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.

IMG_0872 - Beagle Karaoke!

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.

Biggles' 8th Birthday Portrait [IMG_1237]

Happy Birthday Biggles, and sorry about the football!

Aug 23
Self-service holiday
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 23rd, 2016| icon34 Comments »

The majority of our past holidays and breaks have been in the west of Scotland, but this time around we decided to give the east coast a try, booking into a small and (before we arrived) quiet campsite in Inverbervie, Aberdeenshire.

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The journey there was unusally comfortable for the pups thanks to a pair of plush beds Susan found on sale at our local ASDA store. Costing only a tenner a piece, the beds are a perfect fit for our fabric travel crates and come with that holy grail of Beagle bedding: the integral full surround chin-rest. As you can see from the above shot Biggles certainly made good use of the chin-rest component, but seemed a bit confused about how to use the bed itself.

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Our spot on the campsite was by a river that was home to a family of ducks and two mature swans. Biggles quickly accepted the presence of our feathered neighbors but Beanie immediately became obsessed with them. On our beach at home she’s a legendary bird hunter; over the years she’s nearly caught Sandpipers, come within twenty meters of snatching Black Terns out of the air, and only narrowly missed capturing a dead Seagull. Finally here was an opportunity to crown her career by also not catching a swan.

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While The Bigglet and us humies crash out in the sun..

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.. Beanie stays ever watchful by the riverbank

Beanie may not be any good at catching birds, but unfortunately¬† she is rather more successful when it comes to large insects. Unlike the west side of the country, the east of Scotland doesn’t seem to have a problem with midges but it does apparently have a considerable wasp population, which Beanie was determined to reduce. We’d read plenty of stories about closed airways due to stings, so we did our best to kill the wasps ourselves before they came within her reach, and dissuade her from attempting to catch those that made it through our barrage of fast knock-down spray. Needless to say it wasn’t long before she snagged one, then almost instantly spat it out, shook her head and leaped back from its still wriggling body. Over the next few minutes we kept a close eye on The Beanster for any adverse reactions, but happily none were forthcoming. I pushed a couple of doggy-safe anti-histamines down her throat as a precaution, but for once we didn’t need an emergency visit to the nearest vet. Instead, we made a distinctly non-emergency visit to the nearest castle.

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Dunnotar castle has to be one of the most picturesque castles in the UK, especially when viewed around sunrise. It’s also bordered by clifftops that are satisfyingly sniffy, especially when sampled by a Beagle nose.

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Back at the campsite, I parked up the van and anchored the pups to it while Susan and I set about adjusting the tarp add-on to our tent. Apparently we took too long doing this, because when Susan returned to the van she found that Beanie and Biggles had helped themselves to a cow ear each. Exactly how they did this remains a mystery; just prior to embarking on our holiday I’d dropped a few days’ worth of cow ears in a bag along with a doggy toothbrush, toothpaste and a few cubes of dried fish (the traditional pay-off for letting me clean their teeth). I’d handed the bag to Susan who put it safely away in a cupboard, and there it had stayed until someone furry found a way to retrieve it. Even more remarkable was the fact that – after first consuming all the fish cubes – they had apparently rationed themselves to one cow ear each, leaving the rest in and around the shredded bag. As Beagle raids go, this had been almost civilized.

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Over the next couple of days we visited nearby fishing village Gourdon..

Harbour at Gourdon Village [IMG_1037]

Crab Pots at Gourdon Village [IMG_1043]

Golden hour at Gourdon Village [IMG_7903]

..and the beach at Lunan Bay. While Gourdon was notable for its splendid rolling-in-seagull-guano opportunities, it was Lunan Bay that provided the most entertainment, courtesy of Biggles’ reaction to its sandfly population. He’s encountered sandflies before of course, but never in such great numbers. By golden hour the beach was literally jumping with the little buggers, and The Bigglet decided that the only way to deal with them was to dig, dig, dig.

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The beach visit started out peacefully enough.

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The dynamic duo investigated the ruins of a sand castle..

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..peed on it

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..explored arches and caves

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..and chowed down on some particularly tasty barnacles

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But then those pesky sandflies turned up..

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..and the digging began.

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Most dogs look a bit silly when they’re digging, but with that big white bum of his Biggles takes it to a whole new level

The digging didn’t eradicate the sandflies but it gave my boy a damned good workout, and the long drive back home had heavy snoring as its soundtrack.

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