Dec 5

Even by lowly human standards my nose is a poor performer; it can detect quite strong smells – you know, the kind of thing that wafts your way when you’re sat next to a sleepy Beagle – but more subtle things escape it. In spite of this dysfunction, I know for a fact that ground-frost dramatically heightens the nasal allure of discarded food. I gained this knowledge the hard way – by dragging Beanie & Biggles away from things over and over again – and trust me, the dragging has been particularly hard over the last couple of weeks.

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Beanie is always the peskiest offender in this respect. In mild weather she can walk on lead reasonably well until she encounters something edible, at which point she becomes a crazed scavenger, lunging at anything she sees on the pavement. During the recent cold snap however she’s been in scavenger mode on every walk, right from the first slippery step to the last. The worst example of this came when I foolishly chose to take our party along the main road out of our village.

The route takes us by many Beagle points of interest such as bins, front gardens, lamp poles and so on, and the resulting stoppages have led us to rename this stretch of road “Muck-about Street”. However on one particularly cold morning the pesk level was dialled right up to eleven, thanks to a discarded takeaway meal. I never managed to identify exactly what the meal had contained, but the packaging suggested that it was Chinese in origin; regardless, Beanie wanted it really, really badly. My first thought was to dodge round it by walking on the road, but a constant stream of cars made this impossible. If I’d been smart, I’d have simply held my ground until a break in the cars opened up, but as it was I decided to pin Beanie & Biggles to my side and frog-march them past as quickly as I could. Unsurprisingly I wasn’t fast enough and Beanie managed to get a solid grip on the bag of frozen goodies. Past experience has taught me the futility of trying to manually extract a takeway bag from her jaws; the bag tears open, spilling its contents all over the path, and suddenly there’s not one but two Beagles with their mouths stuffed full of forbidden items. Instead I went for speed approach: break into a sprint, dragging Beanie & Biggles behind me in the hope that either the bag or its contents would eventually fall out of reach.

Beanie knew what I was doing; she hung back as best she could, digging her paws into the pavement and clinging on desperately to the bag. Unfortunately for her, Biggles got into the spirit of things (he always loves a sprint) and shot past me on his lead to provide an extra burst of acceleration. This dragged The Beanster into motion and I was certain she’d have to ditch the bag any second; it was just too big for her to carry out in front and still keep up. However, she quickly found a solution to the problem: keeping her jaws tightly anchored on the top of the bag, she rested her front paws on its lower half. It was almost like her front end was surfing on top of the takeaway, with her little rear legs working extra hard to keep up as she was dragged along. She kept going like this for several yards before friction finally destroyed the bag. I saw the panic in her eyes as the contents spilled out and fell behind us, leaving her clutching nothing but shredded polythene. Victory was mine, but Beanie shot me her best Clint-Eastwood-style mean look and suddenly I didn’t feel like celebrating. She went into Greta-Garbo mode for the rest of the morning, only emerging from her custom-made bed to slurp from my unguarded coffee cup.

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Beanie in Garbo mode. Those WOOFs on her bed are back to front; they should actually read “FOOW” – an acronym for “F-Off Outside World”

Oct 14

Beanie has just had her ninth birthday. According to an age/weight table that Pets At Home sent us, that makes her somewhere between 52 and 56 years old in dog years, and puts her into the “senior” age bracket. I must admit that as her birthday was approaching it occurred to me that there are more years behind her now than ahead. Happily Beanie herself doesn’t know or care about any of that, as a birthday romp on the beach ably demonstrated.

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As usual Beanie is the first to be let off lead.

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Also as usual, Biggles is so eager to join her that he pulls and wriggles, making it harder to unclip him!

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Finally the Bigglet is unleashed, and races after his sister..

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On the way back for a chicken top-up, Beanie spots Biggles coming in for a high speed shoulder barge..

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She slams on the brakes..

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And his Biggleship’s plan is foiled yet again

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Senior or not, no-one gets to blindside the Beanster!

We got the dynamic duo back on lead just before anyone got ideas about chasing little birds all the way to Troon, and I took them on a long jog further up the beach and back. Even on lead, Beanie still managed to nab a small dead crab (she looks so cute with little legs flapping on either side of her jaws) and Biggles got a big tasty mouthful of horse poo. A couple of hours later the crab and poo were joined by a big helping of sardine cake.

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When I was a kid there was a kind of ritual that accompanied the consumption of certain foods. With fish fingers for example, the upper and lower breadcrumb layers had to be stripped off and eaten before tackling the remaining body of fish. The procedure was reversed with any kind of sandwich biscuit; after carefully plying the two halves apart it was the sugary filling that had to go first. It turns out that Beanie & Biggles have food rituals too. In the case of sardine cake, the natural yoghurt topping must be licked off slowly and with precision, then finally the body of the cake has to be speed swallowed (chewing is frowned upon, and if you take more than 10 seconds to put it away you’re a wuss).

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Beanie & Biggles already have an impressively large toy collection, but birthday tradition demands yet more. One day in Pets at Home we saw this little orange tuggable fox with a squeaky bit, a crinkly bit, and a rattling bit and.. well it just kind of dropped into the shopping basket. While we were distracted by the fox, someone with a big white bottom boinged a pig ear from the shelf speed ate it, so we had to give another one to Beanie. I left it to Susan to explain to the checkout staff that two ears had to be added to our bill even though there was by now no trace of them.

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Of course the one rule in our house that can never be broken is that if one puppy gets, the other puppy gets too.

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And if you’re the birthday girl, you get to play with both toys because of Beanie’s long-standing “what’s yours is mine” addendum.

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Don’t let all this birthday indulgence lead you to believe that Beanie & Biggles lead spoiled lives of luxury however! You have no idea just how many hardships they have to face on a daily basis:

  • On mornings they are grudgingly allowed into the big bed, but they have to share it with two humies.
  • Sometimes when a covering blankie is required, the paw signal goes unnoticed for several seconds and a grumbling noise that sounds like a smothered fart must be issued to remedy the situation.
  • No assistance is offered when a Beagle has to turn himself/herself during an intense napping session.
  • Mealtimes are often really, really late. Like minutes late. Seriously.

In fact when you consider what a tough life Beanie’s had, it’s hard to believe she’s made it to the grand age of nine years old!

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Happy Birthday Beanie! Double-digits next year!

 

Sep 25

It’s not often you get to meet up with blog regulars who live more than 3000 miles away in the US, but last week that’s exactly what happened.

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Susan and Rob – owners of Beagles Lady and Ringo – were on holiday in Scotland and we arranged to give them a little tour of the Stonehaven area. The rendezvous point was Montrose railway station, and as we waited for the train to arrive we discovered that the station designers had provided Beagle Entertainment Pods (BEPs) on each platform. These loosely resembled normal bins but were completely transparent and had ill-fitting lids, allowing the curious Beagle not only to smell the contents but to see it too. Having bonked his head on the clear perspex several times, Biggles was just about to boing the lid off the nearest BEP when the train arrived.

With four people and 2 Beagles in the Beaglemobile there had to be some seating concessions; fortunately Beanie & Biggles were happy to swap their fabric travel crates for humie laps. It was while travelling in this configuration that Biggles discovered just how skilled US Susan is at Beagle ear massage. In the Star Trek universe this is known as “Oo-mox“, and it’s the thing Ferengi most crave besides money; in the Beagle universe, it sits somewhere behind food, socks, destruction of padded envelopes and rolling in poo, but it’s still a very important part of Beagle life, and Susan was very very good at it. So good in fact that eventually Beanie – who’s not normally a fan of human contact – grabbed US Susan’s lap for herself, relegating The Bigglet to UK Susan’s lap instead.

The first stop on our itinerary was Dunnotar Castle; we figured it would be best to enjoy this in the morning when the weather was forecast to be at its best. It’s a long held tradition with our two pups that number twos must be done an inconvenient distance from the nearest poo bank dropbox, but the excitement of meeting Susan and Rob threw off the timing of the first deposit, causing it to be dropped barely 20 yards from the car park. The second deposit was much better timed, coming when we were about half way to the castle, so I bagged it and left it by a gate for pickup on our return.  This was of course a risky move; dog poos are very highly valued on public footpaths (after all people always stop to pick them up) and there was a danger that someone would nick it, but happily the bag was still sitting there an hour later. Visitors to Dunnotar castle must be an honest bunch!

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For the first time we got to see the interior of the castle, parts of which had been restored with varying degrees of accuracy. Back in the day real castles had to be self-contained communities with their own independent supply of water and food, in order to sustain their occupants through a seige. Sadly – despite a thorough search – we found Dunnotar to be completely devoid of tins of Chappie, bags of Burns kibble, and freeze-dried cow ears.

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Admittedly it did have a rosehip bush, but that wouldn’t sustain a hungry warrior Beagle for more than a few minutes, let alone get them through a seige.

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We dealt with Dunnotar’s lack of food just as true Medieval residents would have done: we left the castle, piled back into the van and drove to nearby Stonehaven for fish and chips. Up to this point, our two pups had behaved themselves extraordinarily well, but as I sat munching through my fish supper Beanie’s halo slipped a little and there was an outbreak of indignant woofing. Over the years I’ve become quite good at understanding the Beagle language, but I can assure you that no translation is required when Beanie wants a chip. The chip and a few bites of fish were delivered when the woofing eventually stopped, and Biggles demonstrated to Rob and Susan that even after eight years of practice, he still can’t catch food in his mouth.

The next stop was RSPB bird sanctuary Fowlsheugh. At this time of year most of the birds have moved on, but as a Beagle owner that’s a big plus; you get to view the dramatic coastline without getting pulled to your death by a little furry person who’s intent on catching a winged Happy Meal no matter the cost.

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We stopped off in Gourdon for a final coffee, then headed back to Montrose just in time for Rob & Susan’s train back to Edinburgh. It was really great to meet them and swap Beagle stories, and thanks to them our campervan is now properly labelled as a Beagle limo, and our pups have been learning how to deal with squeaky pink hippos and purple dinosaurs.

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It always takes Biggles a little while to get used to a new toy..

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He likes to explore it thoroughly and find out where all the squeakers are before pouncing on it and parading it round the house.

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There’s no such caution with Beanie.

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She just rips it out of your hands and gets straight to it!

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Both toys use “Chew Guard” technology. So far, I have to say it seems to be working well!

Thanks Susan and Rob for the lovely pressies.. don’t suppose you have any tips on how to improve our Oo-mox skills?

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