, each blob should last for ages.

“My 2 ton Rottweiller’s been using this for three weeks now, and we still haven’t needed a refill! Five stars!” Says Mrs. Non-Beagle-Owner from Essex.

Time taken for Biggles to extract, chew and swallow the blob in his toy on first use? Almost two minutes. But he got faster with practice.

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There’s no blob in this retired toy now, but Biggles still reckons it’ll make a pleasant diversion for a few minutes

Unfortunately for Biggles, you can’t do anything in our house without that pesky Beanie getting in on the act. My boy’s done all the hard work of opening the door, and she just waltzes in and starts taking things out of his cupboard.

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Larry The Lamb didn’t have any rips or bald patches when we first got him

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Now he’s just a few power-tugs away from a trip to the bin

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Which is unfortunate, because it’s clearly play time!

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For what it’s worth, Larry did in fact survive this play session, and is recovering peacefully in the cupboard. His next outing could be weeks away, or maybe he’ll be in Biggles’ surprisingly gentle jaws tomorrow. Who knows? Certainly I don’t, and I’m not sure even Biggles himself does..

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Today the squashed orange. Tomorrow?

That isn’t all we’ve been getting up to since my last post however.

Two days ago I spotted water on the floor of our posh (i.e. less Beagled) movie-watching room. Looking up, I saw that it was coming from the ceiling. We had a leak in our roof! I spotted the source of the leak: two tiles had cracked and moved out of position. I pushed the tiles back into place with a broom handle which more less stopped the water, but clearly a proper repair was needed. Rather than calling out the professionals straight away we figured it would be better to ask our extremely DIY-capable neighbor for advice when he got home from work. Till then, we went about our normal business. I finished my work and then, since it was Susan’s turn for the tea-time dog walk, I went for a solo run. On my return I spotted our  neighbor and he offered to take a look at our roof.

On entering the house there was no woofing or greeting from Beanie & Biggles so I figured they were still out on their walk. I escorted our neighbor through the kitchen to the back of the house to view the dodgy roof tiles, leaving all the intervening doors open. The neighbor climbed a ladder to cast his expert eye on our roof, and the news was good; it was a small job, and he’d be happy to do it himself. Suddenly we both heard a dog fight break out in the kitchen, and I headed back into the house to investigate. What I found could have come straight out of a sitcom.

There was Susan, wet and clad only in a towel, desperately trying to stay out of sight behind the kitchen furniture while holding Beanie & Biggles apart from each other and away from a torn bin bag full of smelly rubbish. Apparently the three of them had been back from their walk all along, and while Susan had gone for a bath, Beanie & Biggles had snook out of the bedroom and into the unguarded kitchen. With a surprising combination of enthusiasm and stealth they had emptied the bin bag all over the kitchen floor and no doubt swallowed some of the tastier, smellier items. Susan had discovered them and though only partially clad, had done a remarkable job of getting all the rubbish back into the bin bag. She was probably just a few seconds away from getting Beanie & Biggles out of the kitchen without being spotted in her embarrassing state of undress by our neighbor. This of course was the time that Beanie (most likely) chose to start a noisy squabble with her brother.

If our neighbor saw any of this chaos he didn’t let on, but he would have had a perfect vantage point from the top of the ladder. The next day I gave him an expensive bottle of single malt whisky, partly to thank him for fixing our roof, and partly for his continued silence over the little misadventure in the kitchen.

4 Responses to “Aladdin’s Cupboard”

  1. Julie, JB and Cassie's Mum in Derby Says:

    Biggles isn’t alone in wanting to go outside every time he eats! We housetrained JB in exactly the same way and he taps on the patio door to go out EVERY time he’s eaten He too doesn’t know why he’s out there, 9 times out of 10 he wants to come straight back in again. Cassie’s a rescue and doesn’t have the same habit, but she’s now learned to tap on the door when she does want to go out. JB also likes to play straight after his evening meal – for about 10 minutes then they both get a small hide chewstick to clean their teeth. After that it’s big Zs on the sofas until bedtime (Beagles have such hard lives!). Loved the story about Susan and the Bin Thieves … !

  2. Paul Says:

    Thanks Julie – it’s good to know The Biggly Boy isn’t the only one to have funny little habits.

    The thing that gets me is there’s all this commotion around tea time, but then when they get sleepy they have the cheek to grumble at us if we talk to loud or have the telly on at a decent volume!

  3. Susan in Delaware Says:

    I think all animals are comfortable with routine and ritual, but it really seems to be an art form with hounds. Our two have to run around the island counter in the kitchen when their meals are placed on the floor, and Josie must go out on the screen porch for a sniff after breakfast, but not after dinner.

    Wonderful story about Susan and the bin raid, there is never a dull moment with beagles!

  4. Paul Says:

    Thanks Susan!