May 3
This one’s a keeper!
icon1 Paul | icon4 05 3rd, 2016| icon34 Comments »

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It’s not at all uncommon for our Beagles to pick things up when we’re out on a beach run and carry them for a while. I’m not talking about dead crabs, horse poo and such; obviously they get picked up, chomped and speed-swallowed as soon as they’re spotted. No, I’m talking about junk that’s either been dropped by humies or washed in by the tide; things that for some reason catch a Beagle’s eye, or nose, or both, and end up being transported along the beach in their jaws.

More than once Biggles has grabbed some piece of discarded crud and carried it proudly like it’s the find of the century. In due course the novelty wears off and the item is once again dumped, ready to be found by some other lucky woofer. The time required to go from”this is brilliant, best thing ever!” to “it’s crap, I dropped it” varies with the object in question. A soggy, burst tennis ball probably holds the household record for longest carry, notching up around 40 minutes in Biggles gob, but even this prized item lost its appeal by the end of the outing. Only one item has ever been so treasured as to be carried into the car, and this is its story.

We’d just finished our beach run, and I had Beanie & Biggles on short leashes as I attempted to steer them round the junk left by the people who like to park up and watch the sea while having their fast-food lunches. We successfully dodged two Big Mac cartons, assorted sand-covered dog poos and a partially consumed corn-on-the-cob (great for blockages, those), but unfortunately in avoiding these hazards I drifted close to a bin. In an instant Beanie was on tiptoes with her head stuck in the bin’s opening. Just as I moved to extract the Beanster one of the car-seated diners wound down his window and cast out a McFlurry tub. The guy who did this was parked barely two metres away from the bin that had Beanie’s head stuck in it, but still, I guess two metres of walking was just too big of an ask. Anyway, just as I got Beanie free of the bin, Biggles lunged forward and seized the tub.

I don’t know what manner of McFlurry had been in that tub, but judging by Biggles’ possessive body language, it must have been really good. If the tub had been dangerous I’d have taken it off him immediately, but in this case I figured the best course of action was to let him keep it until we’d got further away from the other junk. As we walked, Biggles periodically succumbed to the temptation to put his prize down and examine it, and on these occasions I tried to get my foot on it or quickly drag him away from it, but each time Biggles snatched his McFlurry back up off the pavement. There were still a hundred yards or so between us and our car, and we got a few laughs as Biggles trotted purposefully at my side, tightly clutching the icecream tub in his mouth. “Just ignore them Biggles,” I said, “they’re just jealous of your McFlurry”. And he did.

When we finally we arrived at our parking spot I lifted the tailgate and mentally prepared myself for what I call the “mucking about” phase of a Beagle outing. You see Beanie is always really good at leaping into the car and entering her crate, but Biggles is.. not. Usually I have to really work hard to get him to jump in, with excited countdowns and encouraging hand movements, and if all that fails (as it often does) I use my “emergency” biscuit to bribe him in. This time things were different. Just as Beanie was sinking down onto her rear legs ready to jump, Biggles shouldered her out of his way, leaped in without any preparation and went straight into his crate with his harness and lead still attached. I then had to pull him back out of the crate, and wrestle him out of his harness while still holding on to Beanie’s lead. This was not easy, because the hole in the neck area of the Euro Short Canicross harness is designed to slip over the dog’s head only, not head plus McFlurry tub.

With this done, I now had to deal with the McFlurry tub itself. I tried to simply take it off him, but my stubborn little boy was not having any of it. There was no growling, but no way was he going to let it go. Time for the emergency biscuit! I retrieved the biccie from my running pouch and broke it in two, giving Beanie her half first. Against expectations Biggles didn’t immediately drop his icecream tub in anticipation of the biccie, but I could see he was seriously conflicted. Not since Captain Kirk in the original series of Star Trek had anyone faced such a huge dilemma. I waved the biccie under his nose once, but the tub remained in his jaws. I waved it again, and his jaws slackened a little. On the third pass, the tub was released, and using my years of experience in sock trading with The Bigglet, I deftly snatched the tub while delivering the biscuit straight into his open mouth. One quick chomp and speed-swallow later he realized he’d been duped, but it was too late to do anything about it. Except to exact revenge in the form of a particularly vile fart as I drove us home.

A few less smelly parting shots from the last week…

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Beanie gets to grips with a cow ear. These things are great: lower fat than pig ears and despite appearing less substantial, much longer lasting.

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A discussion about who should have the sofa turns physical..

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.. and noisy. Very noisy.

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The day after losing his icecream tub, Biggles still has some emotional healing to do…

Apr 21
Ben Ime Base Camp
icon1 Paul | icon4 04 21st, 2016| icon32 Comments »

Ben Ime Pano

I’ve finally been to the summit of Ben Ime, but unfortunately due to unknowns about the weather I wasn’t able to take my little furry sherpas with me. We did however hang out at base camp together for quite a while before I started my climb, and it got very cuddly. The fact is that the seats in the Beaglemobile aren’t quite high enough for a truly nosy Beagle, whereas seat plus human lap makes the perfect viewing platform. Installed on their human booster-seats, Beanie & Biggles were able to spy on every sandwich, bun and ice cream consumed within their immediate vicinity. What’s more, hugging was not only tolerated but even welcomed, as it counteracted the foot and bum slippage caused by waterproof hillwalking trousers.

Things got even more cuddly when our car park was invaded by a group of car enthusiasts and bikers. As the sound of revving engines and back-firing exhausts filled the air, Beanie sought to reassure me by nestling even further into my lap; for his part, Biggles reassured the rotating passenger seat by creeping into the foot-well behind it and hanging out until all the roaring and banging subsided. It’s a shame that some of my best cuddles come from scary moments, but if it’s going to happen, I might as well take advantage!

Before long it was time for me to get started. I stuffed snacks and drinks into my pockets, removed Beanie’s snout from said pockets, strapped the tripod to my camera backpack, removed Beanie’s snout from my pockets again, and set out on my mission.  I made good time at first, but as I got a decent way up the mountain snow made the going very tough.

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The true summit finally comes into view…

When I reached the top it was clear of cloud and the air was quite still, but within minutes visibility dropped to a few yards and there was savage windchill. Another five minutes later the cloud lifted again and the wind dropped. And so it cycled round for the next hour or so. During the clear spells I got some really beautiful views, but when the wind was blowing and I was in cloud I couldn’t help wishing I was back at Beagle base camp, inhaling air filled with the subtle fragrance of warm comfortable hound, and the occasional very unsubtle blast of sulphur from Biggles’ bum.

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Given the rapidly changing conditions I was glad that Beanie & Biggles weren’t with me, but from the footprints in the snow clearly somebody’s woofer had enjoyed a good romp around the summit earlier that day!

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I had my phone with me and though there’d been no signal for most of the walk, reception was OK at the summit, enabling me to receive a few textual Beagle bulletins. Apparently chews had been consumed, the trees near the van had been watered copiously, and now Beanie was making popping noises in her sleep. Business as usual then!

I reached my thermal limit just as sunset arrived, and after one last shot from the top of Ben Ime I headed back down.

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As is often the case, the same snow that made the climb up so difficult made the return journey really easy. There were two deep channels in the snow heading straight down to the boggy lower half of the mountain, and I knew instantly that these had been made by other walkers bum-sledding their way back down. I tested my own rear end in the nearest channel, and it was a good fit. It took two minutes on my bum to cover a distance that had taken half an hour on my feet. By the time it was dark, I was off Ben Ime and on the long trudge back down to Arrochar. This is usually the most tedious part of the walk; all the adrenaline from the climb has gone and there’s nothing but bog, trees and aching knees ahead. Fortunately another Beagle bulletin arrived informing me that the furry sherpas had departed base camp and were coming to help me back to the van.

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When the sherpas arrived they were very keen to lighten my load. Throughout this whole adventure I’d been terribly weighed down by a pair of dental chews in my right thigh pocket, and Beanie and Biggles kindly relieved me of this burden almost immediately. Suddenly the journey back to the van didn’t seem quite so long.

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Back at base camp, and after an all-day-breakfast and a tin of Chappie it’s almost time to leave. Notice our little pack leader at the window,  making sure I don’t go wandering off on my own again.

 

Apr 3

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Every time we have an adventure in the Beaglemobile we get just a little better at making best use of its limited living space. It requires a very different approach from past trips in the caravan where we’ve taken not just the kitchen sink but everything in the cupboard underneath it as well, yet still had enough space to swing a sixteen-squeakered monkey toy by its tail. We’ve now got a pretty good system for food, water and clothing (both clean and muddied), but the  sleeping arrangements are still proving to be a bit of a challenge.

On a recent trip to the Mull of Galloway Susan figured she’d found the perfect solution: get rid of me! She suggested making up the bed just before I went out for a nighttime shoot of the lighthouse. I was naturally resistant to the idea because I knew that with me out of the way, she and our two pups could stretch out to fill most of the bed, leaving me with a little more than a postage-stamp to sleep on when I returned. Needless to say I was soundly outvoted in the “Bed Now!” poll by two paws and one hand to one, and went outside into the cold clear night while the rest of the party snuggled under the covers.

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On my return things worked out much better than expected; in fact it turned out that being last to bed actually gave me an advantage, because it allowed me to become a human version of The Bigglet. Ordinarily he’s the last one in and his insertion method is ruthlessly efficient, gaining a much bigger share of the bed than a little furry person called Biggles should really have. He trots up along the side that is next to all the fittings (cupboard doors and such), gets his back firmly against solid wood and uses both his paws and his noxious little white bum to force the rest of us into an ever smaller portion of the bed.

Now it was my turn. Compelled by the desperate need to sleep and armed with a gut full of gas from hurriedly consuming a bag of dry roasted peanuts during my photography session, I applied the Biggles bed entry technique almost flawlessly. I say almost flawlessly, because although I got space, I didn’t get enough blanket to cover my feet. However, as I put the squeeze on the other bed occupants, Beanie kind of popped out and ended up nestling by my toes, keeping them toasty warm.

I only got to enjoy the bed for a few hours however; all too soon my alarm told me it was time to go back out for a bit of sunrise photography. As I left the van Susan taunted me with the thought that while I was out there shivering, she’d get to enjoy all that extra free space in the bed.

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I stayed out taking photos longer than intended, and yet when I arrived back at the van everyone was still snuggled under the covers. It turned out that things hadn’t quite gone to plan for Susan however. She’d expected Biggles to stay in his part of the bed, leaving her ample room to stretch out. It didn’t work that way; Biggles may like having his own space, but that space still has to be next to another living body. No matter where she moved in the bed Biggles homed in on her, making otherwise spacious sleeping arrangements seem cramped.

Comfortable or not, it still took some considerable coaxing to get all the stop-in-beds up and ready for a sniffy, stimulating walk in the bright morning sunshine.

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Breakfast was served on our return to the van, and somehow the eating arrangements became almost as cramped as those for sleeping. It’s funny how a little girl’s bowl can migrate towards her brother’s when he seems to have a bit more in his.

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We sat and relaxed for a while as other visitors began to arrive at the lighthouse, and though Biggles kept a close watch on each every one of them, there was surprisingly little woofage. Is his lordship finally becoming more tolerant of other people and dogs? It’s going to take more than one well-behaved outing to convince me.

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