Post-Traumatic Ears

This year November 5th landed on a weekend and the accompanying firework activity was particularly intense. As a kid I always used to enjoy Bonfire Night, but increasingly I just see it as a crazy waste of money that scares the life out of anything with four legs and sends scores of burns victims to hospital. It’s enough to make a person howling mad, especially if that person is already prone to howling.

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This time around we had a “Thundershirt” for the  Beanster and it certainly helped. She still spent a lot of time on my lap and still needed to be accompanied on trips to the outside loo, but at least it kept her from physically shaking with fear. I’ve read that many dogs seek out the best cave-substitute they can find at such times; certainly Biggles was keen to curl up in the corner of the living room behind my computer desk and chair. Beanie however seemed to want a clear view of her surroundings – to see any threats that were coming her way. During a particularly loud and extended series of whizz-bangs she sought refuge in the bathroom, but even then she wanted the door left wide open.

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Whenever the noise stopped Biggles immediately returned to his normal behavior, but Beanie remained on alert, her eyes scanning the ceiling for potential threats. To counter this we served up cow ears; those things take so long to chew through that on finishing even Beanie seemed to have forgotten about the preceding trauma.

Another thing that helped break the cycle of fear was a return trip to Loch Ard in the campervan. We drove down on the night of November 4th just as rain paused the fireworks. On arrival I dished up another round of cow ears, not as therapy this time, but simply to keep the furry types occupied while I tucked into a snack of my own. It didn’t quite work as planned; when Beanie came close to finishing she repeatedly tried to swallow her remaining piece early, gagged a little when it didn’t fit her throat, and then returned to chewing. This of course had me worried that she was about to choke, and while I was distracted, his Biggleship – who had finished his ear quickly – pounced on the bedding stored behind the back seat and began a vigorous bed-making exercise. I was suddenly torn between making sure Beanie was OK, keeping my own food from spilling, and protecting the delicate memory foam in the bedding from being torn to shreds by The Bigglet. Somehow I managed all three, though later the bed did feel lumpier than it had on previous outings.

Very early the next morning I struggled out of bed, taking care not put weight on any of the paws, tails, or ears that were in there with me. Beanie and Biggles remained under the covers as I dressed, prepared my camera gear and gulped down a carton of chocolate milk; however the instant I pulled out their harnesses and leads they were up and ready to go, with bright eyes and waggy tails.

Lochan a' Ghleannain [5D4_6776_WM]

Lochan a’ Ghleannain by Loch Ard, about fifteen minutes before sunrise

As on our previous visit we followed the longest waymarked trail by Loch Ard, but this time we did it in the opposite direction, making an early stop at Lochan a’ Ghleannain. I got some beautiful shots of one of the “islands” on the mini-loch, but getting into position meant traversing some marshland and slowly sinking while I waited for the clouds to get some pre-sunrise color. This was not popular with my furry companions and it cost me dearly in biccies and jumbones! Fortunately things got less noisy and marginally less hungry once we were moving again.

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Autumn Trail [5D4_6997]

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After we returned home Beanie & Biggles still had another round of fireworks to endure, but I think the walk recharged their batteries a little and helped them get through it. That and the cow ears.

Honk! Honk! Thud!

Reflections on Loch Ard [5D4_6402]

We headed back to the Trossachs region for a sleep-over by Loch Ard just a few days before storm “Ophelia” was due to visit Scotland; I figured it would be my last chance to catch autumn color before 70 mph winds stripped the trees bare. On our arrival at the forest car park my first job – as always – was to get the furballs out of their travel crates and take them for a pee walk while Susan prepared the van for our overnighter. I have to say it was kind of spooky wandering around the empty parking and picnic areas in the dark. The air was completely still and I became very aware of all the forest sounds around us: deer vocalizing off in the distance and an occasional little critter scurrying around unseen just out of the beam of my head torch. Beanie and Biggles showed no interest in the wildlife but they were very interested in checking the ground underneath the tables and benches for dropped food.

Soon after our return to the van it was time to prepare for bed. I did everything in my power to make Beanie’s position on the driver’s seat as comfortable as possible. I’d like to claim I did this out of care for my little girl, but the truth is my motives were almost entirely self-centered: firstly I really wanted a long undisturbed nap before our walk the next morning, and secondly she was still honking to high heaven from our beach run earlier that day.  The roll du jour in this case had involved a particularly rotten seal carcass. It had been so bad – so absolutely vile – that even Biggles had turned his nose up at it, but Beanie had gone paws up as soon as she found it; washing in the sea, scrubbing with dog wipes and even time in her crate had done little to weaken the stench. Hoping that both she and Biggles would stay put, Susan and I quietly retired to our own bed.

At what felt like 4am in the morning I was awoken by the van shaking slightly and a rustling sound coming from the passenger seat. I knew instantly that it was Biggles in the throes of a bed-making session. While Beanie generally expresses discontent with her bed by circling and whining at an ever-increasing pitch, my boy just gets physical; he tugs it and throws it around like a strongman hauling barrels in a competition. This is fine in the house where there’s plenty of space (though the bed usually ends up even lumpier than when he started), but in the confines of the van’s passenger seat, a mishap was inevitable.

THUD!!!

I didn’t have to turn on the light to know that Biggles had fallen off the seat and was now standing stunned and silent on the floor of the van, probably with his bed covering his head. I struggled to suppress a snigger and wondered just how long he’d wait there – completely motionless – until someone came to sort him out. That is always Biggles’ go-to reaction when he finds himself in a predicament: stay calm, quiet and still, and a human will eventually fix things. I often worry that he’d do exactly the same thing if he ever got off lead and injured himself while out of my sight. He’s got the lungs and voice to produce a call for help that would be heard for miles around, but when he’s in a fix he just hits the mute button and stands perfectly still.

Perhaps the reason he persists with this approach is because it’s always worked for him, and it worked again here because Susan got up to go to his aid. In doing so she left a space in our bed, and something small and very pungent soon arrived to fill it. I felt Beanie’s cold wet nose brush mine as she came to say hello. “Eewwww the smelly thing’s in the bed!” I proclaimed to Susan, and this produced a rapid wag at Beanie’s rear end.  Had I not been so tired I could probably have settled her back on the driver’s seat, but on this occasion lethargy won. Susan came back to bed and Biggles came with her, and though conditions were cramped and whiffy, we all slept through until morning. The weather wasn’t exactly sunny for our walk the next day, but at least it wasn’t blowing a hurricane!

Decrepit Boathouse on Loch Ard [5D4_6395]

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The standard circuit along the loch is an easy going 14km but as a photographer I was keen to explore all the little trails off the main path. As Beagles, Beanie and Biggles were fully behind this plan.

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Of course all that walking requires fuel, and when the human is tardy in opening the treats a protest has to be made. No way was Biggles going to be quiet for this one!

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Happily no-one decided to supplement their treats with a wild mushroom or two. Or twenty.

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This part of the loch smelled a bit funky so of course The Beanster went straight in for paddle. Given that stale lake is much less whiffy than rotten seal carcass, I considered it a win.

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Loch Ard from a higher viewpoint on the walk back.

By the time we got back to the van it was raining heavily and every space in the previously deserted car park was full. We all had breakfast, and just before we packed up to go his Biggleship had one more bed-making mishap. Deciding that the dog bed on the drivers seat required adjustment, he began tugging at it vigorously, slamming his bum into the steering wheel so hard it sounded the horn.  This caught him completely by surprise; he woofed and jumped back again onto the wheel, once again honking the horn, and this in turn prompted another round of shocked baying. I could see other occupants of the car park wondering what all the commotion was about, so I restrained his little white bum before it could beep the horn a third time. I have to wonder how many times the bum-horn-woof feedback loop would have continued without my intervention.

Biggles by Loch Ard [5D4_6608]

The Bigglet. He may not be as smart as Beanie, but at least he doesn’t smell of decayed seal.

10 Years old and still a hot dog

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Beanie is now a double-digit Beagle and while her advancing years haven’t exactly slowed her down, I have noticed some changes.

The most welcome development has been a growing appreciation of human affection. She has always been – on the surface – the most outgoing of our pups, greeting passers-by with full-body wags and a two-legged dance routine, but this was akin to celebrities smiling for cameras and signing autographs to keep fans happy. Away from the public gaze, Beanie has traditionally been a rather cuddle-averse and intensely private little Beaglet. More recently however she has become surprisingly accepting of strokes, kisses and snuggles. It started during trips in the Beaglemobile, where being moderately fondled on someone’s lap was a price worth paying to gain a better view of the outside world. This progressed to actively seeking cuddles during scary events like thunder, fireworks and beeping noises on TV shows, and in the last couple of months I’ve had some wonderfully soppy Beanie moments for no obvious reason at all.

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There’s nothing soppy or affectionate about her style of play however; if anything, she’s become even more of a vandal. The above birthday hotdog lost its strip of green “lettuce” almost immediately and would have lost much more if she hadn’t switched her attention to the squeaky smiley face. She’s even tried to win Biggles over to her destructive ways, encouraging him to rip open a soft fabric bone and spit out the squeaker. At least he felt toy-wrecker’s remorse after his orgy of destruction; Beanie just goes looking for the next victim!

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At the same time, she’s become much more tolerant of the attention of other dogs; even just a couple of years ago she would have cross words for any dogs that pestered her excessively on beach runs. Now she just ignores them – even the really pesky small ones – and she positively enjoys seeing the local farm dog, even though he has a strange obsession with sticking his nose right in her earholes. Actually maybe it’s not all that strange – I’ve caught myself rubbing my nose in her ears as well, although I don’t make quite such pronounced sniffing noises when I’m doing it.

Speaking of beach runs, both Beanie & Biggles have generally become much more manageable during offlead sessions this year, though Beanie did something very out of character this morning when we encountered a rather handsome, younger Beagle. He was also offlead, but trotting smartly just a few yards in front of his owner. Biggles – who was on an important mission at the time  (the ultimate goal of which never became clear) – totally blanked the youngster as he sprinted by. Ordinarily I’d have expected Beanie to do the same, but instead she made a bee-line directly for the little fellow, picking up speed all the time. At the very last instant she veered around him, woofed jubilantly, then shot another 60 yards down the beach, dived onto her back and engaged in a particularly vigorous rolling session on a bird carcass. Smelly break-dancing notwithstanding, this was essentially a classic Biggles fly-by maneuver. He does this to Beanie all the time (often incorporating a shoulder-barge), but this was the first time I’ve ever seen her do something similar. Obviously Biggles’ technique is superior due to years of diligent practice, but still I’d have to give Beanie a score of 6 out of 10, especially as this was her first attempt. I can only assume it’s some kind of flirting. Is my ten year old girl turning into a furry floozy?

I’ll finish with some shots from last week’s visit to Loch Chon in the Trossachs region. The autumn colors hadn’t reached their height, and recent harsh weather had already stripped some trees of their leaves, but it was still a very attractive place for a stop-over in the Beaglemobile.

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Loch Chon Autumn [5D4_6028]

Loch Chon - North End [5D4_6055]

One of the few dwellings by the Loch – Frenich Farm perhaps?

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The sniffage was of the very highest quality

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And abundant heather offered endless possibilities for picking up ticks

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Cow ears are the usual in-van treat, but on this occasion a big red sausage made an acceptable alternative

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I expected it to be swallowed in seconds, but it was surprisingly chewy and long-lasting

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Beanie seemed particularly taken with hers, even finishing it ahead of The Bigglet

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Happy Birthday Beanster!