Lost at sea

Whenever I get talking to an owner of a “normal” dog (ie. non-Beagle) and start telling them about all our misadventures (well a few of them, because there have been so many), they never seem to get just how naughty Beanie & Biggles really are. “Yeah, my dog did that once too”. Oh really? But does your dog exercise its naughty muscle so frequently and with such intensity that he or she is basically a furry suicide machine on four legs? And does your dog have an unswerving talent for picking the absolute worst time to push the envelope?

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Even when Beanie’s not being naughty, you can bet she’s thinking about it..

The latest incident occurred on a day when I was physically and mentally done-in. My legs had a bad case of DOMS from the previous day’s gym session, and my head was hurting from wrestling for hours with a computer problem (damn you, Microsoft). Experience has taught me that the best way to recover from both of these ailments is a gentle jog on the beach while listening to relaxing music. And why not combine that with an outing for the dogs?

I prepared for the run just as I normally do: put on plenty of layers to keep the wind-chill at bay, shoved a foil-wrapped package of chicken pieces into my running belt, and loaded fresh music onto my little MP3 playing earphones. I chose Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells III for this run; it’s not his best work by any means, but it’s a good chill-out piece and the perfect remedy for my still-motoring brain. When we arrived at the beach things were looking good. The beach was very quiet so we wouldn’t have any hassles from offlead dogs, I’d remembered my running gloves and beanie (that’s the hat, not the Beagle), and though the weather was cold and windy there was – for once – no storm in progress.

We had the usual bit of scampering, excited woofing and shoulder-barging at the start of the run, but after that the three of us settled into a comfortable, steady pace. I checked my GPS watch and as we passed the first kilometre I decided to let the two munchkins off-lead for a few minutes so they could properly open up their legs. As per our long-established routine I gave them both a taste of chicken, then unhooked The Beanster first. As usual she sprinted off ahead for about 50 yards, then stopped for sniffage. Biggles was next; I could tell he desperately wanted to pull on his lead, but he’s learned that he gets released quicker if he holds still while I fumble with the clip. As soon as he was free he charged at Beanie at full speed, clearly aiming to give her a shoulder-barge to remember. Beanie dodged him a split-second before he hit and gave him her most disdainful “Huh, that brother of mine” look. Of course that look didn’t do anything to dampen Biggles’ playful spirit. He went into an exaggerated playbow, sticking his silly white bottom up in the air, and they both took off on a high-speed chase that quickly ended up right back at my feet for another mouthful of chicken. I fed them and immediately sent them off on another romp: “Go play!”. This time they just ran into the water and splashed around together, staying roughly in line with me as I jogged along. Tubular Bells III had entered one of its “trance” segments, and as I watched Beanie and Biggles playing in the waves I was finally starting to relax. Then Beanie spotted a group of birds further along the shore (not seagulls, because they’re a bit too big and intimidating) and she took off after them with Biggles screeching as he tried to catch her.

If you’ve ever seen me when my Beagles go off on a beach bird hunt, you’ll know that I display several escalating levels of concern which correspond to how far the little buggers have gone away from me, and how long they’ve been away. The first level can be called “watchful but not worried”; I keep running at the same pace, with the package of chicken still in my hand, but my eyes stay glued on the little furry idiots as they take a bit too long to come back. The next level is “mildly irritated”; my pace quickens noticeably, and though you can’t see it, I’ve made the decision that leads will be re-attached when the dynamic duo comes back for the next chick refill. If it becomes a struggle to keep them in sight because they’ve got so far ahead of me, I transition to “somewhat concerned and pissed off”; they could be eating things they shouldn’t or having encounters with other beach users, and it’s going to take a couple of minutes of hard running before I can intervene. This level is marked by the chicken going into my pocket and my speed and breathing rate going into the red. Until this particular day, those three levels of concern was all I had for beach runs.

Newly introduced, level four involves me turning off my music because I’ve now lost sight of Beanie & Biggles altogether and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to hear Biggles’ high pitched baying as he chases after his sister. My running pace actually slows at this level, because I’ve exceeded my lactate threshold for too long.  You could call this level “getting quite worried”. In turns out there’s yet another level beyond this. It doesn’t have a name that can be expressed without using profanity, but its visible characteristics are as follows:

  • I have left the part of the beach that belongs to our home town of Irvine, have passed most of Barassie and am rapidly approaching Troon.
  • I take my MP3 player headset out of my ears and put it round my neck, whereupon (I suspect) a strong gust of wind grabs it and carries it off out to sea without me even noticing.
  • I approach any other beach user I can see and ask them if they’ve seen two crazy Beagles. The answer comes back “no, but I heard this unpleasant noise”.
  • I start running back and forth indecisively because I’m beginning to doubt whether Beanie & Biggles are really daft enough to have come out this far, and wondering if they somehow went up off the beach onto the dunes, or even into town.

Eventually I came across a mother and daughter who were out with their  little terriers. I asked them the “have you seen” question and yes, they’d seen them, still chasing after birds in the surf and even further up the beach. I couldn’t believe that Beanie & Biggles had gone that far, but it was all I had to go on. I headed out diagonally across slippery seaweed-covered rocks toward the very last bit of beach before Troon, and my eyes caught sight of two dots moving at high speed up and down by the water’s edge. I stopped and studied the moving dots for a few seconds; I’d mistaken seagulls for Beagles more than once on my increasingly desperate journey. One dot was ahead of the other most of the time, but on the rare occasions that the slower one caught up, it seemed to swerve into the other dot. Biggles shoulder-barging his sister. It had to be.

I ran towards the dots, and pretty soon I could see that they were also heading towards me. The dots turned into hound-colored doggies with erect tails and silly grins on their faces. I took out my chicken, got the little !£$%&*s back on lead, fed them, and looked at my GPS watch. The numbers confirmed what I already knew: there was a substantial amount of running to be done to get back to the car. Oh well, at least I could put my music back on. Only I couldn’t because as I now discovered, my MP3 player was lost at sea. I pointed myself and my Beagles back towards the other end of the beach and reluctantly started jogging. My legs were really, really toasted by this point. A seven or eight km gentle jog will work wonders for loosening up stiff legs after a hard gym session, but double that and you’re just increasing the punishment. As we passed Barassie a little girl ran towards us from the roadside; it was the same girl who’d pointed me in the direction of Beanie & Biggles, and her mum had very kindly sent her down to me with a bottle of water. Clearly there are some really nice, thoughtful people in Barassie. I thanked her, took a swig myself and offered it to Beanie & Biggles (chasing birds is such thirsty work), then got moving again. It seemed to take an age to get back to the car, and in my knackered state, yep, an age is pretty much how long it took. Even Beanie and Biggles were looking a bit low on batteries towards the end. Beanie had the cheek to give me the “any chance of a carry, Dad?” look that she’d last used during her big adventure on The Merrick. This time she was s-h-1-t out of luck.

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Like I’ve said before it’s fortunate that Beagles are so cute, because if they weren’t their owners would probably throttle the life out of them (always assuming the stupid little buggers didn’t manage to get themselves killed first).

How (not) to treat a calf injury

Every now and then one of my body parts decides it’s had enough and goes on strike. At the start of the year it was my shoulder, but over the last month it’s been my right calf that’s rebelled. I struggled on with it for a bit, as I tend to do, until eventually it got bad enough to force me to rest it. This of course threatened disruption to the furry bottomed members of our family. Over the last few years they’ve been able to count on at least two, often three or four, beach runs each and every week – regardless of weather – and always with that all important off-lead-run-amok section in the middle. Suddenly the chief provider of these weekly jollies was out of action! I called them into the lounge, and broke the bad news to them as gently as possible.

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I don’t get it Dad, I mean, you’ve still got three other legs you can run on, right?

I don’t think Biggles properly understood what I was telling him. I’m sure Beanie got it though, and she seemed genuinely concerned – not for my injury (obviously) but for the reduction in doggy service that it would cause. She took it upon herself to heal me in the fastest way she knew how! Later that day when I was on the floor foam-rolling my calf and doing stretches and glute activation, Nurse Beanie came to visit.

Now it has to be said that Nurse Beanie doesn’t have the greatest track record with her patients; a green monkey suffered repeated trauma whilst in her care, while an owl became an involuntary squeaker donor. Nevertheless, I decided to trust her and see what treatment options she would come up with. She began with acupuncture, repeatedly walking over my calf and hamstring while digging her nails in. This didn’t actually make the calf feel any better, but acupuncture does get used for some sports injuries so it didn’t seem unreasonable. Unfortunately, things went rapidly downhill from there. I’ve seen a few physiotherapists in my time but not one of them has ever tried to massage a sore muscle by humping it vigorously and letting a little bit of wee out. Nor have they ever snook into my pockets and tried to initiate a tug of war with a stolen poo bag.

Needless to say that particular therapy session didn’t fix my calf, but it did convince me of the need to maintain some level of weekly off-lead adventures during my convalescence. The next day we went for a gentle walk on the beach, but I still unclipped them for a short constraint-free romp. I was of course concerned that without the running they’d be less inclined to stay with me, but for once and against all the odds, they didn’t misbehave (much).

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I stayed off running for a fortnight, during which we repeated the above walk several times. On each occasion both my little scallywags mostly behaved themselves. This week I had a couple of tentative but successful runs, and so today I took Beanie & Biggles for a somewhat vigorous 8k on the beach. When the time came for the off-lead section, the contrary little buggers promptly took off after some birds and left me eating their dust. In due course they returned to me for a handful of chicken, but only once they’d got themselves thoroughly covered in sand and seagull poo.

Beagles. You can always count on them to do the unexpected, unless that’s what you’re expecting.

Grounded.

No matter how many walks, house and garden play sessions they get, I never feel that the pups have been properly exercised & stimulated unless they get a couple of off-lead romps each week. And what do I get in return for all this dedication to their well-being and quality of life? Nothing but worries for their safety and yet another flagrant display of naughtiness, that’s what.

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Obviously I was expecting some level of naughty, but they outdid themselves this time. I was trailing after them up and down the beach for ages, getting increasingly concerned that darkness would fall before I got them safely back on lead again.

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Like most Beagles, Beanie & Biggles aren’t at home in the water, but when they’re excited and in pursuit of birds they’ll happily charge into the sea and can quickly find themselves out of their depth. For that reason I always time our beach adventures so that the tide is incoming.

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So at least I didn’t have to worry about them getting washed out to sea.

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But they just kept on charging up and down the beach, some times covering so much distance that I could barely see them.

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At least I could always hear them. Whenever Beanie made a new attack run on the birds Biggles would temporarily lose her and bay his head off as he fought to catch up.

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Every time she passed by I tried to lure Beanie back to me with a handful of chicken, but she was determined to catch her own bird meat!

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The sun set and the light started to fade, but still they kept going!

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Then abruptly, and for no discernible reason, they were done. They trotted back to me, soaking wet and covered in sand, and got their mouths filled with chicken and their leads firmly attached.

When I got them back home Susan instantly knew they’d been naughty. As she put it: “when even the tops of their bums are dirty, you know they’ve had a good time”. And so they had, but such a total lack of respect for my authoritah demanded some kind of reprisal. “You’re both grounded! No more off-leaders for a week!” I told them. But I don’t think they took me any more seriously than they had on the beach.

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I guess they know I’m a soft touch went comes to them having fun.