The Lomond/Trossachs region is famed for its mountain ranges and picturesque lochs, yet despite many visits we’d only seen those lochs from a few thousand feet up while hillwalking. With the Beaglemobile no longer leaking gas like Biggles’ bum and the weather forecasts promising clear skies, we felt the time was right to view one of them from close up. But which one? An extended Googling session pointed to Loch Ard as a good candidate; it was certainly pretty enough, appeared to have a good parking spot for an overnight stay in our campervan, and a number of way-marked walks. It was only after our arrival that we discovered something our research had failed to uncover: Loch Ard is patrolled day and night by two burly swans who don’t take kindly to Beagles.
The thing is, Beanie and Biggles usually get on famously with birds. Certainly they get on very well indeed with the chicken I carry in my pocket on beach runs, but unfortunately swans differ from chicken in several important ways:
- they’re bigger
- they aren’t wrapped in aluminum foil to keep in the juices and flavor
- they hiss when they get close
- did I mention that they’re bigger?
It goes without saying that neither Beanie nor Biggles were the least bit afraid of the swans; they are after all experienced apex predators with a long list of kills to their names (only the other day Biggles inflicted a fatal wound to one of Susan’s gym socks). However, they are also the joint owners of two pet humans, and as such they have to be mindful of how we might react to potential scares. Consequently when they sensed growing discomfort from us as the swans grew close and hissed, Beanie and Biggles gently but firmly led us away from the approaching menace. Biggles even realised that in my alarmed state I might not cope well with loud noises, and decided against woofing at the swans. Only the most capable and self-assured Beagle could have suppressed his hunting instincts and embraced his sensitive and empathetic side like that, and I counted myself very lucky to have his Biggleship (some distance) behind me on our first tentative walk by the loch.
In due course we returned to the Beaglemobile to settle in for the evening. We human types might still be finding our way round the van, but already our pups know it inside out. Biggles has sussed where all the food is stored and loves pottering about on the worktop, no matter how many times we tell him to get down. Beanie has lost her fear of the reversing beep, and has established that the swiveling passenger seat provides the best vantage point in the vehicle, especially if there’s a human already on the seat with an accommodating lap (what’s more, while she’s having a nosy out of the window she tends not mind being cuddled). The biggest thing we have yet to sort out however is the sleeping arrangements.
In summer it’ll be possible to pop-up the roof and have the pups sleep up there in their crates. In winter temperatures however there’s really no choice but to keep the roof down for better insulation and let Beanie and Biggles sleep with us in the bed. This makes for very cramped sleeping conditions, but during our night by Loch Ard it was surprisingly welcome; the temperature went sub-zero once darkness fell, but we didn’t feel it thanks to our two fur-covered hot water bottles. Of course things got difficult when they started doing their in-bed T’ai Chi routine (“pushing paws” rather than “pushing hands”) but still, at least we never got cold.
The next morning we all stopped off at a little jetty near the start of the loch in time for sunrise. We certainly did get nipped at by the cold here – not to mention almost nibbled by the swans – but nevertheless it was well worth seeing, especially when a thin layer of mist developed over the water.
Once my fingers had gone numb and I could no longer operate the camera (it didn’t take long), we set out on an extended walk round along one side of the loch. Unfortunately the weather didn’t live up to the promise of the forecasts, but the walk nevertheless produced two satisfied little sniffers, and Beanie indicated her approval with one of her signature dance routines.
On our return to the van I discovered two important things:
- Beanie can “spider-Beagle” her way right underneath the van even when on her fixed length walking lead; I got quite a shock when I came up from fixing Biggles’ harness and found that I was temporarily missing a Beagle.
- Two muddy Beagles can make a heck of a mess in a campervan in a matter of seconds.
Where normal dog owners might fix that last issue by thoroughly toweling off their dogs before allowing entry, we’re working – or more accurately Susan is working – on a different solution that involves leopard-skin patterned Beagle onesies. To be fair, this could be a pretty good option especially for Biggles, as his tummy has the most remarkable ability to soak up vast quantities of mud. It’ll certainly look cute, so stay tuned for the photos :)