The Adventure That Wasn’t

It had to happen eventually, and last week it did; our nineteen year old Beaglemobile suffered a breakdown. We were on our way to Loch Turret for a long and probably very sniffy walk along the water and up a modest hill when – without any warning – the alternator quietly shuffled off its mortal, corroded copper coil. We were kind of lucky that it happened where it did – on a main road just the other side of the Erskine bridge; if it had occurred further into the drive we could have been stuck in the middle of nowhere without a phone signal. Obviously our planned walk was now off the cards, but that’s not the lost adventure from title of this post. Nope, real “adventure that wasn’t” happened (or rather didn’t happen) on the way back home.

Our breakdown service sent a big recovery vehicle capable of loading the van onto its back and taking it, and us, right back to our house. Immediately I had visions of our return journey being much more exciting for the furry contingent than the loch-side walk could ever have been. Both our Beagles love sitting on human booster seats in the cabin of a high vehicle; they can sniff deeply from the air vents, spy on people in little cars, randomly mess with the controls on the stereo unit and – with an appropriate amount of squirming and a bit of luck – maybe even sound the horn with their bottoms. Alas none of this came to pass; the driver of the recovery vehicle wanted them locked away in their crates in the Beaglemobile, and that was that.

Within an hour we were safely back home. All kinds of beeping noises had sounded off during the loading and unloading of the van, yet amazingly the bed in Beanie’s crate had remained pee-free; proof that at least she hadn’t been scared. She had however been very, very bored. And so had The Bigglet. Once back in the house there were lots of heavy sighs and snouts between front paws, so I did the only thing I could to recover the situation: I took them for a beach run.

I normally time my beach runs carefully so that the tide is incoming but hasn’t yet swallowed the beach. On this occasion however, low tide had been and gone some three hours previously, leaving us with only a narrow strip of sand on which to run. The biggest problem with running in these conditions is that the many interesting things washed in by the tide are right under your nose – or specifically, right under Beanie & Biggles’ noses. I found the clearest spot of beach I could, unclipped their leads and really upped my running pace in the hope that they’d stay with me. For a while it worked, but then they fell away behind me and I saw eight paws go up into the air: a synchronized roll was in progress. They were clearly having fun, so I didn’t have the heart to stop them.

In due course they sprinted back to me and I examined them for some indication of what they’d been rolling in. Poo? Assorted dead animal parts? I didn’t see anything like that, but I did notice a blood-red stain on one of Biggles’ thighs. Fearing he’d cut himself on a sharp can or something similar I reached down and began gently parting his fur to determine the extend of the injury.. but found nothing. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Beanie had a similar mark on one of her legs. This was was no injury – this was what they’d rolled in! A pleasant feeling of relief passed through me but quickly faded when I rubbed at those red stains and snifffed my fingers. As a Beagle owner I’ve experienced some pretty vile smells, and while this wasn’t the worst (“shitvom” comfortably occupies pole position!), it was pretty bad. I clipped on their leads and the three of us headed into the waves for a scrubbing session; sadly this was only partially successful. Why is it that I always get a powerful desire to scratch my nose and wipe sweat from my brow when my hands smell like a sewer?

In the absence of any walk shots I’ll finish with a couple of portraits I took ahead of Beanie’s birthday – she’ll be 10 in a week or so!

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Biggles’ Choice!

It’s Biggles’ 9th birthday on the 28th and to mark it his lordship has had quite a fun week.

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On Wednesday he became – for just over an hour – one of the highest dogs in the British Isles when he climbed to the summit of Ben More (Crianlarich version, not the Ben More on Mull).

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I’d had my eye on Ben More for a while but it had been looking as though it would be a strictly solo adventure; the standard route often puts walkers face to face with unfenced cattle. Fortunately a bit of research turned up a longer, less popular but cattle-free route and my solo expedition became a team event.

Forest Section Below Ben More [5D4_5191]

The early part of the walk involves a woodland trail and this went down very, very well with the pups. Bird song mixed with the sound of synchronized power-sniffing as we made our way through the trees and drank fresh, clear water from the streams we crossed.

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When we emerged from the forest we had to cut through a long, long boggy field covered in overgrown grass and heather on our way to Ben More’s northeast ridge. Beanie in particular loves the scratchy feel of heather and will always make a point of walking through the densest patch she can find. Biggles probably doesn’t mind it brushing against his undercarriage too much, and the opportunity to pick up deer ticks is always appreciated. Even I didn’t mind the trudge too much on the outward journey; we had blue skies and sun yet there was a gentle cooling breeze to keep the insects away – just about the perfect day. It stayed perfect even as we made it to the ridge and began to gain height rapidly.

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The sun went into hiding behind heavy cloud as we reached the very grand summit cairn of Ben More, but I was confident that it would reappear in due course; we had well over an hour to go before sunset and the only pressing duties to be carried out involved a change to a clean, dry top for me and the opening of a packet of mini-jumbones for my companions.

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So, about those jumbones Dad.. there’s no rush, but now would be a good time.

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The almost-birthday boy got his chew first of course!

Sadly the cloud never really cleared, the sun never reappeared, and we got only the briefest glimpses of the views Ben More has to offer before I was calling time on our adventure.

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Jumbones round #2 – synchronized this time!

[Group 0]-5D4_5275_5D4_5281-3 images

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The next day was all about recovery: a pre-walk massage from their Mum, a gentle walk up the farm road to sample fresh blackberries, and extra large servings in their bowls afterwards.

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When people use the phrase “It’s a dog’s life” this probably isn’t what they mean..

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But then Beagles aren’t quite like other dogs..

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And our two are probably even more pampered than most Beagles.

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All that would have been enough to make this a good week, but there was still more to come! A while back I signed up Beanie and Biggles to the VIP program at Pets at Home, and seeing that Biggles’ birthday was close they sent me a voucher for a free “Whimzees” toothbrush-shaped chew. A visit to our local pet shop was on the cards!

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Since the toothbrush chew is free, his Biggleship gets to choose something else as a paid-for pressie. That is how it works, right?

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The long, arduous selection process begins…

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.. and is temporarily halted when something is detected under the bottom shelf.

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Beanie briefly morphs into a Basset hound with its head on the wrong way round.

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Biggles may not be the smartest boy in the world..

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..but it didn’t take him long to figure out how those flip-top containers work.

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Another attempt at retrieving some unidentified treasure ends in failure. He’s nearly nine years old and he still hasn’t learned the “Spider-Beagle” technique. A demonstration from the master is required!

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Yep, that’s how you do it! Beanie’s going to hit the decade later this year, but she’s still unbeatable when it comes to Spider-Beagling.

Still empty-handed (apart from a pair of matching toothbrush chews) we eventually passed by a display of long chewable sticks, and Biggles finally knew what he wanted for his birthday!

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His reaction to it was amazing. I’m not sure what it’s made of (I saw references to cereal products on the label) but he wanted it really, really badly. More than chicken, more than cow ears, more than any toy, he wanted one of these. So of course we got two of ’em. He was a very happy boy as we left the store, and for the first time I can honestly say that Biggles really did choose his own birthday pressie!

Biggles 9th Birthday Portrait [5D4_5541]

Balls and Buzzings

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As you can see Biggles really likes to stretch out during his naps. It’s easy to do that on the sofa; if a pesky human starts cramping his style all he has to do is “accidentally” give that humie a good kick with his rear legs and it’ll soon move to give him more space.

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However the same cannot be said for his crate in the back of the car; over the last few days it’s just been getting more and more cramped. The reason? Well basically it’s because of his balls. None of them are particularly big, but so far he’s got four of them in his crate and he seems to get an extra one every time we go running on the beach.

I blame it on the summer-like weather we’ve had recently. It’s quite unusual to get summery weather in summer in Ayrshire, but it’s happened, and consequently the beach has been flooded by people: people having picnics, people desperately trying to get skin cancer, and more relevantly, people playing ball games with their doggies and playing them badly. The “plastics in our oceans” issue gets all the press, but trust me, the tennis ball pollution issue is just as bad.

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To his credit Biggles is doing everything he can to clean up all those balls, but he’s only got one mouth to carry them in, and only one crate in which to hoard them. I’ve considered sneaking one out of his crate every so often, but I’m sure he’d notice; he checks them all very carefully every time he gets in, then grumbles as he tries to find enough space to park his big white bum. Sometimes it’s not easy being Biggles.

Unfortunately it’s not all that easy being Beanie either. Our windows have been flung open to counteract the heat and on occasion we’ve been invaded by big buzzy flies. They really annoy me – I find it impossible to concentrate when they’re doing their noisy flybys – but they irritate The Beanster even more.

One afternoon a particular buzzer was driving us both nuts so we joined forces to get it. I armed myself with my battery-powered zapper that resembles a tennis racket, and Beanie armed herself with her treat-powered mouth that resembles.. a mouth. It took several minutes of Beanie running round the room snapping her jaws and me swiping my racket, but eventually the hunt was successful! I stunned the annoying little bugger with all the power that two Duracell AAA batteries could deliver, and Beanie delivered the fatal nibble when it hit the ground. Job done!

To celebrate our victory in the hunt – and take Biggles’ mind off his balls – I brought home some tasty filled bones and treated the pups to a night at the cinema.

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Beanie & Biggles have had tripe-filled bones many times before

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But these had some kind of bacon-flavored stuff in them

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They smelled good even to my nose..

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.. and it seems they tasted even better than they smelled

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Front-row on the movie-watching sofa. Despite appearances we weren’t watching a horror – it’s just that the popcorn had run out.